The Importance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By: Adriana Miranda

TW: sexual assault, violence

Did you know that 1 in every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape? But this doesn’t just affect women. Men who are students and 18-24 years old are FIVE times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than men of the same age who are not students. Transgender, genderqueer and nonconforming (TGQN) students are also at higher risk than other college students (source for all of these here). And these are just reported cases; who knows how much larger the number is for people who don’t ever talk about their assault? That being said, SA is something that affects us all. If you have friends who are women or TGQN, there’s a high chance they’ve experienced some form of SA. If you have male friends there is a chance they’ve experienced the same.

This is why SA Awareness Month (SAAM) exists. It’s a time for us to come together to raise awareness and to take action against sexual assault.

The Women’s Center is dedicated to spreading awareness about SA and this SAAM. As part of our programming, we participated in Denim Day on April 26, 2022. Denim Day began as the result of a court case that victim-blamed a woman for her assault. Why? The Italian Supreme Court ruled that her jeans were too tight for her rapist to remove by himself, so she must have helped remove them.  This past Wednesday, we also shared a“What Were They Wearing” display to share the stories of SA victims, heard from a survivor speaker, and finished out the event with healing arts and snacks as a break from the heavy subject matter.

 

Back to Basics #4: What is the Patriarchy?

By: Emma Stuart

Welcome to Back to Basics! In these posts, we break down feminist concepts for readers curious about feminist vocabulary, concepts, and ideas! Today’s question is:

“What is Patriarchy?”

Patriarchy is defined by Oxford Languages as “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” Due to most modern societies being patriarchal, women are restricted access to the power and privilege that is attributed to men. Feminists and advocates for gender equality have consistently fought against the values that have been enforced by patriarchal societies.

“How am I impacted by the patriarchy?”

The patriarchy affects everyone in many aspects of our lives. It impacts the lives of women and men all around the world in countless ways but here are a few examples:

  • Men are not allowed to show emotions, and if women do, they are ‘out of control’.
  • Women are perceived as objects by the world.
  • Sexual violence perpetrated to and by all genders, and sexual violence committed against masculine people is not taken seriously.
  • Inequity of pay for preforming the same jobs.

“How can I oppose the patriarchy in my life?”

Tackling the patriarchy is not an easy job to do but here are some small ways that we can work against it:

  1. Make sure to educate yourself and keep your mind open to growth.
  2. Challenge the expectation of gender roles but continue to respect all gender expressions.
  3. Hold leadership accountable.
  4. Don’t be blinded by your anger, it is important to acknowledge your anger but don’t let it control you.
  5. Support all women, non-binary, and trans people’s careers, their success is your success don’t make it a competition.

The patriarchy is a constant presence in our lives, and it can be a great burden to bear. However, do not let it control your life and drag you down. Surround yourself with those who lift you up and support you to lighten this load. If you want to learn more about the patriarchy and its effects click here. And if you want to learn about more basic feminist topics check out our post on the myth of “man-hating feminists” , intersectional feminism, and body positivity.

Someone’s Gotta Say It: True Feminism Includes All Trans People.

By: Emma Sauer

(Alternative title: JK Rowling needs to be blasted from a cannon straight into the sun.)

J.K Rowling is one of those rich people who could have had things so easy. She wrote a beloved children’s book franchise, sold upwards of 500 million copies, and made a crap-ton of cash from her beloved books becoming equally beloved movies. I can only guess the billions of dollars in sales she got from those life-size Dobby statues.  

All she had to do was shut up and live out the rest of her days in her stupidly lavish multi-million dollar mansion. But for some reason, that’s never enough for celebrities. They have to feel big and important, so they become activists on whatever suits their fancy–animal welfare, poverty, the whales. Usually that’s harmless, but JK Rowling wanted to champion herself as a woke-AF independent woman™. This started as her declaring characters such as Albus Dumbledore to be gay, and embracing fan visions of the characters as POC (people of color). A nice gesture, if a bit of an empty one, seeing as how she never actually put in the effort to include quality representation into her books (We have only a few POC characters, and they’re riddled with stereotypes. See Cho-Chang, whose name is a couple letters away from an asian slur.)

As the years have gone on, she’s gone from being an insincere activist to a mouthpiece for transphobic politicians. To be more specific, she’s an outspoken TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist). TERFS identity as feminists, but they exclude the rights of transgender women from their advocacy of women’s rights. Often TERFS appear progressive on the surface,  and will be loud and outspoken about their desire to protect and empower cis women. Underneath that facade, however, is an ugly rhetoric that harms trans women’s sense of self and safety (Which, if you ask me, makes them pretty lousy feminists). TERFS often partner with certain lawmakers and political groups to push against transgender equality in areas such as athletic competition, access to public spaces, and healthcare for trans kids. 

Rowling in particular is dangerous to the feminist cause. It’s one thing for a celebrity to make a mistake, an off-color joke, or have done bad things in the past. It’s a whole other thing when they actively campaign against a group on social media. In Rowling’s case, it seems to be even easier to attract people to the TERF cause because of the language she uses. One of her “deepest concerns” is that by allowing trans-women into public spaces such as bathrooms, sexual predators will also be invited in. In her own words: 

“When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.”

Except no, it’s not. Nondiscrimination laws say nothing about allowing men into women’s statements. Allowing transgender folks in bathroom is a civic necessity. The discomfort, shame, and fear they feel of not being able to have that access is very real, and Rowling is willing to shove all that aside for the false claim that it will allow men into women’s bathrooms. Rowling either believes a false version of the law or is deliberately lying to further her point.  In this statement Rowling also alludes to the long-held myth that sexual predators pretend to be trans and skulk around women’s bathrooms all day, ready to strike at any moment. This myth has been debunked over and over by watchdog groups like Media Matters.

As someone who has enjoyed Harry Potter into even adulthood, it’s difficult to grapple with the fact that someone who has created such a beloved property could have bigoted views–especially when Rowling is so outspoken about the importance of feminism. I can agree with her there–but I don’t want any part in a version that doesn’t include all women.

Someone’s Gotta Say it: Female Comedians Don’t Get a Fair Shake

By: Emma Sauer

In 2019, A Little Late with Lily Singh aired for the first time on NBC. Singh, a comedy youtuber and influencer, launched her career from her YouTube channel. Initially, fans and critics were cautiously optimistic, and at first the show seemed like it would be promising–then the first episode came out. 

Christ on a cracker, was it bad. Every joke fell flat, every skit was played out, and Singh’s presentation felt forced and awkward.  I’m not going to argue Lily Singh is some comedy genius, but I do think the widespread scorn she received was disproportionate. Sure, she made a bad show, and some jokes that were in poor taste, but it was her first time appearing in front of a TV audience. The show had budget and time difficulties, and it was filmed in the heat of COVID-19, further throwing a wrench into the show’s production. The problems audiences and media critics had with the show extended way beyond its quality, but that’s another blog for the time. For the time being, let’s just say some people thought Singh got a little too comfortable appropriating Caribbean/Black culture. 

Everyone on the internet seemed to agree for one brief, delicious moment–A Little Late with Lily Singh was a swing and a miss. But then, it became clear to me that there were some people taking the opportunity not just to bash Singh’s comedy, but just female comedians in general. I remember seeing a lot of discourse online throughout YouTube, Reddit, and 4-chan. (Shout-out to 4-chan for always being there to remind me humanity is doomed.)

This incident reminded me of an ongoing argument that has never really ended- are women even funny? If you’re a rationally thinking person, this sounds like an incredibly stupid argument, and I agree with you–it is stupid. It’s ass-backwards, even. The idea that women can’t be comedians based on their gender is something I wish we left back in the early 2000s, but unfortunately it is still a thing. On the bright side, you won’t find a lot of reputable sources declaring women incapable of fun. On the not so bright side, you’ll find it’s the opposite on internet forums and social media. 

So what exactly are people saying about female comedians? Well, I’ll save you the pain of googling it yourself. (You’ll have to take my word for it. I don’t want to link where I found these remarks–they’re hateful and not worth your time to read.) Here’s what I found: 

  1. “Women are more concerned with their appearance than telling jokes.” In a YouTube video called “Women are NOT FUNNY” (very creative title, 10/10), the guy in front of the camera reacts to some unfunny TikTok videos from a woman. His takeaway from a couple seconds-long videos? “Women just don’t seem to appreciate comedy at the same level a man does.” He also states that men are better at comedy, because they are willing to self-deprecate from an early age, while women prefer to avoid drawing attention to their imperfections. He categorizes women as being too vain and self-absorbed to take a joke. This dude talks like women are an entirely different species. His ideas were kind of interesting, but he had nothing to back it up- no research, no articles mentioned or cited. The comments had nothing but  high praise for him though, and he’s got ~200,000 subscribers. Go figure, I guess. 
  2. “Female comedians joke too much about their vaginas.” This is another blanket statement I’ve come across on social media threads, and I’m sure it’s something female comics have been hearing for decades now. In my humble opinion, this is a double standard at play. I haven’t even watched that much stand-up comedy and even I’ve heard a ton of dick jokes from male comics. Why is it that guys can make dick/sex jokes all they want, but when a women does the same thing, people find it so gross? I think it has to do with the fact that people don’t expect sex jokes from a woman. From a man, they’re funny. From a woman, it’s annoying and icky. Comedian Emily Weir had some insightful things to say about this in an article from Farrago Magazine. The article is from 2016, but it still makes great points. 
  3. “I don’t like(insert female comedian here) therefore all female comedians are bad.” This isn’t a statement I hear from people online–rather, it’s the thought process I’ve observed from people who hold that belief. Ok, remember what I said about Singh earlier? People took that one instance and spun their own narrative of all women being poor comedians, not just Singh. I see the same thing happen all the time with mainstream female comedians, such as Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, and Ellen DeGeneres. It’s important to recognize that the comedian world is male dominated. Men make up roughly 75% of comedians. The few female comedians you see in the spotlight are not necessarily an accurate picture of all the others. There’s a cornucopia of gut-busting female comedians out there- you just aren’t looking.  Additionally, I’d argue that there are a lot of mainstream male comics who are equally obnoxious and groan-inducing. I don’t like Joe Rogan, but that doesn’t mean every bald, red-faced, middle-aged man is a hack, just most of them! (Kidding, kidding… I didn’t mean it, Dad.) 

It goes without saying that women are just as funny as anyone else. These three points don’t prove anything, and as soon as you start to think about them, their reasoning falls apart. As time goes on, more people are catching onto the weak arguments against female comedians. The way they’re viewed is changing, and I feel like the climate is improving for women in comedy. Even still, these backwards ideas against them still persist. They’ve always bugged me, and someone had to say it. 

P.S) Here are a few of my favorite female comedians. Feel free leave your own favorites in the comments! 

Nicole Byer

Jamie Loftus

Catilin Reily 

Back to Basics #2: Do Feminists Hate Men?

By: Laura Yac

We are bringing it back to basics this week with a common misconception involving feminists.  When I talk about my feminist beliefs, I often get asked the question, “Do you hate men?”  My answer,  like Cher from Clueless would say is: “Ugh! as if…”

Yet the question still remains if feminists really hate men, and for the most part we don’t! I have come to the conclusion that many individuals (especially men) feel attacked by the term feminist and the concept of women wanting to be seen as equal and receiving the same opportunities that men do for simply being male. This is where I believe individuals got the common misconception that we hate men.

If you go online right now and look up the term feminist, the definition is  “advocacy of women rights on the basis of equality of sexes.” From that, we can gather that overall feminists just want to be seen at the same standards the world places men. We want nothing more than to be treated as the powerful individuals we are and because of that, men shouldn’t feel threatened or hated on. It is simply a matter of wanting change. Women are tired of being treated like they are unable to do certain tasks, tired of being underpaid and underestimated.

It is time that individuals realize that. Instead of seeing such movement as a threat, they should join the cause for the women in their life who have been shut down and underestimated their whole life. For now, it seems women’s rights will be a battle we continue to fight.

For the mean-time here is some extra helpful information on what feminism really is and to leave on a good note… Men, we don’t hate you!

Helpful articles to learn more about feminism: click here and here.

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s History Trivia: First Female African American Physician

The New England Female Medical College (Image Source: Wikipedia Commons)

By: Alyssa Bradley

Trivia Question: Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African-American woman to become a _______ (occupation) in the United States. 

Answer: Physician

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler is recognized for becoming the first African-American woman physician in the United States. As a young girl, she grew up in a house with her aunt who took care of the ill. Rebecca was always considered a “special student” and was allowed to attend many prestigious private schools because of her intellect.

Later in life, she pursued her shared family passion for medicine.  During 1860, Crumpler applied and was accepted into the New England Female Medical College. This institution was founded in 1848 and had only started accepting its first female student, a class of 12, in 1850. The women at this college faced ridicule from male physicians who derided the institution. They complained that women “lacked the physical strength to practice medicine”. Others thought that women were incapable of understanding a medical curriculum and that the topics taught were inappropriate for their “sensitive and delicate nature”.

In 1860, there were only 300 women out of 54,543 physicians in the United States–and none of them were African American. Despite the discouraging odds, in 1864 Crumpler became her school’s only African-American graduate.

After completing her schooling, Crumpler relocated to Richmond, Virginia where she found her calling. She discovered “the proper field for real missionary work, and one that would present ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children.” It was here she worked under the Freedman’s Bureau, an agency dedicated to helping newly freed African American slaves.

Throughout the rest of her practice, Rebecca faced daily issues of racism and sexism from her colleagues, pharmacists, and many others. Rebecca Lee Crumpler continued to practice medicine and even wrote a book called A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts. She passed in 1895. Crumpler achieved many things in the name of gender and women’s equity and paved the way for many of those who continue to defy adversity.

Someone’s Gotta Say it: Anime’s Issue With Sexism

 

By: Emma Sauer

Hi again, and welcome to a shiny new blog segment! Thrice a month, I’ll be diving into an aspect of pop culture with a feminist twist.I think this will be a great way to bring some awareness to popular media’s relationship with feminism. This time, we’re talking about anime. In other words, I’m going to ruin fun things for everybody by talking about how they suck.

Fun!

Anyway, if you know anything at all about me, you know I’m a huge anime fan. My friends can attest to the army of anime figures on my bookshelf, my enthusiastic rants about the most newest shows, and those who have seen me at my most depraved will recall my Kuroshitsuji cosplay (we do not speak of those dark times). But as someone who has watched anime for half a decade now, there are things about it that I’ve never grown fully accustomed to. 

There’s the fanservice- upskirt shots of barely legal schoolgirls, beach episodes showcasing cleavage, seemingly random nude scenes, and jokes that often end with an embarassed/angry woman as the butt of a joke. To clarify, I don’t have problem with dirty jokes or sexy characters in anime–this is not the issue. Rather, what skeeves me out is when sexual harassment is played for laughs, or when the “sexy” character in question looks like a child. For example, take the first season of the Netflix original anime, Seven Deadly Sins. The main character constantly harasses another character by groping or looking up her skirt, while the other characters berate him for being a pervert. This is supposed to be a running gag. 

That’s not a joke. It’s just sexual assault.  

Even elements of anime as simple as character design show blatant sexism. Let me present to you: a murderous assassin who attacks under the cover of London fog, Jack the Ripper. If you clicked that link, I’m sorry. No, the show does not provide a reason for Jack the Ripper, of all things, to appear as a skimpily-dressed minor.  And no, there’s not a good reason for her to be wearing a bikini. And no, I have no idea why she’s wearing heels. We all know that if this character was a dude, there’s no way he would be dressed like that.

Although these aspects of anime are unsettling, at least I can skip them. I can easily avoid a scene that will make me uncomfortable. If I’m bothered, I can just skip, or I can laugh at how stupid it is. But you know what I can’t skip or laugh off? 

Crappy female characters—especially those in otherwise decent shows. Don’t get me wrong, anime has no shortage of awesome female characters, but too often, especially in shounen (usually action oriented and marketed towards boys), female characters are sidelined by their male counterparts. Take for example, a character that’s been universally hated since her inception: Sakura Haruno, from Naruto.

Sakura’s a train wreck of a character. Her deepest desire is to get together with a boy who has the romantic appeal of an enraged housecat. Sakura doesn’t have any complex desire for self-realization, or a reason to push herself that doesn’t involve a dude.

The manga’s creator intended for Sakura to be the quintessential “girl” character, which makes me pretty concerned about what he thinks the average woman is like. If every woman acted like Sakura, I think the human race would just be doomed. She’s a walking stereotype: a constant damsel in distress, weak, boy-obssessed, annoying, and vain. However, Sakura does have her redeeming moments- she gets very little action compared to the male characters, but she does have some fight scenes, and she’s regarded as a capable ninja in her own right. Personally, I can’t bring myself to hate her fully. I love Naruto, and since she’s one of the only major female characters, I have to take what I can get.

Although poor Sakura is an extreme case of a poorly written female character, I see the same issues she has in female characters all over anime. Female characters are seen as lesser in all contexts, both by other characters, the audience, and the people who create them. This issue is perhaps more complex than I give it credit for: anime is created for a Japanese audience, not an American one. They have their own unique issues when it comes to gender equality, as does the United States. The way Japanese society views women is different, and it’s important to keep that in mind as you enjoy your favorite anime. At the same time, I believe that’s a poor excuse for anime to have such poor female representation. I’ve seen great anime that don’t use the harmful tropes and stereotypes I’ve described, that allow female characters to be more than set-pieces for the male ones. It’s possible. Anime can do better. 

If you’re like me, it can be hard to let go of anime, despite all of its systematic issues. I’ve spent my whole childhood watching anime. At this point, it’s just a parasite sucking out my brain noodles and replacing them with cup ramen. You don’t have to stop watching the anime you love. I understand it’s not possible for every person to do that. However, as anime fans, we need to at the very least, recognize the sexism at play in anime. The degree to which it’s ignored is astounding. 

I get it’s asking a bit much to demand that the anime industry abandon its weird obsession with school-girls and french maids, but can we at least acknowledge it’s weird that it’s there in the first place?

I mean, someone’s gotta say it!

Tour of The Dividing Lines in Kansas City

By: Emma Stuart

O’Neil, Daniel X. Country Club Plaza. 12 January 2015As many of you know, the month of February is Black History Month, a month dedicated to the celebration of black culture and history. The history of the Civil Rights movement is all around us even right here in Kansas City and it is important to learn about that history. Thanks to the Johnson County Library there is a free and comprehensive driving tour of the history of segregation here in Kansas City. In this tour you are taken all throughout the city. It begins at Shawnee Mission East High School, whose students come from Mission Hills Kansas (one of the most expensive zip codes in Kansas).  As the tour continues, you are taken through the history of Kansas City’s development, including the founding of neighborhoods, the restrictive homeowners’ associations, and the homes of historical figures. The tour ends at the Nutter Ivanhoe Neighborhood Center off of 37th Street, which is a resource for the local community.

The tour takes about a half an hour of driving and stops in various places around KCMO and KCK. In this short amount of time you are taken through decades of history starting in the 1940s and ending in present day. Sometimes it is difficult to grasp the impact of racism in your city, but with this tour it opens your eyes to the real effects of racism when it comes to the development of a city. You are able to see nearby locations where history took place right in the city where you live. This tour was eye opening for me, because it put me in the same location of these difficult historical pastimes.

I took this tour with my family last summer and it was a learning experience for all of us. I had inklings of the racially driven actions that had led to the development of this city, but I had never seen them with my own eyes. I had never heard of them from the mouths of those who lived it. This tour is something that I think all residents of KCMO and KCK should partake in. It tells of the sordid past of this interesting city; it is necessary to look back on the misdeeds of the past to move forward to a better future.

This tour can be accessed through the link below and can be taken either using a web browser or through the VoiceMap App.

 

Missing White Woman Syndrome 

By Adriana Miranda

Missing White Woman Syndromea term coined by the late PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill, refers to the mainstream media’s seeming fascination with covering missing or endangered white women, and its seeming disinterest in cases involving missing people of color.”  

I’m sure we all remember when Gabby Petito went missing earlier this year, and if you don’t I’ll recap it for you: Gabby went missing while on a road trip with her fiancé, he returned home without her. The internet immediately sensationalized her disappearance and turned this woman’s life into news stories and true-crime tiktoks. Now I’m not saying media attention is a bad thing — people should care about missing women. The issue is that when black women, latina women, indigenous women, and other women of color go missing, they don’t get the same amount of media interest, if any at all.  

Zach Sommers, a lawyer specializing in race, crime, and media coverage, did an entire study on this phenomenon, and he believes it’s influenced by money. “Sommers speculates that there’s also the economic calculus of news coverage to consider: in skewing this type of coverage toward white women, news outlets might be deciding that missing white women are worth more in terms of eyeballs and ad revenue.”   

This means that not only are missing black and brown women’s stories seen as less deserving of coverage, but missing white women’s victimhood is seen as profitable. Even more, sometimes media coverage comes across like true-crime entertainment rather than real genuine care for others’ safety.  

Media coverage may not be the end-all-be-all for finding missing people, but only covering stories of missing white women at the very least contributes to a subconscious societal belief that white women are more valuable. It should be concerning to all of us that (1) women in general are more easily seen as victims and (2) white women are seen this way more easily and their victimhood is considered profitable. 

Menstrual Health is Sex Equity

By Brooke Davidoff

For about half the population, periods are not optional: they are unavoidable and they are expensive. Not everyone has the financial stability to afford menstrual products monthly. Period cycles and spotting can, at times, be completely unpredictable. Adolescent and adult menstruating people both in school and at work should not be held back from everyday functions by their periods or the related financial strain.

On Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28 this year, Congresswoman Grace Meng from Queens, New York, introduced a plan to end period poverty—sparking a movement to reach gender equity goals including:

– everyone being able to access and afford the menstrual products of their choice
– ending period stigma
everyone having basic information about menstruation (not just those who menstruate)

Difficulties in accessing menstrual products are a direct result of patriarchal oppression—this is a gender equity issue. “Two-thirds of low-income women surveyed in one 2019 study say they did not have the resources to buy hygiene products at some point in the last year, and one-fifth of those surveyed say they have difficulty accessing those products on a monthly basis. One in five girls have reported missing school because of a lack of menstrual products.”

Although, it would probably be more accurate to call this a sex equity issue. Menstrual products are a necessity for most people assigned female at birth. Ignoring this necessity is inequitable. A lifetime of menstrual products is expensive, irregular periods can cause bleeding more than once a month or when it is unexpected, and the fear of bleeding through your clothes can cause a burden of stress and anxiety.

But, there is good news! On October 12 of this year, California Governor Gavin Newsom passed The Menstrual Equity for All Act in California. The bill will go into effect next school year and it stipulates that free menstrual products must be made available in the bathrooms of all public schools serving students in grades six through twelve, all community colleges, and all California State University System schools.

Furthermore, while no similar legislation has passed in Missouri, The University of Missouri Kansas City also supplies free menstrual products in multiple locations! The Women’s Center (105 Haag Hall) has a collection of options. The Health Science Library on Hospital Hill also has supplies available, and even The Kangaroo Pantry offers free menstrual products–check their website for available hours and locations!