Back to Basics #4: What is the Patriarchy?

By: Emma Stuart

Welcome to Back to Basics! In these posts, we break down feminist concepts for readers curious about feminist vocabulary, concepts, and ideas! Today’s question is:

“What is Patriarchy?”

Patriarchy is defined by Oxford Languages as “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” Due to most modern societies being patriarchal, women are restricted access to the power and privilege that is attributed to men. Feminists and advocates for gender equality have consistently fought against the values that have been enforced by patriarchal societies.

“How am I impacted by the patriarchy?”

The patriarchy affects everyone in many aspects of our lives. It impacts the lives of women and men all around the world in countless ways but here are a few examples:

  • Men are not allowed to show emotions, and if women do, they are ‘out of control’.
  • Women are perceived as objects by the world.
  • Sexual violence perpetrated to and by all genders, and sexual violence committed against masculine people is not taken seriously.
  • Inequity of pay for preforming the same jobs.

“How can I oppose the patriarchy in my life?”

Tackling the patriarchy is not an easy job to do but here are some small ways that we can work against it:

  1. Make sure to educate yourself and keep your mind open to growth.
  2. Challenge the expectation of gender roles but continue to respect all gender expressions.
  3. Hold leadership accountable.
  4. Don’t be blinded by your anger, it is important to acknowledge your anger but don’t let it control you.
  5. Support all women, non-binary, and trans people’s careers, their success is your success don’t make it a competition.

The patriarchy is a constant presence in our lives, and it can be a great burden to bear. However, do not let it control your life and drag you down. Surround yourself with those who lift you up and support you to lighten this load. If you want to learn more about the patriarchy and its effects click here. And if you want to learn about more basic feminist topics check out our post on the myth of “man-hating feminists” , intersectional feminism, and body positivity.

Sex Sells…But at What Cost?

By: Ebony Taylor 

Ever watched a movie or tv show based in high-school? Think about the female characters. There’s often a character who’s a “school slut” or girl who wears revealing clothing. She is almost always over-sexualized. Reporters have noticed the almost obsessive need to sexualize the teenage experience, especially with Gen-Z. As a borderline millennial myself, I do not think movies and tv shows accurately represent teen life because the film industry has a skewed view of the high school experience. A more recent example is HBO’s Euphoria, a show meant to portray the mind of young teens.  

Although I have not watched the show, many critics of the show feel its objectification of underaged girls is an issue. The Daily Targum, an online newspaper, mentions that Hollywood has a history of setting unrealistic beauty standards, focusing on the women characters’ sexual development. This may have to do with men filling writing and directing roles, and that female characters are being used to appeal to the male eye.

This idea was brought to my attention on Euphoria,  because the writer and director of the show is also male. Are male writers and directors conscious of how they’re portraying women? Those who have watched Euphoria  agree that the show is not shy about displaying nudity. With the numerous sex, nude, and drug scenes, the Guardian writes that younger audiences may be accidental targets. From featuring former Disney costars, attractive models, to a soundtrack made of popular artists, I can see how this show would be appealing to them.   

The main topic of discussion here is to consider how society imposes sexuality on young girls. Media outlets like social media, tv shows, and movies impact girls and their mental health. Sexualization in media suggests that being “sexy” is liberating and powerful. However, when girls are exposed to unrealistic portrayals of girls their age, it can lead to internal conflict, confusion, self-loathing, according to a Verywell Mind article. Not only do media platforms persuade young girls to express their sexuality, but they open a channel for them to do it.  

Due to labor laws, directors may cast women to play the roles of high school-aged girls. I was shocked to learn that actress Rachael McAdams was 25 when she starred in Mean Girls  as a high school bully. The Daily Targum gave an opinionated review that though the sex lives of teens cannot be completely censored, it is a “fine line between sexualizing young women and being informative on how teens view and experience sexual activities.” It can give teens the wrong perception, that what they see (a grown, developed, working woman) is how they should look in high school. Granted, some girls develop more than others in their teens, but these films and shows are setting the bar almost impossibly high for growing girls.  

For social media outlets, there is a negative side to sexual exposure. The American Journal of Psychiatry mentions Nancy Jo Sales, writer of American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, who concludes that social media can reinforce sexism and objectification. Many times, young girls are sent unwanted penis pictures, pressured to send nude photos, or portray themselves in a sexualized way to compete with other girls for “likes” online. It’s not only happening in the media, but in other parts of teen’s life. The answers for why girls’ sports feel that they need to dress in more revealing uniforms, why women who are more endowed and shapely play high schoolers, or why sex scenes can’t be censored and have to be shown repeatedly, can only come from females in the media industry. There need to be more women in the media to stop the sexualization of girls and young women. Female writers, directors, other creatives could help create realistic portrayals of women in the media. Stricter and more protective laws for women can also ensure safety for women of all ages.  

“Fridging Women”: How the Comics Industry Flubs Female Characters

By: Alyssa Bradley

Lynda Carter as “Wonder Woman”, 1976

The absence of female authors and the large majority of male readers has potentially skewed the comic book industry. Overly sexy female characters, constraining female characters to secondary roles, and dull or extreme personalities are the patterns of sexism observed in comic books or graphic novels. “Women in Refrigerators” or “fridging women” is a term coined by Gail Simone, which is used to refer to the disempowerment or maiming of female characters. The origin of the term came from the 1994 comic The Green Lantern #54.The hero, Kyle Rayner, returns home to find his girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, killed and stuffed in a refrigerator. This trope became recognizable as a way for authors to use female characters as devices to project their male characters forward in their story.

“Fridging women” as a trope applies to much more than just comic books. Utilizing female characters as assets to their male counterparts contributes to the sexism women are subjected to their entire lives. Young girls or women who consume this media get the impression that they are only a mere accessory to the plot rather than an influential factor in the story.

Acts of sexism extend beyond the over-sexualized characters. Female authors have become gradually marginalized with the growth in the industry and female fans are attacked and criticized for their opinions. The results of these problems can damage the social image of women and make it increasingly difficult to fight the gender equity issues concerning our world today. Equal representation in the entertainment industry must take precedence in order to undo society’s status quo.

 

Back to Basics #2: Do Feminists Hate Men?

By: Laura Yac

We are bringing it back to basics this week with a common misconception involving feminists.  When I talk about my feminist beliefs, I often get asked the question, “Do you hate men?”  My answer,  like Cher from Clueless would say is: “Ugh! as if…”

Yet the question still remains if feminists really hate men, and for the most part we don’t! I have come to the conclusion that many individuals (especially men) feel attacked by the term feminist and the concept of women wanting to be seen as equal and receiving the same opportunities that men do for simply being male. This is where I believe individuals got the common misconception that we hate men.

If you go online right now and look up the term feminist, the definition is  “advocacy of women rights on the basis of equality of sexes.” From that, we can gather that overall feminists just want to be seen at the same standards the world places men. We want nothing more than to be treated as the powerful individuals we are and because of that, men shouldn’t feel threatened or hated on. It is simply a matter of wanting change. Women are tired of being treated like they are unable to do certain tasks, tired of being underpaid and underestimated.

It is time that individuals realize that. Instead of seeing such movement as a threat, they should join the cause for the women in their life who have been shut down and underestimated their whole life. For now, it seems women’s rights will be a battle we continue to fight.

For the mean-time here is some extra helpful information on what feminism really is and to leave on a good note… Men, we don’t hate you!

Helpful articles to learn more about feminism: click here and here.

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s History Trivia: First Female African American Physician

The New England Female Medical College (Image Source: Wikipedia Commons)

By: Alyssa Bradley

Trivia Question: Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African-American woman to become a _______ (occupation) in the United States. 

Answer: Physician

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler is recognized for becoming the first African-American woman physician in the United States. As a young girl, she grew up in a house with her aunt who took care of the ill. Rebecca was always considered a “special student” and was allowed to attend many prestigious private schools because of her intellect.

Later in life, she pursued her shared family passion for medicine.  During 1860, Crumpler applied and was accepted into the New England Female Medical College. This institution was founded in 1848 and had only started accepting its first female student, a class of 12, in 1850. The women at this college faced ridicule from male physicians who derided the institution. They complained that women “lacked the physical strength to practice medicine”. Others thought that women were incapable of understanding a medical curriculum and that the topics taught were inappropriate for their “sensitive and delicate nature”.

In 1860, there were only 300 women out of 54,543 physicians in the United States–and none of them were African American. Despite the discouraging odds, in 1864 Crumpler became her school’s only African-American graduate.

After completing her schooling, Crumpler relocated to Richmond, Virginia where she found her calling. She discovered “the proper field for real missionary work, and one that would present ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children.” It was here she worked under the Freedman’s Bureau, an agency dedicated to helping newly freed African American slaves.

Throughout the rest of her practice, Rebecca faced daily issues of racism and sexism from her colleagues, pharmacists, and many others. Rebecca Lee Crumpler continued to practice medicine and even wrote a book called A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts. She passed in 1895. Crumpler achieved many things in the name of gender and women’s equity and paved the way for many of those who continue to defy adversity.

The Gender Gap in Caregiving and Why Women Carry It

Trivia Question: In heterosexual married couples where both partners work full time, women spend ____ % more time caregiving than men.

Answer: 40.

By: Emma Sauer

When I think of caregivers, I think of my paternal grandma, who’s dedicated herself to my grandpa’s care for as long as I can remember, ever since he’s had difficulty walking. I think of my mother, a living reminder that housewives work their asses off just as much as career-women. I think of my best friend, studying rigorously so she can become a nurse.

Caregiving, whether its paid or unpaid, professional or personal, is hard work. I will forever have respect for caregivers, because they go above and beyond to help their fellow humans. It takes a special kind of person to be patient and disciplined enough to be a good caregiver. Caregiving, if you weren’t aware, is a broad term that covers those who “provide care to people who need some degree of ongoing assistance with everyday tasks on a regular or daily basis” (CDC). A caregiver can be someone hired to take care of a stranger, or an unpaid person taking care of a family member, friend, or loved one. Up to 81% of all caregivers, formal and informal, are female, and they may spend as much as 50% more time giving care than males. Even in heterosexual relationships where both partners work full time, women still spend a whopping 40% more time caregiving than their male partner. 

So, why do women shoulder such a heavy share of the caregiving compared to men? If you yourself are a woman, you already know the answer: it’s what’s expected of us. This isn’t to say that caregiving and homemaking isn’t just as important as more traditional careers, or even that there aren’t women who love doing it. However, it would be outright wrong to say that that 75% number isn’t partly due to a sense of obligation. It was only as recently as WWII that the United States began to change its perception of women as primary caretakers. In those days, the nuclear model of family demanded that women stayed home to cook, clean, and watch the kids, while their husbands went off and did important man things, like selling vacuums door to door, committing tax fraud in the office, and whatever else businessmen did in the 50’s. You’d think things would have changed more by 2022, but a lot of women are instilled with an obligation/duty to take care of others, whether it’s their children, husband, parents, or someone else.

This month, let’s recognize the women in our lives who are caretakers. Better yet, let’s do it all year long. If you’re a caregiver yourself, thank you. Thank you for your hard work, dedication, and time you give to others.

Someone Call Elle Woods Cause I Need a Lawyer to Fight the Pink Tax

 

Source: Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/30478819@N08/50531102396

By: Sierra Voorhies

We all know that there is a gender pay gap; women on average make 83 cents on the dollar that men make. This is worsened by intersections of ethnicity and gender. For example, black women make 63 cents to the white man’s 1-dollar, while Latino women make 55 cents to a white man’s 1-dollar. But did you know about the pink tax?

The pink tax refers to an increase in price for feminine or feminine coded items. So, this commonly refers to things like razors and soaps but can apply to anything from dry cleaning to tech accessories. For example, at Target right now 4 women’s triple blade disposable razors from the Up & Up brand is $3.89 but 8 men’s triple blade disposable razors by the same brand is $4.89.  So, for a man’s razor it’s 61 cents per unit, and for a women’s razor it’s 97 cents per unit. This might not seem like a large difference, but over a lifetime of every hygiene product, it costs a lot more to buy feminine hygiene items than masculine ones.

Now that we are familiar with the Pink Tax, let me introduce you to our Pink Tax Donation Drive, happening Saturday, February 12 at the 2:00pm in the Swinney Center! Come to the game and get a free button from us and donate some Pink Tax item(s)! Ideas for items are things like razors, shampoo, bodywash, deodorants, soaps and more- basically hygiene products. They don’t have to be feminine-coded, just items that the pink tax could affect. For example, get the larger and cheaper pack of razors labeled for “men” to donate instead of the smaller more costly pack pink razors labeled for “women” if you want to! These items will go to the UMKC Kangaroo Pantry and the game is free for students! To get a ticket go to https://kcroos.com.

 

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.