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).

Emmy Rossum Had No Shame Asking for Equal Pay

By Ann Varner

Emmy Rossum is the unsung hero in Hollywood right now after she demanded, fought for, and receive equal pay of her co-star, William H. Macy. One of my favorite shows is Shameless. The show is set in south side Chicago with Macy playing a dead beat dad with six children. The oldest of the children is Fiona (played by Rossum) who is truly the center of the show.

When Rossum began the show 9 years ago she didn’t have the equivalent experience as Macy, so the unequal pay wasn’t an issue to her. However, 7 seasons later and after directing many of the shows herself, she decided it was time to ask for equal pay.  Due to the extensive negotiations about her pay, production for the 8th season was put to a halt. Fortunately, Rossum got what she wanted and deserved and is now beginning filming for the 9th season.

While finding articles about her equal pay fight, I was pleased to find that Rossum had major support behind her fight for equal pay, including support from Macy: “It’s show biz’s job to get us for as cheaply as they can – and our job to say no…It’s unconscionable they would pay a woman less for the same job.”

Regarding becoming a champion for equal pay, Rossum stated: “This is across the board in every industry, how women are paid versus how men are paid. And then you take it further, that kind of bias extends not just to gender but to race, ethnicity, religion.”

Emmy Rossum is a role model and exactly who we need to inspire more women in Hollywood and the real world to demand their equal pay.

Book or TV Series: The Handmaid’s Tale is some scary sh*t

By Ann Varner

Last week, the UMKC Women’s Center bought the book The Handmaid’s Tale and less than a week later I finished reading it. My interest, like many others, first sparked when Hulu premiered The Handmaid’s Tale series last year. The second season recently premiered on April 25 which coincided with Denim Day, a national campaign that raises awareness of the misconceptions of sexual assault and rape – a very fitting coincidence. Only a few episodes in, and I already think that this season is more terrifying than the first. Despite the TV series doing a very good job of following the storyline of the book, I did notice a few differences in the TV series that may have been added to appeal to today’s TV audiences.

Many of the differences between the book and the TV series center on the characters. For instance, one of the biggest differences is that in the book, Serena Joy, the Commander’s wife, and the Commander himself are actually a much older couple than portrayed in the Hulu series. In the series, they are a young, beautiful couple. The biggest plot difference is that Janine (or OfWarren) does not give birth to a healthy baby. In the book, the baby dies after a few days; whereas, in the show, the baby is healthy but Janine cannot give it up and attempts suicide and threatens to kill the baby. In the show, this causes Aunt Lydia to try to force the Handmaid’s to stone Janine to death. At the end of the first season, June (or OfFred) refuses to stone Janine and the other Handmaid’s follow. This is the first sign of revolt and the Handmaid’s refusing to follow orders.

Although the first season of the series was a complete retelling of the book, the producers have used the second season to explore the details of June’s character more deeply. For example, the second season addresses June’s affair with her husband who was married when they met. We also learn more about her relationship with her extremely feminist mom who ends up in the colonies. These glimpses into June’s past help to define the choices she makes to survive her current situation.

After reading the book, I am pleased to say that the writers of The Handmaid’s Tale series have done a great job sticking with the story line in the book, but are also using some creative license to expand the plot (with author Margaret Atwood’s involvement). The show is a horror story that I can’t stop watching, but it’s also a grim reminder of why we must continue to fight for women’s rights.

Good Wife, Good Fight: Good Feminist TV

By Ann Varner

The Good Fight is a spin-off of the show The Good Wife. The Good Wife was a wonderfully surprising feminist show. I didn’t expect The Good Wife to be feminist based off of its name, however, it features a strong female lead who goes back to working as a lawyer after 13 years of being a housewife. The Good Wife follows Alicia Florrick as she navigates the male-dominated profession as a first-year associate alongside younger, newly-minted colleagues. She climbs to the top and also finds herself along the way.

The Good Fight premiered two years ago, shortly after The Good Wife ended. The Good Fight does not have Alicia Florrick in it, instead my favorite character is another strong female lead character from The Good Wife series, Diane Lockhart. Diane is a well-seasoned attorney who built a firm but was ultimately pushed out following a scandal. She cannot retire because her money was stolen and needs a new job. Struggling to find a job, she only receives one job offer from an African-American-run firm. She joins the firm and as a partner, the firm becomes predominately women.

A show featuring African Americans and women as leads in professional fields is rare and a breath of fresh air. The show covers many hard topics such as police brutality, the #metoo movement, hate crimes, and rape. The show also shows women and people of color that they are not forgotten and can rise to the top. It is currently my favorite show and I look forward every week to it airing. The catch is that it is a CBS original, so you have to pay $5.99 a month to watch it (it includes all the other CBS shows as well). Because it is an original the show allows swearing and is not as censored, which is great for covering topics that are controversial. I highly recommend this show if you have an extra $6 a month.

You Need To Watch “I Am Evidence”

By Ann Varner

HBO premiered a documentary called “I Am Evidence” on April 16. The documentary follows four sexual assault survivors and how they go through the criminal justice system. The documentary exposes the detrimental backlog of untested rape kits and the way sexual assault cases are handled by police departments. Mariska Hargitay produced this documentary. You may know her from the show “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” where she is a lieutenant. Not only does her character play an advocate for survivors but she does the same in real life. The documentary aims to tell survivors that they have a voice and have not been forgotten.

The Scully Effect

By Ann Varner

One of the earliest memories I have is from when I was four years old. I would sneak out of my bedroom so I could peak around the corner in the living room and watch The X-Files as my mom was watching it. One would assume that a four year old watching The X-Files would traumatize me but instead I was fascinated. I was not too stealthy however, and eventually my mother caught me. Because I was not having nightmares over the show she gave in and let me watch it with her. Perhaps this began my love of science, alien movies, and wondering about the great unknown. After the reboot of The X-Files a few years ago, I recently discovered there was something called “The Scully Effect”. One of the two main characters of the show is Special Agent Dana Scully. Scully is an M.D. who is assigned to work with another agent on X-Files and use her knowledge to be objectively solve cases. In 1993 when the show aired, it was a revelation to have a woman who was a scientist as well as an authority figure. The show broke all the gender norms and it showed young girls that they could aspire to be in law enforcement and STEM fields.

“A reported increase in women entering law enforcement and STEM fields was attributed to the character, and named The Scully Effect. After an additional 25 years of study, the reported impact of The Scully effect can in part be understood in terms of how children and teens build their view of the world around them through media consumption” (thescientificparent.org).

Instead of watching cartoons I watched The X-Files, and as an adult I continue to enjoy the show.

Upcoming Event: Denim Day

By Ann Varner

Since 1999 women around the United States have been participating in Denim Day, however, it did not begin in the United States. Denim Day is a day in April when women and men around the world wear denim as a form of protest to raise awareness of sexual violence.

Why denim?

In 1998 a rape conviction was overturned by the Italian Supreme Court because the court decided that “since the woman’s jeans were on so tight, she had to have helped the man take them off” ergo, it was consensual. When news of this spread women in Italy began to wear denim to work as a form of protest. This year, Denim Day is on April 25 and will be held on the quad. I encourage you to join us for a presentation, a visual display, and free food! Remember to wear your denim as a sign of solidarity that we do not accept victim blaming nor are the clothes we wear any sort of invitation for violence.

Follow this link to learn more about Denim Day.

Marie Curie: The Pioneer for Women in Science

By Ann Varner

Nothing in this world is to be feared…only understood.

Marie Curie not only was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, she was also the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice. Born in Poland on November 7, 1867, she was the youngest of five children. The only university in Warsaw was a men’s only school. However, Curie discovered an underground university for women and studied physics, chemistry, and math. Curie and her husband discovered polonium and radium, which assisted in the development of x-rays. She also discovered radioactivity and was the one to name it as such. When World War I broke out Curie helped to develop portable x-rays so that soldiers could be examined on the field. Curie died in 1934 due to prolonged exposure to radiation. She was a pioneer for women in science and a role model for women everywhere.

You can follow this link to find out more!

March: Women’s History Month

By Ann Varner

March has officially arrived and with it comes Women’s History Month! Since 1987 the United States has observed March as Women’s History Month. During the month we recognize the achievements of women throughout history and today. When we remember these women we can become inspired, empowered, and enlightened. History helps us to learn about ourselves and remind us to continue to strive for greatness.

“Each time a girl opens a book and reads about a womanless history, she learns she is worthless” –Myra Pollack Sadker. As women of today we will eventually become women of history, and my personal goal is that no girl in the future opens a womanless history book.

To find out more about the origins of Women’s History Month and why we celebrate check out the National Women’s History Project.