Work-Study Students Needed

By Ann Varner

Currently the UMKC Women’s Center has three open positions for work-study students. If you have a work-study award, passion for feminism, enjoy working with others, and working fun events such as “Crafty Feminist Friday,” please apply! Essential duties include, but are not limited to:

Women’s Center staff members serve a student at the annual fall Chill Out event.

  • Identify needs of individual and appropriately assist with questions or concerns at front desk.
  • Politely greet students and guests to provide quality customer service; answer phones.
  • Assess questions; offer solutions or additional resources such as a manager to assist.
  • Demonstrate professionalism in a confidential setting.
  • Implement existing/new tasks, projects and/or ideas with accuracy and enthusiasm.
  • Promote services by serving as an representative through conversations with fellow students.
  • Data entry, mailing and other clerical duties as assigned.
  • Open/Close office responsibilities as needed.
  • Writing at least one blog per week on a relevant women’s issue.
  • Helping to manage the Women’s Center social media pages.

Working at the Women’s Center for the past few years has not only opened my eyes, but also many doors of opportunity. Over the years, I’ve learned to love myself and become confident in my decisions. I have been challenged more than any other job I’ve had, which has helped me to grow into a better employee and person. I’ve had amazing co-workers who have become friends. I’ve been able to participate in events that I am passionate about and became educated on feminism and women’s issues.

If any of this sounds like a place you want to work, please apply at this link.

Directions for applying:

  1. Select “handshake” where you will be directed to complete multiple steps – it is not necessary to complete them if you do not wish to. 
  2. Once you get to the homepage of handshake, at the top of the page will be a link to “work-study positions.” Click on that link, which will then redirect you to log into the UM system.
  3. After you log into that system, you may search through the available jobs. You can directly go to “Women’s Center” under departments and will find the job listing with more details and how to apply.

Mrs., Miss, and Ms.: The Evolution of “Ms.”

By Ann Varner

Recently, I realized that while I know the differences between “Mrs.,” “Miss,” and “Ms.,” I didn’t know the significance of how “Ms.” came to be. The literary term for these titles are honorificsAccording to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Mrs.” is “a title used before a surname or full name to address or refer to a married woman.” This is something I’m sure everyone knows. Families and friends have made a huge ordeal about the bride becoming a “Mrs.” in every wedding I’ve been in or attended. Additionally, Grammarly.com states that “Miss” is a title of respect for an unmarried woman.

“Ms.” came about in the 1950’s as a title of respect for women that did not disclose a woman’s marital status. It’s only fair, after all, because “Mr.” is the equivalent to “Ms.” as it also does not disclose a man’s marital status. We can thank

Sheila Michaels, the activist who popularized the term “Ms.” for women.

Ms. Sheila Michaels, a feminist who campaigned to popularize the title “Ms.” in the 1960’s as a way for women not to be defined by their relationships with men.

In 1986, “Ms.” became popular and accepted after the New York Times published that it would begin using the term “Ms.” as “an honorific in its news and editorial columns.”

While we as a society have made many advancements on how we view women, please remember that using “Ms.” (unless you’re told otherwise or they have a doctorate) is the best form of respect when addressing a woman in a professional manner.

Introducing Myself… Again!

by Ann Varner

Hello! Over the summer you have probably seen my blogs as I worked at the Women’s Center. This summer we were very productive, including re-organizing the entire center and attending lots of student orientations. As the fall semester begins I am re-writing my current biography, as life is always changing. This year I am a senior! While it is very exciting, it is also nerve wracking as I prepare to apply to graduate schools and start my career.

I am going to graduate with my degree in criminal justice and hope to work in the field as an advocate at MOCSA or a domestic violence shelter. My work at the Women’s Center ties in strongly to those fields, which is also why I’m passionate about helping others. I hope to attend graduate school for either legal studies or criminology as I work full time, and then eventually go to law school.

This year I will be in charge of planning our Crafty Feminist Fridays as well as Feminist Film Fridays. Be on the lookout for our events calendar. I am excited to finish off my undergraduate while working at the Women’s Center, as I am always learning!

10 Things I Would Tell my Younger Self

By Ann Varner

I watched a video recently where elderly women give advice to 25-year-old women about their regrets in life. In the video they speak about the pressures of society today and how women are supposed to be “perfect.” After watching this video I started to reflect on my younger self, even if it was only a few years ago. I realized how much I’ve grown and what I wish I could go back and tell myself at 15-21 years old. This is a list of what I would tell myself and many other ladies out there who likely faced the same issues:

  1. Don’t act unintelligent and purposely fail math because you want male attention. I promise you, it’s cool to be smart.
  2. I know that boy broke your heart. I know it hurts. Don’t dwell on it, because you will miss all the good times you have with your friends.
  3. Cherish your friendships. You never know what will happen in the blink of an eye.
  4. Your mom is actually right 99% of the time.
  5. It’s okay to be different from everyone else. You don’t need to be ashamed of your Wal-Mart and thrift shop clothes. In the end, it’s all materialistic. The people who like you for who you are don’t care where you shop.
  6. It’s okay to want a life that others don’t perceive as normal. I know you don’t care about marriage or babies and that seems weird to everyone else. Don’t worry about it, one day you’ll be content with how you feel.
  7. It’s okay to want to live alone. It’s okay to enjoy your solitude.
  8. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
  9. I know you’re humiliated by having to drive an ’89 Ford Topaz that everyone makes fun of you for. One day, you’re going to work hard enough to buy a car you like. Their opinions don’t matter.
  10. The future is now, stop yearning for what is to come and make it happen. No one besides you can create your life.

I know that 20 years from now I’ll look back on this blog and smile as I will have a new list to create. In all, I wish I had trusted myself and what I felt deep down. Most topics on this list are materialistic or about how I was perceived by others. At 25, I’m content with who I am, what I wear, and how I live. It’s a great feeling to have and I wish it for everyone else. I think that the biggest regret I have, which is similar to the ladies’ in the video, is that I had spent too much time caring about what others thought rather than just living my life. Fortunately, I get to do that now.

Celebrating Vera Rubin

By Ann Varner

Vera Rubin in 2009

On this day, July 23, in 1928, a woman who made “ground breaking observations that provided evidence for the existence of a vast amount of dark matter in the universe” was born. That woman was Vera Rubin. It is always important to celebrate our women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) and today is a great day to celebrate this great American astronomer.

Vera Rubin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and died on December 25, 2016 in Princeton, New Jersey. The New York Times reported that Vera became “entranced by astronomy from watching the stars wheel past her bedroom window.”  She went to Vassar College for her undergraduate degree and graduated the sole astronomer in her class. The New York Times also states that she had hoped to go to Princeton to get her PhD but the astrophysics graduate program did not admit women. Not deterred, she went to Cornell to obtain her master’s degree and then earned her PhD from Georgetown University.

Rubin taught at Montgomery College and Georgetown and then The Carnegie Institution. Despite the sexism she was met with in her field, she was able to build a successful career making important scientific discoveries, winning awards, and being an advocate for women in science. She was admitted to the National Academy of Sciences in 1981 and awarded the National Medal of Science in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. Rubin is a pioneer in astrophysics for women and an inspiration to keep pushing forward in a male dominated field.

The Transformation of My Opinion on Selfies

Ann’s selfie

By Ann Varner

Over the past 10 years selfies have become incredibly well-known. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a selfie as “an image of oneself taken using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks”. If you have social media, you’ve likely had many friends who post selfies, whether it’s just of themselves or with others. I’ll admit, for many years when I would see the same woman or man posting 10 pictures of themselves every other day, I would roll my eyes and think to myself that they were being vain or seeking attention. This is actually a common thought — that selfies are narcissistic. More often than not, I would think this about the women who posted their selfies more than the men. However, the American Counseling Association states that the personality traits that indicate narcissism are much more evident in men than women. Essentially, their studies found that when men took selfies, the act was for the most part linked to narcissism. But that same link was not nearly as present with women.

As selfies have become more and more commonplace in my social media feeds, I have watched as women began to explain why they were taking the selfies. One woman had an autoimmune diseases that would cause her skin to flare up. To help her become less self-conscious, she would post selfies of herself during a flare up to receive support from her online friends. Another woman had lost a lot of weight and wanted to show it off, so she would take selfies as a way of self-motivation. My eye rolling began to lessen as I began to see that selfies didn’t necessarily mean that these friends on social media were vain or seeking attention — it was a form of empowerment for them.

Curious about this realization, I reached out to my social media friends and asked one question: Are selfies empowering or narcissistic? Most people responded to say that they posted their selfies because they were proud or feeling good about themselves. Some responded that it depended on how often they posted their selfies. In all, it appeared that most people (limited to my social media) were supportive of selfies as empowerment.

One article perfectly explains the misunderstanding that people have with confusing narcissism with empowerment when women post selfies:

“Novelist and poet John Berger once wrote ‘You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure’. In a way, selfies are a perfect example of this. It isn’t permissible for a young woman to take control over how she is depicted, so people get worked up and freak out when a woman posts a picture of herself that somehow gives her social empowerment and validity”

In the end it comes down to this: we all have our own struggles and self-consciousness even if others can’t see it. We all have different reasons for our selfie posts whether it’s a hidden disease, weight loss, or feeling great about life. Try to empower your friends when they feel confident enough to post a selfie instead of rolling your eyes. After removing the bias from my mind, I now love seeing other’s selfies and encourage them to keep on posting.

The Women of the US Supreme Court

By Ann Varner

Image from Wikimedia Commons

As a newly converted criminal justice major, I have learned more and more about the cases being taken by the US Supreme Court and how important the Supreme Court and its Justices are — such as the federal ruling allowing gay marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges that overturned individual states ban on same sex marriage on June 26, 2015. I decided to find out more about the US Supreme Court and found that only four women have served in the history of the Supreme Court.

The first woman to serve on the US Supreme Court was Sandra Day O’Connor. She was appointed by President Ronald Regan in 1981 and retired in 2006 after serving for 24 years. O’Connor attended Stanford University for her undergraduate and law school, and finished third in her class.

The second woman to be appointed, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is still serving on the Supreme Court. In 1993 she was appointed by President Bill Clinton, and prior to her appointment, Ginsburg was (and still is) an advocate for women’s rights. She attended Cornell University for her undergraduate and Harvard for law school. During law school, Ginsburg was a mother and a student and only one of eight females in her law class of 500.

The third woman to serve on the Supreme Court and first Hispanic is Sonia Sotomayer, who is still serving. Sotomayer was nominated by President Barak Obama in 2009. She attended Princeton University for her undergraduate and Yale University for law school. Before becoming a Justice she was a high-profile prosecutor in Manhattan, New York and put “some of the most heinous criminals behind bars.”

The fourth and most recent woman to join the Supreme Court is former Solicitor General of the United States, Elena Kagan. President Barak Obama selected Kagan for the role of solicitor who became the first woman to serve in that role. In 2009 she was nomintated by President Obama for Supreme Court Justice. Kagan attended Princeton University for her undergraduate degree, Oxford University for her master’s degree, and Harvard for her law degree.

As someone who hopes to attend law school one day and potentially go into politics, these women are inspiring in every way. To me, the Supreme Court is how to effect change in the most powerful way. These women are amazing in what they’ve accomplished and can continue to accomplish.

To Bra, or Not to Bra: That is My Choice

By Ann Varner

About a year ago, I was sunburned so badly I had second degree burns on my back. The burns were so bad that I had to wrap my back in gauze to cover the open wounds from the blisters, and could not wear a bra due to the area where the burns were. At first, I was horrified that I would have to go without a bra. I still had to work and not wearing a bra made me terribly self-conscious. The entire time I was working, I was crossing my arms trying to cover up my unsupported chest. But after a few weeks of freedom from my bra, I found I was infinitely more comfortable without a bra. I really started to love being braless and couldn’t care less about what people were thinking.

Thanks to that sunburn, I have been liberated from my bra and the pressure to always wear one.  I have made the choice to go braless or at least only wear a simple bralette with no underwire and no padding. It’s enough to hold up the girls when I need the extra support, but that’s it. It’s comfortable, it’s what works for me, and it’s my choice.

Some women prefer bras for various reasons. And that’s okay. For instance, if you have a large chest, wearing a bra can help relieve back pain. Wearing a bra can also hold things in place while exercising. Those are fine reasons for wearing a bra. Those are also choices that a woman can make herself and that’s why I’m writing this blog. I think wearing a bra should be a choice, not a necessity.

Over the years I’ve heard comments from both men and women directed towards women that they notice who are not wearing bras. These comments are mostly critical about braless women being too “lazy” to put one on. I’ve heard people say, “She was so lazy she wouldn’t even put a bra on” and “I can’t believe she couldn’t take two seconds to put on a bra. That’s lazy.” I’ve even had my own friends direct similar comments toward me and my choice to go braless. For the record, friends: I am not too lazy to put on a bra. I am making a choice!

Being braless does not equal laziness. Choosing to wear a bra or not is a woman’s choice to make, and women should not feel ashamed or embarrassed if they make that choice. But why do people still think that they are entitled to have an opinion about a woman’s choice to wear a bra or not?

According to the online women’s health magazine, the bra wasn’t even invented until the 1900’s. Women went centuries without binding their chests in spandex and polyester. A woman named Mary Phelps Jacob came up with the first idea for a bra, which consisted of two handkerchiefs and a pink ribbon. However, it was a man named Frederick Mellinger (a.k.a. Fredericks of Hollywood) who created the first padded and push-up bra in 1947. He soon built a business of highly sexualized bras and undergarments. Mellinger’s bras helped bring focus to women’s breasts as objects covered in satin and fancy lace and coyly hiding one of the woman’s most titillating body parts – the nipple. Social rules of modesty have demanded that women must cover up their nipples, yet men have always been free to display theirs in any public setting without scrutiny. (The #freethenipple campaign is working to bring equity to the issue.) So because women’s breasts (and nipples) are seen as objects of sexual desire, the bra has become a tool to control that desire and a woman’s ability to control her own sexuality. A braless woman with her free wielding breasts and nipples sends the message that she is in control of her body and sexual desires, and that can make some people – especially men – uncomfortable.

I wholeheartedly believe that women should always be in control of their own bodies and I encourage you to make your choice to wear a bra or not based on what’s comfortable for you. After all, you were not put on this earth to make other people comfortable.

I’m Changing My Last Name… But Not For The Reason You Think

By Ann Varner

Lately I made the decision to change my last name to include my mother’s last name. My current last name is Varner, and I will be changing it to Parsons-Varner. My mother raised my sister and me as a single mother from the time my sister was two-years-old and I was four. It makes no sense to me as to why I shouldn’t carry the last name of the strong woman who taught me to be the person I am.

When I announced my name change to friends and family, most were supportive; however, some could not understand. I was met with comments like, “why would you go through all this trouble now when you’ll just be getting married and changing your last name to your husband’s anyway?” When I responded, “If I do get married, I won’t be changing my last name,” they were shocked.

Why is this so shocking? The best answer I can come up with is because not taking you husband’s name goes against tradition. I think that most women in America are still changing their name when they get married. And when they don’t, some people find it disturbing. But this is 2018, and I think there is no longer a need for a woman to take her husband’s last name.

Historically, women had to take her husband’s last name because they had no legal independent identity. An article in Seattle Bride Magazine explains that there once was a time when women could not own personal property or real estate, enter into litigation, participate in business, enter into contracts, or vote. Women were considered one with their husband and part of that was to acquire their husband’s last name. Yes, very sexist and oppressive, I know! While women still have major issues with inequality today, we are fortunate enough to have moved away from many of those oppressive rules and we no longer need a husband’s last name in order to survive.

Personally, I do not want to take the last name of a potential future husband because I do not want to feel as though I am property. I like the name I’m changing to, and if I decide to get married, the person I marry will have to be okay with it. It’s totally fine if someone wants to change their last name when they get married. I respect the decisions others make when it comes to name changing; however, know that we no longer need to change it in order to function in society. I cannot wait to change my last name to include my mother’s last name, because, in my opinion, she is the only person in my life worth doing it for.

Kate Spade: The Woman Who Helped Young Women Enter Adulthood

By Ann Varner

My first Kate Spade bag was a bright blue, square-shaped purse with green polka dots on the inside. I still have this bag as it’s my favorite. The color and shape are so unique that everywhere I go I receive compliments and the question “where did you get that?” I usually tell them my secret – the Kate Spade surprise sale. This sale was the only way I could afford a Kate Spade bag. All the clearance items would be an extra 75% off. I could always get a bag for under $100 that was big enough to hold everything I needed it to. My Kate Spade bag gave me all the confidence in the world when I was 20-years-old and learning how to navigate life. I had just moved to a city where I knew no one and was figuring out what to do with my life, and this bag symbolized my quest to find myself.  I was learning what it meant to be an independent woman in today’s world and that bag helped me grow from adolescence into young adulthood.

Many young women like me felt the same way. According to a recent article in The New York Times: “Buying a Kate Spade handbag was a coming-of-age ritual for a generation of American women. The designer created an accessories empire that helped define the look of an era. The purses she made became a status symbol and a token of adulthood.” No truer words have been written.

Kate Spade, with her husband Andy Spade, launched the Kate Spade label in 1993. Her bags were quirky, much like her smile. They had bright colors and fun designs that made people smile. Unlike other designer bags, Kate Spade bags were affordable and women of all different economic classes could afford to have one of their own. All Kate Spade bags have their own personality, and it was easy to find one that matched your own. Unlike many of the male purse designers in the world who created neutral colored purses with large logos, Kate Spade knew what women wanted to carry around. She became one of the first women entrepreneurs in the fashion world with a high rise to success. A great quote in the Atlantic sums up what Kate Spade did for women:

“Working in an industry largely run by men, Spade didn’t invent the idea of the professional woman who also cared about style; she was just responding to the reality of what women were already doing…she solved the problem of what women wanted without elitism.”

Kate Spade is a Kansas City native. Born and raised in Kansas City, we are proud to call her our own. She also contributed to the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City after her friend suffered a traumatic brain injury. Her impact on the fashion world showed that a girl from the Midwest could become a fashion mogul in New York City.  Her red lipstick and smile will be dearly missed. I encourage you to not focus on how she passed away, but on her successes in life.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately. Go to a hospital, call 911, or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).