The Perseverance of Pam Grier

By Dasha Matthews

Pam Grier is known to the world as an iconic African-American actress. Many know her from Blaxploitation films such as Foxy Brown, but she has contributed much more to the African-American society than just entertainment. Grier endured many hardships during her childhood and adult life that led her to become the strong and inspiring feminist that she is today.

At the age of 6, Grier was raped by two older boys when she was left alone at her Aunt’s home. In an interview given while on her book tour, Pam spoke briefly on the incident saying, “It took so long to deal with the pain of that… You try to deal with it, but you never really get over it. And not just me; my family endured so much guilt and anger that something like that happened to me.” Grier was then a victim of date rape at the age of 18. She said that she had not told anyone about either of these incidents until she wrote the memoir. When speaking about her decision to reveal what happened to her she said, “I wanted others out there to understand the emotional trauma that is involved in sexual aggression and abuse and that not all of us get over it or even survive the abuse. I have that opportunity to speak about this as the icon—the object and let others know that in spite of it all, I am still here.”

In 1988 Grier was diagnosed with stage-four cervical cancer. In an interview, Grier states, “They couldn’t operate or start treatment for another six weeks… They gave me only 16-18 months to live and was told to start preparing for treatment and to organize my will.” Grier says that she coped with her diagnosis “minute to minute” and that her recovery was possible through the combination of chemotherapy and her doctor’s recommendation of a Chinese herbalist who prescribed her “herbs and tinctures.”

Despite all of the trials and tribulations that Grier endured, she persevered and used each experience as a teaching lesson. She fought from the beginning of her career for the independence and free expression of women. In another interview, Grier states, “And what the (feminist) movement was saying was to be independent on your own. And I realized that is what I was going to have to do, no matter what trauma went on in my life. Women could still survive and they must have independence and not be co-dependent, which is what society was teaching women to be”

You can follow this link to read more about her life.

 

“Me too”: What’s the real message?

By Kara Lewis

You’ve probably seen a lot of “me too” posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels this week.

In case you missed it, actress Alyssa Milano popularized the movement Sunday night online, tweeting, “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”  However, it’s important to note that Tarana Burke, a black activist and feminist, actually founded this crusade two years ago (Whew… this could be a whole separate blog post, honestly).

However, despite confusion over the idea’s origins, it quickly caught on: “Me too” trended on nearly every social platform, and The New York Times  and CNN both covered the phenomenon. Milano’s tweet amassed 47,000 comments.

Yet I can’t help but feel conflicted about the message. As powerful as it was to see “me too” flood my Facebook feed, I and many others won’t be joining in posting these words.

Simply put, women shouldn’t have to relive their experiences with assault and harassment to “raise awareness.” We live in a country where the one in five statistic, sometimes upped to one in four—representing how many women will be raped in their lifetimes—is widely known. “Me too” attempted to reveal a huge problem, but let’s be real: This issue hasn’t been hidden. Rather, like the recently exposed sexual assault and harassment perpetuated by Harvey Weinstein, it’s long been an open secret.

In fact, the “me too” cry seems to echo the reasoning of men who say they became more enraged about sexual assault after having a daughter. Yes, it can be shocking and emotional to find out your best friend, family member, former colleague or other Facebook connection survived sexual violence—but that shouldn’t be what it takes to fuel anger and disappointment.

Furthermore, posting “me too” can put the burden on survivors to answer uncomfortable questions, respond to doubts, and mediate family or friends’ devastated reactions.

Though on a small scale, the “me too” trend represents how much of our own energy and emotional labor women put in to combat sexual assault. Who’s supporting and working with us? This time, a like, share, or emoji isn’t enough.

What Normalizes Violence in our Culture?

by Thea Voutiritsas

In the U.S., April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Though sexual assault seems like a clear no-no, our culture

SAAM 2017

enforces social norms that condone violence and negative power relations. Sexual assault is more than a person jumping out of the bushes; its any type of unwanted sexual contact, ranging from sexist attitudes and actions to rape and murder.

Rape and sexual assault are a consequence of the power differential between men and women. Rape doesn’t happen just because one person chooses to rape another. Rape happens because there are attitudes and norms that allow it to happen. We live in a society that normalizes violence, using power over others, traditional constructs of masculinity, the subjugation of women, and silence about violence and abuse. These normalized behaviors are part of rape culture.

Rape culture is about the way we collectively think about rape as a society. Evidence of rape culture can be found in popular music, where “blurred lines” are just part of courtship, and no doesn’t really mean no. It is seen when a woman is blamed for getting drunk, or when a woman is asked “What were you wearing?” We see rape culture when women are told to prevent themselves from being raped, but men are not told not to rape. We see it in jokes that equate raping to winning video games or competitions. We see it when men are told to “wear the pants” in a relationship. We see it when men with multiple partners are “Casanovas,” yet women with multiple partners are “sluts.” We see it in entire categories of porn dedicated to harming or defeating women.

SAAM in April is an opportunity for us to check our thinking patterns. Ask yourself: What do I do, say, allow, or ignore that may contribute to rape culture? And what can I do to change that?

Coming up: V-Men Workshop

vmenby Thea Voutiritsas

The fight to end violence against women is not merely a female issue; it’s a human dilemma. Men’s voices are an important part of the dialogue. On Wednesday, February 8, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.  in the Atterbury Student Success Center, Room 237, 5000 Holmes St., join a group of dedicated V-Men and participate in a conversation about ending violence against women and girls. This workshop is open to only those who identify as male. Pizza will be provided. Co-sponsored by the UMKC Violence Prevention & Response Program, UMKC Student Auxiliary Services, and UMKC Men of Color Initiative.

 

What the ({V}) is V-Day and Why does it Matter?

by Matiara Huff

The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play by Eve Ensler. The plays are based on the stories of over 200 women who Eve interviewed around the world. It started with conversations with friends about the injustices that people with vaginas face. It evolved into finding deep connections to women all over the world facing uniquely similar issues. Each monologue is about a different aspect of the feminine experience, tackling subjects like sex, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, and vaginas. vday17logoAll performances are non-profit and all money earned goes toward groups working to end violence against women and girls. Over $100 million has been raised by this event so far.

The Vagina Monologues spawned a global movement called V-Day. V-Day surrounds The Vagina Monologues to promote awareness and raise money for organizations working to end violence. Hence the slogan, “Until the Violence Stops.” There have been performances all over the world, and that includes UMKC.

Be sure to see the show and support local organizations working against violence. It will be in the UMKC Student Union Theater on Thursday, February 16 at 7pm. Tickets are now available to purchase through the Central Ticket Office.

V-Day UMKC presents benefit screenings of Until the Violence Stops

vday-2014-450x232pxV-Day UMKC 2017 will be presenting benefit screenings of Until the Violence Stops. The film documents the start and success of V-Day and The Vagina Monologues Join us this Tuesday, January 31 from 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. in the Oak Street Residence Hall basement, 5051 Oak St.; or on Saturday, February 4, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the Kansas City Public Library, Plaza Branch, 4801 main St., KCMO. Donations accepted. Proceeds from all activities benefit the UMKC Women’s Center and V-Day 2017’s spotlight campaign. Co-sponsored by the UMKC Violence Prevention & Response Program, UMKC Masters of Social Work Student Organization, UMKC Residence Life, and Kansas City Public Library.

The Resilience of Kesha

by Danielle Lyons

Kesha-performance-benefit-2015-billboard-650Recently, Kesha has been in the eye of controversy with her court case against Dr. Luke. A case she lost. Many feared this long legal battle would destroy the career she worked so hard for. Sony, allowing her to start recording again, has held true in their agreement. They’ve made sure she records with other producers. After her phenomenal performance at Coachella, she’s onto a new feat; she’s ready to record again. She recently released a song she refers to as a “Declaration of her Truth.” She teamed up with a new producer, Zedd to create her new single titled, “True Colors.” In response to being able to record again, Kesha says, “It’s a miracle when someone gives you a chance at finding your voice again.” Many people have rallied around the singer in her journey of legal and creative freedom. Her tenacity continues to inspire masses of people. One things for certain, Kesha is a woman that can’t be kept down.

Healing Arts: Reclaiming Denim

by Logan Snook

As the semester wraps up, join us on Wednesday, April 27 for some art making to raise awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month on Denim Day USA.

For 17 years, the Denim Day campaign has worked to educate others in hopes to end destructive attitudes towards sexual assault. Inspired by a true event, Denim Day launched following the sexual assault of an 18-year old in Italy in 1992.

The young woman’s married 45-year old driving instructor took her to an isolated road, pulled her out of the car, wrestled one leg out of her jeans, and forcefully raped by her. With the help of her parents, she pressed charges against her attacker, who was convicted of rape and sentenced to jail. The assailant appealed the sentence, and was released on the argument, “because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex.”Bloch_Reclaiming-Denim

Women in the Italian parliament were outraged, and protested the verdict by wearing jeans to work. The news made its way to the California Senate and Assembly, who joined in solidarity. It has since become an annual event held on a Wednesday during Sexual Awareness Month in April.

We encourage everyone to wear jeans on this day. From 11:00am – 1:00pm in the UMKC Quad, the Violence Prevention Program, along with the UMKC Women’s Center, invite you to decorate donated jeans with art to show support for survivors of sexual assault. A visual display will be up from 9:00am – 4:00pm in the Quad.

The Violence Prevention Program is hosting a month-long denim drive – donations can be brought to the Denim Day box in 108 Haag Hall.

The Science of Safety

By Thea Voutiristsas

Chart

Photo Reference: Clancy KBH, Nelson RG, Rutherford JN, Hinde K (2014) Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102172. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102172

It’s no secret that women have been outnumbered by men in STEM, and that far too often, female scientists face unwanted sexual behavior from their superiors. Such situations have stayed behind closed doors throughout the past decade and often investigations have been conducted in secret in order to protect the privacy of the parties involved, forming a culture of silence around the issue. Then in early October, Buzzfeed News broke the story of many of us have caught wind of; a Berkeley professor had been accused of violating sexual harassment policies on at least four separate occasions. The news sent ripples across the field of Astronomy, as more women came forward with similar stories.

Soon after, students Katey Alatalo and Heather Flewelling founded Astronomy Allies, aiming to create a safe zone for women, offering services from formal, confidential complaint filing to safe walks home. Members of the group also sported red buttons to make their presence known at the 2015 American Astronomical Society Conference. Attendees were able to contact allies via text, email or phone to request subtle interventions. A senior scientist at the event later commented that this was the first conference he could remember at which he received no complaints of harassment. Astronomy Allies is barely a year old, and has already made positive impacts. As their site states, the allies “are people holding beacons of light to shine in the corners [offenders] are hoping to keep dark.” Click here to read more about this movement.

Busy Week at the Women’s Center!

080-cropBy Kacie Otto

It’s been an eventful week at the UMKC Women’s Center! This week, we wrapped Sexual Assault Awareness Month with Denim Day visual displays on the Quad and at the Hospital Hill Residence Hall. We also had a tabling even in the quad where students could decorate denim squares to illustrate their commitment to taking a stand against sexual violence.

We recognize Denim Day because an 18 year old woman was raped by her driving instructor in Italy. He was found to be innocent because the victim’s jeans were too tight for him to have taken them off without assistance. At the Women’s Center, we say this is wrong and that all victims of sexual assault should be listened to and believed. We stand in solidarity with this victim and others by wearing denim to work on April 29.

Her-Art-Block-party-flier

 

Coming up tonight, the Her Art project will be at the Crossroads for First Friday. Stop by to create your own ‘Stepping Stone’ Art piece and learn more about empowering women in the Kansas City Art community.

Thank you for all of your support! We’re looking forward to seeing you tonight!