Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proves that the future really is #female

By Ann Varner

A few months ago, the name Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was not a name I knew, especially being in the midwest. A week ago, that name became my hero’s. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a 29-year-old woman who won the primary elections for congress against current Rep. Joe Crowley, who has spent 10 terms in congress – unchallenged for every primary election. Last week, Cortez won the midterm elections, making her the youngest woman to serve in Congress. Why is she my hero? She’s a young, Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx who was making her living bartending a few months ago.  She’s everything you don’t imagine when it comes to politics, and it’s a breath of fresh air.

Ocasio-Cortez grew up about 40 minutes from the Bronx in New York. She said that much of her life was “defined by the 40 minute commute between her school in (Yorktown) and her family in the Bronx.” After graduating high school in 2007, she went on to Boston University. After graduating from Boston University, she worked as a community organizer, but due to financial stress she had to also start working as a bartender at restaurants. Her political experience is limited to working as an organizer for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary election in 2016, and in 2017 she began her campaign for her seat in congress.

According to Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign website, she ran for Congress “to create an America that works for all of us, not just a wealthy few.” Some of her platforms include:

  • Medicare for All
  • Federal Jobs Guarantee
  • Abolish ICE
  • Gun Control
  • Criminal Justice Reform
  • Women’s Rights
  • Support LGBTQIA+
  • Solidarity with Puerto Rico
  • Housing as a Human Right

…And many more. You can find her total platform on https://ocasio2018.com/issues. Ocasio-Cortez wants to see a better America and after the stunning elections, many others do too. As someone who is in process of applying to law school and is seriously considering politics, she is a true inspiration to me. I always despised the thought of being a politician because of the stigma surrounding politics, but to see a young woman who didn’t go to school for politics and has almost no political background become so successful, it shows me that it might be ‘okay’ to be a politician. 

The future is #female.

Susan B. Anthony and the Women’s Right to Vote

By Ann Varner

We are less than a day away from the midterm elections for 2018. It seems that everywhere I turn there are political campaigns, and it’s impossible to escape from it on social media, the radio, the TV, or even signs on cars and in people’s yards. As much as the radio ads annoy me, I must remember and be grateful that I have my right to vote, and that the right for women to vote didn’t come easily. One of the people we can thank for helping move the 19th Amendment of the Constitution along is Susan B. Anthony.

Susan B. Anthony was “a pioneer crusader for the woman suffrage movement in the United States and president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.” Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15th, 1820 in Massachusetts. She grew up in a family that was active in politics. She became inspired to fight for women’s rights when she was denied the chance to speak at a convention campaigning against alcohol, because she’s a woman. She realized then that no one would take women seriously unless they had the right to vote. She founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 with Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Over the years, the two women traveled around the country to give speeches regarding women’s right to vote. Sadly, she would die in 1906, before the 19th amendment was passed giving all women the right to vote. However, she will always be recognized for her efforts. It would not be until August 26th, 1920 that the senate ratified the 19th amendment and American women gained full voting rights. It was the National Woman Suffrage Association that continued to crusade and helped this right for women to happen. Without her, the NWSA would have not existed and it could have been many more years, if ever, that women were allowed to vote.

I am not only to tell you how to vote or for whom, but please always exercise your right to vote. When you haven’t had to fight for a certain right it is easy to take advantage of it or not use it at all. Without the right to vote the people are voiceless, and as women we must always use our voice and our right to vote to push for progress in this country.

Event Preview: Crafty Feminist Friday & The Clothesline Project

By Ann Varner

This Friday, November 2, we will once again have a Crafty Feminist Friday from 12-1 p.m. in the UMKC Women’s Center. This time, we will be decorating t-shirts for an event that Violence Prevention and Response is hosting, the Clothesline Project. The Clothesline Project is an annual project that brings awareness to the issue of gender-based violence. People around the world decorate blank t-shirts with their feelings about gender-based violence. According to The Clothesline Project’s website, “The Clothesline Project began in October 1990 in Hyannis, Massachusetts.  There were 31 shirts displayed on the village green as part of an annual Take Back the Night March and Rally. Throughout the day, women came forward to create new shirts and the line kept growing.”

Today, the clothesline project has grown to include nearly 500 projects worldwide. The purpose is to bear witness to survivors as well as victims. Using the clothesline, we air society’s “dirty laundry” in a form that was once “women’s work.” It is not only to help others learn about the statistics, but also to educate people on the magnitude of impact these experiences have on everyone’s lives. The Clothesline Project works to reverse and transform harmful effects of this violence on a global scale. By proclaiming the joy of healing and the agony of pain, we cut through some of the alienating aspects of this culture.

The t-shirts will be displayed during 16 Days of Activism, which is an international campaign against gender-based violence. It runs from November 25th (The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to December 10th (Human Rights Day). This campaign originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.

I encourage you, regardless if you are a survivor or not, to come and participate in creating the t-shirts. If you are not a survivor, you probably know someone who is, whether you are aware of it or not. I hope to see you there!

What: Crafty Feminist Friday (for The Clothesline Project)

Who: Sponsored by the UMKC Women’s Center, in support of The Clothesline Project

When: Friday, November 2, 12-1 p.m.

Where: UMKC Women’s Center, 105 Haag Hall

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.

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/.

Remembering the Queen of Baseball

By Ann Varner

Sadly, we are nearing the end of my favorite sports season: baseball season! Baseball is the one sport I am passionate about, and I am happiest sitting in the heat with a cold brew in my hand cheering on my home team, the St. Louis Cardinals. When one thinks of baseball, they think of a man’s sport, which is true. Softball is the co-ed version of baseball. There is one woman, however, who fought her way into playing on a professional baseball team, the Boston All-Stars. That woman is Lizzie Murphy.

Lizzie Murphy was born in 1894 in Rhode Island and was a natural athlete, according to the New England Historical Society. At the age of 12 Lizzie left school to work in a mill, but never lost her passion for sports (and baseball in particular). Her father played baseball, and she quickly learned how to play the position of first baseman and began playing with the local boys.

It is said that Lizzie quit baseball many times because of ridicule for her being a female, but her passion and love for the sport always brought her back. Eventually, she made her way into the Semi-Pros, or Minor League Baseball. In 1918, Lizzie was signed into professional baseball with the Boston All-Stars as the first woman to play professional baseball with all men. She was not always received well by audiences, but Lizzie was proud, and she persevered. In 1928, she played in the National League All-Stars, which made her the first person to play in both American League and National League All-Star teams – female or male.

In a world of male-dominated sports teams where men and women rarely compete, Lizzie Murphy’s story is an inspiration and a reason for women to continue to prove we are equal to men. Lizzie broke the societal standards for what a woman should and shouldn’t do, and proved to America that should could play ball with the men and just as well, too. She broke multiple records and showed young women to never lose their passion and determination, even when there are constant roadblocks.

Do you find Lizzie’s story inspiring? You can purchase a children’s book about her life, Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story, by Emily Arnold McCully, to give to the young Lizzie in your life.

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!