What is the “Pink Tax”?

Online wholesale retailer Boxed.com announces the company is taking a powerful stand against Pink Tax by lowering prices on everyday items unfairly priced. The new initiative will lower prices on feminine hygiene products that are charged a luxury tax and gender price gouging on everyday items including body wash, deodorant, razors, and shave gel. The hope is that by taking this stand, it will encourage other retailers to do the same; that a change will reverberate. #RethinkPink (PRNewsFoto/Boxed.com)

By Samantha Anthony

If you aren’t already passionate about women’s issues, you probably have a friend who is – and that friend has probably told you about the “pink tax.” It might sound like a feminist myth, but a study published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in August found that in some cases, the issue is very real.

Essentially, the “pink tax” is the name given to the theory that it is more expensive to be a woman due to the higher cost of products geared toward female consumers. Ax The Pink Tax is a website dedicated to bringing awareness to the subject. According to Ax The Pink Tax, the average woman pays an extra $1,351 per year. To back up this claim, the website features a study published by NYC Consumer Affairs, called “From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer.” Women are urged to use the hashtag #AxThePinkTax to share their stories and raise consumer awareness among one another.

While Ax The Pink Tax alleges that women pay a slightly higher percentage for almost everything from adult and children’s clothing to razors and deodorant, the GAO study asserts that this is only sometimes the case. “Of 10 personal care product categories (e.g., deodorants and shaving products) that GAO analyzed, average retail prices paid were significantly higher for women’s products than for men’s in 5 categories,” the GAO states in the report. Additionally, “Studies GAO reviewed found limited evidence of gender price differences for four products or services not differentiated by gender—mortgages, small business credit, auto purchases, and auto repairs. For example, with regard to mortgages, women as a group paid higher average mortgage rates than men, in part due to weaker credit characteristics, such as lower average income.” While the GAO does admit to finding gender-based price differences in consumer products, it allows that there is not “a need to incorporate additional materials specific to gender-related price differences into their existing consumer education resources” (or, in other words, they’re not going to do anything about it). Unfortunately, it seems like the cause of the pink tax is rooted in pay inequality, which is an ongoing issue for women everywhere.

If you’re concerned about the pink tax and how it might impact you, pay close attention to the products that are most susceptible to the pink tax: razors, body wash, shampoo and conditioner, underwear, and toys and accessories. Read the U.S. GAO report and visit AxThePinkTax.com to learn how much money you’ve lost to the pink tax and find out what you can do to stop it.

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/.

Understanding Intersectionality

By Samantha Anthony

I have always been fascinated by individuality. Who am I? What do I like? Simple questions like these can be difficult for young women like myself to answer, since many of us are still navigating our own personality. Discovering your passions and determining how to present yourself is no simple task. There are many aspects of one’s identity: hobbies, friendships and relationships, careers, appearance and style. I’ve always been aware of this, but finding out who you are isn’t a destination – it’s more of a journey.

Before coming to UMKC, I had never heard the term “intersectionality.” This word is used at conventions and workshops to help people embrace every facet of their identity: sexuality, race, religion, gender, and personal experiences are all combined to form you. Although I could immediately grasp this much, I found myself wondering about the term and its significance, especially in marginalized communities.

I learned that a law professor named Kimberlé Crenshaw first coined the term “intersectionality” back in 1989, but it was not popularized until almost twenty years later, when many black women found themselves struggling to relate to the mainstream (and primarily white) feminist movement. The Oxford Dictionary defines intersectionality as “The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and independent systems of discrimination and disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise.” If that seems confusing, think about it like this: even though you may share a small portion of your identity with someone else, like gender or religion, you don’t share all of the same traits. For example, a white man who identifies as gay has experienced different forms of oppression than a black man who is gay, or a white woman who is a lesbian. Even though all of these people belong to the LGBTQ+ community, they most likely do not share all of the same beliefs. According to YW Boston, which published an article exploring the concept of intersectionality in 2017, “Understanding intersectionality is essential to combatting the interwoven prejudices people face in their daily lives.”

Intersectionality may just be a term, but it should be used to help further awareness of privilege and disadvantage (including your own). YW Boston recommends avoiding language that blankets large groups of people: instead of saying “all women feel that _______,” try to avoid assumptions and focus on individual beliefs and experiences. The best way to encourage intersectionality, however, is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and try to see things from their point of view. How might their experiences have shaped their beliefs and values? By starting here, we can certainly find some common ground.

No More Bossy Girls

By Nina Cherry

It seems that I have been taking initiative since the day I was born. I am a natural born leader, a perfectionist, and I like things done correctly and in a timely matter. Growing up, my assertiveness caused me to frequently be labeled as “bossy,” while the boys were always labeled leaders.

But why are girls labeled as bossy? When we use the word bossy to describe girls, we are reinforcing the idea that their strength is inferior.  The negative connotation of the word often discourages girls to pursue leadership and encourages them to be more reserved.

I always thought that I come off as strong, but I only recently realized that I am just assertive and determined, and I am finally unperturbed by that. There have been many times in my life where I have debated whether or not to bite my tongue, to be passive or assertive, or to seem more “ladylike.” But I was not raised to be ladylike; I was raised to be a strong woman. I was raised to be confident. I was raised to be loud. And, as Beyonce says, “I’m not bossy – I’m the boss.”

So let’s not have any more bossy girls. We need to empower our confident, strong, assertive, brave, loud girls and encourage them to be leaders.

Ban Bossy is a movement dedicated to ending the stigmas associated with strong-willed young women. Created by Girl Scouts of America and Lean In, it challenges us to find words other than “bossy.” If you agree with Nina’s thoughts, pledge to ban using the word “bossy” when describing young girls at http://banbossy.com/.

Event Preview: Walk a Mile in Her ShoesⓇ 2018

By Samantha Anthony

Signs are welcome at the march. Here, some students show off their posters from the 2017 event.

Each year, the UMKC Women’s Center advocates for change through our organization and presentation of Walk a Mile in Her ShoesⓇ, a march dedicated to women’s rights and violence prevention. The Women’s Center website states that since 2007, over 1,000 people have participated in the march at UMKC.

What: Walk a Mile in Her ShoesⓇ is “The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence.” It asks men to walk in high-heeled shoes to better understand and appreciate women’s experiences, improve gender relationships, and decrease the potential for violence. To find out more, visit www.walkamileinhershoes.org.

Who: Presented by the UMKC Women’s Center and Violence Prevention & Response Program

When: Thursday, September 27, 2018 at 5:30. A kick-off will take place before the march, which will begin at 6.

Where: UMKC University Playhouse, 51st & Holmes St., Kansas City, MO 64110

Admission: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is FREE for students, but you must register at http://info.umkc.edu/womenc/programs/walk-a-mile-in-her-shoes/

Advance: $25 Staff/Faculty; $50 Community

Walk-In: $30 Staff/Faculty; $55 Community

All proceeds will benefit the UMKC Women’s Center and Violence Prevention & Response Program.

Parking: Ample parking is available at the Cherry Street Parking Structure located at Oak and 50th Street. Metered parking is also available on campus. For more information, visit https://www.umkc.edu/finadmin/parking/default.cfm.

Please note that we have a limited number of heels available for walkers. Ask your friends and family to borrow some heels, or, if you would like to donate a pair of heels, send us an email: umkc-womens-center@umkc.edu

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.

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.

Out with the Old; In with the New

By Chris Howard-Williams

My summer with the Women’s Center is drawing to a close.  During my time here, I’ve tried to educate myself about feminism and what I can do as a man to promote the cause of feminism.  For my last blog post in this effort, I want to focus on a slightly different question.  Instead of the “how”, I want to touch on the “why” – Why should I, as a man, support feminism?

I’m not going to lie … there are many articles out there already that explain the importance of feminism for men that will put it more eloquently than I ever could.  A quick Google search of “How men benefit from feminism” pulled up many different articles to read.  Reading through just three of the first articles that popped up from the Independent , the Crimson White, and the Medium, I realized there’s nothing I can really add to the discussion that would be new, save for one thing – my own voice.

So, in my own words, why do I support feminism?  Here’s my short list based on my own personal experiences with the inequality and toxic masculinity that still exist:

  1. Because I want to be able to cry and show emotion without it being seen as showing my “feminine side”;
  2. Because I want to be able to enjoy cooking and baking at home without being teased about making someone a “good wife”;
  3. Because I want to be able to say that I don’t enjoy sports without wondering if I’ll be viewed as “less than a man” because of it;
  4. Because I want to be able to stop the “male posturing” for strength and dominance without being called a derogatory term for the female anatomy;
  5. Because I don’t want to be regarded more highly than someone else simply because of my gender (or the color of my skin, while we’re on the subject);
  6. Because I want the women in my life to be considered for who they are and what they can accomplish rather than to be viewed through antiquated stereotypes;
  7. But most importantly, because it’s the right thing to do!

There’s probably more that I could list, but those are the big ones, folks.  Equity and equality matter, and they’re needed.  Men, if you don’t understand why, it’s time to educate yourselves.  It can start with a simple Google search, but it takes a real inner-self search as well.  It’s time to usher out the old, the outdated, the ignorance and the broken gender roles.  It’s time for the new to become the norm.

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.

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Blog Posts …

By Chris Howard-Williams

So, I’m going to ask you to indulge me a bit this week.  Normally, I write blog posts that deal with being a male feminist and what I can do as an ally to best support the cause of feminism.  I’m going to take a break from that this week to talk about cartoons.  Well, I want to talk about one cartoon in particular, a small offering from the Cartoon Network called Steven Universe.

During the July 4th week, Steven Universe became the first children’s animated series to showcase both a same-sex proposal and marriage. Responding to questions about this decision, Rebecca Sugar, the show’s creator, said that we must absolutely tell LGBTQ+ children that they belong in this world and deserve to be loved.  “We cannot wait until a child grows up to tell them they deserve to exist and that their story matters,” she went on to say.  “I am overwhelmed with emotion thinking of the years of tireless work from all of us on the crew leading up to this moment.”

While this alone is pretty phenomenal, it’s just one more thing on the checklist of amazing firsts and highlights that Rebecca Sugar has woven into the show.  Here are some other groundbreaking facts about Steven Universe:

  • It’s the first animated show on Cartoon Network to be fully created by a woman.
  • It has a diverse voice cast featuring many women of color. Deedee Magno, Michaela Dietz, and Estelle voice the three main female protagonists (Pearl, Amethyst, and Garnet, respectively).
  • It seeks to fight against gender norms, offering us a male main character who is empathetic and regularly shows his emotions, many strong female characters, and even an androgynous character who is openly admired by both male and female characters in the show.
  • It has characters who represent many different kinds of sexuality, including straight, gay, and bisexual characters. There is even a character that Rebecca Sugar has confirmed represents a polyamorous relationship.
  • Finally, it presents all of this as normal within the contexts of the world it has built, allowing us to see a world that could exist if we keep fighting for gender and sexuality rights and equality.

So, why does it matter?  Quite simply, representation matters!  As one article put it, when underrepresented populations don’t see people like themselves in media, they get the message that they are invisible, that they don’t count.  In short, they start to feel that there’s something wrong with them.  Even more important is a genuine representation of themselves in media and not a “one-dimensional” characterization of themselves.  And this is exactly the kind of portrayal that Rebecca Sugar is striving for with Steven Universe.

And she has achieved it.  How do I know?  Because the representation has mattered to me personally.  As a gay man watching with my partner as the first ever children’s show featured a same-sex marriage, I cannot express how validated we felt as the union was treated with respect, with dignity, and with love.  I will admit a few tears were shed as we grabbed each other and commented about how beautiful it was to see our personal lives represented in some form on the small screen.  I can only imagine how others have felt watching the show over the years … the girls being shown that they can be strong warriors, the boys being shown that they can be empathetic and find peaceful solutions to conflict, and the many LGBTQIA+ people being shown that our love is just as valid, just as worthy of respect. We can all be Crystal Gems, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about there, I have a show that you need to watch!