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.

Angela Davis The Figurehead

By Morgan Clark

If you have looked up or read anything about the Black Panthers, then you have seen her before. Angela Davis has been an activist since she was young. She was born and raised in Brigham, Alabama. Davis knew about racism and discrimination at a young age. Her neighborhood was called “Dynamite Hill” due to the Ku Klux Klan continuously targeting their homes.  She was friends with one of the victims in the 16th Baptist Church Bombing. At the age of 15, Davis moved to New York for high school. She then studied abroad in Germany at the Frankfurt school, a school focusing on social theory and critical thinking. She came back and became active in the Communist Party and the Black Panthers

In 1970, Jonathan Jackson stormed the Marin County Courthouse taking hostages of the judge and three jurors in an attempt to demand the release of the Soledad Brothers, a group of African American inmates who were charged with killing a white prison guard. As a result, both Jackson and the judge were killed. Unfortunately, it was Davis’ shotgun that was used for the invasion. She was soon charged with first degree murder and aggravated kidnapping. She fled to New York but was caught and served 18 months in prison. She gained attention from many famous people such as Aretha Franklin who paid for her bail and the Rolling Stones who wrote a song about her, turning her into a figurehead for political activism. In 1981, she wrote her first book “Women, Race and Class”. She continues to be a champion for activism, being recently interviewed about Breonna Taylor, pointing out that it’s often unacknowledged that black women were also both victims of lynching and also activists working to end lynching.

Davis is currently at the University of California Santa Cruz, where she teaches courses on feminism and  the prison abolition movement. Davis is an inspiration for many women. She has always been a voice against oppression. Her powerful interviews have been included in documentaries. Angela Davis has made a pathway for women all around and will continue to do so.

Reflection Blog Fall 2020

By Morgan Clark

This year has been a difficult year for a lot of students, given the pandemic and all. It has been an especially hard adjustment for me. But I can say that working with the Women’s Center has helped me get through this semester. Joining the team, I was excited to work for this organization because it’s an organization that promoted the same values that I have. This especially showed in our events. One of the first events I was involved in was the social media campaign that took place in August called “Why I Choose to be a Feminist.” We partnered up with the Counseling Center for this event to promote individuals and their passion for feminism. For this event I was able to use and expand some of my creative skills. The next event I took part in was Walk A Mile. Usually, this event is a social event that allows men to strut their stuff around campus in a show of solidarity with victims of sexual assault. With COVID-19 we had to limit that. However, it was still a successful event that got a lot of participants. Right now, I am finishing up our other social media campaign Phenomenal Feminist Friday. For that, I post a feminist, that each of the staff has chosen, on Friday. I will admit I have learned about some women that I did not know prior to this project! Each of these events has taught me something about myself. How I work with others, what kind of workspace I would like to be in, etc. It has even piqued my interest in a career like what I have done here. It has also been nice to plan these events and see how successful they turn out to be. I will be coming back to the Women’s Center next semester, and I hope to bring more of my creative skills into focus when I do! With Black History month coming soon, I do want to focus on Black feminists and how they are contributing to our culture. After that, I want to do the same thing, but with all women, in March. And finally, for April, I want to inform people about sexual assault. I want to let people know that there are many different types of assaults, and provide a resource to those who have been affected by sexual assault. I am looking forward to the Spring semester and the events to come.

See you soon,

Morgan C.

One Hundred…Tampons in Space

By Morgan Clark

I recently saw a TikTok that made me laugh, but was actually kind of disappointing. In this TikTok the creator made fun of NASA for sending one of their female astronauts into space with 100 tampons… for just a single week!! Yup…100 hundred tampons. I could not help but laugh at that. NASA–a company that takes pride in having intelligent scientists and making ground breaking, world changing discoveries–sent this woman with a surplus of tampons for only a week. I had to look further into this.

In 1983 America sent up their first female astronaut, Sally Ride. This was a huge deal because many NASA scientists did not believe women were suited to be astronauts. Prior to Ride, there were requirements that specifically excluded women from becoming astronauts. These requirements included things like: having an engineering degree and graduating from jet pilot programs, which, during that time, the military did not allow women to do. This meant that by default, in order to be an astronaut, you had to be a man. This was challenged in the 1960’s by the Woman in Space Program, a privately funded project founded by two scientists who believed women were a better fit for space because they were able to fit more comfortably in the small, cramped spacecraft. Soon this project was turned into a program that resulted in 13 trained women who passed NASA’s selection test. Unfortunately, the program was abruptly canceled in 1962 which stopped the 13 qualified women from actually becoming astronauts.

It was in 1978 when Sally Ride and five other women were chosen to join NASA’s class of ’78. (After the suspicious shutdown program in 1962). Although Ride and her other female classmates were officially invited by NASA to take part in the program and go to space, they were met with some hesitation from the older astronauts. Being the first time that many of them had female co-workers it’s not all that hard to imagine why the men would be a bit put off. The new girls on the scene made it work though, and those like Sally Ride, pushed right on through to the top.

Ride was deployed to space with four crewmembers in June of 1983 on the Space Shuttle Challenger on mission STS-7. It was during this launch that NASA recommend sending 100 tampons with her for the week-long journey, and it they weren’t joking. When Ride was interviewed after her voyage she was mainly asked about the make-up she took into space with her. “Everybody wanted to know about what kind of makeup I was taking up. They didn’t care about how well-prepared I was to operate the arm or deploy communications satellites.” Sally stated in her 1983 interview with Gloria Steinem. Although Ride faced many obstacles regarding her sex, she went on to become a well-known astronaut. Not only for being the first American woman in space, but also by assisting in the investigations of the Columbia and the Challenger shuttle disasters. She also aided NASA in strategic planning and continued to do so until she retired. After which she became a physics professor and author. Ride passed away in 2012 leaving behind a legacy that is still inspiring young women everywhere.

Looking Deeper at our Phenomenal Feminist: Laverne Cox

 

By Morgan Clark

Laverne Cox caught the public’s eye in her brilliant performance as Sophia Burset in the hit Netflix TV show Orange is the New Black. Cox’s character was a trans woman in prison fighting for the right to receive her hormones medication. For many of us, that character was the first open door into learning about trans women and the obstacles that they face daily. Cox’s role as Sophia was a very important piece of popular culture that allowed people, especially young adults, to become aware of and educated on trans women. But how did Laverne Cox get to Orange is the New Black?

Laverne started as a dancer at Marymount Manhattan College, but soon turned to acting. She started her career doing plays and appearing in small films during her senior year of college. While in college, Laverne started her transition and went from being gender conforming to being more femme, eventually beginning her medical transition and identifying as female. During this time, Cox was performing in drag clubs although she never truly identified as a drag queen.

Orange is the New Black was Cox’s big break, and it was really  big.  Her role earned her 3 Emmy nominations, a first in history for transgender women. Since the beginning of the Netflix show, Cox has gone on to acquire many other firsts. Such as actually winning and Emmy award for a film she executively produced called Laverne Cox presents: The T Word. And finally in 2017 she went on to become the first transgender person to play a transgender series regular on broadcast TV in her new role on CBS’s show Doubt.

But beyond TV and acting, Cox is also known for her advocacy for trans rights; speaking on the issues trans women have faced, particularly trans women of color. Cox works hard to highlight the narrative that Trans Women are systematic pushed into crime, homelessness and sex work. In 2017 Cox spoke against certain actions that the Trump administration had taken to disenfranchise trans women. Cox has also advocated for the HIV/AIDS community, making herself the first spokeswoman for Johnson and Johnson’s Band-Aid Red campaign. In an interview that Cox did with Johnson and Johnson she explains why advocating for the HIV/AIDS community and relief efforts are so important to her: “It’s about all of the friends in my life whom I have lost to HIV/AIDS over the years. It’s about the folks in my life who are currently living with HIV and the stigma they face. It’s about being in that fight, in partnership with them. It’s a tribute to them—and I love actionable things that people can do to make a difference.” Now you can find her actively on social media still speaking out against the injustice trans women face.

Looking Deeper at Our Phenomenal Feminist: Betty Dodson

By Morgan Clark

When you hear the phrase “sex-positive” do you ever think of who coined the phrase? I know I haven’t. Not until one of my team members sent me her pick for our social media campaign Phenomenal Feminist Friday. Betty Dodson was a pioneer of her time, a feminist who was a sexologist that taught women (and men) the worth of self-pleasure, as well as to embrace sex as something that is natural and healing.

Betty first started as an artist at the Art Students League of New York. There, Dodson was making erotic paintings and freelancing as an illustrator for lingerie ads. She then married an advertising executive but was soon divorced because she did not believe they were sexually compatible. At that time her artwork was not doing well in the industry. That’s when she began hosting workshops for women where she showed and told them how to please oneself.

BodySex was the name of the workshops she hosted. In these workshops’ women learned that vaginas came in different sizes, shapes and colors. Dodson believed that teaching women about their bodies, and how to navigate them, was her form of activism. Dodson said “If women could learn to pleasure themselves properly, they could end their sexual dependence on men, which would make everybody happy.”(New York Times, 2020). During this time Betty was vilified by conservative feminists. When teaching a class in Syracuse she was greeted with hissing after showing big displays of the vagina. But she continued to teach women about their bodies for several years.

In 1987 she published “Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving” which eventually became a best seller and was translated into 25 different languages. In this book she speaks about masturbation and how women should learn to view it. That it is a way to love oneself and a possible a way to heal oneself. She also writes in the book about techniques for masturbation using the instructions that she usually used in her workshops. Betty passed on Halloween this year but her works still continue to empower and educate women. BodySex will continue to be hosted several times a year via Zoom by Betty’s work partner Carlin.

Reading about Betty I know that she was very important during those times. To be that sexually liberated and free at those times took courage. I know that women were not as open about sex back in the day. Not knowing about orgasm and even about their own vaginas. I am glad that Betty was able to teach women that it’s okay to learn your own body. I think me and Betty would agree that self-pleasure should not be shameful but embraced, everyone should know what pleases them, even and especially sexually.

It’s a Celebration!

By Morgan Clark

November 7th, 2020 was an historic day for many people, including me. It was the day that a woman, a BLACK woman, was elected as the next Vice President of The United States. Kamala Harris has made history, not only by being a woman in the office, but being a woman of color elected by America. That statement alone feels so powerful to me. When I sat down and analyzed her win and what it means, it moved me to tears. America has not always been kind to people who look like Kamala Harris or who are darker than she is. Just a few months ago we were in the streets protesting to arrest the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor, which is not the first unarmed black woman who has been killed by the police. During slavery, we were not even considered humans. We were forced to breed children instead of creating them. Children were taken from mothers and mothers were forced to breastfeed children that weren’t theirs. After emancipation, slaves were considered freed, but still faced oppression. During the 1800s women were not even able to vote. Many women fought against that law until the 19th amendment was passed. Women were able to vote, they just had to be white. Even during the fight for women’s rights Black women were over looked. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act was passed in the 60s that Black women were able to vote. This was also the time of the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans were advocating for the end of Jim Crow laws and equality. When it came to the important decisions the Black women were pushed aside, even though they were putting in as much work as their male counter-part. Even those in our communities have pushed us aside and tried to silence us. And although America has made progress in treating Black women better there is still a lot of work to be done.

So, you can see why having a Black woman in the Office moves a Black woman like me to tears. America has always tried to put women in a corner. Overlooking and overshadowing us, especially those of us with color. We are told that we are not capable of leadership roles because we are too emotional. And when they are in leadership positions, some play safe so they won’t come off as a b*tch. For black women, we are considered angry when we speak up in the work field. We must be the best versions of ourselves and live up to other people’s standards to get some of the same opportunities that those more privileged and sometimes even less qualified than us get handed. And that’s exactly what Kamala Harris did. She fought and worked hard and got all the way to the top. Her becoming the first Black Vice President in America sends a message to others out there. It tells young women that there is room for us at the table. It tells young Black girls that they are worthy and capable, no matter what she looks like. It tells me that there is some hope in America and the progression we have made over the past few years. Today I celebrate all Black women in America and let them know that I do see you.

Looking Deeper at our Phenomenal Feminist: Mindy Kaling

By Morgan Clark

Mindy Kaling is a 41-year-old American actress, best known from the very popular TV show The Office. In the show she plays Kelly, a boy crazy, airhead, customer service representative. Kaling was born Vera Mindy Chokalingam, and she has made her way up in Hollywood in her own way without and despite not sticking to society’s standard. Kaling is the daughter of two Indian immigrants who met in Nigeria and moved to the United States in 1979. She grew up watching sketch comedy television which helped develop her humor. Shows like “Living Color” and “Saturday Night Live” were some of her biggest influences.

In 2001 Kaling graduated from Dartmouth College with a B.A. in theatre. After graduating she moved to Brooklyn, there she shared an apartment with a woman named Brenda Wither. Together they created a satire named “Matt &Ben”, which went on to win the best overall production at New York International Fringe Festival in 2002. Their play had two years of success in Los Angeles, and it was Kaling’s door to The Office. The producer of the show Greg Daniel recruited her to help write for the show when it began and from there she ended up playing Kelly from 2005-2013. She also directed many episodes and became executive producer of The Office after many years. She did eventually leave the show that brought her up into the Hollywood scene, when she did she went on to become the first Indian American woman to ever write and star in her own show when she wrote and produced The Mindy Project, a show, in which she stars, about a doctor who is obsessed with finding a man. The show was on for five years before ending in 2017.


Throughout her career Kaling has spoken out about feminism and women’s right. She’s stated that The Mindy Project is “unconsciously feminist” because she is a feminist. (The character is loosely based on her). Even when it came to hiring she made sure to keep her staff diverse with a talented group of women. She has spoken out about her opinions regarding Hollywood and feminism, including how she feels women should not be applauded for doing their job in Hollywood because it should already be expected. Her platform just continues to grow, as she has gone on to be in many movies such as Ocean 8, Late Night, and A Wrinkle in Time. And now she has written two books which detail her own life, and in doing so empower women to be strong and, most importantly, to be themselves. She has and will continue to speak up for women’s rights, especially within the entertainment industry.

Talking About Consent

By Morgan Clark

I recently watched the Red Table Talk on consent, particularly consent and the “grey area”. It was interesting to watch, and I believe watching it can spark up conversations that need to be had in our society. They start the discussion by talking about consent and how up to 80% of the women they have survey said they have had unwanted sex. This leads the hosts to explain what they call the “grey area”. Before this video, I did not truly understand how there could be a grey area. They explain the “grey area” is more of a misunderstanding between the two parties when it comes to sexual activity. They used an example of a woman asking a man to come up to a hotel room. In the woman’s mind, she’s asking because she wants to hang out more, but to the man, he thinks she’s asking him to accompany her to lead up to sex. This example I do understand, because each person can have different intentions. I think this is where the grey area is, in the difference between what each person wants from the other.

But I also feel like that is where the grey area should stop. If one party advances sexually and the other party doesn’t want to have sex, it will show. Even if that party does not vocalize it, physically they will show signs of not wanting it. This was discussed amongst the women during the Red Table Talk. They invited Rumer Willis, who was open enough to talk about her own experiences, to join the conversation. She was not vocal about not wanting sex in her experience, but said that she showed it physically. Meaning she was not reciprocating the exact motion the guy was doing. For me, in this example and many others, I feel like many men take advantage of women. Knowing that she won’t speak up about not wanting sex and ignoring obvious signs is simply taking advantage, not “the grey area.” That’s what I think they should have made clearer in the video.

I also felt like there was some victim-blaming in the beginning. Although there is a preventive measure to make one safer from sexual assault it is never the victim’s fault, even if they do not use the preventative measure. They also should have made this clearer in the discussion, even if they were not victim-blaming. One thing I did like about the conversation is the diversity of the speakers. Giving us, the audience, different perspectives on the “grey area”. They even brought in a former football player, DeAndre Levy, who is now an activist who focuses on the issue of consent and the calling out of men. He spoke about how he did not hear about consent until he was an adult. (Which is alarming!) He also talks about how he was taught to believe that a women’s body belongs to him, especially when they already have had sex with him. He was asked by the other speakers how to educate men about consent. He states “holding those in your life accountable” is the best way to teach other men about the importance of consent. Rumer brought up teaching children at an early age about consent using non-sexual content. For example, not forcing children to hug adults when they don’t want to.

The last thing I did enjoy about this conversation was the “I want, I will, and won’t“ activity brought by Michelle Hope, a reproductive justice activist. In that activity is a list of what one would do sexually, for each item you should check yes or no. This is supposed to help a person know exactly what they want sexually. I think this is a cool idea and see no cons to the list. Overall, I think this video is worth a watch. The conversation surrounding sex is so taboo that people are not comfortable speaking about any aspect of it, including consent. If we were able to get comfortable about speaking about sex I believe the idea of “grey areas” would disappear.

 

Pink Ribbon

Morgan with her Mother

By Morgan Clark

I still remember the day my mother told us she had breast cancer. It was like any other day: my dad was upstairs fixing something, like always, and I was sitting in the living room watching Netflix. My mom walked into the house, I greeted her but she didn’t respond. That was uncommon, we were a household big on greeting one another when entering the house. I was getting upset because she was clearly ignoring me, but that all change when I saw her face. I asked her what was wrong but she didn’t answer. I got so concerned that I yelled out to my father to come downstairs and speak to my mom. He came down with a grumble but was instantly concerned when he saw her face, just like I had been. It was that day I learned my mother had breast cancer. It was one of the hardest years for our family. Cancer is a beast that can consume a person and their family. Even though it was a hard year, we made it through and persevered. In that year I began to see my mother as a warrior. To fight that beast with such poise was very honorable of her. She didn’t let Cancer defeat her spirit which gave us strength. There were days that were really tough for her, but she continued to push through it.

Luckily for my mother, she knew how to check herself for any lumps in her breast. As we get older, we must learn how to self-check ourselves. We also need to know at what age one needs to get a mammogram, and if you need to check early because of family history. Now that breast cancer is a part of my life, I have learned quite a few things about my family history. For instance, I learned that my great-aunt also had breast cancer. Meaning, this is possibly a disease that runs in my family. It is very important to know your family history in regards to health, that knowledge could save your life.

I also learned that the most common form of breast cancer is TNBC or Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Which is one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer because it grows quickly and comes back even after treatment. And although breast cancer effects white women the same as black women, black women have a higher death rate. According to the CDC, death rates for black women are 40% higher than white women. Black women are also more often diagnosed at a younger age than white women.

It’s important that women, especially black women, know all of this and more about breast cancer. These stats can help save one’s life. Knowing these things now, emphasizes to me that my health is an important thing to keep an eye on, even at a young age. So, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I advise you to learn these facts about it, and then continue to expand your knowledge. You never know when that knowledge might save your life.