Join the Women’s Center for a screening of Miss Representation

By Carolina Costa

[youtube][/youtube] Miss Representation is a 2011 award winning documentary written and directed by women’s advocate, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Miss Representation challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls; as well as the collective messages that young women and men overwhelmingly receive pointing that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. Newsom has also launched, a call-to-action campaign that gives women and girls the tools to realize their full potential.

The Women’s Center is pleased to invite everyone in the UMKC community and Kansas City area to a screening of Miss Representation on Tuesday, February 28th. The event will take place at the UMKC Student Union Theatre and we will kick-off the evening off with a reception at 5:30pm, followed by the screening at 6:00pm. Join us after the film for a facilitated discussion concerning the documentary. Drinks and snacks will be provided and this event is FREE and open to the public! All you have to do is pre-register online at and bring your tickets to the event; space is limited so do not wait to register!

It is also a great opportunity to discuss matters such as media consumption, women’s leadership, sexualization, self-esteem and abuse in an informed and plural environment that will help you develop your thought in many issues. Don’t hesitate to engage in the discussion and share your experiences and impressions of the film. And please, join us for the opportunity to make a difference in your community by taking action in the Miss Representation Campaign.

 For more information about the event contact the Women’s Center at 816.235.1638 or or visit

 A special thanks to all of our sponsors for this event: UMKC Counseling Center, K-Roo Student Media, UMKC Friends of the Library, Veronica’s Voice, Girl Scouts of NE Kansas NW Missouri, UMKC Career Services, The Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City, and Win for KC

The Woman Behind Operation Beautiful: Caitlin Boyle

By Armelle Djoukoue

Caitlin Boyle is 26 years old and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. She worked as a freelance and technical writer for seven years, including a five year stint as a contributing columnist for The Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition. Caitlin started her blog “Healthy Tipping Point” in 2008 where she writes daily about food and fitness. The blog chronicles how she balances her busy lifestyle with healthy eating and exercise.   It was on this blog where Caitlin began Operation Beautiful.

In June 2009, Caitlin was inspired to post a note that simply read “You Are Beautiful!” in a public restroom. She took a picture of her note and posted it on her blog. She immediately received responses from her readers, and her email filled up with photographs of notes posted all over the country. Caitlin continued to leave positive messages on the mirrors of public restrooms, at work, the gym and the grocery store. She scribbled down whatever came to mind — “You are beautiful!” or “You are amazing just the way you are!”  And with this one small act, the Operation Beautiful movement was born.  Three months later, she resigned from her corporate job to write “Operation Beautiful: The Book” which was published in August of 2010. Caitlin Boyle is a woman who is dedicated to ending negative self-talk among girls, woman, and men. Women of different ages, races, lifestyles and geographic locations have been posting encouraging notes of their own.

So join us next Monday, February 27th– Friday, March 2nd as your UMKC Women’s Center engages in Operation Beautiful. It’s time for us to encourage a positive body image in ourselves and for others. Participate in this campaign by posting statements of positive body image around campus. Stop by the Women’s Center (105 Haag Hall, 5100 Rockhill road) or the MindBody Connection (3rd floor of Student Union, 5100 Cherry) to pick up post-it notes.

Visit our Operation Beautiful event page 

For further information or with questions contact the Women’s Center at 816.235.1638 or


Leave Your Lipstick At Home

By Courtney Neaveill

“Gwyneth Paltrow lipstick lesbian”: Google that and you will get over two pages of results – all of which reference a recent interview that Ms. Paltrow gave with Harpaar’s Bizarre. The 39 year old film star mentioned her daughter’s affinity for pink, ruffled clothes and remarked that IF her daughter were a lesbian she would be a ‘lipstick lesbian’ – as opposed to a ‘butch’ lesbian.  So now you may be thinking, ‘what the hell is that?’ Definition incoming! The most popular description on, defines the lipstick lesbian as “a feminine lesbian who is attracted to other feminine lesbians. They generally enjoy fashion, flowers, perfume, sex and the city, lingerie, lipstick of course, and (gasp!) passionate sex with other women.” The authors at Wikipedia expand on their similar definition of a LL by adding “most female same-sex sex scenes in mainstream pornography [portray women] this way.”  I take issues with this designation.  It’s as if people are saying “ok- now that we know what she is, we’ll know more appropriately how to deal with her.” I think of scientists uncovering a new species of animal or better yet, Jack Hannah. “Hey everyone, how’r  ya’ll doin – I’m Jungle Jack Hanna and on today’s episode we’ll be looking for the allusive Lipstick Lesbian.” What about the lesbian who does not fit into the nicely outlined “lipstick” category – is she butch by default? Is there no such thing as a normal, everyday lesbian? I’ll admit when I first heard the term lipstick lesbian I was amused – but does this label serve a purpose or is it damaging to the gay and lesbian community?

The people over at not only find lipstick classification necessary but they also commit an entire section of their website in support of feminine lesbians. The claim is that they are unidentifiable by appearance and therefore need a support community where they can find tips on how to navigate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), dating and social scene. “Since we “don’t look like Lesbians”, other Lesbians don’t recognize us, which means we are often excluded from the united front. (Also, we don’t get asked out.)” This makes sense. In 1998, the Village Voice published an article in which they addressed the lipstick lesbian phenomenon.  According to the article, after series like the L Word, Sex and the City and Grey’s Anatomy portrayed lesbians in a more feminine light, lesbians no longer felt obligated to wear Doc Martens and rainbow colored jewelry but instead ventured to strut around in designer clothes and high heels.  Executive producer and director of L Word, Ilene Chaiken, feels that lesbians are liberated by the increasing social acceptance of the feminine lesbian.

“I think that we all need representation, we need aspirational figures, and it’s a positive thing for girls growing up to look at a TV show and say: ‘Oh, so that’s a lesbian, and she can be successful and wear glamorous clothes. Feeling that I might be gay doesn’t relegate me to some dark corner of society.’ “

Sociologist and professor, Jane Ward, calls this “’an echo effect’: The media prefers images of beautiful women, so lesbians put energy into being pretty, and then the media reports that image as the new ideal. “It’s the same way that heterosexual femininity is packaged and sold to female consumers.” Lesbians are therefore more palatable to the media-crazed, consumer public.

So which is it – have lesbians been forced by the general public into acting and dressing more feminine or have they been liberated by lipstick and high heels? I think it is a matter of both social pressure and personal expression. Either way, it is not a very flattering reflection of U.S. American social culture when public figures like Gwyneth Paltrow keyhole people into such inescapable categories. Actress Portia de Rossi once quipped “Everyone is their own kind of lesbian. To think there’s a certain way to dress or present yourself in the world is just one more stereotype we have to fit into.”  We should not be persuaded to make the distinction between two potentially harmful clichés; the ‘lipstick’ and the ‘butch’ lesbian.  Why is it anyway that lipstick lesbians receive the special feminine treatment? One of the most beautiful expressions of femininity is the deep love and affection that one woman can have for her female friend, partner or lover; with or without lipstick.

It Must Be Magic

By Carolina Costa[youtube][/youtube]

In a world dominated by the media, individuals are in constant contact with the unregulated messages and images sent out by publicity agencies, television channels and large corporation. It is estimated that children and young adults watch more than 10 hours of media a day (which doubles their time spent at school in a week).

Young men and women are bombarded with retouched and altered images of beauty, presenting an unreal and impossible prototype to measure themselves against. From magazines, television shows, movies or blackboards young adults are shown flawless faces and bodies that could not be obtained if their life depended on it. We are all doomed to fail regardless of how much we seek to alter ourselves, and yet the number of cosmetic surgery procedures performed on youth 18 or younger has more than tripled from 1997-2007.

But what does this unreal idea of beauty contribute to our society? Nothing but low self-esteem for our youth and wealthier pockets for those selling the wonderful products that will allow men and women to somehow stand up to the unreachable model corporations have created. So until we can apply magical products like the one shown in the video, we might be better off trying to change the beauty model to a realistic one rather than spend our time and money attempting to reach an impossible ideal.


Learning To Be At Peace With My Vagina

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By Kristina Gardner

I’m a self-proclaimed feminist, I believe in equal rights, equal pay, and equal treatment for women. I believe in stopping the violence against women; and that’s why I work in the Women’s Center. But this semester has been an eye opener for me. I’ve learned that working in the Women’s Center and advocating for Women’s Rights and Violence Prevention, is more than just protesting, signing petitions, and putting on events. It’s about loving yourself for what and who you are….

And that meant coming to terms with my vagina…

But first I had to come to terms with just saying the word “vagina”. I stood in front of a mirror for 20 minutes at a time just saying the word, using it in sentences, and teaching myself that it is not a bad word, as I was brought up to believe it was. Not letting myself say some of the funny terms my parents and teachers used for it. That was the first step.

It really started to make me wonder why for eighteen years of my life, why have I never was allowed to say, or was never comfortable to say the word “vagina”. I mean, clearly, my parents and friends had a big part in it. I was raised to be modest and to act like a “lady” it just wasn’t something “ladies” said. They were never okay to say the word or talk about it, so neither did I, and I was perfectly alright with that.

Around this same time in my “blog rolling”, I stumbled across this documentary all about “the perfect vagina” and what women are doing to themselves (including get surgery to reduce the lips of their vaginas, and making themselves virgins again) to achieve “the perfect vagina”. The whole documentary is about learning to love what you have, and learn that everyone’s vagina is different.

Now, we had the Vagina Monologue Auditions, here at the UMKC Women’s Center, and the actual performance is in February.  I had never seen this play before, so I watched some of the clips from performances around the world, and found myself agreeing with these stories, knowing those things really happen to people. Seeing stories about people coming to terms with their own vaginas and periods, etc.; I found myself inspired – and quite frankly, a little upset – that I had delayed this self-acceptance, for so long.

So, if you aren’t comfortable with your vagina (or even just saying the word vagina), I challenge you to do the same, because your vagina is yours. You should love it, respect it, and be proud that you are a woman!


Barbie’s Not-So-Positive Influence

Photo by Matthew Rolston

By Emily Mathis

One of the most read blogs on our site is from a while ago and is about Barbie’s positive influence. While, I agree that Barbie has some positive effects, I wonder if they outweigh the negative effects she has on body image? Recently I came across this picture and article about the amount of plastic surgery this woman would need to look like Barbie.

I found the picture thought provoking. What messages and images are we sending to little girls and boys, for that matter, about what a female’s body should look like? Are there women out there striving for this unattainable ideal?

I am left feeling confused. Should we discourage playing with one of America’s favorite toys? Or should we hope that messages of body acceptance are loud enough to get through?

I think of all the hours I spent playing with Barbie when I was young. Then I think about all the struggles I have had with body image throughout my teens and now into my twenties.  Is there a correlation?

According to the article, which mainly focuses on how Barbie affects plastic surgery numbers, there is a correlation between our culture’s distorted view of beauty and the ideal body and plastic surgery rates. With 5% of plastic surgeries being done under the age of 20 and over 13 million body parts being altered last year it seems that something or someone is having a major effect on women’s lives.

Barbie has been around since 1959. That’s over 50 years of girls and boys who grew up with Barbie. If you look at all the different Barbies, they all are thin and perfect. This can set a very unrealistic ideal for what a woman should look like. And it doesn’t just affect girls. Young boys who see their sisters or playmates playing with the doll may grow up to think that is what a woman should look like.

Female body image is a precarious thing. Besides Barbie there are the Disney princesses, who are also very beautiful by society’s standards and thin as well. Fairytales and Barbie are strong influences in young girls’ lives. I can’t count how many times I played with my Sleeping Beauty Barbie doll or how many times I watched Cinderella. Luckily, I never considered plastic surgery but what about the girls and young women out there with access to plastic surgery who think that looking like one of their childhood playmates is the key to getting everything they wanted?

I am not blaming Barbie or the princesses for all of this but I think they play a role in rising rates of plastic surgery and eating disorders. I think that there needs to be a serious look at what images and messages are being put out there. It seems like Barbie gets a lot of play while messages of self-love and body acceptance don’t.

With eating disorders posing a constant threat and general dissatisfaction with their bodies, can young girls and women really afford to have Barbie as any kind of a role model?

Love Your Body Day

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By Emily Mathis

80% of women are dissatisfied with their bodies.  Why is it that so many women are “dissatisfied”? Many people point to the media and all the images we are fed as part of the problem. Between movies, TV, commercials, and magazines women are constantly being bombarded with what the media would like us to think is the “ideal” beauty. And we feed into it every time we say we don’t like ourselves because we don’t look like that model or that actress. We need to change the dialogue surrounding our bodies. Instead of hate and dissatisfaction we need to love ourselves no matter what images we see out there.

That’s why NOW (National Organization of Women) started the Love Your Body Day Campaign. The campaign centers on the idea that every woman needs to love and celebrate what makes her unique.

This year the UMKC Women’s Center has a display case in front of 105 Haag Hall comparing some offensive ads and positive ads, as well as information about Love Your Body Day. In addition, there is also a Love Your Body Day Book Display in Miller Nichols Library on the 2nd floor. Be sure to check out both of these displays.

October 19th is Love Your Body Day. So on that day, and every other day, you should treat yourself with kindness and respect and remember that you are worth it.

American Apparel At It Again

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By Emily Mathis

Last year I wrote a blog about American Apparel and how they are over sexed and overly thin. Well, this year it seems somebody over there heard what the plus size community was saying. (Though they are just as overly sexed as ever.)

 According to reports, American Apparel will start carrying some of their styles in XL.  How did the company announce this? With a semi-offensive modeling ad:

Think you are the Next BIG Thing?
Calling curvy ladies everywhere! Our best-selling Disco Pant (and around 10 other sexy styles) are now available in size XL, for those of us who need a little extra wiggle room where it counts. We’re looking for fresh faces (and curvaceous bods) to fill these babies out. If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next XLent model, send us photos of you and your junk to back it up.

Just send us two recent photographs of yourself, one that clearly shows your face and one of your body. We’ll select a winner to be flown out to our Los Angeles headquarters to star in your own bootylicious photoshoot. Runners up will win an enviable assortment of our favorite new styles in XL!

Show us what you’re workin’ with!

 Now I think that I have a sense of humor but that’s just tacky.

 The problem I have with this new line of “XLent” clothes is that they still aren’t catering to actual plus size women. A size 12/14 is average and it’s about time they started carrying the average for America. In my opinion, if you want to really open up your business for new customers that are plus size then you have to actually carry plus size clothing. I mean with all my curves I would be lucky if I fit into their XL.

 Plus size clothing is a vastly under tapped market.  If clothing designers and stores would open their eyes and start catering to most of America you could bet that they would make some serious money. Every plus size women I know, myself included, would like just as much variety as the thin girls get. Because thin doesn’t always mean healthier or better and shouldn’t be treated as such. Lots of my friends are average size and they still wouldn’t fit into American Apparel’s clothes. 

So it’s about time the fashion world caught up to us.

Diet Book For Girls?

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 By Emily Mathis

A new book titled “Maggie Goes On a Diet” is hitting bookstores everywhere and causing quite a stir. “Do little girls need a diet book?” asks That is the question. With childhood obesity rates close to 1 in 5 children, it’s not surprising that someone would write a diet book for children. But is that the right way to go?

“Maggie Goes On a Diet” follows Maggie, a 14-year-old overweight girl, through her weight loss story. According to the publishers: “Maggie has so much potential that has been hiding under her extra weight.” The publishers call the story of a girl who loses weight and becomes a soccer star, “inspiring”. But inspiring is not the word many would use to describe this story.

Already forums on are blowing up with outraged customers, and the book has yet to be released. Some call the book an “abomination” and some customers even threaten to take their business elsewhere if the book is sold on Amazon. Valid points are being brought up about how easy it is to trigger eating disorders, especially in girls.

In fact, according to The National Eating Disorders Association, “42 percent of girls in 1st – 3rd grades want to be thinner”, and “over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives”.  With nearly 10 million girls and women suffering from eating disorders, it’s no wonder people are up in arms about a diet book whose targeted audience is 4 to 8 year olds.

Having experienced being overweight as a child myself, I fear reading a book like this during that period might have steered me down the wrong path. Too many girls already struggle with low self-esteem and lack of confidence, especially about how they look.  A book that shows being fat basically means you can’t be happy with yourself, and being thinner equates to having more friends and being the star of the soccer team; well, that’s just asking for problems.

Girls need books that talk to them about acceptance of differences, of each other, and especially of themselves no matter what. “Maggie Goes On a Diet” is just another example of the media trying to fit girls into a certain image. Maybe instead of publishing books about dieting, the publisher should think about publishing books that promote healthy body image.