A Tribute to Betty White

By Brianna Green

Photo of Betty WhiteOn the last day of the year, the world was excited to say goodbye to 2021 and welcome 2022. However, we were stunned by the news that Betty White, an American treasure, had died only 17 days before her 100th birthday. White is known for her long Hollywood career,starring in television shows such as Date with the Angels (1957-1958) and The Golden Girls (1985-1992), and hit movies like The Proposal (2009) and Toy Story 4 (2019).

Yet, White was more than just an incredible TV personality and actress; she was also an advocate. The cause she’s most known for supporting is animal welfare. According to CNN, “she volunteered with the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association for more than 40 years as a trustee and chair. She strongly supported the conservation and educational missions of zoos.” CNN adds that White helped with many other animal organizations such as American Humane, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center.

White didn’t just advocate for animals though; she was an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. Blade reports that “White told Parade magazine in 2010 – ‘I don’t care who anybody sleeps with… I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.” The Advocate adds that she also helped bring awareness to HIV/AIDs research by promoting and becoming a spokesperson for Lifeline Program, which assists patients with HIV and the elderly.

Outside of being an advocate and ally, White was a badass feminist. White was born in a time where it was expected of women to have a family and children, but she didn’t. White was divorced twice, married three times, and never had biological children. Not only that, but CNN reports how  White, in 1949, produced her own program, “The Betty White Show;” “she produced, co-created, and starred in her own sitcom, hired female directors, and deliberately chose her career over marriage. She was TV’s original trailblazing feminist.”

Betty White is the kind of woman people thought died “too soon” even though she was about to turn 100 years old on January 17, 2022. She will be remembered as a caring and inspirational icon for years to come.

 

Women’s Center for All Gender Equity

By Sierra Voorhies

You may not know this, but we have recently taken important steps to support all gender equity here at the Women’s Center—you can look for our “all genders welcome” signs in the center and at events, and look for our trans+ and gender variant inclusive programming and social media. Sexism and gender discrimination affect people who are trans+, non binary, two spirit, etc. as well as cis men and women. We are moving toward inclusivity in our programming and we want people of all genders to know they have a safe, comfortable space to talk about gender issues, gender variance, and all things gender-related in our center. Our resources and center are available to all community members and students!

We are open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closing at 3 p.m. on Fridays to get a jump on our relaxing weekends. In the office we have a microwave, coffee maker, lounge/study area, small library, free safe sex kits, free period products, a private lactation room, and conference room—all of which is open to any and all visitors (call ahead to reserve the conference room if you can). Our lactation room has a mini fridge for saving milk, and a couple comfy chairs and space for a stroller, so student parents are more than welcome to use this cozy private space to make their day on campus easier. 

Our programming includes Healing Arts activities from AAUW, such as scratch art, shrink art, and meditative stepping stones. We post on this blog three times a week to discuss personal and public gender minorities’ stories and issues. We also promote and put on events about body image, interpersonal violence, mental health, managing stress, feminism, and womens sports. 

Speaking of women’s sports, we just went to one of the Roos’ volleyball games and gave out resources, pens, and pins! This semester we’ve tabled at soccer games and one volleyball match, and you can catch us next semester at the women’s basketball games giving out buttons with affirming phrases and supporting women’s sports! The whole staff here at the center wishes you a great break, and we hope you come by to meet us next semester!

World AIDS Day

By Brooke Davidoff

World AIDS Day was December 1st. I did not know that until 2010.

It was his 21st birthday when our flirting elevated to kissing. He told the bartender he wanted me for his birthday. At the age of 23, one of the only things on my mind when it came to dating was for me to not get pregnant before I was married.

Within weeks of seeing each other I went to Planned Parenthood and got on birth control. Blake and I went to the same high school he played football and wrestled. In my mind, that made him safe. He said he had only been with four other girls, and I knew three of them. I did not need to make him wear condoms because I was on the pill—so I thought. I never missed an OBGYN appointment for my annual Pap smear or birth control renewal.

Six years later I was married to someone else and pregnant. Following routine blood work I was called into my doctor’s office after hours. My husband and I arrived curious and apprehensive. It was that night when my OBGYN told me that I was HIV positive. Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV was not anything I had been told I was at risk for by my doctors previously. As a straight cis woman, I naively believed I was not at risk. I was then told about HIPPA and my right to not tell anyone about my diagnosis.

The symptoms of HIV would never have lead me to believe I had a deadly STD. I was handed a list of symptoms, dumbfounded as I glanced at them. Well yes, who doesn’t have these?

  • Chills
  • Rash
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Bad yeast infections
  • Feeling tired, dizzy, and lightheaded
  • Headaches
  • and much more

Accessing STD prevention is a barrier for gender minorities. Cis men can often pressure partners into letting them skip the condom by complaining about discomfort or a lack of pleasure. In my case, and the cases of many other cis women, this puts us at higher risk of contraction. I never made a guy I dated wear a condom when I was on birth control, but I should have. Furthermore, transgender people have higher rates of HIV infection than the general population, transgenderwomen being 49 times more likely to have HIV.  This is often considered a stigma against trans people, but this is a result of “social and legal exclusion, economic vulnerability, and an increased risk of experiencing violence. Disempowerment and low self-esteem make transgender women, in particular, less likely or less able, to negotiate condom use.” Also, unfortunately, “HIV-related stigma and transphobia create barriers to the access of HIV testing and treatment services by transgender people.”

Conversations about sex can be awkward, even with an intimate partner. You may feel like being in an exclusive relationship keeps you safe, but unless you and your partner get tested for STDs, you really have no idea if you are clean. HIV is invisible for years as it internally ravages your immune systems’ CD4 or T-cells. Once infected it can take years for someone to become sick. You will not be able to tell by looking at your partner. Get tested. Use protection.

Review of “Maid” on Netflix (Spoilers!)

By Sierra Voorhies

Content warnings: abuse and homelessness

I recently watched Maid, a new series on Netflix. The series is based on the book Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land, which is Land’s memoir exploring her experience working below the poverty line to provide for herself and her daughter. 

Not only were the performances of Margaret Qualley, Nick Robinson, and Andie MacDowell amazing, the show also brought women’s issues and poverty to center stage. As Brooke explained last week, domestic violence is often a gendered issue affecting cis women and their children. 

In Maid, we see Margaret Qualley’s character, Alex, leave her partner Sean while he is sleeping in order to avoid a violent encounter. We then witness the ups and downs of Alex trying to provide for herself and her daughter, Maddy. 

When she leaves Sean, Alex becomes homeless. She and Maddy get kicked out of a parking lot that they were sleeping in, and they even spend a night on the floor of a ferry station. Unfortunately, this reflects how many women who’ve escaped an abusive relationship become homeless.

Alex reaches out to everyone she can. She can’t stay with her mom long-term due to her mother’s untreated Bipolar Disorder putting her and her daughter in danger. Alex tries to rely on her friends and family with no luck. When she tries to utilize government assistance, she runs into an unescapable loop: she can’t find a place to live or daycare for Maddy without a job, but she can’t get a job if she has her daughter with her. The expenses of childcare affects many Americans, and is especially hard on those with low incomes and single parents. With nowhere else to turn, Alex eventually moves back in with her ex, Sean. Sean picks up where he left off, emotionally abusing Alex by getting rid of her car, refusing to let her have access to a telephone, and neglecting to bring home food or money from his work. 

Eventually Alex pulls herself out of Sean’s orbit again and this time has the resources and support in order for them to start a new life in Michigan, where she goes to college for creative writing. 

This show was so impactful, and if you’ve ever experienced this kind of situation, you will surely find it hard to watch. But I am so glad it’s on Netflix so we can all practice compassion and gain a greater understanding for people experiencing homelessness, especially women escaping domestic violence. Great mothers can be homeless and unable to provide for their children sometimes, and it’s powerful to fall in love with characters who represent this very human struggle, that could affect any of us.

 

Introductions are Crucial to Gender Equity

By Ace Garrett

If you think about it, we are introduced to new people (partners, coworkers, friends of friends) all the time—and often with no heads up. If you are like me, you may still be working on remembering peoples’ names when you’re introduced (a pretty important part of the interaction, for sure), but names aren’t the only things we should be exchanging when we first meet.

The moment when two or more people are introduced is one of the most effective opportunities we have to normalize and validate trans and non-binary identities. If you caught Sierra’s post about sex, gender, and pronouns, you should remember that someone’s gender presentation does not always “line up” with their pronouns or their gender identity—you can’t simply “tell” what someone’s gender is (and trying to do so leads to misgendering)

But if we can’t assume someone’s pronouns or gender identity, how do we find out? They have to tell you, of course. When it comes to gender identity, we don’t actually have to know someone’s in order to talk to them or about them; pronouns, however, are a huge part of conversation and language. You need to know someone’s correct pronouns pretty much as soon as you meet them.

So how should sharing pronouns work?

The key word here is sharing: everyone in an introduction should share their pronouns. You might feel inclined to only ask people who “look” queer or non-binary, but this can be extremely alienating. What if, in a classroom of people, the teacher only asks one student what their pronouns are? That student is now singled out, and this reinforces (in the minds of the other students) that this student is different. We all use pronouns, and we all have a gender—gender non-conforming people are alienated enough without being singled out every time they introduce themself.

Introducing yourself with your own pronouns is the best way to make others around you feel comfortable sharing theirs. And this applies to introductions as well. When you introduce people to each other, don’t only mention pronouns that aren’t “obvious.” Doing so reinforces the falsehood that someone’s pronouns can be assumed from their presentation. The truth is, someone who looks very masculine or very feminine may use they/them pronouns, and someone who looks ambiguous may use he/him or she/her pronouns.  There are even neopronouns to consider (more on that in the future).

The solution to knowing everyone’s pronouns, in short, is for everyone to introduce themselves with both their name and their pronouns. If we all get used to asking for and sharing pronouns, we will stop letting ourselves and others assume. By doing this, not only are we helping prevent harmful misgendering, we are also changing our social climate! Never forget: we have the power to make a difference. 

Combating Domestic Violence

By Brooke Davidoff

Unfortunately, “nearly three in ten women and one in ten men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner (or former partner).”  

Domestic Violence Awareness Month began in October 1987 to connect people seeking help with the organizations working to empower victims and educate the public. Progress has come a long way, but there is still much more work to be done. Stigma silences many victims of domestic abuse.    

Domestic violence a heavily gendered crime, (although cis men can very well be the victims of domestic violence, and they can and should seek help). Furthermore, “LGBTQ members fall victim to domestic violence at equal or even higher rates” than their cishet counterparts, and they also experience unique elements of abuse, such as the threat of being outed. Domestic violence is absolutely a gender equity issue, and much work needs to be done to educate about and prevent abusive relationships. For now, knowing what to look out for and how to get help is the best way to keep yourself safe. 

In a victimology class I took recently, we learned that intimate partner violence falls into four categories: stalking, psychological aggression, physical violence, and sexual violence.  People experiencing intimate partner violence don’t always know right away that they are being abused, and abusers tend to be good at manipulation, leaving victims to question themselves when they consider leaving the relationship.    

A few reasons people stay in abusive relationships: 

Some people in abusive relationships want the abuse to end, but the relationship to last, and they find themself waiting for their abuser to change. Financial dependence is another reason some victims feel trapped with their abusers. Shame, guilt, helplessness, embarrassment, and fear are only a few of the emotions that can cloud one’s judgment when trying to decide to stay or go. On top of that, there is still stigma associated with speaking out and admitting you are a victim.   

It is extra important for people to be aware of psychological aggression, because non-physical domestic violence can be difficult to recognize, but it can still cause potentially long-lasting trauma and emotional impacts. How do you know if you’re in an abusive relationship if there is no physical violence? Are you afraid of your partner? Are they extremely jealous? This screening helps you determine if it would be in your best interest to leave your partner for your own mental health and safety.   

If it is possible that you are in an abusive relationship, there are many ways you can seek help:

On campus you can always stop by the RISE office in Haag Hall Room 108. They are open Monday – Friday 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. You can also visit their website. 

Rose Brooks is a 24-hour emergency shelter in Kansas City.   

The Kansas City Anti-Violence Project (KCAVP) is the only LGBTQ-specific domestic violence or sexual assault service in Missouri. KCAVP was created to provide support and services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and hate violence.  

For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, you can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now  

If you need help, please reach out to one of these resources. There are people who can help you find a safe way out; you are not alone.   

 

Sexism in the Queer Community: Representation 

By Sierra Voorhies

We have all heard of the LGBTQIA+ acronym representing the queer community (this acronym, the identities it represents, and even more terms are explained here), but you might be surprised to know that sexism affects queer people, those of all genders and sexualities. Sexism in this context is the undermining and devaluing of femininity as well as discrimination against femininity (instead of being narrowed to prejudice and discrimination against cis women from cis men). Unfortunately, sexism affects the queer community in a lot of ways, so this will be the first in a series of posts. The first sexist trend we see through the LGBTQIA+ space is queer feminine of center (foc) people not being nearly as represented in media or stories as masculine of center people are.

Take box office hits “Bohemian Rhapsody” about Freddy Mercury and “Rocketman” about Elton John, for example; are there any movies starring queer feminine of center people being made to the same impact, scale or success? GLADD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) found that in 2019 within LGBT representation in movies, only 32% of LGBT characters in mainstream media were women, where 68% were men. GLAAD also noted that “there were zero transgender or non-binary characters counted in mainstream releases this year.” An example from Cleo-Symone Scott of how sapphic relationships are less valued is in the Academy Awards, where Brokeback Mountain and Milk were given Best Picture, but lesbian films (for example Battle of the Sexes featuring a lesbian’s historic tennis win over a straight cis man) are rejected by judges. It’s important to note that bisexuals and transgender characters lag behind in proportional representation to their gay and lesbian counterparts. 

In the future we will discuss why this imbalance exists and how it’s tied to sexism, but for now let’s address the problem: we need to see queer women as more than the main character’s side kick or the straight man’s eye candy, but how do do that? How do we validate queer foc individuals in their sexualities? Well, of course, we can create and support the representation we want to see. If you are in a story-telling position, advocate and create feminine of center love stories. For us consumers out here, find and engage with queer foc stories by streaming movies, buying books, reviewing or sharing on social media, etc. We can vote with our dollar for the kinds of stories we want to see. 

If you’d like to see some foc queer relationships, there is some representation out there: check out the Legend of Korra comics, listen to Haley Kiyoko’s “Girls like Girls,” watch She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, or read Sappho or the people she inspired like Gertrude Stein. There is also information to find online like this article about critically acclaimed Women who Love Women movies and this website that lists books that represent queer relationships.

Clarifying Gender: Using Multiple Sets of Pronouns

By Ace Garrett

Right now as you read, gender is evolving into the fun, expressive, and validating construct that it always should have been. People here in America finally have the language to understand and express their gender, and many are beginning to step outside of traditional gender expectations and live as their most authentic selves—which is all any of us want, right? If you want to continue being supportive of gender non‑conforming people, a good place to start is understanding pronouns. 

This week, Sierra skillfully informed us about pronouns and their independence from gender, which I am following up with this little series of additions to help you understand the niche aspects of pronouns and gender. Today, we’ll be covering the use of multiple pronouns.

You might be surprised, but many people actually use multiple sets of pronouns. For some, a mixture of pronouns might best reflect them. For others, they might simply be comfortable with more than one set and allow their friends and family to choose whichever they want to use. There are some people that are even comfortable using any pronouns! 

You probably know that pronouns come in sets of three (e.g., she/her/hers), but all three parts is pretty redundant, so pronouns have already been commonly abbreviated to the first two parts: she/her; they/them; he/him; etc. And these sets get abbreviated even more when someone uses multiple pronouns. People who are comfortable with more than one set of pronoun often abbreviate their pronouns like this: 

  • she/they
  • they/he
  • he/they/she

For some, this represents a catalogue of the pronouns they are comfortable with. However, some people have a preference, and they will put the pronoun set they are most comfortable with at the beginning. For example, non‑binary people who prefer they/them pronouns may also be comfortable with the pronouns tied to their sex assigned at birth—especially if (1) they are just discovering their gender identity or (2) they present in a very feminine or masculine way.

But remember what Sierra covered on Monday: pronouns and gender are independent parts of our identity, which is also independent from gender presentation. Someone could, for example, present very feminine while only using they/them pronouns and being agender.

To wrap this post up, I want to remind you that all people are different. We don’t have labels and “rules” in order to box people in; we have them to help people express themselves and find community. Each person is an authority over their own identity, and we should all take care to listen and be open to people falling outside our expectations.

Keep an eye out for part two!

Sex, Gender, Pronouns, Oh My!

 

By Sierra Voorhies

When someone uses she/her pronouns, you might assume she’s a woman, but pronouns and gender do not always match. Sharing and asking for someone’s pronouns is becoming more common, so it’s a good time to address the common misconception that gender and pronouns are synonymous. I’ll start with explaining sex versus gender. 

Sex is determined by a combination of all sexual characteristics: chromosomes, hormones, and internal and external sex organs (for example ovaries, penis, vulva). If one were to ask what your sex is, they would be referring to your physical sex makeup, and one would respond female, intersex, or male. Check out Aurora’s last blog to learn about what it means to be intersex!

Sex is connected to gender, but they are not the same. Someone’s gender is how they fit into the socialized perceptions of femininity and masculinity. Genders include but are not limited to:

  • cisgender (or cis): when one’s gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth (e.g., a woman who was assigned female at birth).
  • transgender (or trans): when one’s gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth (e.g., a man who was assigned female at birth).
  • non-binary or genderqueer: when one’s gender identity is not only or completely either a woman or a man. Someone who is non-binary or genderqueer may be in between a man and a woman, complete outside of those two genders, or some combination of the two.
  • genderfluid: when one’s gender identity or presentation changes over time. Some genderfluid people flip between genders day to day, others shift gradually from one to another. There are no rules!
  • agender: when one does not identify with any gender.

Many non-binary, genderqueer, and genderfluid people identify themselves as trans (under the trans umbrella) because their gender does not fully align with their sex assigned at birth. The non-binary identity is also considered an umbrella under which other, more specific identities may fall. And keep in mind that gender labels are a tool for people to communicate their own identities: listen to gender non-conforming people, they may deviate from these definitions or labels and that’s okay. 

Finally, why are we all here, pronouns! Pronouns are the gendered terms we use to refer to people when not using their name (e.g., he/him, she/her, they/them). Pronouns are connected to gender, but are also not the same. Most importantly, pronouns don’t dictate gender and vice versa. This means that no matter what someone’s pronouns are, you can’t use them to assume their gender; and you can’t use someone’s gender to assume their pronouns. For example, a non-binary person might use he/him pronouns because they are not ready to come out, because they are comfortable with them, or for many other reasons. A woman I know goes by both she/her and they/them (yes, people can use multiple!) so their pronouns are she/they. 

As we continue to ask for people’s pronouns, it’s important to note that it’s not appropriate to use that information to assume someone’s gender or sex. It’s always polite and appropriate to ask for pronouns at the beginning of a new conversation with someone, and if you have known someone a long time, it’s good to check in and ask now as well! I hope this blog is helpful, and we can continue to make mistakes, grow, and learn together.

No is a Complete Sentence

By Ace Garrett

Two weeks ago, Brooke told you the story of her discomfort around a man who she struggled to say no to. Today I’d like to ask the question: Why do women—why might anyone—struggle to say no? 

Let’s start with cisgender women and girls. According to sociologist professor, Kathryn Lively, Ph.D, “As young children, girls are socialized to be nice and to be more in touch with their own and other people’s feelings than are boys. [ . . . ] Boys, on the other hand, are socialized to be less attuned to people’s feelings, and to win.”

Other gender minorities may receive this socialization from being born female, from wanting to be perceived as a woman, or from experiencing excessive desire to be likeable or to be accepted due to their gender identity, among a myriad of other reasons. 

This socialization leads gender minorities to go along with things we would rather say no to. This is a hard-to-explain effect of the patriarchy, but it definitely affects many of us and is an unnecessary weight on our shoulders.

I have personally felt the impacts of this socialization: I feel guilt when my wants or needs get in the way of even the smallest whim of someone else. As a young girl, I was led to believe that a good person should be aware of and very considerate of others’ emotions. And since no two people have the same wants or needs, it has always been hard for me to advocate for myself—I have always been worried about everyone else. Today, I am still putting in a lot of conscious effort to try and undo this harmful habit. 

It is important to be considerate of others, but not to the detriment of our needs. Many women, trans people, and non-binary people need to reevaluate their line: at what point do you believe your wants and needs are worth speaking up for? 

Saying no is a crucial skill and a habit you need a healthy relationship with. Saying no is self-care. I hope you all find at least one little way to advocate for yourself this week. Never forget that you matter!

Other resources on this topic:

Saying no and advocating for the things you want is an important tool for all people, in all contexts. However, one of the most important skills people need to have is knowing how to say no to unwanted sexual contact. Due to all sorts of pressure and expectations surrounding sex, this is one of the hardest ways to say no. 

Angie Greaves, a radio presenter and blogger in the UK, has a great post that goes deeper into the specifics of women struggling to say no, including how to say no: “Stop with the ‘I’m sorry’ always attached to the end of saying ‘NO’.”

Book Recommendation:
Earlier this year, I read Untamed by Glennon Doyle, a memoir in response to her realization that she was gay, and even more importantly, her discovery of her own timidity with disappointing others. This novel was ground shattering for me, and it has some fascinating insights about gender and the ways in which women are socialized to act. Caveat: Doyle’s perspective is that of a middle-class white Christian woman, and although she makes some efforts at inclusion, there are parts of this book where her perspective is obviously narrow. You can find the synopsis, reviews, content warnings, and other information at the link above.