Someone’s Gotta Say It: The Word “Girlboss” Needs to Die 

By: Emma Sauer 

It’s been some time since I wrote one of these blogs, but I’m coming in hot today with an irritating trend that isn’t going away anytime soon. 

When’s the last time you walked into Target, TJ Maxx, Kohls, or any one of those conglomerate department stores? Have you noticed all those mass-produced t-shirts, tumblers, bags, book-ends, blankets, pillows, posters, and planners have one particular word plastered across them? Something like this:

Source: Amazon

Ugh. Girl Boss. Just typing that out feels like I’m manifesting the worst kind of cutesy faux feminism. Anyway, let me tell you why I hate this word so much. 

The word “girl boss” is a word ascribed to any woman in a position of leadership. It’s vague enough that it can mean a lot of different things, whether it’s a female CEO, business owner, or a middle aged white woman at home selling her Lularoe leggings. I also see it from time to time in Instagram bios or other places on social media. 

So, my main problem with cutesy phrases like “girl boss”, “boss lady”, or “she-eo” is that they’re infantilizing. (And also make for hideous interior design.) A woman in a leadership role shouldn’t be made into a huge deal— at least, not in a way that doesn’t recognize her accomplishments for what they are. When a man is in a leadership role, we don’t call him a “boy boss”, right? That just sounds silly and dumb. Same thing for “girl boss.” It’s dumb, and it makes me roll my eyes. I’m all for lifting up women, but instead of vaguely virtue-signaling with a sparkly pink “GIRL BOSS” plaque on your desk, do the work to focus on specific gender inequity issues.

And you know what? I find this whole “girl boss” thing totally disingenuous. It’s become a way for corporations to create merchandise and market themselves as being feminist, when in reality they’re destroying the environment, using child labor, and under-paying their employees.

Break the Cisnormative Status Quo with These Five Tips! 

By: Emma Sauer

An important part of being an intersectional feminist is advocating equality for all genders, including people who identify as genderqueer, nonbinary, intersex, or otherwise gender non-conforming. If you try to be a “good feminist”  like me, you probably know this, but sometimes it can be hard training our brains to not ignore this issue. We’re raised in a society (cue Joker voice) that aggressively pigeon-holes men and women into their respective roles, leaving little room for anything in between. It’s important we recognize, accommodate, and advocate for not just cis women, but also people outside the gender binary. These groups of people face increased discrimination through discriminatory laws, policies, and in their everyday lives. Here are five ways you can break that cycle in your own small way. 

1. Help normalize stating your pronouns: Include your preferred pronouns on places like your instagram or twitter bios, your email signatures, or face to face introductions when necessary. 

 This might feel awkward and unnatural at first, but saying your pronouns isn’t all that weird when you think about it. It’s just an extension of saying your name or any other personal characteristic. Once you get used to introducing yourself with your pronouns, it’ll come much easier. 

2. Use gender neutral language. 

By making minor tweaks to the way we speak, we can easily be more accommodating to all genders. Ex: “Hello, everyone!” instead of “Hello, ladies and gents!”. Again, this may feel forced at first, but you get used to it quick. To those wondering, you can absolutely use “their” or “theirs” in place of “his/hers” or “he/she”. It’s not grammatically incorrect, either

3. For god’s sake, let people whatever restroom they need. Trans or nonbinary people should be allowed to use whatever bathroom they’re most comfortable with, end of story.

 It’s a popular myth that predators will use flexible restroom policies to sneak into the “ladies” or “men’s” room, and it’s been debunked over and over. If you hear someone spreading misinformation about this issue, you can politely educate them on the actual facts about this supposed phenomenon. We need to let this myth die.

4. Make an effort to support LGBTQ+ owned businesses and artists. 

Uplifting female business owners and entrepreneurs will always be important! Let’s not exclude those who don’t fall in the gender binary, though! Here are some super neat businesses I found to get you started: Steer Queer Ya’ll (those They/Them earrings are a MUST), Queer Candle Co., and Peau De Loup.

5. Always be open to what the gender-nonconforming people in your life have to say. 

If you mess up and say the wrong pronoun to someone, don’t sweat it: rather than overreacting and begging for forgiveness, apologize, move on, and make a mental note to do better. When someone from the LGBTQ+ community points out something that you’re doing is cisnormative or transphobic, listen. Being defensive will get you nowhere. 

I hope this list was informative for you, or if you already know this stuff, I hope it was a good refresher! Thanks for reading this far, and check out the rest of our blog for more info on feminist topics! 

Back to Basics #5: What is the Women’s Center?

By: Emma Sauer 

Something I get asked a lot, whether at events, in the office, or just when talking about my job is…

What do you actually do at the Women’s Center?”

I’ll tell you! 

The Women’s Center at UMKC serves several purposes. Our office houses a wide array of resources available to the community, such as information on housing assistance, local shelters, and LGBTQIA+ resources. These are available either as brochures or links collected on our Campus and Community Resources tab. We also have a library, a lactation/self-care space, and a kitchen, all available to faculty and students. Of course, we’re also just open as a safe space for any marginalized students, and students are welcome to come in and just hang out. 

Another huge thing our staff does at the Women’s Center is our programming– if you are a student at UMKC, you may have spotted us at one of the many events we host, co-sponsor, or attend. Examples of programs we’ve run in the past include running a menstrual product drive to spread awareness about the Pink Tax, promoting body positivity during Every Body is Beautiful Week, and the Their/Her Art Project, which exhibits and uplifts local female and nonbinary artists. Throughout the semester, the student staff are constantly planning new events like these to promote awareness of gender equity issues with the help of Arzie, our awesome director.

There’s even more to the Women’s Center I could go on and on about, but that’s another post for another time.

“So what’s the point of having a Women’s Center and doing all these programs?” 

 Well, speaking as a woman and outspoken feminist, the Women’s Center matters to me personally because it allows feminism to have a physical, vocal presence at UMKC. The Women’s Center is also important because it provides a safe space for marginalized groups on campus, and our programming throughout the school year means gender equity always has a voice. In other words, we want UMKC– and Kansas City in general– to be more feminist! 

“Feminist? What’s that?” 

… Oh boy. That’s a question for a previous B2B blog, my friend. And if you want to learn more about why women’s centers are so important to have at universities,  you can check out this great article from WIHE (Women in Higher Education). 

Engaging Students Through Healing Arts at UMKC

Image Credit: A Window Between Worlds, https://awbw.org/engaging-students-at-umkc/

By: Arzie Umali

The following blog was written by the director of the Women’s Center, Arzie Umali, and was originally posted on the A Window Between Worlds blog at awbw.org/blog/umkc. Arzie is a certified healing arts facilitator and has been offering workshops at UMKC since 2013.

The Women’s Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) has had the honor of hosting A Window Between Worlds healing arts workshops since 2013. As an artist and survivor of trauma, I knew firsthand the healing power of art; now, for almost 10 years, I have been sharing that knowledge and empowering our students to use art to heal not just from trauma, but also navigate through the daily stressors of college life.

Through our art program, we are giving students the tools they need for self-preservation so they can find success not just in college, but in life.

Bringing an AWBW program to the Women’s Center was a perfect fit. It was African American feminist writer, Audre Lorde, who said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Our students are often overwhelmed and juggling multiple responsibilities, never having enough time for themselves. Being a college student today is hard, and many of our students we support are not just college students. They are also care-givers, and parents, and self-supporting individuals with jobs and families. They are also dealing with different traumas and stressors like debt, illness, loneliness, family violence, and/or a global pandemic. For many of our students, college is also the first time they have felt safe to come to terms with their own identity. For most students, college comes first and everything else comes last – especially themselves. I often find myself telling students that self-care is just as important as showing up for class, studying hard, and acing their finals. And that’s where our AWBW program comes in.

From the first time our students come to campus during summer orientation, we engage them with healing arts. During orientation, we offer students the opportunity to create Stepping Stones. This art activity allows them to ground themselves as college students and see their journey as a series of steps leading them towards graduation. This activity guides them in keeping focused on their end goal, and if they should stumble along the way, their Stepping Stone is there to remind them to keep taking steps forward.

Throughout the academic year, students can engage with our AWBW program through multiple avenues. Whether they need support dealing with trauma, managing their anxiety, coping with stress, or just a timeout, our healing arts workshops are available to them all year round. During Welcome Week, we offer Journey Charms workshops using shrink art where students can visualize college as one of life’s journeys that may be full of good and bad surprises. We also offer Touchstones workshops where students create art that ties them to the larger UMKC community and reminds them that we are there for them, no matter what. Finally, at the end of each semester, we host Shrink Your Stress. This signature program takes place during our campus Stress Less Fest and gives our students a window of time during finals week to step away from their studies to do some self-care and stress relief by creating fun and meaningful shrink art.

Image Credit: A Window Between Worlds, https://awbw.org/engaging-students-at-umkc/

Our most successful and fastest growing art workshops are our Healing Arts Corners. These self-managed healing arts stations are set up in various locations across campus to reach as many different populations as possible. In 2015 we started these workshops with just four locations and this past semester we were in twelve spaces on campus including the Women’s Center, International Student Affairs, the LGBTQIA Rainbow Lounge, the MindBody Connection (a collaborative space of our Counseling Center and Student Health and Wellness), the At Ease Zone in Student Veterans’ Services, the Student Advising Office, the Writing Studio, the Health Sciences Library, the Village in Multicultural Student Affairs, and our three residence halls. These stations provide students an outlet and resource for doing self-care on their time and on their terms. Students learn quickly where the stations are, and they return time and again when they need a little art to get them through the day.

Since 2013, our AWBW program has engaged students across campus, from classrooms in Arts and Sciences, to lounges in our medical school, to the sidelines of our basketball court. Our program has grown from serving 245 participants through 17 workshops during our first year, to serving 1800 participants at 67 workshops during the 2018-2019 academic year. With the COVID-19 pandemic came an even greater need for our workshops. We pivoted several times in order to continue offering art to students in the safest way possible.

The AWBW program at the Women’s Center is vital to the overall health of our campus. I am confident that through our art program, we are giving students the tools they need for self-preservation so they can find success not just in college, but in life.

Arzie Umali, MPA
Windows Facilitator
University of Missouri-Kansas City

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.

Women Who Lead, Read

By: Ebony Taylor

Women’s Center Library, 105 Haag Hall

Since starting college, there has been little time, if at all, that I have gotten to sit down, pick up a book, and read. No distractions, no emails, no assignment deadlines, just me and the smell of printed paper.  As a book lover, I came across a list of feminist-written reads that I had to share. If you have already been introduced to the world of feminist writing, or are just getting started, this list is compiled with reads from feminist thinkers and novelists to poets and producers of feminist pornography. There is something for all. I have picked 7 books that I think I would want to pick up, but you should visit Esquire to get the entire list.  If you want even more feminist reading, don’t forget to check out our Women’s Center library, located in our office at 105 Haag Hall! 

 This collection of essays and poems are from women of color who raise awareness for issues that women continue to face. This book is said to connect with women of all ages, race, and genders.  

This witty, humorous collection of stories recounts memories from the author’s life and identity as a Native American woman.  Midge reflects on feminism, tweeting presidents, and white-bread privilege. Enjoy Midge’s urban-Indigenous identity and how it has impacted her ideas on culture, race, media, and feminism. 

Rana el Kaliouby is entrepreneur and scientist, working in the field of emotional intelligence, Emotional AI,  and cofounder and CEO of Affectiva, a start-up company spun off of MIT Media Lab. This book is a memoir that highlights the conflict between her Egyptian upbringing and her goals in life. 

This book shows how men express emotions in different stages of life, status, and ethnicity and how toxic masculinity skews men away from an important part of themselves. It discusses men’s concerns, like the fear of intimacy and their role as patriarchs in society.  

 We already know stories of magical creatures and witches, but Circe recreates the sorceress from Homer’s Odyssey in a feminist light. The overlooked character of Circe gives rise to her independence in a male-dominated world.   

A collection of writings from feminists in the adult entertainment industry and research by feminist porn scholars. This book investigates how feminists understand pornography and how they produce, direct, act in, and buy a into a large and successful business. Authors of these writings also explore pornography as a form of expression where women produce power and pleasure.  

Serano writes about her journey before and after transitioning, expressing how fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness towards femininity molds society’s view on trans women, gender and sexuality. Serano also proposes that feminists today and transgender activists must collaborate to embrace all forms of femininity.  

Artist Salon Spotlight: Meet Stasi Bobo-Ligon!

By: Emma Stuart

This is the start of a segment of blogs highlighting local artists that will be involved in the Artist’s Salon, sponsored by the Women’s Center at the InterUrban ArtHouse on April 1, 6-7 p.m. This posting is about local artist Stasi Bobo-Ligon. Staci is a local to Kansas City and studied at UMKC before moving to Chicago. In Chicago she attended the Art Institute of Chicago where she developed her art as a contemporary artist. While studying there she received highly sought after, Art House Studio Gallery’s Artist-in-Residence position. While maintaining her residency her art practice thrived and allowed her to create an expansive portfolio. She is currently showing work at the InterUrban ArtHouse. To get to know our featured speakers we asked them some questions about themselves and their work.

Q: What is your preferred medium of creativity?

“My preferred medium of creativity is mixed media. I like to mix painting, with collage and assemblage work.”

Q: What is your interest in participating in the Artist’s Salon?

“I am always interested in exchanging information, feedback and ideas about what inspires and motivates creatives. I’m especially excited about this Artist Salon because I have the opportunity to talk with a diverse group of women about what motivated and inspired us to create for this show—I’m looking forward to hearing about and learning from their experiences! Also, I’m excited to be part of an art program hosted by UMKC’s Women’s Center because I’m an alum of the university.”

Q: What is a source of inspiration for your work?

“Because I currently have a full time job taking up most of my time, often, a primary source of my work is an emotional reaction or response to a moment. Like for example, the inspiration for my work in the Her Art/Their Art show was/is my reaction to various women rapper’s braggadocious and vulgar lyrics in their songs, as well as my reaction to last year’s Grammy performance by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion while rapping their collab, ‘WAP’.”

Q: Are there any projects you are currently working on that you are excited about?

“I’m excited about the Her Art/Their Art show because of the diversity of perspectives being shared artistically.”

Q: How do you see the intersection of art and gender in your own work? And how has this empowered you, or others?

“The intersection exists because I deliberately see and interpret the world through an identity that is first Black and then cisgender female. That empowers me because my art helps me share a perspective that can be left up to interpretation by the receiver.”

If you are interested learning more about Stasi and her work, she has a profile on The Art House Gallery linked here. And if you want to hear what Stasi has to say on the intersection of art and gender join us at the InterUrban ArtHouse on April 14, 6-7 p.m. for our discussion-, “Gender, Art, and Power”.

 

Immigrant Healthcare Workers: The Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic

By: Jetzel Chavira

When I first heard of COVID-19, I had no idea what we were getting into. I reflect on the healthcare workers fighting frontlines against this contagious and deadly disease. About 2.9 million immigrant healthcare professionals played a vital role in fighting against COVID-19. And one of those 2.9 million healthcare workers was my mom. She immigrated to the United States at 8years old, but she went back in forth to Mexico ’till around the time she was in middle school. She had me at 16 years old but despite these challenges with a newborn and practically being a single mother, she pursued respiratory care. She earned her associate’s degree in respiratory therapy. During the pandemic, she continued to work at the hospital, working directly with COVID-19 patients. I remember how fearful she was coming home to my little sister and I. Our laundry room was next to our car garage so she would change out of her scrubs in the laundry room to new clothes in order to take extra precautions. She was on the front lines fighting against the pandemic.

Whenever I hear immigrants steal jobs or don’t contribute to our society, I feel anger come over me because I think about my mom. There have been countless times when my mom has been afraid that she may be fired from her job due to her status. My mom does not deserve to live in fear. No one deserves to live in fear. 

So, I say let’s appreciate immigrant healthcare workers, instead of telling them to go back to their country.  

 

Whose Femininity Is It Anyway?

By: Adriana Miranda

Have you ever thought about how, like, femininity is SO strongly tied to men? Hear me out!

Yeah, femininity is traditionally associated with women. BUT! Think about what kind of women are afforded femininity. It tends to be straight women, or white women, orrrr thin women, or just women that fit into the cishet male gaze of desirability in one way or another. So if femininity (at least to a cishet world) means “desirable to men” has it ever really been ours to begin with? And what if our performance of femininity ISN’T for men, what happens then?

Now we all perform gender, right? I personally present very feminine, i’m talking almost-strictly-wears-dresses feminine. I also happen to be a lesbian. And plus-size. And a person of color. This for some reason sometimes confuses (and angers) cisgender heterosexual people.

Either my femininity is called into question or my sexuality is called into question: “Are you sure you’re not at all attracted to men? You dress so cute! I bet you secretly do like us.” Or…“Do you just dress this way because you’re not comfortable being your true self?”

Why does it need to be one way or another? Why does my femininity have to be me trying to attract men or make up for my fatness for men or appear more “soft” for men? What if I just want to present feminine? And even if I was if I was doing it for anyone other than myself, it’s definitely for other lesbians. Femininity can and DOES exist entirely on its own, completely separate from men.