Loving Myself: Michael’s Words

By Ann Varner

When I was in middle school, a young man named Michael let me know that the two moles I had on my face were hideous, and that no boy would ever kiss me because they would be distracted by them. One was a small mole next to my nose and one was a flesh colored mole on my nose. He was horrible about those moles, telling me that no beautiful women had moles on their faces (which I now know is not true). However, as I looked around and noticed no one else had beauty marks on their faces, my 12-year-old self believed him. After all his torment, I went home crying. I took a pair of scissors that I had poured rubbing alcohol on and cut the mole off of my nose. Yes, this really happened, and no, I have no idea how I managed to do that without permanent scarring or infection. At 19 years old, I was having my first surgery on my jaw joint and I asked if they could remove the small beauty mark that was next to my nose. They did, and finally, I was free of the self-consciousness that I should have never fueled in the first place. I physically cut something off of my face because I believed that I wouldn’t be attractive unless I did it. That is not okay, but that is what women are constantly told they need to do; change themselves in order to be more beautiful, attractive, and accepted.

Fortunately, organizations like the National Organization for Women Foundation (NOW) as well as our own UMKC Women’s Center are proactive about spreading the word of self-acceptance –  especially with events such as the “I Am Enough!” photo campaign organized by the Women’s Center and “Love Your Body Day” coordinated by the NOW Foundation. The NOW Foundation states:

“Every day, in so many ways, the beauty industry (and the media in general) tell women and girls that being admired, envied and desired based on their looks is a primary function of true womanhood. The beauty template women are expected to follow is extremely narrow, unrealistic and frequently hazardous to their health. The Love Your Body campaign challenges the message that a woman’s value is best measured through her willingness and ability to embody current beauty standards.”

My story is a tad different than most when I speak about how those beauty marks affected me because of other’s words, but the stories are all the same when it comes to how women are viewed in society and what the media portrays as “perfect.” Join the movement and check out the NOW Foundation as well.

Cynthia Levin: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

Photo Credit: Manon Halliburton

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Cynthia Levin.

Without a doubt, the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City offers one of the most unique theatre-going experiences in the city. According to their mission statement, the Unicorn strives to enhance the Kansas City community “by developing and producing high-quality, thought-provoking plays that have never been seen in the region.”  With an emphasis on illuminating social issues and providing inclusive stories which include race, religion, and gender identity, the Unicorn Theatre stands as one of the most preeminent theatres in the city.  Serving as the Producing Artistic Director of the Unicorn Theatre is our next panelist to be featured – Cynthia Levin.

Quite the fixture at the Unicorn, Levin has been with the theatre for 39 of its 44 years in existence.  During that time, she has served as a director, actor, designer or producer for over 300 productions. Reading through a personal letter shared by her on the theatre’s website, Levin’s passion for the Unicorn and the unique plays it showcases is apparent.  “The idea of doing or seeing something you have never experienced before is exhilarating,” she says, “and we want to share that with you.”  With this mission in mind, it is interesting to note that 65 of the Unicorn’s 324 productions have been world premieres.

Levin’s work in the theatre world has extended beyond the Unicorn Theatre on more than one occasion.  She has directed plays such as Number the Stars and To Kill a Mockingbird for Kansas City’s Coterie Theatre, a local children’s theatre that seeks to open the lines of communication between races, sexes, and generations.  She has also directed readings at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for the MFA Playwright’s Workshop. In addition to her theatre work, Levin is a founding board member of the National New Play Network, which is an organization dedicated to the development and production of new works.  She has also been honored with numerous awards, including the Pinnacle Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Human Rights Campaign Equality Award, and most recently the Kathryn V. Lamkey Award from the Actor’s Equity Association for her ongoing commitment to inclusion and diversity. We look forward to hearing more about Cynthia Levin’s experiences soon as she joins our panel to discuss her role as a woman who leads in the arts!

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit womens-center@umkc.edu.

Nicole Emanuel: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

Photo Credit: Cameron Gee

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Nicole Emanuel.

If there’s one artist on the panel whose personal and family history plays like something out of a Hollywood movie, it would be Nicole Emanuel.  I don’t think I can do it justice in just one blog article, so I definitely invite you to check out her “About Me” page on her artist’s website.  As a little preview of her family history, there’s mention of a patricide trial in late 1920s Austria, an escape from Nazis in the 1940s, and a pair of great-uncles who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and Isaac Stern, just to name a few.  Beyond that, you’re going to have to check out the site on your own!

What is clear beyond Emanuel’s historical roots in art, however, is how she uses those roots as well as her own experiences in life to inspire her own art, no matter what form it may take.  The 2008 murder of her nephew lead her to create a series of tri-state events known as “Sorry for the Miscommunication: Museum of the Streets,” which included street artists and gallery artists from Chicago, Kansas City and Madison cooperating in a collaborative mural, performances and exhibitions.  Another murder, this time of her great-grandfather, was the impetus for Emanuel to pursue her Masters Degree at UMKC with the goal of writing about her family. Her forthcoming book, titled “Memoraphilia: a granddaughter’s memoir, the life of Jewish artist and storyteller Liouba Golschmann,” centers on her grandmother and weaves through many of the seemingly impossible events in her family’s history.  Emanuel’s ability to use the painful stories of her own life and her family’s history to create art is a poignant reminder of the power of art.

Emanuel’s “current obsession”, as she calls it, is the InterUrban ArtHouse (IUAH) here in Kansas City.  Established in 2011, this Non-Profit organization is dedicated to purchasing and renovating an under-utilized industrial building into affordable, stable art studios, community exhibition/event space and sculpture garden with some of the area’s preeminent artists and craftspeople.  The mission of IUAH, as stated on their website, is “to enrich the cultural and economic vibrancy of the community by creating a place where artists and creative industries can work and prosper in an affordable, sustainable and inclusive environment.”

On a more personal note, Nicole Emanuel is a 1996 graduate of the local Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI), where she received her BFA in Painting and graduated as that year’s KCAI Valedictorian.  She has created 20 large-scale murals and 2 large-scale public sculptures since then. While her paintings and drawings are in numerous corporate and private collections in New York, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas and Missouri, Emanuel considers her greatest creative works-of-art to be her own sons.  We are delighted to have Nicole Emanuel join us for this panel and look forward to having her share even more of her unique experiences as a woman who continues to lead in the arts!

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit womens-center@umkc.edu.

Ramona Davis: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Ramona Davis.

“I believe art is hope. This belief is an affirmation for me, because it’s a reminder that no one can own the essence of creativity nor can it be neatly confined to a single interpretation. Art is pure; it’s whatever one needs or wants it to be.” – Ramona E. Davis

For our next panelist, Ramona E. Davis, art has been a lifelong passion.  Since her youth, Davis has loved and studied art. She currently identifies as an avid art collector and an arts advocate in the Kansas City area.  Her professional work experience in the area of sales, marketing, and project management for both private and public sectors has enabled her to work in many diverse arenas, including Gallery Manager at The Central Park Gallery, Constituent Relations Marketing Manager at MidAmerica Arts Alliance, and charter board member of the Kansas City Museum Foundation.  Perhaps because of this unique experience, Davis was uniquely poised to found the KC Black Arts Network.

The KC Black Arts Network exists as an “advocate of local artists of color,” and it supports the local black artist community through services such as its online artist directory of local artists and promotion of artists’ work through social media and advocacy.  According to Davis, the goal with the network is “to cultivate and support experiences between local artists of color and local art enthusiasts.” The Network has also provided a platform for hosting artists talks as well as curating many exhibitions, including Reflecting The Times: Artworks by Harold Smith, Stefan Jones and Jason Piggie at The Box Gallery, September 2016, Colour Portraits: Unconventional Admiration at ArtsKC, February 2017 and Depictions: People, Places and Things for the Black Archives of Kanas City, February 2018.

On a more personal note, Ramona Davis currently lives in a historic home in Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband, IT Architect and musician Eugene Davis.  Her interests and activities include photography, acrylic painting, and color theory. Davis is a member of the African American Artist Collective, located in Kansas City, as well as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, which has an undergraduate chapter here at UMKC.  Most recently, Davis been selected to join the Friends of Art Council at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. We are honored to have her as a part of our Women Who Lead in the Arts panel, and look forward to hearing her share her experiences as a leader in the arts!

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit womens-center@umkc.edu.

Karen Christiansen: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Karen Christiansen.

Without a doubt, one of the shining jewels in Kansas City’s art scene is the prestigious Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  Located less than a mile from UMKC’s campus, the Nelson-Atkins offers visitors a visual journey through many of the highlights of art history itself.  From Egyptian sculptures and the art of Imperial China to Impressionist paintings and modern art, there’s a little something for everyone, and the Chief Operating Officer of the museum happens to be none other than our next featured panelist, Karen Christiansen.

Since joining the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in February 1999, Christiansen has acted as the Museum’s Chief Operating Officer, where she directs the planning and daily financial and business operation of the Museum’s more than $33 million budget.  In addition, she coordinates museum-wide activities with direct oversight of areas such as visitor experience and amenities, human resource management, event planning, and financial management, among others. In 2013, Christiansen led a team of staff and consultants in developing and adopting the Nelson-Atkins Museum’s new Strategic Plan.  This plan emphasizes audience engagement, community involvement, collaborations and national/international partnerships.

Christiansen’s educational background highlights her unique ability to balance such a challenging role for the Nelson-Atkins.  With a Master’s degree in business administration, a Certificate of Museum Studies, and course work completed for a Master’s degree in art history, all from Arizona State University, Christiansen has been uniquely poised to handle her position as Chief Operating Officer.  In addition to her role at the museum, Christiansen is currently a Board Member of The National Toy & Miniature Museum and a Member of the ArtsKC Executive Director Roundtable. With such training and leadership capabilities, Christiansen truly has much to offer for art in the Kansas City area.  We are honored to have her as part of our panel and look forward to hearing what she has to share with us!

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit womens-center@umkc.edu.

Xanath Caraza: Women Who Lead in the Arts

By Chris Howard-Williams

On October 24, the UMKC Women’s Center will be hosting an event titled Women Who Lead in the Arts, a panel discussion that will feature local, leading women in arts careers.  Leading up to this event, the Women’s Center blog will highlight each of the women who will be involved in this unique discussion. Today, we focus on Xanath Caraza.

If you were to take a quick glance of Xanath Caraza’s biography on her website, you would notice an introductory sentence that identifies her simply as “a traveler, educator, poet, and short story writer.”  What follows after that humble beginning is a list of publications, recognitions, and awards that are too numerous to list here. Along with lecturing in Foreign Languages and Literatures at UMKC, Caraza is the Literary Curator and organizer of the Annual Day of the Dead Celebration at the Writers Place in Kansas City from 2010 to the present.  In 2018, she received First Place in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards – “Best Book of Poetry in Spanish by One Author” for Lágrima roja and “Best Book of Bilingual Poetry by One Author” for Sin preámbulos / Without Preamble.  She writes for the publications Seattle Escribe, La Bloga, Smithsonian Latino Center and Revista Literaria Monolito.  

The list continues, but it stands in stark contrast to that simple opening introduction.  In fact, it seems to hint at the notion that Caraza is a woman who is comfortable occupying many diverse and sometimes contrasting fields.  Originally from Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, Caraza has found a way to honor and celebrate her heritage while embracing the world in which she currently resides.  Many of her works are available in both Spanish and English, which seems to act as a bridge between these two worlds. It is as if we have been invited to share in the rich experience of Caraza’s world through the medium of her written word.  We are truly excited to have her as a part of this panel discussion!

In closing, consider the following poem, reprinted here with permission from Caraza, and contemplate the journey that this “traveler, educator, and poet” invites you to take down the Hudson River in New York.

From HUDSON BY XÁNATH CARAZA; translated by Sandra Kingery

34.

Medita en este navegar mecánico.

 

No queda nada,

solo el angustiante ulular

del viento antes

de llegar al agua.  

 

Tiemblan las suaves manos

al escribir, son las dueñas de

los pensamientos salvajes,

de la ira de los oprimidos.

 

Agua del Hudson:

despierta y desenraiza

el dolor: las pesadillas

de niñez que se hacen realidad.

 

34.

Meditate in this mechanical navigation.

 

Nothing remains,

only the agonized keening

of the wind before

it reaches the water.  

Soft hands tremble

as they write, they possess

fierce thoughts,

the fury of the oppressed.

 

Water of the Hudson:

awake and uproot

the pain: the nightmares

of childhood that become reality.

The Women Who Lead in the Arts panel discussion will take place on October 24 at 1:00-2:30 p.m. in the Miller Nichols Library, Room 325, 800 E. 51st St.  This event is free and open to the public.  For more information or to RSVP, contact the Women’s Center at (816) 235-1638 or visit womens-center@umkc.edu.

The Women Who Are Redefining Rock

By Nina Cherry

A new wave is taking over the alternative rock world, consisting of uncensored, empowered women assuming control over what has been viewed as the “man’s domain” for decades. This artistic movement could even be described as the second wave of the Riot Grrrl movement – but this time, they are louder are stronger. They have risen from the underground and are finding their way into mainstream circuits.

Lucy Dacus, Margaret Glaspy, Mitski, and Lindsey Jordan are some of the most prominent and representative artists of this movement.  With gravelly voices, distorted guitars, and unapologetic lyrics, these female rockers are redefining indie rock. They are abandoning and shattering stereotypes and societal expectations. Unashamed, vulgar, and loud, these artists aren’t trying to be pretty or ladylike. By tackling taboo topics like sexual orientation, sex, and gender discrimination in their songs, they are paving a new way for the genre.

Mitski, an indie rock singer songwriter who is a part of this collective movement, describes her most recent album, Be the Cowboy, as “inherently feminine.” She explains, “When I say feminine album, immediately the perception is that it must be soft and lovely, but I mean feminine in the violent sense…It’s a lot of pent-up anger or desire without a socially acceptable outlet.”

Being a female performer, especially in rock, is hard. These women are frequently belittled and disrespected, and they struggle to get the recognition they deserve. I love that they are turning their angst and oppression into art and writing feminist anthems that we can all relate to.

To read more about these women and their experiences, ideas, and goals, check out this round table discussion from The New York Times.

What is the “Pink Tax”?

Online wholesale retailer Boxed.com announces the company is taking a powerful stand against Pink Tax by lowering prices on everyday items unfairly priced. The new initiative will lower prices on feminine hygiene products that are charged a luxury tax and gender price gouging on everyday items including body wash, deodorant, razors, and shave gel. The hope is that by taking this stand, it will encourage other retailers to do the same; that a change will reverberate. #RethinkPink (PRNewsFoto/Boxed.com)

By Samantha Anthony

If you aren’t already passionate about women’s issues, you probably have a friend who is – and that friend has probably told you about the “pink tax.” It might sound like a feminist myth, but a study published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in August found that in some cases, the issue is very real.

Essentially, the “pink tax” is the name given to the theory that it is more expensive to be a woman due to the higher cost of products geared toward female consumers. Ax The Pink Tax is a website dedicated to bringing awareness to the subject. According to Ax The Pink Tax, the average woman pays an extra $1,351 per year. To back up this claim, the website features a study published by NYC Consumer Affairs, called “From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer.” Women are urged to use the hashtag #AxThePinkTax to share their stories and raise consumer awareness among one another.

While Ax The Pink Tax alleges that women pay a slightly higher percentage for almost everything from adult and children’s clothing to razors and deodorant, the GAO study asserts that this is only sometimes the case. “Of 10 personal care product categories (e.g., deodorants and shaving products) that GAO analyzed, average retail prices paid were significantly higher for women’s products than for men’s in 5 categories,” the GAO states in the report. Additionally, “Studies GAO reviewed found limited evidence of gender price differences for four products or services not differentiated by gender—mortgages, small business credit, auto purchases, and auto repairs. For example, with regard to mortgages, women as a group paid higher average mortgage rates than men, in part due to weaker credit characteristics, such as lower average income.” While the GAO does admit to finding gender-based price differences in consumer products, it allows that there is not “a need to incorporate additional materials specific to gender-related price differences into their existing consumer education resources” (or, in other words, they’re not going to do anything about it). Unfortunately, it seems like the cause of the pink tax is rooted in pay inequality, which is an ongoing issue for women everywhere.

If you’re concerned about the pink tax and how it might impact you, pay close attention to the products that are most susceptible to the pink tax: razors, body wash, shampoo and conditioner, underwear, and toys and accessories. Read the U.S. GAO report and visit AxThePinkTax.com to learn how much money you’ve lost to the pink tax and find out what you can do to stop it.

Event Preview: “I Am Enough!” Photo Campaign

By Ann Varner

Part of being a feminist is empowering yourself and others and reminding them that they are “enough.” When your friends are feeling down, it’s easy to remind them that they are smart enough, beautiful enough, and strong enough. However, we are our own harshest critics.

This campaign organized by the UMKC Women’s Center, UMKC Counseling Services, and Swinney Recreation Center will help you encourage yourself and others to face your biggest insecurities and realize that you are “good enough.” The goal of this movement is to help students reject the pursuit of what society deems as perfection and realize that all of us are perfect the way we are.

For this event, we will have whiteboards and markers with the words “I Am _______ Enough.” In the middle is where you will write something – for example, I am insecure about my looks and my intelligence. In the middle, I would write “beautiful” and “intelligent.” We’ll then take a picture of you holding your sign. This is to empower students and help them realize that we are all enough in our own way. I encourage you to come and participate in this event with a powerful message!

What: “I Am Enough!” Photo Campaign

Who: UMKC Women’s Center, UMKC Counseling Services, and Swinney Recreation Center

When: Wednesday, October 17, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Where: Miller Nichols Learning Center Lobby, 800 E. 51st Street

For more information, contact the UMKC Women’s Center at 816-235-1638 or email umkc-womens-center@umkc.edu.

See you there!

Reflecting on “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”

By Ann Varner

Students marched with their heels and signs in the annual event, which was held last week at UMKC.

On Thursday, September 27, the Women’s Center and Violence Prevention and Response put on our annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event. Every year, male members of the UMKC community come to support the event by putting on heels and quite literally walking a mile in them. During the walk, most participants carry signs in support of consent and anti-violence towards women. This year, we also had the participants create a “red shoe pledge” where they pledged to do things, such as “always be an advocate” and “always believe her.”

Chancellor Agrawal wears his heels to celebrate the event and promote safety for women on campus.

We had a great turn out this year. A special thanks goes to our Chancellor Agrawal for his speech and putting on his own pair of high heels. Thank you to the participants who learned what it’s like to wear heels – it’s not fun. Some men even apologized and said, “I am so sorry that women have ever had to wear these things.” Thank you to our sponsors who sponsored a table, and to the UMKC community for showing up to encourage our walkers.

In our current society, walks like these are needed. I believe it helps to not only promote anti-violence towards women, but to also encourage the walkers to reflect upon themselves and what they can do to help create change. After all, change can only begin when voices speak up and are heard.

To read more about Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® and its mission to prevent sexual assault and gender-based violence on college campuses, go to https://www.walkamileinhershoes.org/.