Looking Deeper at Our Phenomenal Feminist: Betty Dodson

By Morgan Clark

When you hear the phrase “sex-positive” do you ever think of who coined the phrase? I know I haven’t. Not until one of my team members sent me her pick for our social media campaign Phenomenal Feminist Friday. Betty Dodson was a pioneer of her time, a feminist who was a sexologist that taught women (and men) the worth of self-pleasure, as well as to embrace sex as something that is natural and healing.

Betty first started as an artist at the Art Students League of New York. There, Dodson was making erotic paintings and freelancing as an illustrator for lingerie ads. She then married an advertising executive but was soon divorced because she did not believe they were sexually compatible. At that time her artwork was not doing well in the industry. That’s when she began hosting workshops for women where she showed and told them how to please oneself.

BodySex was the name of the workshops she hosted. In these workshops’ women learned that vaginas came in different sizes, shapes and colors. Dodson believed that teaching women about their bodies, and how to navigate them, was her form of activism. Dodson said “If women could learn to pleasure themselves properly, they could end their sexual dependence on men, which would make everybody happy.”(New York Times, 2020). During this time Betty was vilified by conservative feminists. When teaching a class in Syracuse she was greeted with hissing after showing big displays of the vagina. But she continued to teach women about their bodies for several years.

In 1987 she published “Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving” which eventually became a best seller and was translated into 25 different languages. In this book she speaks about masturbation and how women should learn to view it. That it is a way to love oneself and a possible a way to heal oneself. She also writes in the book about techniques for masturbation using the instructions that she usually used in her workshops. Betty passed on Halloween this year but her works still continue to empower and educate women. BodySex will continue to be hosted several times a year via Zoom by Betty’s work partner Carlin.

Reading about Betty I know that she was very important during those times. To be that sexually liberated and free at those times took courage. I know that women were not as open about sex back in the day. Not knowing about orgasm and even about their own vaginas. I am glad that Betty was able to teach women that it’s okay to learn your own body. I think me and Betty would agree that self-pleasure should not be shameful but embraced, everyone should know what pleases them, even and especially sexually.

Recovering From Invisibility: #SayHerName

By Morgan Clark

I was recently asked “in what way police brutally has affected you the most?” After pondering on the question, I came up with this answer: There were three death that truly shook my core. The first one was Trayvon Martin; his death lifted the veil that was covering my eyes. Although I knew racism did exist, I didn’t understand how much of an influence it had on our society still. The second death which affected me was Mike Brown; his death was the one that radicalized me. I learned how the media can villainize black life. His death was also the start of the Black Lives Matter movement. The third one was Breonna Taylor because her story (like others) was so sad. Being close to my age, her death was very close to home. Not to mention she reminds me of so many black women in my own life.

Recently the court released the verdict of Breonna Taylor’s case. Yet again American’s justice system has failed us. And although it was not surprising that they did not convict her three killers, it still hurts to see that she does not get the justice that she rightfully deserves. As a black woman it truly infuriates me to see this happens yet again. Sometimes it’s hard to interact with others because of this. I had Drill the week they released the verdict in her case and was so upset that I didn’t want to be surrounded by very opinionated white men. It made me feel hopeless for the justice system when it comes to police brutality. No matter what, or how innocent the victim is, there will be no justice. The process leading up to the verdict didn’t help either. Seeing Breonna’s death being turned into a trend as if it was the next cool thing to be a part of was very upsetting. Black Twitter was in an uproar when they discovered that Breonna’s death was turned into a meme. A meme…a form of entertainment. Something that was so traumatic made into a joke. If that’s not a good example of how our society handles black women’s lives, then I don’t know what is. To see all this happening day by day has been discouraging to say the least.

So, it was reassuring to have the “Say Her Name: The Invisibility of Black Women” event on Wednesday September 30th, 2020. It was a virtual safe space facilitated by UMKC organizations like Multicultural Student affairs and the Women’s Center to listen to and speak on issues for Black Women in our society such as police brutality and societal standards that degrade or limit black women. Being met with the same emotions I have felt validated my feelings and experiences more than anyone will know. To have a panel of Black women from different professional fields and different age groups who were all outraged and upset showed that this is an issue. That it does affects us in ways that sometimes we can’t openly express to our white allies. It was an empowering event to be a part of and I am grateful for those who put it on, and participated, especially in times like this.

Why I Choose Not To Wear Makeup

By Anonymous

After I graduated from high school, I made the decision to stop wearing makeup. I vividly remember looking at myself in the mirror without makeup and being scared to really look at my own reflection. It was only until I had on makeup for the day that I could look at myself without cringing. I knew in the moment, this was not okay. On one hand, I generally enjoyed makeup, but on the other hand, I realized I had been using it as a crutch to keep myself from truly loving my physical appearance. So, I made the choice not to wear makeup for a while. I wanted to get to the place where I would be able to wear makeup in a way that added to what I hoped would become my already existing self-confidence.

Flash forward two years later, and here I am, still not wearing makeup. After getting over the initial hurdle of desperately wanting to cover every imperfection I perceived, I realized I was so much more at peace with my personal confidence when I forgoed makeup altogether. It was amazing to feel truly comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life. However, I was confronted daily by many feminist issues surrounding the modern conversation about makeup. The first difficult crossroad I came to was whether or not I should wear makeup to a job interview. I was so paranoid if I did not wear any makeup, my potential employer would perceive me as lazy, tired, unkempt, etc. Nearly every woman that wears makeup has experienced the slew of “concerns” people have for their well-being if they go a day without it.

Among other women, I noticed some speculated I choose not to wear makeup as an attack on their freedom to enjoy the artistry and enhancement of makeup. Others envied the freedom I had in my workplace to wear makeup, or not wear it. I had a close friend at the time, who was required to wear a full face of makeup as a part of her dress code. Her male coworkers could wear makeup but it was by no means a requirement. At the heart of the issue, perpetuating all of the trickle-down effects that follow, is the media and many men make something like makeup into a requirement, indication of character, standard of beauty, etc.

My decision to stop wearing makeup was not a politically charged act of defiance. It was a choice made as a personal step toward being at peace with my physical appearance. But those around me, for better or for worse, often box me into having an agenda. All of this has opened my eyes to the larger issues about this topic. I made the conscious choice going into that job interview to not wear makeup and risk the negative opinions someone might have of me. In the interview, I had to ask “Is it okay that I do not wear any makeup?” Their response was ‘Yes, of course” but there was hesitation.

I made the conscious choice to not work anywhere where I might feel pressured to wear makeup. But I still love the artistry of makeup. I love the talent other people have, and I appreciate the passion others have for it. I encourage the women around me to present their face to the world in whatever way makes them feel the most confident.

Tips on Discussing Women’s Issues During the Holidays (Without Throwing Dinner Plates)

By Christina Terrell

Avoid familial drama – without feeling like your voice is being silenced.

We all have that not-so-favorite aunt or uncle who has something controversial or annoying to say about women, and how they should not feel dehumanized when it comes to abortion, politics, or gender equality.

It’s just impossible to hold back your opinion, right?

Your mother might have advised you to keep silent about your feminist views. However, no matter what she says, the key to not having to keep silent about your views is to pick your family opponent wisely.

Some of the best ways to get a dad or uncle – who might not understand where you are coming from – to see the light would be to share some of your personal experiences that can persuade them to have a more open mind. After hearing about some of the situations that their own family member has been through, the males in your life will be less likely to blame those experiences on the woman who endures them.

Naturally, this approach may not work when speaking to a male ego. However, this is okay, because you should be prepared to be disappointed by how they react to the information you share with them. Since it seems that women are living in a troublesome sociopolitical climate, we repeatedly hear that our opinions are not valid – which can make us women feel as if our right to speak up is being ignored.

Don’t feel defeated at this stage; there is still a way to rein in the conversation without turkey and mashed potatoes flying across the dinner table. Simply reply to your dubious family member with the facts – there is no better way to prove your point than with the truth. There are so many organizations that advocate for women by providing statistics and research-based information to the public. So, drop some self-knowledge on that family member of yours.

To help you out, we’ve gathered a few statistics that you can memorize:

“Since 2009, 60% of sexual assaults have gone unreported.”

The American Association of University Women

“One in three women are sexually abused at some point in their lifetime.”

VERVE

“Women from around the world aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war, and malaria.”

Makers

If all else fails, don’t be discouraged. Practice self-care by reminding yourself that your opinions are valid, and leave the conversation knowing that although women’s issues may not mean much to your not-so-favorite uncle, they sure mean something to you. All over the world, women are uniting to bring their voice to the table – even if it is just a holiday meal.

Event Preview: May the Book Open: Lessons from the Republic of Gilead

By Nina Cherry

Join us this Wednesday, November 7 for a discussion on the book and HULU series The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This dystopian novel is set in the future in an oppressive, authoritarian state in New England. With the birth rate plummeting due to environmental conditions, fertile women are forced to bear children. These women are at the bottom of the social class structure and are only valued by society for their fertility. The story focuses around one of these women – Offred, who was uprooted from her family and assigned to be a “handmaid” for “the Commander.”

Atwood’s evocative novel, which she began writing in 1984, is her own frightening forecast of the future. The book explores several relevant women’s rights issues that we look forward to discussing.

Lunch will be provided!

Gilead is a tyranny of nostalgia, a rape culture that denounces the previous society — ours — for degrading women with pornography. It controls women by elevating them, fetishizing motherhood, praising femininity, but defining it in terms of service to men and children.”  The New York Times

What: Book Discussion: May the Book Open: Lessons from the Republic of Gilead

Join us for lunch and a discussion on the book and HULU series The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Who: Co-sponsored by the UMKC Women’s Center and UMKC University Libraries

When: Wednesday, November 7, 12-1 p.m.

Where: Miller Nichols Library Room 325, 800 E. 51st Street, Kansas City, MO 64110

Admission: Free!

Please RSVP by November 5th. For more information or to RSVP, call the UMKC Women’s Center at 816-235-1638 or email us at umkc-womens-center@umkc.edu.

We look forward to seeing you there!

It’s a “scary time,” indeed. But for whom?

By Nina Cherry

Do you know when it’s a scary time to be a woman? When you have to be extra careful while walking yourself home at night. When you’re afraid to go for a jog, even in broad daylight. Fear is everywhere. Concerts. Parties. First dates. It is seldom that you can let your guard down.

In light of recent of events, I have heard men (and women) talk about how it is such a frightening time to be a man. I have heard parents express that they are fearful for their sons – fearful that his whole life could be ruined by an illegitimate sexual assault claim.

I pose so many questions every time I hear something like that.

Why are we so quick to assume that the victim is deceitful? Why are we so quick back up the perpetrators, who are often people we don’t know personally? Why do we try so hard to fabricate excuses for the perpetrator? Why do we have to ask what they were wearing or if they were sober? And most importantly, why are we still like this?

Why are we still victim-blaming?

We need to stop taking the side of the predator. We need to stop forgiving unacceptable actions, as minuscule as we think they may be. Letting the little things slide sends a big message. Boys are going to be men someday – men that have to understand and respect consent.

We have to stop perpetuating rape culture.

We must start holding boys and men to a higher standard. Respect is mandatory. We need to start teaching boys and girls about consent and boundaries earlier. Why do we lower the standards for boys? We have to start holding everyone accountable for their actions.

This article was inspired by a song that has recently gone viral by Lynzy Lab. Listen to it here.

The Women Who Are Redefining Rock

By Nina Cherry

A new wave is taking over the alternative rock world, consisting of uncensored, empowered women assuming control over what has been viewed as the “man’s domain” for decades. This artistic movement could even be described as the second wave of the Riot Grrrl movement – but this time, they are louder are stronger. They have risen from the underground and are finding their way into mainstream circuits.

Lucy Dacus, Margaret Glaspy, Mitski, and Lindsey Jordan are some of the most prominent and representative artists of this movement.  With gravelly voices, distorted guitars, and unapologetic lyrics, these female rockers are redefining indie rock. They are abandoning and shattering stereotypes and societal expectations. Unashamed, vulgar, and loud, these artists aren’t trying to be pretty or ladylike. By tackling taboo topics like sexual orientation, sex, and gender discrimination in their songs, they are paving a new way for the genre.

Mitski, an indie rock singer songwriter who is a part of this collective movement, describes her most recent album, Be the Cowboy, as “inherently feminine.” She explains, “When I say feminine album, immediately the perception is that it must be soft and lovely, but I mean feminine in the violent sense…It’s a lot of pent-up anger or desire without a socially acceptable outlet.”

Being a female performer, especially in rock, is hard. These women are frequently belittled and disrespected, and they struggle to get the recognition they deserve. I love that they are turning their angst and oppression into art and writing feminist anthems that we can all relate to.

To read more about these women and their experiences, ideas, and goals, check out this round table discussion from The New York Times.

Marie Curie: The Pioneer for Women in Science

By Ann Varner

Nothing in this world is to be feared…only understood.

Marie Curie not only was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, she was also the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice. Born in Poland on November 7, 1867, she was the youngest of five children. The only university in Warsaw was a men’s only school. However, Curie discovered an underground university for women and studied physics, chemistry, and math. Curie and her husband discovered polonium and radium, which assisted in the development of x-rays. She also discovered radioactivity and was the one to name it as such. When World War I broke out Curie helped to develop portable x-rays so that soldiers could be examined on the field. Curie died in 1934 due to prolonged exposure to radiation. She was a pioneer for women in science and a role model for women everywhere.

You can follow this link to find out more!

Long Live Marielle Franco, the Queer, Afro-Latina Politician, Feminist, and Human Rights Activist

By: Korrien Hopkins

The proudly feminist Afro-Latina politician was a revolutionary public servant and activist. Unbothered by the status quo of politics, Franco quickly rose in political popularity. When elected in 2016, she won the fifth-highest vote count among council members. As a member of the far-left Socialism and Liberty party, Franco ran on a campaign that advocated for the rights of poor Brazilian communities, feminists, and the LGBTQ communities. She led an unapologetic march to freedom, justice, and equity for all Brazilians and continued that mission once in office.

Franco grew up in Maré, a slum in northern Rio de Janeiro. At the age of 11 she began working to help support her family. She gave birth to her first and only child when she was 19-years-old. She then worked as a pre-school teacher, making minimum wage and raising her daughter without the father’s help.

In 2000, after her friend died from a stray bullet, she began working in human right activism. Then, in 2001, she enrolled at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Janeiro on a scholarship while she continued to work. She earned a degree in social sciences then went on to earn her masters degree in public administration from the Fluminese Federal University.

Her career in politics began in 2007. She began working as a consultant for state representative Marcelo Freixo. She coordinated the state legislature’s Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and Citizenship. She also worked for civil society organizations, including the Brazil Foundation and the Maré Center for Solidarity Studies and Action. In 2016, she ran for a seat on the Rio de Janeiro city council in the municipal elections. With over 46,500 votes, Franco was one of 51 people elected, receiving the fifth highest vote total out of more than 1,500 candidates. When elected she continued to work hard. She fought tirelessly to empower black Brazilians and other marginalized communities and fought against police brutality. As a queer woman, she supported LGBTQ communities and women’s rights, and was a strong advocate for impoverished Brazilian citizens.

Franco dedicated her life fighting to make her community and the world a better place for those who’ve yet to find peace and equity in it.

On March 14, 2018, Franco spoke out on Twitter against the police violence in Rio de Janeiro: “Another homicide of a young man that could be credited to the police. Matheus Melo was leaving church when he was killed. How many others will have to die for this war to end?” she wrote. The next day, Franco attended a round-table discussion titled “Young Black Women Moving Power Structures”. Leaving the event, Franco and her driver were shot and killed on March 14, in a targeted assassination. This unleashed a wave of anger across Brazil, and provoked urgent debate on the country’s racism, violence, and impunity. As pressure grows on the authorities in Brazil to find her murderers, and open discussion on the global issues of hate crimes rise, supporters continue to  fight on her behalf. An open letter by international activists, writers, journalists, film-makers, politicians, and actors has called for an investigation of her murder by an independent commission.

Though Franco is gone, her work has forever changed her country and will continue to influence activists and revolutionaries around the world. As a black, bisexual feminist who was able to reach government official status, Franco’s death is not in vain. Her memory should continue to serve as an example of why serving others is so important. Her name and legacy will continue to motivate us to continue fighting for a greater world.

Upcoming Event: Denim Drive

By Megan Schwindler

The UMKC Women’s Center is asking for donations of gently used denim to be used as the canvas for artwork for others to witness during UMKC Denim Day in April. We’re collecting denim from April 9-20. Drop off locations include the UMKC Women’s Center, Miller Nichols Library, Oak Street Residence Hall Lobby, and the Office of Student Involvement.

What is Denim Day USA?

It is a rape prevention education campaign where community members, elected officials, businesses, and students are asked to make a social statement with their wardrobe by wearing jeans as a visible protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault.

Denim Day stems from the 1998 Italian Supreme Court decision that overturned a rape conviction because they believed that because the victim wore tight jeans she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. Enraged by the verdict, the women in the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans to work. This action motivated the California Senate and Assembly to do the same. It then spread nationally, and wearing jeans on Denim Day became an international symbol of protest against the destructive attitudes and myths surrounding sexual assault.

For more information on the case you can visit The New York Times’ coverage or visit the Peace Over Violence website.

For more information concerning the denim drive and event, contact: hehkw4@mail.umkc.edu or 816-235-1638.