A Symbolic Barbie

By Ayomide Aruwajoye.

Photo by Richard NewtonAll through the semester, I kept looking at these two Barbie dolls that sat on the shelf in the Women’s Center. I always wondered what they were there for and what they symbolize. Both of the dolls were dressed like the “typical Barbie doll standards”: short dress, long hair, tall heels, small waist and big boobs! After a couple of weeks I forgot all about the Barbie dolls until I saw a picture of an innocent little girl playing with dolls and right next to her was an anorexic woman, who looked sick with lots of makeup on and little to no clothes on. The picture’s caption said, “Girls spend 10 years playing with Barbie dolls and the next 20 trying to become one!” After I saw that picture, I remembered the two Barbie dolls at the Women’s Center and decided that the Barbie dolls at the Women’s Center would have a different symbolic meaning than the “bad rep” that they carry.

 

Photo by rocorI have always heard about people not wanting their kids to play with Barbie dolls because of the message they send to kids. I’m guessing that message has to do with body image and intelligence since Barbie dolls are known for their super skinny beautiful bodies and ditsy dumbness. I played with dolls when I was little, but I guess as I got older I just didn’t care for them as much. This was not the case when it came to my cousin and many other girls. She loved her Barbie dolls, and as soon as she got too old to play with them, she started dressing like a Barbie and looking too old for her age. So then I started wondering why a kid’s toy would encourage you to grow up so fast. That’s the only explanation I could come up with, because why couldn’t Barbie be a young girl on her way to school or the park. Instead the Barbies that are placed in front of us on television are the ones with the short skirt, long hair and the boyfriend named Ken. Barbie is a bad role model.

So I started wondering if the Barbie dolls at the Women’s Center were also bad role models. So I decided I was going to give our Barbie dolls a new meaning. These dolls were not going to be the dolls that made girls, and even grown women, hate their bodies, or made females think they have to dumb themselves down for a man to like them. These Barbie dolls were going to actually be the opposite of that. The Barbie dolls at the Women’s Center should be an example of what it means to love yourself in spite of the flaws you might have, and being true to yourself, not acting dumber to attract someone. The Barbie dolls at the Women’s Center now represent women who are confident and respect themselves while demanding respect from others too. When you come into the Women’s Center, look at the dolls and realize you’re a Barbie, too – as you define “Barbie” for yourself.

Read past Barbie entries from Women’s Center bloggers:

Barbie’s Positive Influence

Barbie’s Not-So Positive Influence

Wonder Women!

By Morgan Elyse Christensen

Wonder Women film logo

On the 15th of April, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines aired on PBS’s Independent Lens. This documentary, directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and produced by Kelcey Edwards, is entertaining, educational, and inspirational. Wonder Women! reminisces over little girls’ dreams of becoming crime-fighting action heroes while commenting on what little choice we had (and still have) in positive female character emulation. Wonder Women! also explains the history of America’s oldest superheroine and, in conjunction with a history of feminism, connects her and her female super-colleagues with other real-life woman powerhouses.

Wonder Woman by B Baltimore Brown

Although I caught a few reruns with my mother as a kid, I was born just a little too late to have been affected by the Lynda Carter television series. However, an impression was made on me later in life when I saw Dara Birnbaum’s experimental film, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman. For me this was a big turning point in my understanding of the media’s portrayal of “strong” women. Yes, Wonder Woman broke the glass ceiling in the male dominated comic book arena. Yes, she was created by a man who was an advocate for women’s rights.

Wonder Woman by Christian HernandezBut she was still a woman…with boobs…in a swimsuit. I know, Superman and Batman both sport speedos and most male superheroes are drawn overly muscular – in this regard, it’s not an uneven playing field of sexualization. So, how can we complain?

Because!

Despite how they’re clothed, most superheroines are still dependent on their male counterparts and portrayed as weaker and less effective in their crime-fighting OR they’re portrayed as hysterical villains and in many cases, villain and heroine alike are killed off.

Wonder Women! premiered at Austin’s 2012 SXSW and has since made its way around the film festival circuit. It has been screened at 75 Community Cinema events in 30 states including a showing at Kansas City’s Tivoli Theatre this past March. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, you can actually watch it online right here, and I highly recommend that you do. However, if you don’t have an hour to kill at the moment but you’re dying to see what it’s all about, you can visit the film’s official website and watch the 4-minute trailer here.

Best part of all???

Launching TOMORROW is Wonder City, PBS’s interactive companion game to the Wonder Women! documentary. Unlike most “girl games” which focus on gendering themes such as shopping and cooking, this new action-based online game features your choice of a DIVERSE girl protagonist in a superheroine adventure that encourages critical thinking about pop culture and today’s media. HELLO! I can’t wait to play! Oh yeah, I’m sure my kids will like it too. Have fun, everyone, and let your inner Wonder Woman fly!

Take Back the Night is coming April 18

By Briana Ward.

TBTN2013_evite

Don’t forget to mark the date of April 18th on your calendar for Take Back the Night! The evening begins at 6:30 PM with the pre-march rally on the UMKC Quad at 52nd St. and Rockhill Road. There will be FREE food! Following the rally at 7:30, we begin our march to the JC Nichols Fountain.  The Speak Out will start at the Fountain at 8:00 PM. All are welcome to come support victims of sexual assault and to share in the effort to unify women, men, and children in an awareness of violence against women, men, children, and families. Together we will take a stand against violence until our nights, our days, our homes, and campuses are safe for everyone!

This event is sponsored by the UMKC Violence Prevention and Response Project.

Take Back the Night is an event that has been gaining momentum for forty years. To learn more about this international movement, follow the links below.

History of Take Back the Night

Temple University

Megan Gibson’s article for Time

To learn more about this and other Women’s Center events and programs, find us online, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Ayomide Aruwajoye

MY NAME IS NOT “HEY BABY” AND IM NOT JUST ANOTHER STATISTIC

  • 44% of Victims are under the age of 18, 88% percent of victims are under 30
  • Every 2 minutes someone is sexually  assaulted, each year that is about 207,754
  • 54% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, 97% of rapist will never spend a day in jail

Statistics from RAINN, The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.

Every year we hear statistics like this, and just move on with our days like as if nothing happened.

Why is that?

Is the information not shocking enough for you, are the numbers too low for you, or is it an “It could never be me,” scenario that keeps playing in your head?

Every day women are getting abused, used, and thrown away, their left feeling hurt, abandoned, disgraced and alone.

This is a worldwide Epidemic but so many people are blinded by the realization that these things do happen to people we know, people we live by, our classmates, family and friends.

I believe People can make a change!

 

MEET US ON THE STREETS

  • Anti-Street Harassment Week ( April 7th-13th )

SAAM--FLYER-2013Meet us on The Street is a week full of opportunities to tell your community, friends, neighbors, ANY ONE ….that sexual harassment is not okay! Learn more about Anti-Street Harassment at our Sexual Assault Awareness Month information table, Thursday, April 11, Noon – 2 PM in Royall Hall.

For more information, visit www.meetusonthestreet.org.

 

 

These behaviors are not okay:

  • Catcalls
  • sexist comments
  • public masturbation
  • groping
  • stalking
  • assault

I want to be able to walk down my street and feel safe!

To learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month programs and the Violence Prevention and Response Project, like us on Facebook and follow the Women’s Center on Twitter.

Rutgers Coaches and Administrator Fired After Multiple Incidents

By Andrea Fowler.

Mike Rice, head coach of men’s basketball at Rutgers University, was fired Wednesday after video was broadcast on ESPN documenting Rice’s abuse of his players. Debate about Rice’s future at the university has surrounded the program since his behavior was first reviewed in December of last year. According to a written statement from Tim Pernetti, Director of Intercollegiate Activities, “Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong.” In the last five days, Pernetti and assistant coach, Jimmy Martelli, have also been fired. Several dozen faculty members called on the administration to oust all those with knowledge of this abusive behavior.

Not only was Rice’s behavior (hurling basketballs from close range at players, grabbing and shoving players) under investigation, but he was also cited for inappropriate language, including sexist and homophobic slurs. According to the report by Don van Natta Jr. on ESPN’s website, Rice called Rutgers players “f—-ts,” “m—–f—–s,” “p—–s,” “sissy b—–s,” and “c—s,” to name just a few. At least three players have recently transferred from the team. A report from the Newark Star-Ledger reported earlier this week that two additional players planned to leave at the end of the semester.

This type of behavior by coaches is certainly nothing new. And this behavior exists to varying degrees at levels. Is it necessary to tear players down in order to build them up to greatness? And is every player destined to go professional? How many young athletes quit because they cannot handle this kind of “leadership?” And do these coaches realize that they are encouraging an environment of hate by using sexist and bigoted language? Players who do not measure up physically are considered effeminate. It’s a safe assumption that a men’s coach probably hasn’t watched a collegiate women’s basketball game recently. These women are tough, dedicated, and just as physically capable. Universities are showing that this behavior will be tolerated, especially when it gets the desired winning record. Those wins did not come for Rutgers under Rice’s tenure.

There is no excuse or justification for sexist and bigoted language and violence in any situation, let alone an environment that is supposed to be educational. It would be naïve to think that college athletes are attending classes just earn a degree and that they just happen to play a sport on the side. The phrase “student athlete” is a misnomer. Colleges and universities driven by the economic impact of their athletic programs are beholden to the tried and true adage “the ends justify the means.”

This is not the first time that Rutgers has found itself at the center of a media storm regarding homophobic behavior. In September 2009, freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide after being harassed by his roommate and other students. Upon the discovery that Clementi was gay, his roommate, Dharun Ravi, shared video of an intimate encounter between Clementi and another man. Ravi was ultimately sentenced to 30 days in jail, but was not held legally responsible for Clementi’s death.

Tyler Clementi inspired New Jersey’s “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” and helped state lawmakers pass the toughest anti-bullying law in the nation, which Governer Chris Christie signed into law in January 2011. U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and U.S. Representative Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.) have renewed their efforts in Congress to pass the “Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act.” This bill is designed to prohibit the harassment of enrolled students by other students, faculty, and staff.

Recently, ESPN Films 30 for 30 aired “Survive and Advance,” directed by Jonathan Hock, documenting Jim Valvano’s incredible 1983 championship run with NC State. On clear display throughout the entire film was Valvano’s ability to reach his players and inspire greatness and teamwork through the family environment he created. Valvano may only have one championship to his name, but he left behind a legacy that a coach like Mike Rice could never even dream of. Mike Krzyzewski and Phil Jackson have frequently demonstrated that the highest goals can be met through hard work, dedication, and the right approach to the game – not through calling players names and physically assaulting them.

SlutWalk: The Campaign Against Victim Blaming

By Katelyn Bidondo

SlutWalk Sydney

SlutWalk Sydney by creatrixtiara

Slut. When we hear the word we automatically think of a woman who is sexually promiscuous. But, why does this word carry such a negative connotation? Well, this is where SlutWalk comes into the picture. The SlutWalk movement seeks to change the perception of the word slut, and make it something empowering for women. The movement started on January 24th, 2011, when a Toronto police representative gave some insight on the chauvinistic view of sexual assault by saying, “women should avoid dressing as sluts in order to not be victimized”. It is these types of views that are perpetuating these falsities and aiding in “slut-shaming”. Slut shaming in short is blaming the victim (traditionally the woman) for the assault. For example, maybe her skirt was too short or her shirt cut too low. SlutWalk aims to raise awareness about sexual assault, gain victim’s rights, and to demand respect for all. The walk is not only open to “sluts”; they welcome everyone in their mission for equality. Although the walk began in Toronto, it has spread to the United States and many other countries. The SlutWalk movement has already come to Kansas City. To see if there is a SlutWalk near you visit www.slutwalktoronto.com.

SlutWalk MSU by mattradickal

SlutWalk MSU by mattradickal

SlutWalk Minneapolis by Alan Wilfahrt

SlutWalk Minneapolis by Alan Wilfahrt

For more information on Violence Prevention and Response Project services and programs, visit our website and “like” us on Facebook.

Loving Yourself First

By Ayomide Aruwajoye.

Why is it, that as women, we deal with so much? In general, yes we do, but let’s concentrate on the idea of a relationship. Your boyfriend, spouse, partner has done you wrong so many times, but you still stay. So the real question is: when is enough ENOUGH?

You love them. Yes, I am aware of that. But do you really believe that love is supposed to hurt? Don’t get me wrong, in a relationship you do go through many tribulations which test the strength of your relationship. In a relationship, the saying “Something worked for is something earned” can clearly apply to that situation. When you start crying more than laughing, or constantly questioning why you’re in a relationship with that person, then SOMETHING IS WRONG.

2183359343_a538e23b89-ognid

Photo by ognid

I am not going to lie. I have been one that doesn’t want to accept the fact that he might just not be right for me. I couldn’t understand why, even though the bad outweighed the good, I still seemed to grab on to the good and wish for better days. Wishing (yea, I said wish) the same type of wish when you see a shooting star, and really believe that whatever you said at that moment will come true. I have wished for ponies, to live in the White House, and a Barbie jeep – I didn’t get any of those things.

 

 

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that to truly recognize how you want and need to be loved, you need to LOVE YOURSELF FIRST! Point Blank! I know you’re reading this and saying, “But I do love myself.” Ask yourself – how do you know? What are the requirements to love yourself, and why is loving yourself so darn tricky? Let’s be real, who doesn’t want to be loved?

The problem is not being loved; it’s being loved the RIGHT way. Realizing you are just as strong without a partner while you are in a relationship is an important key. Be able to stand on your own two feet. Hold yourself up when times get rough. It will give you that boost to recognize that your partner is supposed to ease the pain, not add to it.

Photo by Natassia Davis

Photo by Natassia Davis

How can you love someone when you don’t Love yourself? Sometimes we have to blame ourselves, because if we don’t require our partners to treat us as we want, who is at fault? I started by writing down what I wanted in my partner. Let’s take the physical aspect out for a moment. I am talking about mentally, spiritually and psychologically what I wanted to see. I wrote down the things I didn’t like about my ex so I can recognize the behavior in my next relationship. Nobody’s perfect. Of course we’re not going to find someone who fits every requirement on that list.

Learning to love yourself sounds so easy but it is one of the hardest things. Yeah, it’s real easy to just say you love yourself, but it’s also easy to say you’ll go on a diet and never actually take the steps. It sounds nice, but you’re basically just playing mind tricks with yourself. You have to distinguish what you like about yourself. Your dislikes should be things that you want to change for you. Let’s say for instance you want to lose weight, are you doing it because you think it’ll impress someone else, or because you know you’ll be happier and healthier? Admitting small differences like that to yourself will surely help you on this mission to love yourself.

“MISSION: LOVE ME!” What a great idea! We should take weeks, months, YEARS, and just work on loving ourselves. Not only will it make YOU feel better but it would strengthen your future relationships. You know the saying “treat others like you want to be treated?” Well, let’s also “treat ourselves how we want to be treated.” Let’s teach other how we want to be loved. Like I said, “It’s your LIFE, so why not make yourself happy?”

Changed for Good: A Review

If you’d like to know more about Stacy Wolf and Changed for Good, join us Tuesday, March 5 at the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. Wolf will be lecturing on the topics addressed in Changed for Good. Her lecture begins at 6:30 following a reception at 6:00 PM. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

By Andrea Fowler

6281589012_db5a0c5f31-Broadway TourBroadway and film musicals have entertained American audiences for generations. And we have certainly noticed how those musicals enter our social consciousness and when our favorite characters reflect changing attitudes. But how often do we step back far enough to really look at the progression and evolution of these characters? Author Stacy Wolf does just that in her books A Problem Like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical (2002), and Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical (2011).

I have had the pleasure of reading Changed for Good for a class this semester. As a singer and voice teacher, there have always been songs or characters that I gravitated towards because of the strength or emotion they presented. But it wasn’t until reading Wolf’s book that I really took the time to consider why I was drawn to these particular women. Or why I rejected other characters who did not exhibit those same qualities. Wolf’s interpretations provided new insights that I was unaware of in my previous studies of these shows.

7658215090_460e53d081-Broadway Tour

Wolf sets up her examination of women’s roles on a decade by decade basis, with each chapter focusing on a specific female character type that is prevalent in that decade. Her ideas are well supported by thoughtful interpretations and primary source material from musical industry insiders of the time.

For more information on this event, visit the Women’s Center online, on Facebook, or Twitter.

If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit, You Still Have Your Sisters.

The following blog is a guest post by UMKC student Roda Mohamud. A proud graduate of Southwest Early College Campus, she is currently a first-year student at UMKC, and is exploring a number of possible majors. This blog post draws from a research project she completed for her English 225 class.

cinderellaEveryone’s watched the story of Cinderella while some have read the story. They’ve either watched Brandy or the 1950s Disney version of Cinderella. When I was young, I remember me and my sisters watching the latest Cinderella movie. Whether it was starring Hilary Duff, Anne Hathaway, or Selena Gomez, we watched it. We always watched the movies because we thought it was a fun story about a girl who persevered and became a princess.

However, it turned out we were wrong. We were getting lots of strong messages that weren’t about a girl overcoming hardship. The messages promoted women and sisters putting their relationships and everything aside for a guy. The message that Walt Disney sends out is that stepsisters are ugly and mean to each other and to other people as well. The film also sends out the message that we have to compete with our own sister for a handsome, rich guy by any means necessary. For example, in the film when the duke brought the glass slipper, not only did the stepsisters turn against Cinderella, but they also turned against each other by insisting the shoe was theirs even though one sister’s heel was hanging out of the shoe and the other sister’s foot was completely bent. The sisters in the film were terrible to each other. They always fought, said rude things, and were down-right selfish. This was especially evident in the scene where they were having their music lesson; they fought and called each other names. They didn’t care for anyone’s feelings. The message is to always be in competition with your sisters and for resources in getting “the prince”.

The shoe also appears in a later version of Cinderella by the Grimm Brothers called Aschenputtel. This story has ugly messages of its own. For example, to try to fit the shoe in this story, one of the stepsisters cuts off her heel and the other cuts off her big toe. They did this to marry the prince. Later, when the stepsisters go to Cinderella’s wedding to get some of her fortune, they get punished for their greed by being blinded for eternity.  The message in this story is to sacrifice your body parts for a man who doesn’t end up marrying you anyway. Because of all the ugliness in these stories, I think the sister bond is more significant than getting the man.

As Women’s History Month approaches, we should take a look at ourselves and see if we have that positive sisterhood relationship around us. If we don’t, we should take action in building that relationship or making it better. Sisterhood is about feeling confidant in yourself and sharing that confidence with your sister. Also, it’s having that relationship that no man can come between. Sisters – don’t ever change yourself for a prince.

Teaching Feminism

By Morgan Elyse Christensen

The girl wants everything in pink and purple. The boy refuses to even look at anything that is. She wants to read books and play with fluffy kittens. He wants to laugh at farts and destroy things in video games. Trying to debunk stereotypes and teach 10-year-olds the importance of gender equity in a 4th grade world where these boy/girl clichés are all that seem to give them a sense of identity – especially with schoolmates – seems to be almost a lost cause. However, after having a reassuring conversation with my boy/girl twins about feminism from their perspectives, I have a feeling that, on a deeper level, I must be doing something right.

We talked about equal pay for women, women’s representation in the arts, and the illusion of male over female competency on the job. I told them that, on average, men make more money than women and that there are less works of art by female artists in most museums all over the world. My son gasped and said, “That’s not fair!” I said, “I know!”

Photo by Tod Baker

Photo by Tod Baker

Recently, their school held elections for school council. I asked them if they thought girls and boys were treated equally in the election. “Of course”, I thought to myself, “At this age they’ll surely be about equal.” To my surprise, however, my son replies, “A lot of people don’t vote for the girls because they think they’ll turn the school all girly-girlish like make the school paint the walls pink and put unicorns on them.”

Photo by Tod Baker

Photo by Tod Baker

Apparently, last year, there was only one girl on the council as treasurer. Contrariwise, this year the school has elected female members for the roles of president, vice president, and treasurer. Well, aren’t we just a little mirror of our 2013 Congress? On a side note, my daughter had her own thoughts about the voting process outside of the girl vs. boy agenda and, my, does she have a grasp on politics already. In her words: “Running for student council is just a huge popularity contest…I didn’t just vote for who was popular, though.”

So I asked them how they did vote and my son said, “Well, I voted for the girls because they were cut out for the job (I know, right?). They actually do their work in class. The boys who were running this year just goof off in school and on the bus.” My daughter said she voted for the girls as well. I asked her if that was just because they were girls like her, but she “didn’t just choose the girls because they were girls – they were just the people who worked best in class.”

Photo by Tod Baker

Photo by Tod Baker

So, despite their arguments over what’s “for girls” or what’s “for boys” and them passing this mentality on to their 5-year-old little brother (which, frankly, makes me cringe every time he says, “I want to play a boy song” because a female artist’s track is on Just Dance 3), I know that the underlying message is getting through. Whether it’s the little things like my youngest son finding a bottle of Hello Kitty bubbles in his stocking or the big moments like having these meaningful conversations, it’s working. I just hope that as they get older, and start to realize the physical differences in gender and their respective peer groups become even more influential, that I can maintain their understanding of equality between boy and girl, man and woman in the areas that truly matter.