Goodbye to a Feminist Icon: Betty Dodson

By Brianna Green

On October 31st of this year, we lost an amazing woman and feminist icon. Her website, with business partner Carlin Ross says Dodson was an, “artist, author, and PhD sexologist (who) has been one of the principal voices for women’s sexual pleasure and health for over four decades.” She’s received rewards from the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
(SSSS) and Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR). Playboy even named her in the top 100 most important people in sex along with Cosmopolitan who named her in the top 10 sexual revolutionaries.

Her incredible work started in the late 60’s after her divorce from husband. Her first book, Liberating Masturbation, was self-published in 1974 and was later republished as Sex for One: The Joy of Self-loving in 1986 (thedailybeast). Although more conservative feminists weren’t on board with her message, this best-selling book has a “simple but powerful message that shame-free masturbation is the foundation of every woman’s sexuality” (thedailybeast). However, Dodson didn’t just write books, she also ran “BodySex” masturbation workshops that taught women how to explore themselves and climax. Although these workshops started in the 1970’s, they got revamped in 2013 because, according to the icon herself, “In the 1970s there was no information for women. With the internet, there is misinformation” (thedailybeast).

I cannot express how important Dodson’s work is in my eyes. In my own blogs I try to spread a similar kind of message she did: de-taboo and normalize female sexuality and pleasure. As sad as it is that we lost such a significant figure, we still have her books (listed below) and videos of her spreading her knowledge and message.

Rest in Peace, Betty Dodson. Thank you for your decades of work and incredible knowledge.

 

Books:

Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving (1978)

Orgasms for Two: The Joy of Partnersex (2002)

My Romantic Love Wars: A Sexual Memoir (2010)

Sex by Design: The Betty Dodson Story (2016)

BodySex Basics (2017)

So What Is Feminism Anyway?

By Abbie Lewis

Friday October 30th, our amazing staff member Morgan Clark kicked off our new program Phenomenal Feminist Friday, dedicating every Friday to a feminist of our choosing and posting why he or she is important to know about. I was doing my research for my feminist figure and got to thinking, what exactly is feminism? I know I’ve always considered myself one, but do I even know what exactly I’m claiming to be? I decided to do a little reading and figure out exactly what people think it is, what the actual description is, and to share it so that everyone can be on board.

The definition of feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes”. A lot of people are under the impression, I think, that feminism is a movement to make females elite or maybe to take away men’s rights. Feminism is only trying to put females on an equal playing field as men, and it’s ludicrous that that is something that isn’t already real in society. There’s a lot of people who genuinely think that woman already are equal to men and there’s no need for this movement or mindset whatsoever. I hate to say it, but that is probably their privilege talking and they probably haven’t ever had to work extra hard to prove themselves just because they are a different gender.

The wonderful thing about feminism is, you don’t just have to identify as a woman to be one. Lots of men, as well as non-binary people, out there consider themselves feminists and this is a wonderful thing, as everyone should be fighting for equal rights. Just because there is a negative impression of it sometimes, does not mean it is a negative thing whatsoever. Feminism is for all and being one can only move things forward.

Looking Deeper at our Phenomenal Feminist: Mindy Kaling

By Morgan Clark

Mindy Kaling is a 41-year-old American actress, best known from the very popular TV show The Office. In the show she plays Kelly, a boy crazy, airhead, customer service representative. Kaling was born Vera Mindy Chokalingam, and she has made her way up in Hollywood in her own way without and despite not sticking to society’s standard. Kaling is the daughter of two Indian immigrants who met in Nigeria and moved to the United States in 1979. She grew up watching sketch comedy television which helped develop her humor. Shows like “Living Color” and “Saturday Night Live” were some of her biggest influences.

In 2001 Kaling graduated from Dartmouth College with a B.A. in theatre. After graduating she moved to Brooklyn, there she shared an apartment with a woman named Brenda Wither. Together they created a satire named “Matt &Ben”, which went on to win the best overall production at New York International Fringe Festival in 2002. Their play had two years of success in Los Angeles, and it was Kaling’s door to The Office. The producer of the show Greg Daniel recruited her to help write for the show when it began and from there she ended up playing Kelly from 2005-2013. She also directed many episodes and became executive producer of The Office after many years. She did eventually leave the show that brought her up into the Hollywood scene, when she did she went on to become the first Indian American woman to ever write and star in her own show when she wrote and produced The Mindy Project, a show, in which she stars, about a doctor who is obsessed with finding a man. The show was on for five years before ending in 2017.


Throughout her career Kaling has spoken out about feminism and women’s right. She’s stated that The Mindy Project is “unconsciously feminist” because she is a feminist. (The character is loosely based on her). Even when it came to hiring she made sure to keep her staff diverse with a talented group of women. She has spoken out about her opinions regarding Hollywood and feminism, including how she feels women should not be applauded for doing their job in Hollywood because it should already be expected. Her platform just continues to grow, as she has gone on to be in many movies such as Ocean 8, Late Night, and A Wrinkle in Time. And now she has written two books which detail her own life, and in doing so empower women to be strong and, most importantly, to be themselves. She has and will continue to speak up for women’s rights, especially within the entertainment industry.

Talking About Consent

By Morgan Clark

I recently watched the Red Table Talk on consent, particularly consent and the “grey area”. It was interesting to watch, and I believe watching it can spark up conversations that need to be had in our society. They start the discussion by talking about consent and how up to 80% of the women they have survey said they have had unwanted sex. This leads the hosts to explain what they call the “grey area”. Before this video, I did not truly understand how there could be a grey area. They explain the “grey area” is more of a misunderstanding between the two parties when it comes to sexual activity. They used an example of a woman asking a man to come up to a hotel room. In the woman’s mind, she’s asking because she wants to hang out more, but to the man, he thinks she’s asking him to accompany her to lead up to sex. This example I do understand, because each person can have different intentions. I think this is where the grey area is, in the difference between what each person wants from the other.

But I also feel like that is where the grey area should stop. If one party advances sexually and the other party doesn’t want to have sex, it will show. Even if that party does not vocalize it, physically they will show signs of not wanting it. This was discussed amongst the women during the Red Table Talk. They invited Rumer Willis, who was open enough to talk about her own experiences, to join the conversation. She was not vocal about not wanting sex in her experience, but said that she showed it physically. Meaning she was not reciprocating the exact motion the guy was doing. For me, in this example and many others, I feel like many men take advantage of women. Knowing that she won’t speak up about not wanting sex and ignoring obvious signs is simply taking advantage, not “the grey area.” That’s what I think they should have made clearer in the video.

I also felt like there was some victim-blaming in the beginning. Although there is a preventive measure to make one safer from sexual assault it is never the victim’s fault, even if they do not use the preventative measure. They also should have made this clearer in the discussion, even if they were not victim-blaming. One thing I did like about the conversation is the diversity of the speakers. Giving us, the audience, different perspectives on the “grey area”. They even brought in a former football player, DeAndre Levy, who is now an activist who focuses on the issue of consent and the calling out of men. He spoke about how he did not hear about consent until he was an adult. (Which is alarming!) He also talks about how he was taught to believe that a women’s body belongs to him, especially when they already have had sex with him. He was asked by the other speakers how to educate men about consent. He states “holding those in your life accountable” is the best way to teach other men about the importance of consent. Rumer brought up teaching children at an early age about consent using non-sexual content. For example, not forcing children to hug adults when they don’t want to.

The last thing I did enjoy about this conversation was the “I want, I will, and won’t“ activity brought by Michelle Hope, a reproductive justice activist. In that activity is a list of what one would do sexually, for each item you should check yes or no. This is supposed to help a person know exactly what they want sexually. I think this is a cool idea and see no cons to the list. Overall, I think this video is worth a watch. The conversation surrounding sex is so taboo that people are not comfortable speaking about any aspect of it, including consent. If we were able to get comfortable about speaking about sex I believe the idea of “grey areas” would disappear.

 

Reading Through Winter

By Jordan Tunks

With winter only a month away, colder air is upon us. With colder weather it is harder to go outside and enjoy the outdoors, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy ourselves. This can be a great time to either get caught up on some reading, or begin reading the books you have kept an eye on throughout the year. Reading is a great self-care activity and allows you to get in touch with yourself and learn new things that you may not have known before. Books are also a great way to find encouragement and empowerment for women. In this blog I will cover a few books from a couple different categories. There are books from all different genres in the lists, you just need to find what you enjoy most.

The first category will be woman empowerment. Present over Perfect by Shauna Neiquist is a book about being present in the moment and living life how you want instead of trying to be perfect all the time. Trying to be perfect all the time can be mentally draining and is bad for your well-being. Living life how you want to live will be so much more rewarding than trying to be perfect. This is a good choice for women to read with all the responsibilities that fall on them. Sometimes it is hard to live in the moment and not think about the next big thing coming in life. It can be difficult to not be stressed over things in the future that cannot be controlled in the moment. This can be helpful in learning how to live in the present and let the future, stay in the future.

The second category will be self-love. A category than many women struggle with. The beauty myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf. This book expresses the beauty myth of women that there is an obsession of physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfil society’s impossible definition of the flawless beauty. Women have such high standards set for them and they have no control over it. They are always seeing social media posts that make them compare themselves to someone that is completely different from them. This is very unhealthy, and this book can help guide and teach women how to love their body the way it is.

The last category is defining self-worth. Own your everyday by Jordan Lee Dooley dives into how to deal with disappointment, remove labels and escape from expectations, remove excuses and unnecessary stress about the uncertain future, and stop thinking that there is an exact path you must follow. This book can help you overcome shame, practice gratitude, and redefine success to fit your life. Women tend to pay a lot of attention to expectations that lead to more stress and anxiety. This book can help tackle this issue and allow one to live her life without always trying to please others and live for herself.

Books can be a great way to find motivation and encouragement from other women. There are a ton of books in different categories that can fit everyone’s lifestyle. Finding what fits best for you will open up a whole new world you may not have known about in literature.

Winter Skin Care Tips for Women

By Jordan Tunks

Cold, dry air is becoming more prevalent as the winter months are approaching. Dry, itchy skin can lead to more serious issues such as eczema or rashes. The pressure is higher for women to maintain healthy soft skin during these damaging months than it is for men. Popular media, and big brands try to push skin care heavily on to women throughout the winter months, and because conditions such as rashes and eczema become more prevalent, women become more desperate to maintain their once glowing skin, and tend to buy into the propaganda surrounding skin care products. But your anxiety, or discomfort may be being exploited for a big company’s gain.

According to WebMD, female skincare products are on average $3.09 more per ounce than male skin care products. These products can be facial moisturizers, body lotions, or shaving creams. These products aren’t exactly necessity items, but when society is pressuring young women to maintain glowing, filtered skin during the cold dry months, the products in this list suddenly seem a lot more crucial to a lot of women. Knowing that the added societal pressure will push women to go out and buy these items is exactly why the prices are so skewed. Even if they are the same exact product, the ones marketed to women are priced higher than the ones marketed for men. Not only is the pressure placed on women by society’s standards unfair, but to make matters worse they make it more expensive to try and keep up with the standards. While it is important to iterate there is absolutely no need to conform to these standards, there are some tips and tricks to keep your skin as healthy as possible, while spending as little money as possible.

Such as, a societal norm set for women is to keep their legs shaved, and this can be more difficult in the winter months. Some women choose to shave in the shower and this can quickly dry up the skin if not taken care of properly. Making sure to use some sort of product while shaving such as shaving cream, conditioner, or coconut oil can help reduce irritation and cuts to the skin. When getting out of the shower it is also important to use a moisturizer that includes hyaluronic acid to help retain the moisture. Though it may be a first reaction to grab the best smelling lotion on the shelf, it is also important to avoide strongly scented lotions as these can dry out the skin faster. And even though this is a norm skewed towards women, make no hesitation when shopping for these products to check the products catered to men. These products typically are similar to or the exact same as the female brand but, at a cheaper price.

Another area to focus on is the face. Facial skin is typically more sensitive than other skin. Everyone has different skin types, so everyone will have a different routine for whatever works best for them. A few things that should be kept in mind are to make sure to still use a moisturizer with sunscreen even in the winter months. Having separate moisturizers for the day and night is also important so that when you go to bed you are not applying sunscreen that will clog your pores. When washing your face, applying your moisturizer soon after is important to keep skin moisturized. Although there are not a lot of facial products catered to men, comparing brands to each other can be financially beneficial. Big brands will usually dress up products in pretty packaging and use beautiful models to sell their item, but there is usually an off brand item that is just as good, or even better in quality, but cheaper than the name brands.

On your next trip to the store to buy any skin care products, check the men’s section, check the cheap racks, and make sure to look at the ingredients in the product while comparing. Weather you are shopping for shaving cream, body lotion, or facial moisturizer there may be a very similar product for cheaper than the name brand female product. Don’t let big brands fool you into spending more money for the same product only because it is catered to women

It’s Okay Not to be Okay Right Now.

By Mia Lukic

A global pandemic. Nationwide protests. An election. The everyday, mundane life annoyances. It is no surprise that most people are on edge and struggling right now. When will the pandemic end? When will we see our families and do the things we like again? Who will be the next president of the United States? Will we know immediately or will this take days, weeks, months? How will the choice impact my rights? The safety of our friends and families? The state of our environment?

A study conducted by CARAVAN and The Maple Counseling Center reported that 52% of people reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the 2020 presidential election. 64% when it comes to Gen Z and 57% when it comes to Millennials (healthline).

Not only that, but the Pandemic has been detrimental to mental health as well. A Total Brain survey announced today that 83% of women and 36% of men had experienced an increase in depressed moods. 53% of working women and 29% of men have experienced an increase in anxiety since February. The effects have been disastrous for everyone, including and especially women.

The CDC reports:

“Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.”

So what do we do when we feel like everything is awful and there’s little we can do?

Remember to put yourself first. Your mental health is important and self care is mandatory. Despite the world not pausing and deadlines and due dates persisting, find time to do what makes your heart happy. Go outside, draw, read, watch a show. Many websites suggest a social media cleanse or limiting news/politics.

Hopefully you can find time to pause and take care of yourself, and remember that you’re not alone in feeling this way. It is expected and okay to be frazzled, anxious, angry, or however else you are feeling. There are so many people that care and want to be with you through all of this. The UMKC Counseling Center has great resources and opportunities to speak with professionals, and know that 105 Haag Hall always has a listening ear and a helping hand.

 

SAD Winter Blues

By Abbie Lewis

It’s that time of year again where it’s dark all the time, or so it feels, and cold as all get out. Not my favorite of the weather options but we don’t get much of a choice living here in the Midwest, do we? I know that for a lot of us students, things are getting kind of stressful as well since we’re now over halfway done with the semester and things are piling up. People make a lot of jokes sometimes about the depression getting to them around this time, and about Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it is a very real disorder, and it’s never more important to monitor your mental health than in the cold months, especially for women.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is a type of depression related to season and weather changes. People don’t always realize it, but the sun and good weather really can play a huge part on our moods and emotions! Going without them for a long time when things are already stressful can be very hard. I know that I personally go through this kind of depressive slump throughout the winter. When we get a random sunny day with even a glimpse of the 40s, I get beyond excited and feel the need to do my make up, get all cute and make the most of it!

This is especially crucial information for women.  According to Mayo Clinic, women are nearly twice more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men are. It’s partly due to our biology and our hormones, but it’s also due to the immense amount of social stressors women experience. A lot of women work a job as well as carry most of the weight in their home life, making depression a much more prevalent thing for them. During the cold seasonal changes, when SAD can occur, it can be very hard for women, especially the many of us who already battle with chronic depression.

There are ways to combat SAD though, cool things like a lamp that mimics the sun and you can set it to be an alarm for you in the morning so it’s more like waking up to sunlight. As always, therapy can help tremendously too! I’m no expert by any means but I think that making sure you go easy on yourself during these times and staying as positive as you can, can help a lot. Hang in there and we will make it through this cold winter and come out on the other side!

 

My Secret Eating Disorder

By Abbie Lewis

I’ll never forget the day I stepped on to the scale and saw a number that horrified me, and made me want to change everything I knew about myself. I used to be a very overweight woman. I didn’t know or care a lot about healthy living, nutrition, or any of that stuff. What I did know was: that number I saw when I looked down made me feel disgusted with myself, and made me want to take drastic measure to make sure it decreased. Looking back now, I realize that that was my first mistake, not loving my body for what it was and not deciding to go a way that would benefit my health as well as celebrate who I was. Instead, I developed an eating disorder and went about things very wrong.

Eating disorders are common, and I’m sure if you really investigated, you would find that you know someone that has or had one at some point in their life. In fact, over 30 million Americans have experienced an eating disorder at some point. The most common eating disorder is anorexia nervosa, a disorder that implores people to starve themselves. The eating disorder that I developed was bulimia nervosa, where one either purges the food they intake via self-induced vomiting or using laxatives. I would eat what I considered pretty healthy but then take an obscene amount of laxatives to purge everything out of me so that I could lose weight rapidly. It worked to an extent and I dropped weight pretty fast but the pain it was causing me was unbearable. The stomach cramps and nausea was so intense that soon I saw what I was doing was wrong and changed my ways. I then did my research and learned how to be healthy and exercise to lose weight and ended up dropping over 50 lbs. and becoming very proud of my accomplishment.

I’m not telling you all of this to make you think that you have to be thin to be pretty or happy or feel accomplished. In fact, I’m trying to tell you the exact opposite. Going to insane lengths like bulimia to lose weight all because you’re so unhappy with yourself is not the way and chances are, there’s something going on inside that you probably need to deal with or you’ll never find inner peace. During my weight loss journey I also learned a lot about myself and what makes me happy and I truly believe that that is the reason I become so proud of myself. Being a woman or non-binary person in today’s beauty standards is really hard and I think we all need to be there for each other and lift each other up. We should share out stories and become one with them and only then can we learn how to overcome our hardships.

Witches Get Stuff Done: The Salem Witch Trials

By Brianna Green

Happy Halloween Roos! Thank you for watching the Witches Get Stuff Done video and for coming to the blog for more information about the Salem Witch Trails!

So, what were the Salem Witch Trails? The Salem Witch Trials were, as the name indicates, witch trails that happened from January 1692 until May 1693. Around 150 people (men, women, and children) were accused of being a witch or using witchcraft. Sadly, 19 people, mainly women, were hanged after being convicted of witchcraft. Outside of the 19 hangings, a man was crushed to death because of his refusal to plead guilty or not guilty, and another 4 people died in prison awaiting trial (Brooks).

What started this mess that lead to 24 people dying? Let’s start with the context of the time. This was the late 1600s. Salem was a rural community that was very religion and had very strict gender roles, especially for women (Hasset-Walker). Not only that, but there had been a smallpox outbreak; they had a rivalry with a nearby community; they had fears about Native American attacks; and they were still dealing with after affects from the British war with France that happened in 1689 (Brooks; Hasset-Walker). They had a lot going on and there was already a lot of tension.

In January of 1692, two young girls (9 and 11) were diagnosed with bewitchment after having “fits” where they would have outbursts of screaming and violent contortions (History.com). After their diagnoses, other girls from the community started experiencing similar fits. Now, the first two girls named who they thought were causing their bewitchment. They named Sarah Good, Sarah Osborn, and a slave named Tituba. Tituba did confess to witchcraft and claimed others were involved; this confession made people go into panic and hysteria (Brooks). Although these were the first people accused, the first trail and execution happened in June of 1962 with the accused Bridget Bishop.

What’s interesting is that these women were considered outcasts before their accusations. For example, Bishop had been accused of witchcraft well before the trails even started (Brooks). Tituba was a slave. Osborn was an elderly widow who remarried a farmhand. And Good was a homeless beggar. These women did not fit the traditional mold women in these communities usually had which would include being proper, religious, married mothers who acted like caregivers (Hasset-Walker).

As you already know, the trails officially ended in May of 1693 after 24 people had perished. Over the course of the year, the panic slowly subsided and the court realized that they shouldn’t rely on spectral evidence, which is testimony in regard to visions and dreams, to convict someone. The court system apologized for what happened and provided financial restitution to the deceased family members in 1711 (History.com). Along with that, they pardoned the people accused of witchcraft and restored their names (History.com). Of course, with something horrific like this, the damage stayed with the community. This tragedy also inspired the play “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller in 1953 (History.com).

Now, what can we learn from this and how can we apply it to today? I would argue that women are still held to high standards today. From the way we look to the way we act. We can’t be fat but also can’t be too skinny. We need to wear makeup but not too much of it. We can’t be too sexual but also cannot be prudes. Working mothers are criticized for using nannies to help raise their children but if they were stay at home mothers, they’d also hear about how they can work and have a family. Although it’s no longer the 1600s, we still need to fight for our rights and our equality. However, we can use terms like “witch” to our advantage and make it liberating and empowering. After all, witches get stuff done.

Sources:

Brooks, Rebecca Beatrice, et al. “History of the Salem Witch Trials.” History of Massachusetts Blog, 28 May 2020, historyofmassachusetts.org/the-salem-witch-trials/.

Hassett-Walker, Connie. “Perspective | What the Salem Witches Can Teach Us about How We Treat Women Today.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 1 Apr. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/06/10/what-the-salem-witches-can-teach-us-about-how-we-treat-women-today/

History.com Editors. “Salem Witch Trials.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 4 Nov. 2011, www.history.com/topics/colonial-america/salem-witch-trials.