Raising a Child Gender Neutral

By Adriana Suarez

This semester, I am emerging into my minor by taking an introduction to sociology. The class has been everything I imagined, filled with much discussion and information about social structures and more. It has taught me so much about everyone’s place in society and our differing perspectives of the world in such a few short class periods.

One of the most fascinating stories I heard was on a podcast about a family who decided to raise their children gender neutral. I feel that raising a child this way really changes the way that you see the world and it shows how gender is simply a structure that society has placed on everybody. From the moment that we are conceived, many people ask, “What is it?” expecting the answer to be a boy or a girl. This tells them which adjectives to call the baby by and which gift to buy for them.

Before discussing this podcast in class, I didn’t realize how big of a deal gender is as a social institution in our society. There are obvious things placed in our day to day lives that separate gender, like appearance, restrooms, and clothes. Gender defines how people pick out clothes; girls tend to be gifted the color pink while boys are gifted the color blue. Even the material that clothes are made of reflects on gender, as girls’ clothes tend to be made from soft materials such as silk and boys’ are made from cotton. Boys are expected to play rough, so their clothes need to be able to withstand such destruction, while girls aren’t necessarily supposed to be involved in such activities. This goes to show how clothes tend to restrict girls into what they can and can’t do.

That’s just a little insight to the discussion we had in class, but if you would like to listen to the podcast in its entirety and hear more in-depth about the family and the outcomes, the link is as follows.

https://n.pr/2UXXWN3

Additionally, I want to acknowledge this as my last post for the UMKC Women’s Center. I appreciate all that I have learned here and hope to use it as I move forward. Thank you all!

 

Eve Ensler: The Revolutionist Behind V-Day

By Maggie Pool

Trigger warning: mentions of sexual abuse.

In 2006, New York Times writer Charles Isherwood proclaimed The Vagina Monologues to be “probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade.” What are these monologues you ask? The Vagina Monologues is a play written by Eve Ensler based off a interviews she did with two hundred women about their experiences involving sex, relationships, and the violence they may have experienced during those interactions.

Eve Ensler was born in New York City in 1953 to a Jewish father and Christian mother and is the middle child out of two brothers. From the time she was five to ten, Ensler’s father physically and sexually abused her. Ensler reflected back on how she felt in this time of her life: “very sad, very angry, very defiant. I was the girl with the dirty hair. I didn’t fit anywhere.” Ensler attended Mitterbury College in Vermont, and her experiences forged her loyalty to feminist ideals, but her encounters with gender-based violence continued. She graduated and unfortunately was abused in several different relationships, which led to dependency on drugs and alcohol. Ensler eventually went to rehab and no doubt was inspired by all these previous events to create her most known work, The Vagina Monologues.

When the play premiered in 1996, many women would linger after each showing to unload the weight of their own experiences that had been choking them into silence for years. As if struck by lightning, Ensler realized what she created wasn’t just a play of entertainment, but a movement that masses of mistreated women felt deep in their hearts, something that rang a bell and called for action.

The V-Day movement was born on Valentine’s Day in 1998, when Ensler held the first V-Day event: a benefit concert that raised $250,000 in one evening. And that was just the beginning. The official V-Day website puts it well: “What began as one event in New York City in 1998 today includes over 5,800 V-Day events annually.” What is the overall mission of the V-Day movement that people are so inspired to be a part of? It’s a simple one. It’s a demand that violence against women must end. V-Day tackles gender-based violence by having groups around the world put on a performance of The Vagina Monologues (and other V-Day related works). These performances work to raise awareness, and all the proceeds collected during the event are donated to projects or programs that also have the goal of ending violence against women and girls.

The Vagina Monologues has won over twenty different awards and recognitions, but, of course, it is more than just an award-winning play. It is a movement that will undeniably continue to spread like wildfire as the world becomes more aware of gender-based violence. Women and girls, every year, walk an Earth in which they are taught to fear their gender. The lessons of V-Day inspire others to free these innocent women from the abuse of gender-based violence. Hopefully, one day, we can all exist in harmony and respect everyone, no matter who they are, what they look like, or how they identify.

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).

Tampon Tax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Adriana Suarez

Why are menstrual hygiene products taxed?

Why are they even being sold instead of being provided free?

Menstruation is not a choice. Menstruation products are in fact a necessity for ALL women.

As a female, I have never had a choice about if I wanted my period. When the time came, I had to be ready for the time of the month to come every single month for the rest of my life. There is nothing I can naturally do to prevent this from happening.

As of July 2019, “menstrual products are subject to sales taxes in 35 states” (As reported by Karen Zraick). Many founders of supporting organizations, including LOLA and Period Equity, support the cause of eliminating the ‘tampon tax.’ According to The New York Times, Canada, Malaysia, India, and Australia have “nixed” the tax. So that raises the question, why hasn’t the United States eliminated the tax as well?

What many states have in question is affordability. Can they afford to eliminate the sales tax? In California alone, the expense of eliminating the tax would be $76 million per year. Other states, like Georgia “allocated funds to provide free menstrual products in schools and community centers in low-income areas” (Zraick).

This debate has caused a Tampon Tax Protest. Any woman can participate in 4 easy steps, as follows.

  1. Buy the product and save your receipt.
  2. Claim for a refund under the grounds of being unconstitutional.
  3. Mail form and receipt to state’s Department of Revenue.
  4. Post about the Tampon Tax Protest through spreading the word.

More information can also be found on the Tax Free. Period. website.

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!

 

How a 19nth Century Invention helped Liberate Women

By Maggie Pool

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling,” Susan B. Anthony told a reporter in 1896. “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”

In 1897, protests lined the streets at the University of Cambridge to object to a vote that would allow women to attend the all-male university. The crowd launched rockets, threw eggs, and hung a stuffed representation of the “New Woman” from a building, later mutilating it in the streets. The feature acutely defining this “New Woman” was her bicycle.

Globally, the bicycle was a hot commodity in the 1890s. Bikes were cheaper and easier to use than a horse, buggy, or car. For someone making around $10 a week, buying a bicycle was an affordable and easy way to get around. So, how did this affect women?

Before the early 1900s, women’s roles didn’t extend beyond maintaining the domestic sphere. They cooked, cleaned, took care of the children, and generally only left the house when escorted by male, usually by a father or husband. This meant women had no involvement in things like business, politics, and education. However, the bicycle boom allowed women to be themselves without being ignored or easily segregated. With the taste of freedom fresh on their lips, women learned what life was really like outside the home. Thus, a new desire for women’s avocation was born.

Outside the home, the bicycle evolved more than women’s roles. It also revolutionized women’s fashion. Imagine trying to ride a bike outfitted in a corset, bustle, and multi-layer full-length skirts? It didn’t work out so well. Although viewed by many as highly scandalous, bloomers, baggy pants sewed into a big skirt, were the new fashion. For the first time, women were showing off their bare legs.

And, of course, the bicycle allowed quick mobilization for the suffragette movement. Alice Hawkins, a leading English suffragette among the city of Leicester went to prison five times for her acts in the Women’s Social and Political Union campaign. Women’s use of bicycles started with Hawkin’s use her own bicycle. She organized bike clubs that helped spread the word about female emancipation. Being able to travel gave her and other women the ability to do widespread canvassing to get their political point across.

Who would’ve thought that an invention as simple as two turning wheels could’ve liberated women more than anything else before?

Warner Brother’s Dangerous Dame

“My passions were all gathered together like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose.”

By Maggie Pool

Ruth Elizabeth “Bette” Davis was an American actress on film, television, and theater. With a career spanning over 60 years, Davis is known as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history, but she didn’t start off that way. Davis’s first few roles flopped at the box office, and the film executives in charge of her were left wondering what to do. Due to what they considered her “unconventional” beauty, Davis was put into a different box compared to most female Hollywood stars. However, her fierceness, boldness, and unwillingness to give in to “the man” led to her victory against the misogynistic moguls running Hollywood. Eventually, Davis’s talent was realized, harnessed, and triumphantly executed.

During her first audition in Hollywood, Davis arrived at Universal Studios with no one waiting to greet her. It was later found out, a studio employee waited for her but left because he didn’t see anyone that “looked like an actress.” Davis was casted in minor roles, all of which didn’t exploit her abilities because she didn’t fit Universal’s beauty standards. After a year, and six unsuccessful movies, Universal chose not to renew her contract.

Davis’s luck changed. Warner Brother’s film maker, George Arliss chose Davis to lead in the Warner Brothers picture, The Man Who Played God (1932). Warner Bros. He signed her to a five-year contract and remained at the studio for the next 18 years. In 1934, Better Davis was loaned out to RKO Pictures to star in Of Human Bondage. Her role garnered so much praise from critics it eventually led to an uproar when she wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award. Due to the circumstances, the Academy president said, “any voter… may write on the ballot his or her personal choice for the winners.”

This was the only time in Academy history where a candidate not officially nominated was considered for the award. Davis followed up Of Human Bondage with another next breakout role in the movie, Dangerous (1935). A reviewer from Picture Post wrote, “I think Bette Davis would probably have been burned as a witch if she had lived two or three hundred years ago. She gives the curious feeling of being charged with power which can find no ordinary outlet.” *This wasn’t just an issue with Davis.

All the praise in the world could not sway President of Warner Brothers, Jack Warner. For years, Bette Davis insisted on bigger and better roles, but Warner always rejected her pleas*. Due to her displeasure, Davis filed a lawsuit in 1937 against Warner and sought to move to England after being offered two movie deals better suited to her talents, even though this would be in direct violation of her contract. She later admitted in an interview, “I knew that only directors and good scripts could give me a career, I couldn’t do it with the junk.”

Davis lost the lawsuit, but won the war. She began to get parts she yearned for and what movie lovers will remember forever. For five years in a row, Bette Davis was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her roles in Jezebel (1938)**, Dark Victory (1939), The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941), and Now, Voyager (1942). In a 1988 interview, Davis asserted, “unlike many of her fellow actresses, she had forged a career without the benefit of beauty.” She admitted to being terrified during the beginning of her career, but became tough by necessity. In the end, her unruly toughness won her one of the most memorable performance careers in Hollywood history.

 

Sojourner Truth: A Timeless Women’s Rights Activist

By Skye VanLanduyt

Sojourner Truth escaped from slavery and became a powerful civil and women’s rights activist during the nineteenth century. Truth’s famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” will always be one of my favorite woman authored pieces in multi-ethnic literature. Her language is controversial, provocative, and unforgettable. She delivered the speech in 1851 at a Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio.

Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman” speech is meant to be controversial. Her speech criticizes white privilege while calling attention to gender and racial disparity in America. In the second paragraph, Truth exclaims “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted into ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?” Her critique of men’s treatment toward women runs deeper than the issue of men seeing women as submissive. White women may not be treated fairly but black women are not seen by men as women at all. Truth’s writing reveals why it is important to take a step back and realize women’s experience is not entirely universal.

At the end of the same paragraph, Truth compares her worth to a man’s. She boldly exclaims, “I could work as much and eat as much as a man-when I could get it-and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?” I love this line because Truth is challenging her role as a woman comparably with a man. She declares women do not “need to be helped” and should be seen as equal to men because they are able to do the same work. But she also calls attention to racial disparity in a new way. Her assertion, “I could work as much and eat as much as a man” is a powerful punch against the barriers white men put up against her.

As powerful as Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman” speech is, there is a shroud of mystery behind the piece’s publication. Her original speech was transcribed by journalist and audience member, Marius Robinson. Truth and Robinson were “good friends” and reportedly “went over his transcription of her speech before he published it.” A second transcription was published by writer, Frances Gage in 1863 in the New York Independent, a women’s suffrage magazine. Some speculate discrepancies in Gage’s transcription. The phrase, “Ain’t I A Woman” is not found in Robinson’s earlier version of Truth’s speech, nor is there any southern dialect. Although Gage was a feminist, her choice to falsify Truth’s dialect and word choice is counterproductive to the purpose of Truth’s speech. The piece loses its powerful flare and provocative language because Gage’s intended audience is not black. New York’s readership in the 1800’s was predominately white. A powerful black woman’s voice speaking out against white privilege and supremacy would not have received praise before the abolition of slavery.

Despite controversy, Sojourner Truth’s speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” continues to reflect America’s history, present, and future. It is a reminder that while so much progress has been made in the fight for women’s equality, so much more still needs to be done.

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.