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.

 

The Lasting Legacy of Henrietta Lacks

 

Source: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, © 2017 Kadir Nelson ,https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.2018.9

By: Emma Sauer

As you may know, February is Black History month– and this year’s theme is Black Health and Wellness. This extends to the legacy of African Americans not just in medicine and academia, but also as mid-wives, doulas, naturopaths, counselors and therapists, public health activists, and more. With a theme so all-encompassing, I thought it a fitting time to talk about an African American woman who, despite her huge contributions to cancer and leukemia research, cloning, and development of vaccines, will never see or know just how profoundly she changed the world.

Henrietta Lacks was a person much like you or me. She was a mother, a wife, a friend. She loved cooking, her children, and never the left the house without a coat of red nail polish. She was born in Roanoke, Virginia, on August 1, 1920. She married David Lacks in 1941, and together they raised five children: Lawrence, Elsie, David Jr., Deborah, and Joseph.

10 years flew by. One wonders how Henrietta spent those ten years. What memories did she make with her family? What hardships did she experience? What people did she meet? What made her laugh, smile, or cry? Time has robbed us of the answers to these questions. The bulk of what we know about Henrietta’s life is her last months.

The year was 1951, and Henrietta Lacks was feeling unwell. For some time, she’d had a strange pain in her womb area. She described to her cousins like a “knot”. After experiencing vaginal bleeding, she visited John Hopkins Hospital, the only hospital in the area that would treat black patients. She was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer, and by October 4 of that year, she died. She was just 31. Before she succumbed to the disease, she underwent a biopsy in which her cancerous cervix cells were snipped and sent to the lab of Dr. George Gey. Researchers were amazed by what they found. Henrietta’s cells were incredibly unique. They had the capacity to survive and multiply at a rate far above ordinary cells. Her cells doubled every 20-24 hours, where other cells died. Effectively, her cells were immortal.

Without the knowledge of Mrs. Lacks or her family, John Hopkins Hospital shared her cells widely with other scientists, biotech companies, and institutions. These cells were called HeLa cells, and were the first immortal human cells ever grown in a laboratory. Her family was not made aware of this for 20 years.

Both the way Henrietta Lacks’ cells were obtained and used is appalling, but at the time, it was completely legal. Unfortunately, it was not the first or the last time an African American would be exploited by the medical community. For example, 12 years before Henrietta was born, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study began. Forced sterilization policies targeted African Americans and other minority women, lasting until the 70s. The historical context of how scientists acquired the HeLa cells is one steeped in centuries of racism. I can go on and on all day about how wrong this was, but what’s done is done. HeLa cells have been in use longer than Mrs. Lacks even lived. Her descendants continue to tell her story, and as recently as October 2021, they are currently suing Thermo Fisher Scientific for commercialization of HeLa cells.

Henrietta Lacks’ story is disturbing and sad, but her legacy lives on.  She has contributed to modern medicine and science in countless ways. HeLa cells have helped scientists understand more about the human genome, leukemia treatment, and vaccines. Her cells have even been used to test the effects of gravity in space. HeLa cells have saved lives, and my intention is not to take away from that. Rather, if you’ve read this far, I hope I’ve sparked some interest in you to learn more about Henrietta Lacks. She’s much more than a cell.

 

Missing White Woman Syndrome 

By Adriana Miranda

Missing White Woman Syndromea term coined by the late PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill, refers to the mainstream media’s seeming fascination with covering missing or endangered white women, and its seeming disinterest in cases involving missing people of color.”  

I’m sure we all remember when Gabby Petito went missing earlier this year, and if you don’t I’ll recap it for you: Gabby went missing while on a road trip with her fiancé, he returned home without her. The internet immediately sensationalized her disappearance and turned this woman’s life into news stories and true-crime tiktoks. Now I’m not saying media attention is a bad thing — people should care about missing women. The issue is that when black women, latina women, indigenous women, and other women of color go missing, they don’t get the same amount of media interest, if any at all.  

Zach Sommers, a lawyer specializing in race, crime, and media coverage, did an entire study on this phenomenon, and he believes it’s influenced by money. “Sommers speculates that there’s also the economic calculus of news coverage to consider: in skewing this type of coverage toward white women, news outlets might be deciding that missing white women are worth more in terms of eyeballs and ad revenue.”   

This means that not only are missing black and brown women’s stories seen as less deserving of coverage, but missing white women’s victimhood is seen as profitable. Even more, sometimes media coverage comes across like true-crime entertainment rather than real genuine care for others’ safety.  

Media coverage may not be the end-all-be-all for finding missing people, but only covering stories of missing white women at the very least contributes to a subconscious societal belief that white women are more valuable. It should be concerning to all of us that (1) women in general are more easily seen as victims and (2) white women are seen this way more easily and their victimhood is considered profitable. 

Gender Equality Across the Ocean Matters Too

By Arly Andrade

The year 2001 was groundbreaking for women in Afghanistan. From 1996 to 2001 the Taliban controlled the country and women in Afghanistan were denied basic human rights. They were denied education, employment and could not be seen in public by themselves. However, in 2001 when the Taliban lost power, the Afghan women regained their freedoms. Since 2001, “more girls have enrolled in school and children mortality rates have decreased.” They were getting to experience the life they had once lived. 

However, they have been struck with tragedy once again these past couple of months. As we all have probably heard, the Taliban has taken over Afghanistan again. This has caused many women and children to flee, in fear of getting killed. “Of the 250,000 people in Afghanistan who were forced to flee, 80% of them have been women and children.” It hurts to think that innocent women and children are displaced the most in violent tragedies like these.  

People in the LGBTQIA+ community are also victims of this tragedy. These people have also had to go into hiding or flee: “No official statement has been made, but in an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper in July, one Taliban judge said there were only two punishments for homosexuality — stoning or being crushed under a wall.” Many are seeking refuge in other countries.  

Although Americans see a lot of news coverage of Afghanistan, we rarely do anything to help. We tend to think that these issues will resolve themselves quickly. While we sit back and watch, we think that there is nothing we can do. That is not the case.  

Thankfully, we have seen organizations like Women for Women International and Women for Afghan Women advocating for these women as they struggle to seek refuge and rebuild their lives. These organizations are currently in Afghanistan helping women and children flee the violent environment. Women for Women International also helps women defend their rights, teaches them how they can live a physically and mentally healthy life, shows them that they have an influence on decisions made in their homes and communities, and teaches them how to generate and save money for the future. These programs are incredibly beneficial to women who are seeking refuge from dangerous areas and to those whose lives got flipped upside down after fleeing. There are also many local agencies that help refugees, one in particular is Della Lamb. Della Lamb provides many services including refugee resettlement services. While we might not be able to do much, the least we can do is volunteer and donate to these organizations and others that impact women, children, and the LGBTQIA+ communities in Afghanistan. 

It is truly amazing to see how groups of women will come together to support each other and even save each other’s lives. Even though the events in Afghanistan may not affect all of us, it is important to advocate for those whose voices are not being heard and to share and support organizations and/or resources that help them. At the end of the day, women should always support women, regardless of our different backgrounds. It’s important for us women to band and stick together and defend one another when we see each other struggling. In fact, we all need to band together and help one another when we see each other being oppressed.  

Equal Pay Day 2021

By Mia Lukic

This year Equal Pay Day fell on March 24, 2021. This date represents how far into 2021 the average of all women must work in order to make what a man made in 2020. If this were a race, with the start line being January 1, 2020, the men’s finish line would be December 31, 2020, or 365 days (or meters for the sake of analogy).

The average of all women have to work 83 more days, or 448 days total. An intersectional perspective is essential in all evaluations so let us consider how it impacts Equal Pay Day. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is August 3, 2021, 216 days longer than men. Latina Women’s Equal Pay Day is October 21, 2021 or 294 days longer than men. Native Women’s Equal Pay Day is September 8, 2021 or 251 days longer than men. Asian and Pacific Islander Women’s Day is March 9, 2021 or 68 days longer than men. The women’s races would be much longer than the men’s as their finish lines are much further away.

Upon first glance, we can see that Asian and Pacific Islander Women’s Day is earlier in the year, coming even before the average of all women. The AAUW stresses the importance of further examining the why. “Asian women’s experiences differ greatly depending on their subgroup. A previous analysis has shown that while women who report Indian or Chinese ethnicity or ancestry earn nearly as much as white men, women who identify as Filipina, Vietnamese and Korean are paid much less and all are subjected to the model minority myth, which erases ethnic subgroups’ diverse experiences as well as racism against Asian Americans as a whole” (AAUW).

The AAUW explores many factors that contribute to the gender pay gap such as the undervaluing of women’s work and discrimination of women for being mothers. They explain that women dominated fields are generally paid less than male dominated fields that require almost the exact same education and experience. Hairdressers make less than barbers and maids less than janitors, even though they are often seemingly synonymous professions. Women are also still disproportionately the caretakers and often take time out of their careers to focus on children and/or independent seniors. Time out of the workforce greatly impacts overall salary. The COVID19 pandemic has only heightened these issues as many schools shut down, eliminating that childcare and forcing women to stay home with children.

https://www.aauw.org/app/uploads/2020/12/SimpleTruth_2.1.pdf

Women’s History Month: Sojourner Truth

By Morgan Clark

Sojourner Truth is known for her work as an abolitionist and her work in the Civil War that caught the attention of President Abraham Lincoln. Born Isabella Baumfree in 1797, she was born into slavery in New York and was sold to her first slave master at the age of 9. He was known to beat and abuse his slaves regularly. At the age of 13, she was sold again to her second slave master. Around 1815, Isabella was forced to marry a slave and bore five children, after being forced apart from the man she loved.

In 1827 she ran away to freedom, after her master did not honor his promise to free her and the other slaves. She ended up in New Paltz, New York, with her newborn daughter. There, she was taken in by the Wagenens, who eventually paid for her freedom for $20. Isabella then sued her previous slave master for illegally selling her son, Peter. She was the first black woman to sue a white man and win. In 1829, she moved her family to New York City,  where she became a Christian and became heavily involved in the Church. She worked closely with two preachers. In 1843 she renamed herself Sojourner Truth because she believed it was her religious obligation to go out and speak the truth. The year after she joined a Massachusetts abolitionist group, where she metFredrick Douglas who had a great influence on her career as an abolitionist.

In 1851, at the Ohio Women’s Right Convention Sojourner Truth gave her famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” which addressed the intersection of being a woman and black in that time period. During the convention, she met women’s activists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Lady Stanton.

During the Civil War, Sojourner Truth was an advocate for young men to join the Union. She was able to organize supplies for the young men. Because of her work, she was invited to the White House and recruited to be involved with the Freedmen’s Bureau. She was able to find jobs for freed slaves. During this time, she tried to lobby against segregation and fought to give land to freed slaves. Sojourner Truth was a woman ahead of her time, speaking of intersectionality before it was a term and knowing that segregation was wrong. She died at her home on November 26, 1883. Her tombstone stating, “Is God Dead?” refers to a question she asked her colleague Fredrick Douglas to remind him to stay faithful.

Women’s History Month: Dr. Mabel Ping Hua-Lee

By Morgan Clark

When we think of women’s suffrage leaders we usually think of Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and maybe Ida B. Wells. But no one speaks about Dr. Mabel Ping Hua-Lee, who had the same amount of influence in the movement. Born in Hong Kong, Mabel Lee and her family moved to America in 1905 after she won a scholarship that provided her and her family visas. They settled in Chinatown in New York City where she attended Erasmus Hall Academy in Brooklyn.

At the age of 15, Mabel Lee was a figure in the New York City suffragist movement. She helped lead a parade for women’s rights, attended by up to ten thousand people. In 1912 she began her studies at Barnard College, an all-women’s school. She began to write essays on feminism for The Chinese Students’ Monthly.  One of her popular essays was “The Meaning of Woman Suffrage” in which she argued that suffrage would lead to a successful democracy. In 1915 Lee was invited to give a speech at the Women’s Political Union. In her speech “The Submerged Hall” she advocated for education for girls and civic participation from women in the Chinese community. The 19th Amendment passed in 1917 allowing women to vote— white women. Mabel Lee and others were not able to vote because of the color of their skin and laws that stopped women of color from voting.

After graduating from Barnard College, Lee pursued her Ph.D. in economics at the Columbia University, becoming the first Chinese woman to do so. After school Dr. Mabel Lee published her research in book form, naming it The Economic History of China. Dr. Mabel Lee became the director of the First Chinese Baptist Church of New York City after the passing of her father. She founded the Chinese Christian Center a little bit after, providing classes for English and health clinics. She dedicated her life to the Chinese Community until her death in 1966.