Let’s Break the Gender Stereotypes about Women in Sports

By Torshawna Griffin

Image from Creative Commons.

Image from Creative Commons.

Two athletes, both African American, both going through the same situation. The difference is that the media took one athlete’s “moment” and shrugged it off, but made a story of the other. Britney Griner was a first draft pick for the WNBA and currently plays for the Phoenix Mercury. In April of 2013, she openly came out about her sexuality. Why you didn’t hear about this? Well, because the Sports Association and media both shrugged it off due to the stereotype, “Female athletes are lesbians” (Complex Sports 2013). Why is this the gender stereotype of females in sports in America? Because female athletes are portrayed to be masculine, pushing everyone to believe that they must be lesbians if they are “manly”.

While on the other hand, Michael Sam, a college male athlete that is going into the NFL draft, has received more publicity for this same personal landmark.  Michael Sam attends Mizzou and is currently pursuing a career in the NFL.  He openly came out and told the world that he was gay. Media has spun a controversy of whether his sexual orientation will out shine his talents. Michael’s agent has said that he does not think his decision to acknowledge his sexual orientation will hurt his draft prospects (Palm Beach Post 2014), while the media and a few NFL executives think otherwise. “I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” a personnel assistant told New Republic Magazine. “In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this time it’s still a man’s-man game.” What does that mean, a man’s-man game? Is he any less of a man because he likes other men?

Which brings the subject, why women are automatically lesbians for being an athlete and why are men criticized for being anything out of the status quo of masculinity. It should not matter whether Britney or Michael are gay. The thing that should draw the media to them is the fact that they both shine tremendously in their sport. We fight for gender equality every day. Gender roles should not exist because a woman can do anything that she puts her mind to, just a like a man can do anything he puts his mind to. Had the media not made a “story” of this young man’s courage, maybe he would not have plummeted 70 points in the CBS NFL draft board (since has regained 50 of those points). The media should be focusing on positive aspects of both these athletes’ lives. Instead of blasting Michael’s sexuality, Britney should have been congratulated for being the first openly gay athlete to sign an endorsement with Nike.

What Happens to Women Matters to Men, Too!

This man proclaims why he is a feminist as part of the "Who Needs Feminism?" Campaign last semester.

This man proclaims why he is a feminist as part of the “Who Needs Feminism?” Campaign last semester.

By Morgan Paul

“Women are part of men’s lives, and what happens to us matters to men too.”

In welcoming everybody back to class and back to the Women’s Center after a long cold break we begin to get the same questions we get at the beginning of every semester: “Can men come to the Women’s Center?” “What do you do for men?” “So feminists are man haters, right?”

NO! This couldn’t be further from the truth! The patriarchy hurts EVERYONE! To prove this point I found an article that talks about both the direct and indirect effects of the patriarchy. It’s a great read for men, women, and non-binary persons alike.

Click here to check it out!

Dad Played Dolls with Me while Mom Fought for the Rights of Others in Court

The following is a guest blog from Valerie Hassinger. Valerie is a Copywriter at best essays.com and is currently working on a YA novel. She spends her weekends baking or watching her favorite shows on Netflix. Follow her on Twitter to see her thoughts on pop culture, politics and life in general.

***

Image from Search on Creative Commons

Image from Search on Creative Commons

In a few weeks’ time I will be celebrating my fourth year anniversary with Brian, my best friend and the love of my life. While many of our friends seem to be competing against us each other who will get to the aisle first, we are just taking our own sweet time and just enjoying each other’s company in the house we both share.

Not that marriage is out of the question for us but we do talk about it every now and then.

In one of our downtimes I opened up the possibility of him becoming a househusband. I am a writer by profession while he works in engineering and construction. I’m also currently working on a book and my plan is to eventually publish and have it promoted. If and when response is good then I would build a whole new series around it. I joked that he might have to stay at home and care for our future kids when I’m off doing tours for my book.

He looked at me like I was asking him to travel to the moon and back.

His response is not out of the ordinary, unfortunately. Most people still aren’t comfortable with the idea of having the father stay at home while the mother is away from home. I blame traditional gender roles that have been ingrained to our brains since time immemorial.

Having grown up with a stay-at-home dad and a career woman for a mother, I was raised to see past stereotypes and assigned gender roles. In the first few years of my life I thought having my dad make my lunch and play dolls with me at home while my mom is off at work was the norm. Not until I reached pre-school did I realize that we were the oddballs (alien-like even as this all happened in the ’80s) of the community. I remembered the other children’s moms were all whispering to each other whenever dad drops me off or picks me up from school. The rare sightings of my mother during school presentations elicited smirks and judging looks from the close-minded crowd.

I applaud my parents for going against the flow. It was a necessary decision that didn’t come easy to both of them. My dad got discharged from the army for an injury he sustained while he was on duty. Mom, on the other hand, was slowly rising up the ranks in her law firm and had to make a decision on our family’s set-up fast. I was only two years old then and my older sister was six. Our parents agreed that it will be best for dad to stay at home with us while she works.

I was too young to remember anything when this set-up first started. I do remember Nana (my dad’s mother) checking up on us once in awhile to help around the house. Dad became our sole caregiver once he was well enough. All the while mom was managing the finances and dealt with the family’s expenses. It was a set-up that lasted until I was 10 when dad secured a job as an artist for an ad agency.

That upbringing exposed me to a lifestyle that is unconventional but that is no less loving than any other normal family. It didn’t create any sense of confusion nor resentment in me for my parents made me understood the need for that kind of set-up. It made me more accepting of other “oddball families” (gay parents, single father/mother households) who are also misunderstood by the general public. It taught me that gender is a concept that you can mold into whatever you want it to be: that a man is not a “sissy” or a “doormat” if he stays at home with the kids; nor is a woman “selfish” for choosing a career over homemaking. My experience showed me that traditions are good but that you are not a bad person either if you decide to go against the grain. Ultimately it has made me into the woman that I am right now: strong, hard working, loving and empathetic.

Right now I’m seeing more and more families with stay-at-home dads and breadwinner moms so times are changing. There’s still a lot of work to be done though, but I’m hopeful for the future of these types of families.

On my own, I’ll start the work with my boyfriend.

 ***

 

Wonder Woman in STEM: Mary Barra

By Torshawna Grffin

Imag courtesy of Google Images; found through Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Google Images; found through Creative Commons

A big “congratulations” goes to Mary Barra for being General Motor’s first female CEO. Making it to the top in a male-dominated field is not the easiest thing. Mary has been with the company for 33 years. When given the promotion she said, “I’m honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed.” Mary has been with General Motors (GM) since she was 18 years old.  She attended General Motors Institute (known as Kettering University) as a co-op student (meaning that she had to find a GM unit to be her sponsor – she chose Pontiac). Mary has truly worked her way to the top through hard work and perseverance.

For me, being in the Mechanical Engineering field as a woman, it gives me hope that the car industry could one day be female-dominated.  Most people don’t understand that being a woman in a male-dominated industry is hard because not only are you competing with other women, but you are constantly proving to the men that you can be an asset to their company. I struggle with these hardships now within my classes. Because of women like Mary Barra, engineering will no longer be considered a male career. Mary Barra is truly a “WONDERful Woman”.

Fight the Stereotypes: Never Apologize for Who You Are

By Morgan Paul

A cartoon example of how degrading steretypes are. Image found on Google Images through Creative Commons.

A cartoon example of how degrading steretypes are. Image found on Google Images through Creative Commons.

“You throw like a girl.” “Boys don’t cry.” “Be a man.” These are just a few of the phrases that are pounded into young boys’ heads, and they are great examples of how the patriarchy hurts everyone! Why do we feel the need to tell young boys that if they do not conform, they are a girl? And furthermore, what’s so offensive about being a girl? Then girls are told to “be a lady,” and stay pretty and polite. My niece is almost 2 years old and I don’t tell her she’s beautiful. I tell her that she’s smart and she’s funny and that I love her, and I hope that she never bases her self-worth on her looks because she is so much more.

While reading through something on my friend’s Facebook I found a quote that really stuck with me:

“Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it’s okay to be a boy; for girls it’s like promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading.”—Ian McEwan.

Another cartoon example of how degrading steretypes are. Image found on Google Images through Creative Commons.

Another cartoon example of how degrading steretypes are. Image found on Google Images through Creative Commons.

While on one hand this was seen as progress for women, it was really telling them that if they wanted to be better then they must be like men. Yet if a man wants to wear a skirt he’s ridiculed, because who would want to be like a woman? (and don’t tell me that men wouldn’t want to wear skirts because they are comfortable!) So the best insults people can come up with are not about their intelligence but they’re poor attacks on their expression or unrelated insults calling them a “pussy” or “faggot” because being a girl or being gay is the worst possible thing they can think of. Then there are quite possibly the easiest insults: attacks on one’s appearance. In a society that already tells us that no matter what we do we’ll never be pretty enough, the last thing we need are our peers using our insecurities against us. Do you honestly think that I don’t know I’m “fat?” I am well aware. And you want to call me a “cunt” or “gay?” I won’t get offended. If you want to offend me then insult my intellect! But I will never apologize for who I am.

Nursing: It’s Not “Doctoring-light” and It’s Not “Women’s Work”

Nursing

Image from Pixabay

By Amber Charleville

This week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about nursing and feminism.  Often, being a woman pursuing a degree in a highly skilled and technical field can feel not only like an uphill battle, fighting for a place in a “man’s world,” but it can also feel like we have to deny skillsets that are considered “feminine” like intuition and empathy. That’s not the case in nursing. We get to combine scientific data and research with the care and holistic approach that sets nursing practice apart from any other healthcare profession.

Unfortunately, nursing is often overlooked and undervalued, categorized as “women’s work” and therefore not as important. This is troubling on a few levels.

  1. It discourages men from entering the field, and just like women’s perspectives and voices are needed in so many men-dominated professions, men are a valuable asset to the nursing community.
  2. It discourages women from entering the field because they don’t think it’s a worthy pursuit. It’s what women do when they’re not good enough to be doctors.

These are both products of a world that’s done a very good job of convincing us that tasks traditionally associated with women are undesirable because they’re things men “passed over” so they could do the better, more skilled tasks.

I’m here to tell you that nursing is not “doctoring light.” It takes dedication and sacrifice, understanding of chemistry, biology, anatomy, and physiology, and the ability to connect with people on a personal level in order to give them the care that will help them, in whatever way they need. It’s providing education to your patients and advocating for them when they are at their most vulnerable.

The profession is full of dynamic, talented, and incredibly intelligent women who take on community leadership and advocate for the disenfranchised. My nursing professors, the majority of whom are women, are role models to whom I feel proud to learn from, empowered by their example. I get to learn things that most people don’t and I get to learn it from women who don’t feel like gatekeepers I have to fight against to gain access to an elite world.

Rather, they are welcoming and supportive; they cheer us on as we challenge ourselves and each other to become the best nurses we can be, to learn how to save lives and make a difference in the world, one patient at a time. Nursing as we know it today is a profession founded by an ambitious woman who broke away from the norms of her time and rejected the expected place for her as a woman in the world. And it is a field that continues to pioneer and make room for women and men from all walks of life.

I know this blog entry feels like the manifesto of a nursing student, and in some ways I suppose it is, but ultimately, I’d like to challenge everyone’s preconceived ideas. Take a look at the stay-at-home parent, the grade school teacher, and of course, the nurse. Think about how you feel about those professions and the people in them.

Why do you think those roles are so strongly gendered and poorly compensated/valued? Tell me your thoughts in comments or on Twitter @umkc_womenc!

The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power

By Jasmin D. Smith

Arianna Huffington, photo by JD Lasica
Arianna Huffington, photo by JD Lasica

Huffington Post’s first ever Women’s Conference took place in New York City on June 6th. It was hosted by Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski along with others who took turns speaking beside them on the panel. A live feed during the conference was recorded, and my reaction to it is one of amazement! These ladies discussed topics that ranged from leadership skills to balancing family and careers.

 

 

Mika Brzezinski, photo by Mark Mathosian

Mika Brzezinski, photo by Mark Mathosian

Each panelist offered their professional insight and real life experiences, testimonies on certain issues that a lot of women truly go through. I admired their style of speech, not complicated or unprofessional but real and straight to the point. Although I was not actually present, I felt as if I was – they made the listener feel so comfortable and engaged in the discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

One of the highlighted topics that most intrigued me was about women balancing a career and family. Brzezinski said that some women today have young children AND some of the highest paid jobs in the country! Women continue to prove that they can indeed balance family and a career. The ladies express that the key to doing this is learning to compartmentalize. Huffington adds in that men are incapable of doing this. Ha!

They go on to say with this important skill, as well as being efficient on the task at hand, success and money is just around the corner. Brzezinski encourages throughout the conference stating “(Women) live your life for you, and ignore others expectations. Make your own decisions and continue to strive for the freedom to make those choices, and finally a sense of humor is the best medicine in life!” Women in powerful positions were mentioned such as Susan Rice, current United States Ambassador to the United Nations, now appointed by President Obama as the new national security advisor.

This conference was meant to give strength and encouragement and to challenge all women to exceed expectations! If you would like to view the entire conference please click here.

What Do Our Gender Symbols Really Mean?

By Morgan Elyse.

secondsex ♀: you see it everywhere – from book covers, to necklaces, to advertisements – and always in reference to the female gender – the UMKC Women’s Center even uses it in the logo for our CineWomen event. These days the symbol for the female gender is a representation of feminism, the pride in being a woman, and the pride in sisterhood. There are also versions of the male and female gender symbols which represent pride for a variety of sexual orientations, i.e., a figure with two linked male symbols is an icon used by homosexual men, a figure with the wearer’s gender centered between a male and a female symbol represents bisexuality, the transgender community uses a couple of adaptations that fuse together both symbols as well as adopting the sign for Mercury in favor of Linnaeus’ meaning (see chart), etc., etc.

GenderNecklace

 

 

Most of us are well aware of what these emblems signify in today’s culture, but where on earth did they come from? Well, they came from space, actually; Venus and Mars, to be exact. 1367542071_venus-mars-july_11

 

If you perform an internet search on the origin of the symbols, you will come across a plethora of explanations, some as misguided and offensive as “X marks the spot where pointy things go”, but most of which reference Greek mythology. William T. Stearn’s 1962 article,”The Origin of the Male and Female Symbols of Biology,” published by the International Association for Plant Taxonomy’s journal, Taxon, gives us a comprehensive account of how these symbols and their uses have evolved since 5th century BCE.

The Symbol The Celestial Body/god(dess) The Metal Elemental Abbreviations Linnaean Properties
The Sun Gold Au Annual
The Moon Silver Ag (not used)
Saturn Lead Pb Woody
Jupiter Tin Sn Perennial
Mars Iron Fe Male/
Mercury Mercury Hg Hermaphrodite
Venus Copper Cu Female

 

Venus_Tablet_of_AmmisaduqaFound carved in ancient stone, the Greek symbols in the chart above were used to reference the heavenly bodies as well as their corresponding gods and goddesses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

table

The same signs were later used as shorthand in the practice of alchemy and even later in chemistry. Prior to Berzelius’ abbreviations for the Latin word for each element (which remain on the periodic table today), each planetary character represented a different metal. So what does that have to do with gender other than the fact that Venus was a woman and Mars was her male counterpart/love interest? Eighteenth century botanist, Carl Linnaeus was actually the first in recorded history to use these symbols in reference to gender. Linnaeus also used them as shorthand, but to represent different properties of his botanical specimens rather than metals.

Stearn also references the work of French scholar Claudius Salmasius in what he calls a more “academically acceptable” theory of the origin of the symbols. Salmasius explains that ♃, ♄, ♂, ☿, and ♀ all derive from contractions in Greek script which were used as abbreviations for the names of Greek gods but have, over so much time, come to form the pictographs we see today. Renkema illustrated this phenomenon:

Renkema

from “The Origin of the Male and Female Symbols of Biology” by William T. Stearn.
Taxon , Vol. 11, No. 4 (May, 1962), pp. 109-113.

 

Stearn also mentions a “less” academically acceptable theory (as do many other internet sources), which is that each symbol illustrates a physical attribute of each god and goddess, i.e., Mars’ shield and spear, Venus’ hand mirror, Mercury’s winged helmet, Saturn’s scythe, Jupiter’s lightning bolt, etc.

athene2_NEW murcury venus1

It’s been more than 50 years since this article was published, and Stearn’s article is the only scholarly work I could find on this subject – and it still sort of leaves us questioning whether the metamorphosing script theory or the illustrative traits of the gods theory is more accurate. Personally, particularly when taking in to consideration the symbol for the sun and the moon, as well as the symbol for Neptune being an unmistakable trident, the pictographic analogy seems much more valid.

neptune-poseiden_calm_waves_1

 

everything_know_feminism_31Despite its ostensible sensibility however, this concept leaves me with yet another question: If we feminists are flaunting about a hand mirror as a symbol of strength, might we want to reevaluate its cogency? If you consider the mythology of Venus and how she got a raw deal just because she was a woman and she was beautiful, in conjunction with the fact that today, women have yet to overcome the same sexism, and you use this as a symbol of perseverance – then, by all means, flaunt the $#!% out of ♀. Do you think the symbol being both a visual remnant of the stereotyping and gendering that women are fighting against and a textual embodiment of a goddess who undoubtedly could sympathize with our plight today (even though she didn’t actually overcome any of her own), can put some positive meaning behind it? Sure, I think it works.

Once used as shorthand for astronomy and the gods, then for science, now used as shorthand for gender equity and empowerment, the simple yet mighty ♀ is a recognizable insignia that’s been around for centuries and will most likely be for centuries to come. So recognizable, mind you, that most of us hadn’t even questioned its genesis. It makes me wonder, though, what all these symbols will mean, how they’ll be used, or if they will even exist in another 2500 years.

What do the gender symbols mean to you?

 

#KeepMeridaBrave

By Andrea.

Merida by Michelle Wright

Merida by Michelle Wright

Disney has received a lot of negative attention recently for their “makeover” of Merida from Pixar’s Brave. Her new look has thousands of fans outraged at the new princess appearance: her trademark curly red hair is now in long waves, her waist is slightly smaller, her face is covered in makeup, and her dress now features an off-the-shoulder collar. And…her bow was missing.

News of Disney’s new 2-D rendering of Merida spread across the internets like wildfire. Upset fans called out Disney artists for the new look, and even started a petition at Change.org to #keepMeridaBrave. The creators of popular website, A Mighty Girl, have even created a webpage dedicated to those who want to join the fight against Disney to leave Merida as she was, complete with sample telephone and email scripts and contact information for Disney. Brenda Chapman, writer and co-director of Brave, has given many interviews in recent weeks. She states that fan support for Merida has been overwhelming. Like Merida’s fans, Chapman is outraged that young women are receiving a message that their happiness ultimately resides within the princess fairy tale image: married to a handsome prince and living in a castle while wearing  a ball gown.

Below are several links for interviews and op-eds on the controversy, including a link to footage of Merida’s recent Walt Disney World coronation.

 

Washington Post: No Merida Makeover? Brave Director Brenda Chapman on Disney Princess and “Sexing Her Up”

Christian Science Monitor: Disney Misses the Point In Response to the Merida Petition

L.A. Times: Jon Stewart Slams Disney’s Makeover of Brave Heroine Merida

Moviefone: Disney Pulls Redesigned Princess Merida After Backlash

Huffington Post: Brenda Chapman, Brave Creator, Calls Merida’s Makeover “Atrocious” [UPDATE]

KQED Public Media Blog: Has Disney Backed Down On Merida Makeover

Inside the Magic: Merida Becomes 11th Disney Princess

Disney's princesses by Inside the Magic

Disney’s princesses by Inside the Magic

Swimsuit Season: The Nice Weather Rant

By Morgan Elyse.

Photo by frank servayge

Photo by Frank Servayge

The warm weather is officially here and I’m sure you’ve all seen the ads. Get ready for swimsuit season: with our new diet plan, with three simple exercises, five minutes a day, find the suit that’s right for your body type, hot off the runway looks, cleansing, toning, burning – ENOUGH!

Guess what, Internets and fashion magazines (like you matter anyway), it’s 100 degrees with the humidity of a sauna in Kansas City during the summer and people should be able to wear what makes them comfortable, dammit! We don’t have to cover up our stretch marks or cheesy thighs because it’s freaking hot! DEAL WITH IT!

Honestly, if someone is so shallow as to judge me for trying to avoid suffocation from the heat when they don’t even know me or how much effort I’ve put in over the last year and a half in becoming a healthier person, frankly, I hope their eyes DO burn when they’re staring at aaaallllllll of this!

I hope people reading this will join me in realizing how utterly pointless it is going to be to stress ourselves out as we stare our bare bodies down in those dressing room mirrors trying to find the swimwear that hides our “flaws” just right. You are not flawed. I am not flawed. We are all beautiful. Not just curvy women practice these terrible habits of self-hate, and not just women do it either.

Photo by Marcus Q

Photo by Marcus Q

Most of you reading this are educated people. You know better than to base your ideal body image on Hollywood, Vogue, or that one girl you saw walking on the Plaza who you thought was perfect but, in all actuality, probably has body image issues just like you and me or worse. We all come in different shapes and sizes! Yes, it’s cliché, but it surely bears repeating if we still have yet to grasp the concept! Are we just destined to eternally chastise ourselves for not being born into the body type that’s “in” during this era? You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you? MARILYN WAS A SIZE 14! Relax!

I want everyone, as they leave the last week of classes behind, and face the freedom of summer, to truly be free; I want you to be free from the worry of what everyone else thinks of YOUR body, free from wondering whether you might be bearing too much flab or, perhaps, the worry that you might be missing some flab in the “right” places. I want you to feel free to laugh and run and jump and play and dive – even if you jiggle funny while you’re doing it – free your mind, spirit, and body, and enjoy the warmth of the sun against your beautiful skin (with plenty of sunscreen slathered on to it, of course), however large or small a surface area that amounts to.

Love your body. I know probably as well as anyone that it’s a very hard thing to do, especially in the months ahead. But let’s all just make the pledge to keep the thought in our consciousness. If we are consistently making it an effort to love ourselves, this will become our new habit rather than the dirty looks and comments in the mirrors and negative thoughts we have about our appearances we’re accustomed to. Love your inside and your out; as long as you know you are living healthy (feeding your brain, eating right most of the time, and exercising at least a few times a week), there is no reason you shouldn’t be proud of everything that makes you who you are.

Photo by Eleventh Earl of Mar

Photo by Eleventh Earl of Mar

And hey, love others too! Spread the kindness and remember to use the right speech and thinking in regards to others’ appearances as well (you know we’re all guilty, especially when we’re not at peace with ourselves). Take a summer pledge to love every body – now get out there and bare yours!

Photo by Deb Roby

Photo by Deb Roby

 

To learn more about Body Image programming at UMKC, sponsored by Women’s Center and Counseling Center, visit us online. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.