A Theatre Minor’s Thoughts on the Vagina Monologues

By Kyra Charles

Last year, I caved to the advertisements around campus for the Vagina Monologues and went to go see it. I hadn’t a clue what to expect. Two dozen women, most of whom I didn’t know, walked onto the stage and started talking about sex, masturbation, birth, surgery, violence, and most importantly, their vaginas. It was a remarkably intimate space, one that made me laugh, shudder, and ultimately feel more hopeful. I ended up staying for the Q & A and wishing I’d bought a vagina pop before they’d sold out.

This year, I auditioned and was accepted for a role in the show. This is my first time ever performing in the Vagina Monologues. I’m a theatre minor with emphasis in acting, and a relative of mine called it my “first big production” I’m nervous, not from stage fright, but because my parents and possibly more of my family will try to attend, and none (except for my mother) are comfortable with saying the word “vagina” This might be the rawest, most vulnerable show I’ve been in yet.

Being an actor and performing in the monologues seems obvious, and yet doesn’t feel that way. Many of the other performers are locals who identify more as students and business women than actors. Most of my friends in the theatre department are working on other, more extravagant productions. The rehearsals are shorter because of the cast size, the lines aren’t required to be memorized, and the show itself is less of a play and more of a compilation of essays. Sometimes I wonder how it would look professionally on my acting resume.

That isn’t to say I feel any regret about my involvement. What other people say and think is not important to why I’m doing the Vagina Monologues. This show does everything it can to be about everything involving vaginas. It creates a feeling that you aren’t alone. Outside of the monologues, vaginas are often treated as dirty, subpar and submissive to other forms of genitalia, or even monstrous (like the facehuggers in Alien). But in that theatre, among the audience of people who want to talk about vaginas and their inherently controversial existence, there’s a reassurance that you aren’t alone. I adore these stories with my entire heart.

Although I identify as cisgender, I will be part of a monologue that tells the story of a trans woman and her struggle to be comfortable with her identity. I’m not trying to be this woman, but I want to do my best in being an outlet for her story, from her dreams to her darkest moments. Part of being an actor is paying attention to the details of what a character says and gaining a better understanding of them. It’s a psychological assessment that brings that person, fictional or otherwise, to life onstage. There are thousands of trans women around the world that are going through what this unnamed woman does, and the least I can do is relay her story with respect. Her experiences are not mine, but I truly believe she needs to be heard.

Acting in the Vagina Monologues has been a mix of excitement, nerves, and determination. I’m unsure of the reaction from my family or the audience or any future director I’ll be working with, but I want to give this show my all. Maybe I’ll even audition for it again after I graduate. The Vagina Monologues continues to exist for their relevance, brutal honesty, and ultimate beauty. I hope everyone who reads this blog will come see the show, whether they have a vagina or not. I’m ready for whatever this show will bring me (though I really hope it’ll include a vagina pop).

Moonstruck: A Howling Good Comic

By Elise Wantling

Are you a fan of girls, gays, or ghouls? If you answered yes to any of those, you are going to love Moonstruck by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle. This is one of the most recent projects of author Grace Ellis, who is also the author of the popular comic Lumberjanes. The comic stars Julie, a chubby, shy Latina werewolf who lives in a small college town called Blitheton, where she is a barista at a coffee shop. She works with her best friend Chet, a nonbinary centaur who is dashingly handsome and fabulously flamboyant. Julie is dating Selena, a fellow werewolf who is black, on the chubbier side, and full of confidence. There is also a full cast of side characters, monsters and humans alike, representing different races, body types, and species.

Currently there are two published collections of comics, Moonstruck Volume 1: Magic to Brew and Volume 2: Some Enchanted Evening. Volume 1 follows the gang as they struggle to find and battle a magician who steals Chet’s magic at a free community magic show. Chet deals with an identity crisis, as he doesn’t know who he is if he isn’t a monster anymore.

While Julie and Selena are hot on the case, things also heat up between them, and eventually boil over. They also get some help from their friend Cass, who helps them put victory in sight. In Volume 2 the gang rescues their friends Lindi, Ronnie, and Mark from some serious trouble. They also manage to get themselves into the middle of a rivalry between the fairy sorority and fraternity. Julie and Selena have some relationship trouble when Selena finds out that Julie is keeping secrets. Mark is also keeping a secret, which is accidentally revealed!

The comic has a diverse cast of characters, both main and background. I really appreciate the representation of a variety of races, genders, body types and sexualities. While Julie is a bit on the shyer and more timid side, she is still a strong female character. There is also positive representation of a healthy woman/woman romantic relationship that is not hyper sexualized or used as a joke. Chet and their love interest are also taken seriously and display a healthy (and super cute!) relationship. It is refreshing to see a comic with a truly diverse cast of characters, and not the usual formula of “all cisgender, heterosexual, thin, white people + one or two characters who break that mold”. The comic simply reflects the realities of the world, which is that people come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and sexualities.

The comics are full color and beautifully illustrated. Each panel is a work of art unto itself and I personally adore the art style and character designs. It is easy to tell what is happening in every panel and not at all difficult to follow the storyline. Whether you’re a lover of strong women in media, cute art, the supernatural, or LGBTQ fiction, there is something in Moonstruck for everyone. I would recommend them for ages middle school and up, but they definitely appeal to the young adult as well as the adult crowd. Moonstruck tells simple, pleasing stories in a way that is easy on the eye. Volume 3 comes out February 11th, 2020, and I am counting down the days!

 

Period. The Movement

By Adriana Suarez

Period. The Movement is an organization founded in 2014, by two 16-year old high school students with a passion for periods. Their mission is to end period poverty and stigma through service, education, and advocacy. The organization is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a nationwide network of over 400 chapters serving local communities. The organization provides service through 3 subcategories: Pads & Tampons, Period Packs, and Menstrual Cups. The organization partners with companies such as TAMPAX Cup, AUNT flow, L’ORÉAL, and Nike to name a few.

The first time I had my period was in the fifth grade, in elementary school. This is a shocking fact because that is when most girls begin. Therefore, the bathrooms are not stocked with the products needed. My first period was thankfully in the privacy of my own home. Yet, the days I begin a new cycle are unexpected and can sneak up on me. Sometimes I would have to leave the bathroom to embarrassingly whisper to my friends (girls) asking them if they had anything in their bookbags for two reasons. The first being there would not be any kind of pad/tampon dispenser in the restrooms, or secondly, because there was a dispenser but it was either empty, or you had to pay a quarter which would not have just been laying around in my pocket.

I personally feel like it would be great to start a chapter here on campus to provide support for all women. It is important for young generations to continue being involved in this movement. It shows a passion for what we believe in. If they can do it, it is possible to start a campus wide movement. If it gains successes, there can be possibilities for other chapters to open up in the community, other universities and in middle and high schools in the area.

Dorothy Arzer : Hollywood’s Most Prominent Woman Director

By Maggie Pool

Director, editor, and screenwriter, Dorothy Arzner is one of the most prolific woman studio directors in the history of American cinema. She was the only woman directing feature-length studio films in Hollywood in the 1930s. Her career spanned from 1919 to 1943. Arzner was one of the few directors to successfully continue their career from the silent era into the era of sound in film.  She worked on a total of 25 films, many of which have received significant attention from feminist film critics and queer theorists. Arzner began her career in the film industry typing scripts for the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, later known as Paramount. After six months, she became the chief editor in charge of film cutting and editing. This led to Arzner’s first “big picture,” cutting and editing Blood and Sand (1922). This was the first film for which she undertook some of the filming.

Eventually, Arzner was entrusted with directing feature films at Paramount, all of which garnered much success. Some of these silent films include: Fashions for Women (1927), Ten Modern Commandments (1927), Get Your Man (1927), and Manhattan Cocktail (1928). Because of her triumphs, Paramount bestowed upon Arzner the directing role for the studio’s first sound film, The Wild Party (1929) starring Clara Bow.

Arzner left Hollywood in the 1940s and was all but forgotten until the 1970s, when feminist film theorists dug up her work, and she was brought to new recognition. Much of Arzner’s legacy lies in feminist critics analyzing her work such as Christopher Strong (1933) and Dance, Girl, Dance (1940). Christopher Strong is about female aviator, Lady Cynthia Darrington (Katharine Hepburn) and Parliament member, Sir Christopher Strong (Colin Clive). The two characters meet at a party and become instantly attracted to one another. Azrner’s direction leads you to believe Lady Darrington is willing to tie down her free spirit for love, but this dramatically changes. Rather than sacrifice her independence for a man, Lady Darrington broke the world record for height achieved in air, and removed her oxygen mask, causing her to lose consciousness and send the plane into a deathly nosedive.

In Dance, Girl, Dance, Arzner explores female stereotypes, such as women being just a “spectacle” for men and are either wrapped up in sexuality, grace, or innocence. The movie centers around two good friends, Judy and Bubbles who are both dancers. While Bubbles uses her good looks and sassy personality (sexuality) to get jobs, Judy is a dedicated ballerina (grace and innocence) and finds it more difficult to succeed in her chosen profession. Arzner’s Christopher Strong and Dance, Girl, Dance showcase the challenges women face while pursuing their passions and careers.  It is for this reason, that Arzner’s work as a female pioneer in the early ages of Hollywood has become an important area of film.

 

The First Woman to Make Feminism Fashionable

By Maggie Pool

“If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.”
-Katharine Hepburn

Hollywood Actress, Katharine Hepburn will always be remembered for her fierce and fiery performances in film. After all, she still holds the record for the most Academy Awards (in either gender) for acting*. However, Hepburn is not solely known for her ability to perform. She curated what is considered the “modern woman” of the 20th century by separating herself from several of society’s conformities, like evading the Hollywood publicity machine, wearing trousers before it was fashionable or acceptable for women, and living independently for the rest of her life after being married for six years.

Hepburn was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1907 to Thomas Norval Hepburn and Katharine Martha Houghton. Her famous rebellious spirit was inevitable. Her father established the New England Social Hygiene Association, which worked to enlighten the public on venereal disease while her mother advocated for women’s rights. Hepburn joined her mother for many women’s suffrage demonstrations, and for a time, dressed as a tomboy, cut her hair short, and called herself “Jimmy.” From a young age, Hepburn frequented the movies every Saturday night and put on plays for her neighbors, friends, and siblings for 50 cents a ticket**. Katharine continued acting in college and found success on Broadway. Raving reviews led to her led to her recognition in Hollywood. When Katharine hit the big screen, she didn’t shed her revolutionary values to please anybody. She remained uninterested in publicity (for most of her life). On one occasion, she snatched a camera out of a reporter’s hand for taking pictures without permission.

Her never-ending aggressive energy wasn’t subverted when it came to the standards of women’s fashion. In the 1930s, women’s fashion had not felt the effects of World War II. It was still possible for a woman to be arrested and detained on the charge of “masquerading as men” if they were caught wearing slacks in public. In an attempt to force Hepburn to wear a skirt, RKO Pictures stole her blue jeans from her dressing room while she was on set. However, instead of succumbing, Hepburn paraded around in her underwear. Her jeans were soon returned. She went on to star in, Christopher Strong (1933), The Philadelphia Story (1939), Women of the Year (1942), and Adam’s Rib (1949).

Despite the backlash and oppression Hepburn faced, she lived out her beliefs never altering to conformity. To this day, she is an important cultural icon of American history who continues to influence and empower women.

Many paid tribute to Hepburn when the actress passed away in 2003:

“Confident, intelligent and witty, four-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn defied convention throughout her professional and personal life … Hepburn provided an image of an assertive woman whom [females] could watch and learn from.” – Horton and Simmons

“What she brought us was a new kind of heroin—modern and independent. She was beautiful, but she did not rely on that.” – Jeanine Basinger

 

Walk A Mile®Through Our Graduate Assistant’s Lens

By Indra Mursid

The first time I heard about Walk a Mile in Her Shoes© I was a senior student representative during my undergraduate studies. Student Senate was co-sponsoring the march with our own sexual assault and Title IX program so we weren’t the ones who were making the executive decisions on how to advertise or how to incorporate community outreach into the march. When I first found out about the Women’s Center involvement in hosting UMKC’s annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event – I was thrilled to be one of a handful of people making executive decisions on how to incorporate community resources within the march. Before Walk a Mile©, I assisted in curating the roaster of community organizations for the Resource Fair. Some organizations there were from previous Resource Fairs like MOSCA, League of Women Voters, and the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and some were new-and-upcoming organizations that I knew about in the Kansas City area through social media like Barrier Babes. To communicate with organizations about Walk a Mile ©, its cause, and how these organizations could help empower others was incredibly powerful to me because we were exposing survivors and advocates to communal resources they might not have even thought to look into. During the march, I got to witness my efforts through another lens – literally.

During the march, I was also in charge of taking photographs from various vantage points in many stages of the event from the Resource Fair tabling to men crossing the finish line. It was amazing to see students, faculty, Greek Letter societies, and UMKC sports teams unabashedly put on high heels and march in awareness of rape, sexual assault, and gender based violence. I could tell through my interactions with many men how passionate they were about the subject, especially in the speeches Dr. Martin, Justice Horn, and Humberto Gonzalez gave. They spoke about how they advocate for the women closest to them and women who cannot speak out due to the fear of retaliation or lack of support to do so. I want to emphasize how much we need men to use their voice as a vehicle for change, especially in women’s issues. Overall, the experience of planning, executing, and sprinting around the route with the participants taking photos was incredible. I hope to be involved in some way during my time at UMKC and beyond.

A Black Female Rapper Is Changing The Narrative

By Skye VanLanduyt

During my last semester at Baker, I discovered Lizzo’s single, “Good As Hell” off her EP, Coconut Oil. I found it catchy, empowering, and fun to listen to during my 7 a.m. workouts. Between studying for exams, writing papers, and enjoying my remaining days as a college student I did not know the song released earlier in 2016, nor did I know her third studio album, Cuz I Love You would release on April 19, 2019.

After graduating from college, a friend asked “have you heard of Lizzo?” I shook my head not realizing she was the mastermind behind “Good As Hell.” It didn’t take long before I found myself falling in love with her spunky vibrato. Lizzo’s songs on her newest album, “Cuz I Love You” do more than promote single-woman hood. Her songs celebrate sexuality, black female power, and body image. In an interview with NPR, she says her intentions for writing this album come from wanting to be “body positive” and “help people find a positive place within themselves.”

I started listening to Lizzo because I liked how catchy and uplifting her lyrics were but now I appreciate her in a different way. Lizzo isn’t just a female rapper who encourages self-love and body-love through her music. On social media, she encourages her fans and followers to be intune with their mental well-being. A lot of young artists, especially in the music industry struggle with opening up to fans about their mental health. I love that Lizzo isn’t afraid to sit down and be emotionally honest. In June, she opened up about her struggle with depression and encouraged fans to start a conversation about coping strategies. This was inspiring, given so many Americans struggle with a mental health disorder. By being honest and willing to have tough conversations, Lizzo is creating a dialogue for men and women of all different backgrounds to unite in pursuit of self-love.

A couple of days ago, she posted a video on Instagram asking her fans, “not to be like her” but to” be like themselves.” I think it is refreshing to see an artist preach what they sing, especially when the message is so positive. I wish more people, including myself discovered Lizzo when her first EP came out in 2016.  I am thankful she is making her voice known in 2019 but it concerns me that it has taken her this long. Sure, we have other artists such as,  Cardi B, Beyoncé,  Camila Cabello, and Rihanna.  All have grown to be successful women in the music industry but there is something different about Lizzo.  She is consciously aware of the struggles she is up against as a black woman and she is not afraid to tear them down.  Her lyric, “I am a queen but I need no crown” is repeated countless times in her albums.  She is ready to break down the medium and encourage women they can love themselves and their bodies no matter what. I hope Lizzo and her music continues to inspire change in the music industry.

Turning A Man’s World Into Our World

By: Maggie Pool

Since our first American History class, a few names have been imbedded into our minds regarding the history of equality and women’s rights. Names such as, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Harriet Tubman are familiar to anyone who received a general education in America. Noticeably, lessons surrounding women’s history is geared towards women’s suffrage, but the fight for equality did not stop once women gained the right to vote in 1920. After this leap toward equality, who continued the fight?

Joan Ruth Bader, known as Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG), was born on March 15th, 1933. She attended the Harvard School of Law but transferred to Cornell University after being scolded for pursuing a male dominated career. In 1954, Ginsburg graduated from Cornell in the top of her class. Despite facing gender discrimination, she became the first female member of the Harvard Law Review. Ginsburg continued fighting against gender discrimination, and in 1980 was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the U.S Court of Appeals. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court. She served as Associate Justice until 2010.

On December 25th, 2018, “On the Basis of Sex,” a biopic presenting RGB’s rocky beginnings as a lawyer in a man’s world was released. The film centers around a tax case about a Colorado man who is denied a tax benefit routinely given to women caring for family members. The case triggers a series of arguments about gender, society, and the law. Ginsburg’s ruthless dedication to prove many laws are generated on the basis of sex is catapulted by this one event, and the journey she faces forces her to maneuver longstanding sexist barriers by only using the weapon of law.

It’s hard for audience members to not get riled up about the discriminating figures Ginsburg confronts, especially since the movie sets up her logic behind the case. We are immediately on Ginsburg’s side, rooting for her to finally shed light on equality for those too stubborn to accept reality. “On the Basis of Sex” does its job of introducing Ginsberg and her struggling start as a lawyer but also her unwavering intensity for justice, which immediately grips you, inciting you to continue the fight for future generations.

Ginsburg, now 86-years-old, remains one of women’s fiercest advocates. When President Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court, he compared her legal work on women to that of Thurgood Marshall on behalf of African-Americans. Because of her heroic feats, I hope the name Ruth Bader Ginsburg is another woman’s name future students are taught to remember and respect throughout American history.

“We should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to the society, because we fit into a certain mold ― because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Women in Jazz

By Nina Cherry

The music industry is, and always has been male-dominated, especially in jazz. The vast majority of jazz musicians in the canon are men. The genre was born in raunchy clubs that were considered to be unfit for a lady. Jazz is the ultimate boy’s club. There are a few prolific female vocalists that made their way into the canon such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone, and Billie Holiday, but the number of female instrumentalists that have received the recognition they deserve in the genre is even scarcer.

I didn’t realize how large the gap was until I started a unit on the jazz canon in one of my classes. I knew about plenty of female jazz vocalists, but I realized that I could not even name one female jazz instrumentalist. It turns out that UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance has a total of one woman in the jazz studies program – a sizeable and very reputable program. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it – why are female jazz instrumentalists so underrepresented?

A large part of jazz are the solos, and that’s how we are remembered as instrumentalists – that is our statement of expression and our time to show off. Aspects of jazz such as “trading fours” (definition: http://people.virginia.edu/~skd9r/MUSI212_new/materials/definitions2.html#tradingfours) are about asserting dominance on the bandstand – something often viewed as “masculine”. Improvisation and soloing are other major aspects of jazz which require leadership, so that role is almost always filled by a man.

Although there has been plenty of racial integration in the history of jazz, there remains a huge margin to be filled in terms of gender inclusion. I firmly believe that out of all of the genres of music, jazz has the furthest to go in terms of gender equity.

This is a fantastic article for more on this topic: http://theconversation.com/why-is-there-so-little-space-for-women-in-jazz-music-79181

Women’s Centers in Senegal

By Ann Varner

Over the winter break I was able to have one of the best experiences of my life-studying abroad in Senegal for two weeks. While there I studied gender, health, and development in Senegal on a program sponsored by the UMKC Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Black Studies Programs, the Departments of History and Foreign Languages & Literature, the UMKC Women’s Center, and the UMKC Honors College,. The experience was amazing, eye opening, and also saddening.

In Senegal there are many efforts for women’s equality. Women can get divorced, legally and religiously, and they can pursue justice if assaulted in any way by a man. Women can also go to college and have their own businesses. While in Senegal I visited multiple women’s centers. One of the women’s centers was similar to a legal aid office where women can come for support as well as legal advice. I asked how often women actually get divorced and due to the stigma of divorce and family shame, it’s not very often. Women in Senegal can get religiously divorced, but it is much harder to become legally divorced. It is such an issue that legal help is primarily what that specific women’s center is dedicated to.

The other women’s center was quite different. This women’s center was in a small village. There, the women went every day to harvest items to sell such as oysters and fish. They then came back to the women’s center and spent many hours preparing the items to be sold, and spent their afternoons either selling their items or learning. The lessons taught were reading and writing, as well as practical lessons such as how to market and manage money for their business. One of the stories that stuck out to me was when we learned of the small loans that the center gave out. For a while men and women could get a small loan to start their business and then were supposed to repay the loan. The women always did, and the men never did. After realizing that the men were not going to pay the center back a rule was instated that only women could procure small loans. When we asked what the motivations were, the response was that women were more worried about ensuring success for their families while the men were not.

Women in Senegal deserve the recognition for all they do on a daily basis. While all women work hard, there is something different about watching a woman with multiple babies strapped to her carrying a large basket on her head as she walks in the 100 degree heat to her market spot. I feel as though we Americans live in a bubble and need to be reminded that there are people in developing countries just trying to learn to read and write so that they can provide an income for their families. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have visited with the women I did and learn about their lives and culture.