They Mean Business Interview Highlights

By:  Alison Kendall, Emma Sauer

You might not expect it, but Kansas City is a small business hot-spot.  42% of small businesses are woman-owned, and that number is expected to only rise in the future. Check out these highlights from our earlier social media campaign, “They Mean Business”, by our stellar grad student, Alison! These highlights only feature a few of the amazing business-owners interviewed.  To see each post, check out our Instagram. 

Olivia & Madison, Amity & Vine Salon Home | Amity and Vine 

Amity and Vine (located at 1501 St in the West Bottoms) is a salon that promotes inclusivity, realistic beauty ideals, and acceptance for all.

Q: What was the key driving force to starting Amity and Vine? 

The driving forces behind Amity & Vine is accessibility and inclusivity. We want a space where our clients can afford basic hair care services and products as well as enjoying a comfortable and accepting environment where they can relax. Getting a simple haircut or a complete transformations shouldn’t be stressful, and we want to cultivate that experience for our clients.

Q: What are some challenges you face while running your business?

The main challenge we face with owning a small business would have to be the learning curve. Of course the costs and marketing were difficult too; but without the specific knowledge and background in finances and entrepreneurship, we have to learn as we go and reach out for help in those areas every now and then.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to college students and recent graduates who are interested in entrepreneurship?

Our advice for recent graduates and college students interested in entrepreneurship would be that it is normal to go through failures. As corny as that sounds, falling short in certain aspects of your business allows you to understand when to ask for help from those around you. As well as recognizing when to ask for help, always network and meet the other small businesses in your area because being a part of the community will be such an amazing tool for your business’ success.

 

Cori Smith, Blk+Brwn Bookstore 

BLK and BRWN is a bookstore that amplifies the works of POC authors and storytelling.

Q: What was the key driving force to starting BLK and BRWN?

. The biggest driving forces for me could be summed up into three sources — (1) my ecosystem — my mother has been my biggest supporter, my friends and family have been some of the loudest cheerleaders for me and the work that this space stands for; (2) the passing of my older brother, Cody — he was the free-spirited rebel of the two of us and I wanted to find a way to honor him and following my passion was something that he stood for unapologetically; and (3) the need was greater than the risk — this was not just about me or the money — this community needs to know that our stories matter and that we are not the sum total of just our traumatic histories.

Q: What are some challenges you face while running your business?

As a Black woman, it definitely seems that a lot of people have things to say or “advice” to give about what I should be doing. So on a deeper level, I run into constant challenges or micro aggressions that would not exist if I were not a Black woman. Whether it’s people who believe they are being helpful but overstepping the boundaries because of my age, gender, or my racial make-up or people who outright believe that I couldn’t be an expert in my lane. Very annoying.

The other challenge is just dealing with the ebbs and flows of small business. Trying to make sure there’s enough inventory, being the person behind the counter, shipping and tending to social media, as well as, being customer service. I am currently a one-woman show, and so being all things at once can be difficult and burnout is very real.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to college students and recent graduates who are interested in entrepreneurship?

1. Make three plans for the same goal. You can never be over prepared but you can certainly be underprepared.

2. The ability to have a completely balanced work/life is a myth. Balance is not 50/50. Sometimes it’s 70/30 or 60/40 and that’s okay.

3. You have to be able to show up as YOU. The thing that makes the product/service you provide is that it’s YOURS. So do not ever feel like you have to compromise that to be successful. Take breaks and also be mindful of your capacity. You are your brand no matter how much you like or dislike that. If you are not taking care of you then the product/service will inevitably suffer, as well. The work you put out into the world is reflective to who you are.

 

 

Teaching Kids Feminism

 By: Anabelle Obermaier 

Teaching our future generations feminism is very important for our growth in society. This is because improving our mindset on gender equity is one set closer to a peaceful and kind world. I am going to be talking about ways we can teach our children feminism in ways like books and movies, our own personal values and teaching, and current events in media.

One way to introduce the concept of feminism to children is through the books and movies they consume. When picking a book to read to your kid, think does this represent women in a positive light without harsh stereotypes? When picking a movie, try to watch one with strong diverse female leads. Introducing your good values to kids is a very important ideal. This can be in ways just by simply changing your language; for example, you can discourage the use of stereotypical phrases of offensive language. Another example is to not put our children in boxes based on their gender. Instead let them express their gender through clothing, their hair, the toys they play with, as they wish.

Lastly, keeping your kids updated on age-appropriate current events in the media is crucial. To keep them educated on what gender issues are going on in the world is crucial. This can be for older kids in their early teens as a way to introduce them to current gender issues in media, government, and internationally. Overall, raising kids with the information to become a future feminist can be tricky, but these simple ways can be an easy way to introduce feminism in a safe and fun way!

Reflecting on 50 Years of Service to the University of Kansas City-Missouri

 

“Attention” by Summer Brooks, medium: black clay, spray foam, underglaze, luster, butterfly clips

By: Emma Sauer

Since its establishment by Alumni and former Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes in 1971, UMKC’s Women’s Center has been a proud voice for gender equity on campus. Through 50 years of continuous education, advocacy, and support services, the Women’s Center has diligently worked to cultivate a feminist-friendly community at UMKC. Most recently, our programming has revolved around supporting UMKC’s female athletes, our healing arts corners, and increasing our menstrual product supply available to the public. Our office is and always will be a safe space for every marginalized student, faculty member, or community member who walks through our doors.

To celebrate half a century’s worth of service, the Women’s Center is proud to unveil “Ms. behaving!”, an art exhibit co-curated by Women’s Center Director Arzie Umali and Sonie Ruffin. The exhibit will feature artwork showcasing acts of gender empowerment. In the words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “well-behaved women seldom make history”. In other words, to enact real change, we must refuse to silence our voices. Activism demands determination and resilience in the fight for equity. Even the smallest act of courage, resilience, or rebellion can create lasting impact. 

During our opening night on Friday,  November 4, we saw an incredible turnout, despite the heavy rain! Now that I’ve been with the Women’s Center for two semesters, I can confidently say our art exhibits hosted through “Her Art Project” are my favorite events.  During a brief speech at the event,  our director Arzie emphasized the importance of giving female artists a platform.  She pointed out that if you ask someone to name male artists,  nobody ever has an issue listing off a whole list of them–but ask for female artists, and people will struggle to name even one. That’s a problem.  There are a plethora of female artists out there just as, if not more, talented than their male counterparts, but art communities often fail to recognize them. At least now, after someone sees in the exhibit, they’ll be able to name more than a dozen right in KC.

The UMKC Women’s Center Anniversary Exhibit will be up for viewing at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in the Crossroads Arts District until January 28. We invite you to stop by, enjoy the art, and reflect on what you find there. 

We hope this exhibit inspires you to walk in the footsteps of other trailblazers throughout history: abolitionists, suffragists, and feminists who misbehaved!

 

Back to Basics #6: Can Men Be Feminists?

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 By: Anel Sandoval

We are bringing it Back to Basics this week! In this blog segment, we explain feminist terminology, myths, concepts and more! Today’s question is…

“Does a feminist have to be female?” 

Being a feminist means believing that women and men are equal and deserve equal rights. If you agree with that, then you’re a feminist. With that being said, all genders can be a feminist! True feminism is intersectional. Feminism spans across any and all genders, sexual preferences, or ethnic identities. And yes, men can be feminist allies too! 

“Why are men important in advocating for gender equity?”  

Men can be important allies to women in fighting for gender equity and promoting violence prevention. Women have been fighting for women’s equality for hundreds of years, but men also have a role to join in the fight as they’re not the problem, but part of the solution. One example of a self identified male feminist is former President Barack Obama. In August of 2016, President Obama penned his famous This is What A Feminist Looks Like where he reminded us that “it is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too.” His administration also took big steps to combat campus sexual assault and violence against women, improve equal pay protections, and actively promote women’s issues. 

“What can I, as a man, do to become an ally for women’s human rights?”  

 Great question! Here is a list of ways:  

  • Support women’s organizations such as the Women’s Center here on campus. We have many events you can attend this semester!  
  • Educate yourself on the history of women’s fight for equality as well as current issues.  
  • Start a conversation with women in your life. Listen to women who are fighting for their rights and ask them questions on how you can support them. 
  • Do not be a bystander to women’s violence. If you see it in your home, workplace, campus, or any public place, do not be silent, report it.  
  • Do not share sexist content that belittles or discriminates against women in any way. 
  • Advocate and educate others. Men can challenge other men in a way that women can’t, and if you use that opportunity to try to educate other guys, or just send the message that sexist attitudes are not okay, that can go a long way. It can feel awkward, but it’s worth it and very appreciated. 

Remember that absolutely anyone can be a feminist regardless of their gender and it is our duty, as society, to change the fact that women aren’t equal to men. To learn more click here

Break the Cisnormative Status Quo with These Five Tips! 

By: Emma Sauer

An important part of being an intersectional feminist is advocating equality for all genders, including people who identify as genderqueer, nonbinary, intersex, or otherwise gender non-conforming. If you try to be a “good feminist”  like me, you probably know this, but sometimes it can be hard training our brains to not ignore this issue. We’re raised in a society (cue Joker voice) that aggressively pigeon-holes men and women into their respective roles, leaving little room for anything in between. It’s important we recognize, accommodate, and advocate for not just cis women, but also people outside the gender binary. These groups of people face increased discrimination through discriminatory laws, policies, and in their everyday lives. Here are five ways you can break that cycle in your own small way. 

1. Help normalize stating your pronouns: Include your preferred pronouns on places like your instagram or twitter bios, your email signatures, or face to face introductions when necessary. 

 This might feel awkward and unnatural at first, but saying your pronouns isn’t all that weird when you think about it. It’s just an extension of saying your name or any other personal characteristic. Once you get used to introducing yourself with your pronouns, it’ll come much easier. 

2. Use gender neutral language. 

By making minor tweaks to the way we speak, we can easily be more accommodating to all genders. Ex: “Hello, everyone!” instead of “Hello, ladies and gents!”. Again, this may feel forced at first, but you get used to it quick. To those wondering, you can absolutely use “their” or “theirs” in place of “his/hers” or “he/she”. It’s not grammatically incorrect, either

3. For god’s sake, let people whatever restroom they need. Trans or nonbinary people should be allowed to use whatever bathroom they’re most comfortable with, end of story.

 It’s a popular myth that predators will use flexible restroom policies to sneak into the “ladies” or “men’s” room, and it’s been debunked over and over. If you hear someone spreading misinformation about this issue, you can politely educate them on the actual facts about this supposed phenomenon. We need to let this myth die.

4. Make an effort to support LGBTQ+ owned businesses and artists. 

Uplifting female business owners and entrepreneurs will always be important! Let’s not exclude those who don’t fall in the gender binary, though! Here are some super neat businesses I found to get you started: Steer Queer Ya’ll (those They/Them earrings are a MUST), Queer Candle Co., and Peau De Loup.

5. Always be open to what the gender-nonconforming people in your life have to say. 

If you mess up and say the wrong pronoun to someone, don’t sweat it: rather than overreacting and begging for forgiveness, apologize, move on, and make a mental note to do better. When someone from the LGBTQ+ community points out something that you’re doing is cisnormative or transphobic, listen. Being defensive will get you nowhere. 

I hope this list was informative for you, or if you already know this stuff, I hope it was a good refresher! Thanks for reading this far, and check out the rest of our blog for more info on feminist topics! 

Back to Basics #5: What is the Women’s Center?

By: Emma Sauer 

Something I get asked a lot, whether at events, in the office, or just when talking about my job is…

What do you actually do at the Women’s Center?”

I’ll tell you! 

The Women’s Center at UMKC serves several purposes. Our office houses a wide array of resources available to the community, such as information on housing assistance, local shelters, and LGBTQIA+ resources. These are available either as brochures or links collected on our Campus and Community Resources tab. We also have a library, a lactation/self-care space, and a kitchen, all available to faculty and students. Of course, we’re also just open as a safe space for any marginalized students, and students are welcome to come in and just hang out. 

Another huge thing our staff does at the Women’s Center is our programming– if you are a student at UMKC, you may have spotted us at one of the many events we host, co-sponsor, or attend. Examples of programs we’ve run in the past include running a menstrual product drive to spread awareness about the Pink Tax, promoting body positivity during Every Body is Beautiful Week, and the Their/Her Art Project, which exhibits and uplifts local female and nonbinary artists. Throughout the semester, the student staff are constantly planning new events like these to promote awareness of gender equity issues with the help of Arzie, our awesome director.

There’s even more to the Women’s Center I could go on and on about, but that’s another post for another time.

“So what’s the point of having a Women’s Center and doing all these programs?” 

 Well, speaking as a woman and outspoken feminist, the Women’s Center matters to me personally because it allows feminism to have a physical, vocal presence at UMKC. The Women’s Center is also important because it provides a safe space for marginalized groups on campus, and our programming throughout the school year means gender equity always has a voice. In other words, we want UMKC– and Kansas City in general– to be more feminist! 

“Feminist? What’s that?” 

… Oh boy. That’s a question for a previous B2B blog, my friend. And if you want to learn more about why women’s centers are so important to have at universities,  you can check out this great article from WIHE (Women in Higher Education). 

Women Who Lead, Read

By: Ebony Taylor

Women’s Center Library, 105 Haag Hall

Since starting college, there has been little time, if at all, that I have gotten to sit down, pick up a book, and read. No distractions, no emails, no assignment deadlines, just me and the smell of printed paper.  As a book lover, I came across a list of feminist-written reads that I had to share. If you have already been introduced to the world of feminist writing, or are just getting started, this list is compiled with reads from feminist thinkers and novelists to poets and producers of feminist pornography. There is something for all. I have picked 7 books that I think I would want to pick up, but you should visit Esquire to get the entire list.  If you want even more feminist reading, don’t forget to check out our Women’s Center library, located in our office at 105 Haag Hall! 

 This collection of essays and poems are from women of color who raise awareness for issues that women continue to face. This book is said to connect with women of all ages, race, and genders.  

This witty, humorous collection of stories recounts memories from the author’s life and identity as a Native American woman.  Midge reflects on feminism, tweeting presidents, and white-bread privilege. Enjoy Midge’s urban-Indigenous identity and how it has impacted her ideas on culture, race, media, and feminism. 

Rana el Kaliouby is entrepreneur and scientist, working in the field of emotional intelligence, Emotional AI,  and cofounder and CEO of Affectiva, a start-up company spun off of MIT Media Lab. This book is a memoir that highlights the conflict between her Egyptian upbringing and her goals in life. 

This book shows how men express emotions in different stages of life, status, and ethnicity and how toxic masculinity skews men away from an important part of themselves. It discusses men’s concerns, like the fear of intimacy and their role as patriarchs in society.  

 We already know stories of magical creatures and witches, but Circe recreates the sorceress from Homer’s Odyssey in a feminist light. The overlooked character of Circe gives rise to her independence in a male-dominated world.   

A collection of writings from feminists in the adult entertainment industry and research by feminist porn scholars. This book investigates how feminists understand pornography and how they produce, direct, act in, and buy a into a large and successful business. Authors of these writings also explore pornography as a form of expression where women produce power and pleasure.  

Serano writes about her journey before and after transitioning, expressing how fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness towards femininity molds society’s view on trans women, gender and sexuality. Serano also proposes that feminists today and transgender activists must collaborate to embrace all forms of femininity.  

Whose Femininity Is It Anyway?

By: Adriana Miranda

Have you ever thought about how, like, femininity is SO strongly tied to men? Hear me out!

Yeah, femininity is traditionally associated with women. BUT! Think about what kind of women are afforded femininity. It tends to be straight women, or white women, orrrr thin women, or just women that fit into the cishet male gaze of desirability in one way or another. So if femininity (at least to a cishet world) means “desirable to men” has it ever really been ours to begin with? And what if our performance of femininity ISN’T for men, what happens then?

Now we all perform gender, right? I personally present very feminine, i’m talking almost-strictly-wears-dresses feminine. I also happen to be a lesbian. And plus-size. And a person of color. This for some reason sometimes confuses (and angers) cisgender heterosexual people.

Either my femininity is called into question or my sexuality is called into question: “Are you sure you’re not at all attracted to men? You dress so cute! I bet you secretly do like us.” Or…“Do you just dress this way because you’re not comfortable being your true self?”

Why does it need to be one way or another? Why does my femininity have to be me trying to attract men or make up for my fatness for men or appear more “soft” for men? What if I just want to present feminine? And even if I was if I was doing it for anyone other than myself, it’s definitely for other lesbians. Femininity can and DOES exist entirely on its own, completely separate from men.

Back to Basics #1: What is Intersectional Feminism?

Image source: marcn, Creative Commons

Editor’s note: Hi, Roos! Welcome to the first installment of… drumroll please… Back to Basics!  In this blog segment, Women’s Center staff take on core feminist ideas, terminology, myths, and more! We hope you enjoy and learn a thing or two!

By: Adriana Miranda

We’re bringing it back to basics this week with: intersectional feminism! What is intersectional feminism you ask? Great question! So let’s say just for example: You’re a white woman. You work with a Latina or Black (or both) woman and a white man. For every dollar this white male coworker makes, you make 82 cents. Unfair, right? But look at your Latina/Black female coworker; she only makes 56-64 cents.  

So you’re thinking, “Wow this is clearly a gender issue! We women make less than men! But why does my other female coworker make even less than me?”

That’s because there are other factors to your coworker’s identity that already add to her oppression. Yes you’re both women, but she is Latina/Black. Taking these different identities and layers of oppression into consideration in our fight for gender equity is intersectional feminism. “Intersectional” means we recognize the issues of all marginalized female-bodied individuals, not just the cis white women.

“But Adriana, why can’t we just advocate for ALL women without highlighting differences? Why can’t we just come together as women?”

I’m so glad you asked! For women of color, trans women, disabled women, etc. we can’t just separate from our identities. Even within women-centered and feminist spaces, non-white, disabled, and LGBT women may still face oppression among other women. It’s like, you can’t pick and choose what parts of you exist right? They all do!

We’re all whole complex beings, and fighting for gender equity means fighting for those with identities different to ours, and acknowledging their experiences unique to their identity. We should be intersectional in our feminism. 

Click here or here for more info!

The Weight of Diet Culture


By: Ebony Taylor

In celebration of Everybody is Beautiful Week, I want to share my journey of accepting my body. Body confidence took me a while to conquer, and I still struggle with keeping it intact some days. With all the social media influence and diet culture being a trend, it’s hard to not compare yourself. It wasn’t until freshman year of college that I started to realize who I was apart from my insecurities. Attending a big university, there were people of every shape, size, and body type. They say college is where you find yourself and I would agree. Living on campus, I could choose who I wanted to be, what that person looked like, and how to make the new me happy. There are days when I can wear a fitted dress or crop top and feel the most confident. Then diet culture and social media can make me second guess myself.

For those not familiar with the term diet culture, the term refers to societal expectations that determine a person’s worth by valuing ‘thinness and attractiveness’ over emotional well-being. Diet culture focuses on calorie restriction, “good and bad” foods, and normalizes self-critical talk about oneself. According to UC San Diego Recreation, this toxic idealization and obsession with physical appearance can be a risk factor for body dysmorphia and eating disorders. I did not realize how much I used to talk bad about my body and how those comments left a feeling of imperfection.

The Freshman 15 (when attending MU, it was the Mizzou 22, yikes!) was something I experienced over time. Add bloating, inactivity for a short while, and then COVID’s “pandemic pounds”, I noticed I didn’t fit into the same clothes. Family members would point out that I was heavier or say things like, “that [outfit piece] used to fit looser, didn’t it?” Unconsciously, I was engaging in diet-culture behavior. I didn’t realize at first that I was avoiding going to the gym or participating in group workouts because I felt I didn’t have the “right appearance”.

Social media constantly portrays what girls and women “should” look like. On Instagram, I couldn’t scroll for five minutes without seeing a post about restrictive eating or pictures of women modeling body types that didn’t portray the average woman. That’s when I knew I had to change my habits, leading to me deleting all my social media. I cannot express the feeling of that weight being removed. No more filtering photos. No more wasting time finding the “perfect” picture to post. I focused on accepting my body the way it was while learning healthier habits that were achievable for me, not what others’ claim works on everyone else.

So, for my journey and others walking their own, this last week of February is a reminder to focus on you and your body, listen to your body, and treat it kindly. If you came to the Every Body is Beautiful Information Table event, the Women’s Center partnered with other campus organizations, worked together to bring awareness to body image, body positivity, and eating disorders because every body is, indeed, beautiful. Take care of it because you only have one.