Someone’s Gotta Say It: True Feminism Includes All Trans People.

By: Emma Sauer

(Alternative title: JK Rowling needs to be blasted from a cannon straight into the sun.)

J.K Rowling is one of those rich people who could have had things so easy. She wrote a beloved children’s book franchise, sold upwards of 500 million copies, and made a crap-ton of cash from her beloved books becoming equally beloved movies. I can only guess the billions of dollars in sales she got from those life-size Dobby statues.  

All she had to do was shut up and live out the rest of her days in her stupidly lavish multi-million dollar mansion. But for some reason, that’s never enough for celebrities. They have to feel big and important, so they become activists on whatever suits their fancy–animal welfare, poverty, the whales. Usually that’s harmless, but JK Rowling wanted to champion herself as a woke-AF independent woman™. This started as her declaring characters such as Albus Dumbledore to be gay, and embracing fan visions of the characters as POC (people of color). A nice gesture, if a bit of an empty one, seeing as how she never actually put in the effort to include quality representation into her books (We have only a few POC characters, and they’re riddled with stereotypes. See Cho-Chang, whose name is a couple letters away from an asian slur.)

As the years have gone on, she’s gone from being an insincere activist to a mouthpiece for transphobic politicians. To be more specific, she’s an outspoken TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist). TERFS identity as feminists, but they exclude the rights of transgender women from their advocacy of women’s rights. Often TERFS appear progressive on the surface,  and will be loud and outspoken about their desire to protect and empower cis women. Underneath that facade, however, is an ugly rhetoric that harms trans women’s sense of self and safety (Which, if you ask me, makes them pretty lousy feminists). TERFS often partner with certain lawmakers and political groups to push against transgender equality in areas such as athletic competition, access to public spaces, and healthcare for trans kids. 

Rowling in particular is dangerous to the feminist cause. It’s one thing for a celebrity to make a mistake, an off-color joke, or have done bad things in the past. It’s a whole other thing when they actively campaign against a group on social media. In Rowling’s case, it seems to be even easier to attract people to the TERF cause because of the language she uses. One of her “deepest concerns” is that by allowing trans-women into public spaces such as bathrooms, sexual predators will also be invited in. In her own words: 

“When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.”

Except no, it’s not. Nondiscrimination laws say nothing about allowing men into women’s statements. Allowing transgender folks in bathroom is a civic necessity. The discomfort, shame, and fear they feel of not being able to have that access is very real, and Rowling is willing to shove all that aside for the false claim that it will allow men into women’s bathrooms. Rowling either believes a false version of the law or is deliberately lying to further her point.  In this statement Rowling also alludes to the long-held myth that sexual predators pretend to be trans and skulk around women’s bathrooms all day, ready to strike at any moment. This myth has been debunked over and over by watchdog groups like Media Matters.

As someone who has enjoyed Harry Potter into even adulthood, it’s difficult to grapple with the fact that someone who has created such a beloved property could have bigoted views–especially when Rowling is so outspoken about the importance of feminism. I can agree with her there–but I don’t want any part in a version that doesn’t include all women.

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.

A Tribute to Betty White

By Brianna Green

Photo of Betty WhiteOn the last day of the year, the world was excited to say goodbye to 2021 and welcome 2022. However, we were stunned by the news that Betty White, an American treasure, had died only 17 days before her 100th birthday. White is known for her long Hollywood career,starring in television shows such as Date with the Angels (1957-1958) and The Golden Girls (1985-1992), and hit movies like The Proposal (2009) and Toy Story 4 (2019).

Yet, White was more than just an incredible TV personality and actress; she was also an advocate. The cause she’s most known for supporting is animal welfare. According to CNN, “she volunteered with the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association for more than 40 years as a trustee and chair. She strongly supported the conservation and educational missions of zoos.” CNN adds that White helped with many other animal organizations such as American Humane, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center.

White didn’t just advocate for animals though; she was an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. Blade reports that “White told Parade magazine in 2010 – ‘I don’t care who anybody sleeps with… I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.” The Advocate adds that she also helped bring awareness to HIV/AIDs research by promoting and becoming a spokesperson for Lifeline Program, which assists patients with HIV and the elderly.

Outside of being an advocate and ally, White was a badass feminist. White was born in a time where it was expected of women to have a family and children, but she didn’t. White was divorced twice, married three times, and never had biological children. Not only that, but CNN reports how  White, in 1949, produced her own program, “The Betty White Show;” “she produced, co-created, and starred in her own sitcom, hired female directors, and deliberately chose her career over marriage. She was TV’s original trailblazing feminist.”

Betty White is the kind of woman people thought died “too soon” even though she was about to turn 100 years old on January 17, 2022. She will be remembered as a caring and inspirational icon for years to come.

 

Women’s Center for All Gender Equity

By Sierra Voorhies

You may not know this, but we have recently taken important steps to support all gender equity here at the Women’s Center—you can look for our “all genders welcome” signs in the center and at events, and look for our trans+ and gender variant inclusive programming and social media. Sexism and gender discrimination affect people who are trans+, non binary, two spirit, etc. as well as cis men and women. We are moving toward inclusivity in our programming and we want people of all genders to know they have a safe, comfortable space to talk about gender issues, gender variance, and all things gender-related in our center. Our resources and center are available to all community members and students!

We are open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closing at 3 p.m. on Fridays to get a jump on our relaxing weekends. In the office we have a microwave, coffee maker, lounge/study area, small library, free safe sex kits, free period products, a private lactation room, and conference room—all of which is open to any and all visitors (call ahead to reserve the conference room if you can). Our lactation room has a mini fridge for saving milk, and a couple comfy chairs and space for a stroller, so student parents are more than welcome to use this cozy private space to make their day on campus easier. 

Our programming includes Healing Arts activities from AAUW, such as scratch art, shrink art, and meditative stepping stones. We post on this blog three times a week to discuss personal and public gender minorities’ stories and issues. We also promote and put on events about body image, interpersonal violence, mental health, managing stress, feminism, and womens sports. 

Speaking of women’s sports, we just went to one of the Roos’ volleyball games and gave out resources, pens, and pins! This semester we’ve tabled at soccer games and one volleyball match, and you can catch us next semester at the women’s basketball games giving out buttons with affirming phrases and supporting women’s sports! The whole staff here at the center wishes you a great break, and we hope you come by to meet us next semester!

Introductions are Crucial to Gender Equity

By Ace Garrett

If you think about it, we are introduced to new people (partners, coworkers, friends of friends) all the time—and often with no heads up. If you are like me, you may still be working on remembering peoples’ names when you’re introduced (a pretty important part of the interaction, for sure), but names aren’t the only things we should be exchanging when we first meet.

The moment when two or more people are introduced is one of the most effective opportunities we have to normalize and validate trans and non-binary identities. If you caught Sierra’s post about sex, gender, and pronouns, you should remember that someone’s gender presentation does not always “line up” with their pronouns or their gender identity—you can’t simply “tell” what someone’s gender is (and trying to do so leads to misgendering)

But if we can’t assume someone’s pronouns or gender identity, how do we find out? They have to tell you, of course. When it comes to gender identity, we don’t actually have to know someone’s in order to talk to them or about them; pronouns, however, are a huge part of conversation and language. You need to know someone’s correct pronouns pretty much as soon as you meet them.

So how should sharing pronouns work?

The key word here is sharing: everyone in an introduction should share their pronouns. You might feel inclined to only ask people who “look” queer or non-binary, but this can be extremely alienating. What if, in a classroom of people, the teacher only asks one student what their pronouns are? That student is now singled out, and this reinforces (in the minds of the other students) that this student is different. We all use pronouns, and we all have a gender—gender non-conforming people are alienated enough without being singled out every time they introduce themself.

Introducing yourself with your own pronouns is the best way to make others around you feel comfortable sharing theirs. And this applies to introductions as well. When you introduce people to each other, don’t only mention pronouns that aren’t “obvious.” Doing so reinforces the falsehood that someone’s pronouns can be assumed from their presentation. The truth is, someone who looks very masculine or very feminine may use they/them pronouns, and someone who looks ambiguous may use he/him or she/her pronouns.  There are even neopronouns to consider (more on that in the future).

The solution to knowing everyone’s pronouns, in short, is for everyone to introduce themselves with both their name and their pronouns. If we all get used to asking for and sharing pronouns, we will stop letting ourselves and others assume. By doing this, not only are we helping prevent harmful misgendering, we are also changing our social climate! Never forget: we have the power to make a difference. 

“It’s a straight! It’s a gay! Wait—it’s a bisexual!”

By Sierra Voorhies

As a bisexual, I have encountered bisexual erasure first hand, but bisexual erasure also affects other identities under the Bi+ umbrella (encompassing anyone who is attracted to two or more different genders). Bisexual erasure or invisibility is when “the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality (either in general or in regard to an individual) is questioned or denied outright.”

In the media GLAAD says that “Bi+ characters make up 25 percent of regular and recurring LGBTQ characters [on broadcast television]” despite the fact that “more than half of all non-heterosexual people in the United States identify as bisexual.” If there are more bisexuals than gays or lesbians, why are bisexuals less represented? 

This is tricky because, like the wage gap, there are a lot of factors contributing to bi erasure. First, bisexuals have a list of hurtful stereotypes that are commonly portrayed in media. These include portraying bisexuals as attention-seeking (they are willing to take attention wherever they can get it) or as confused (they just haven’t figured out who they’re attracted to yet, they will have to choose one day). Another is the belief that someone’s bisexuality is revoked as soon as they are in a relationship. As soon as a pansexual woman starts dating a man, for example, the fact that she is still attracted to other genders is ignored and she is seen as straight. This is invalidating and can make bi+ people feel isolated, unseen, or pushed out of the queer community—people are still bi+ no matter who they happen to be with. 

Bisexual erasure is especially destructive to women and foc people because, as you know if you caught Ace’s most recent blog post, feminine relationships are already invalidated, and hypersexualized. Some people still reference Freud in relation to feminine relationships: there must be some masculine centered trauma that would make a FOC person turn to a woman besides a man for a relationship. Discrimination of women compounds with bisexual erasure in order to oppress bisexual foc people. 

People are who they are no matter who they are dating. Sapphic relationships are beautiful and aren’t formed because of trauma. Bisexuals are still bisexual no matter what gender they are currently dating.

Combating Domestic Violence

By Brooke Davidoff

Unfortunately, “nearly three in ten women and one in ten men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner (or former partner).”  

Domestic Violence Awareness Month began in October 1987 to connect people seeking help with the organizations working to empower victims and educate the public. Progress has come a long way, but there is still much more work to be done. Stigma silences many victims of domestic abuse.    

Domestic violence a heavily gendered crime, (although cis men can very well be the victims of domestic violence, and they can and should seek help). Furthermore, “LGBTQ members fall victim to domestic violence at equal or even higher rates” than their cishet counterparts, and they also experience unique elements of abuse, such as the threat of being outed. Domestic violence is absolutely a gender equity issue, and much work needs to be done to educate about and prevent abusive relationships. For now, knowing what to look out for and how to get help is the best way to keep yourself safe. 

In a victimology class I took recently, we learned that intimate partner violence falls into four categories: stalking, psychological aggression, physical violence, and sexual violence.  People experiencing intimate partner violence don’t always know right away that they are being abused, and abusers tend to be good at manipulation, leaving victims to question themselves when they consider leaving the relationship.    

A few reasons people stay in abusive relationships: 

Some people in abusive relationships want the abuse to end, but the relationship to last, and they find themself waiting for their abuser to change. Financial dependence is another reason some victims feel trapped with their abusers. Shame, guilt, helplessness, embarrassment, and fear are only a few of the emotions that can cloud one’s judgment when trying to decide to stay or go. On top of that, there is still stigma associated with speaking out and admitting you are a victim.   

It is extra important for people to be aware of psychological aggression, because non-physical domestic violence can be difficult to recognize, but it can still cause potentially long-lasting trauma and emotional impacts. How do you know if you’re in an abusive relationship if there is no physical violence? Are you afraid of your partner? Are they extremely jealous? This screening helps you determine if it would be in your best interest to leave your partner for your own mental health and safety.   

If it is possible that you are in an abusive relationship, there are many ways you can seek help:

On campus you can always stop by the RISE office in Haag Hall Room 108. They are open Monday – Friday 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. You can also visit their website. 

Rose Brooks is a 24-hour emergency shelter in Kansas City.   

The Kansas City Anti-Violence Project (KCAVP) is the only LGBTQ-specific domestic violence or sexual assault service in Missouri. KCAVP was created to provide support and services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and hate violence.  

For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, you can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now  

If you need help, please reach out to one of these resources. There are people who can help you find a safe way out; you are not alone.   

 

Sexism in the Queer Community: Some Factors

By Ace Garrett

Last week, Sierra enlightened us to the limited representation for queer women and foc people on screen. Today we are going to dive into the what factors influence the perception of queer women and foc people. We do not see well-rounded representation of queer foc relationships in the media (let alone frequently), so what gives?

Note: Claims in this post not hyperlinked to a source come from my reading of the book Becoming Cliterate by psychology professor and human sexuality expert Dr. Laurie Mintz. I highly recommend it to everybody.

First of all, patriarchal control has majorly influenced the porn industry and sex on screen: for decade, the idea has proliferated that sex without a dick involved is not sex. Why do you think it is common for an entire sexual encounter to consist of a hand job or blow job, while going down on a woman is “only foreplay” leading up to the main event? This societal norm is harmful for all of us with vulvas, and it means that sex between two female people is discredited. It is difficult for queer female relationships to be respected when queer female sexuality is completely misunderstood. 

Secondly, queer women actually are represented on screen—as sexual objects. If you can think of “queer women” on screen, how often are these women just making out, doing whatever the male director considers lesbian sex, or doing either of those in the company of one or more men? Queer women and foc people are mostly represented in media so far as they are a tool for male enticement and enjoyment. Even most “lesbian” porn is made through the male gaze and with the intention of pleasing men. This quote from The Atlantic suggests an explanation: “men are most aroused by visual cues that emphasize youth and downplay drama and emotional complexity. Lesbian porn, therefore, works for straight men by ‘doubling up’ those visual stimuli, Ogas told me. The only thing better than one nubile, personality-free woman is two of them.” This phenomenon somehow manages to hypersexualize queer women and foc people while tying that sexualization to men. 

The resulting perspectives of queer women and foc people are that their relationships are mostly sexual, but only “for fun”—they don’t have real sex. Quite the oxymoron. People more often than not fail to see relationships between women and foc people as strong and complex romantic bonds like other partnerships, which in turn, narrows the representation of our relationships in media. As I hope we will explore in future posts, these factors also result in other sexism-driven difficulties for queer women and foc people. 

Sexism in the Queer Community: Representation 

By Sierra Voorhies

We have all heard of the LGBTQIA+ acronym representing the queer community (this acronym, the identities it represents, and even more terms are explained here), but you might be surprised to know that sexism affects queer people, those of all genders and sexualities. Sexism in this context is the undermining and devaluing of femininity as well as discrimination against femininity (instead of being narrowed to prejudice and discrimination against cis women from cis men). Unfortunately, sexism affects the queer community in a lot of ways, so this will be the first in a series of posts. The first sexist trend we see through the LGBTQIA+ space is queer feminine of center (foc) people not being nearly as represented in media or stories as masculine of center people are.

Take box office hits “Bohemian Rhapsody” about Freddy Mercury and “Rocketman” about Elton John, for example; are there any movies starring queer feminine of center people being made to the same impact, scale or success? GLADD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) found that in 2019 within LGBT representation in movies, only 32% of LGBT characters in mainstream media were women, where 68% were men. GLAAD also noted that “there were zero transgender or non-binary characters counted in mainstream releases this year.” An example from Cleo-Symone Scott of how sapphic relationships are less valued is in the Academy Awards, where Brokeback Mountain and Milk were given Best Picture, but lesbian films (for example Battle of the Sexes featuring a lesbian’s historic tennis win over a straight cis man) are rejected by judges. It’s important to note that bisexuals and transgender characters lag behind in proportional representation to their gay and lesbian counterparts. 

In the future we will discuss why this imbalance exists and how it’s tied to sexism, but for now let’s address the problem: we need to see queer women as more than the main character’s side kick or the straight man’s eye candy, but how do do that? How do we validate queer foc individuals in their sexualities? Well, of course, we can create and support the representation we want to see. If you are in a story-telling position, advocate and create feminine of center love stories. For us consumers out here, find and engage with queer foc stories by streaming movies, buying books, reviewing or sharing on social media, etc. We can vote with our dollar for the kinds of stories we want to see. 

If you’d like to see some foc queer relationships, there is some representation out there: check out the Legend of Korra comics, listen to Haley Kiyoko’s “Girls like Girls,” watch She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, or read Sappho or the people she inspired like Gertrude Stein. There is also information to find online like this article about critically acclaimed Women who Love Women movies and this website that lists books that represent queer relationships.

Clarifying Gender: Using Multiple Sets of Pronouns

By Ace Garrett

Right now as you read, gender is evolving into the fun, expressive, and validating construct that it always should have been. People here in America finally have the language to understand and express their gender, and many are beginning to step outside of traditional gender expectations and live as their most authentic selves—which is all any of us want, right? If you want to continue being supportive of gender non‑conforming people, a good place to start is understanding pronouns. 

This week, Sierra skillfully informed us about pronouns and their independence from gender, which I am following up with this little series of additions to help you understand the niche aspects of pronouns and gender. Today, we’ll be covering the use of multiple pronouns.

You might be surprised, but many people actually use multiple sets of pronouns. For some, a mixture of pronouns might best reflect them. For others, they might simply be comfortable with more than one set and allow their friends and family to choose whichever they want to use. There are some people that are even comfortable using any pronouns! 

You probably know that pronouns come in sets of three (e.g., she/her/hers), but all three parts is pretty redundant, so pronouns have already been commonly abbreviated to the first two parts: she/her; they/them; he/him; etc. And these sets get abbreviated even more when someone uses multiple pronouns. People who are comfortable with more than one set of pronoun often abbreviate their pronouns like this: 

  • she/they
  • they/he
  • he/they/she

For some, this represents a catalogue of the pronouns they are comfortable with. However, some people have a preference, and they will put the pronoun set they are most comfortable with at the beginning. For example, non‑binary people who prefer they/them pronouns may also be comfortable with the pronouns tied to their sex assigned at birth—especially if (1) they are just discovering their gender identity or (2) they present in a very feminine or masculine way.

But remember what Sierra covered on Monday: pronouns and gender are independent parts of our identity, which is also independent from gender presentation. Someone could, for example, present very feminine while only using they/them pronouns and being agender.

To wrap this post up, I want to remind you that all people are different. We don’t have labels and “rules” in order to box people in; we have them to help people express themselves and find community. Each person is an authority over their own identity, and we should all take care to listen and be open to people falling outside our expectations.

Keep an eye out for part two!