Farewell, Au Revoir, and Adios Y’all!

By: Sierra Voorhies

I have learned so much from working at the Women’s Center for two whole semesters! At first, I really struggled to find topics for blogs, I didn’t trust my writing or my interests. Now, after a full academic year, I have gained so much confidence and knowledge that there were actually more blogs that I wanted to write that we didn’t have time to. 

For your entertainment, I will tell you a couple things that I wanted to write about but ran out of time to. First, last semester I went to the Women’s March in Kansas City, and I had such an interesting time, with really good and not so good parts of that experience. I also wanted to talk about wedding ceremonies, specifically how some brides chose to follow or shirk tradition (like by wearing a black or colored dress instead of a white one). Another thing I would have liked to write about is the connection between femininity and commodification. For example how women and femme people are made to feel like it’s normal or necessary to have a collection of shoes, clothes, makeup, nail polish, etc. to be fully performing femininity, and that masculine presenting people don’t have the same capitalistic demands on them. 

If you are working at the Women’s Center in the future, please feel free to make these ideas into your blog posts, I will continue to check into this blog after I am done, because it is truly a great place to get insight into the gendered issues of today from the perspective of college students. I will always remember my time here and thanks to anyone who reads this blog!

“But What Were You Wearing?”

By: Sierra Voorhies

Trigger Warning: rape culture, victim blaming, and sexual assault. 

I’m not quite sure how to start this blog, but I think I will start with the phrase, “What were they wearing?” This is a common question that has been asked in cases of rape and sexual assault, and it perpetuates and supports rape culture. Rape culture is “the belief that victims have contributed to their own victimization and are responsible for what has happened to them” (University of New Hampshire SHARPP). The question “What were you wearing?” implies that someone’s outfit could consent for them to sexual acts, but no matter what someone is wearing, clothing – slutty, provocative, or skimpy – does not give consent for the wearer. Behind this question is the idea that there is some dress, jeans, or some outfit that could make the victim actually the one culpable for the crime against them because they are somehow “asking for it”.

By asking a victim of rape or sexual assault this question, one is placing the blame back on the victim for the crime perpetrated against them. Imagine asking someone, “Why were you wearing that watch? What were you doing in that suit?” This is an outrageous and illogical question,  because it’s obvious in this scenario that the victim does not hold any of the blame for the crime done against them. The same thought must be applied to victims of sexual assault.

In order to bring awareness and growth to the UMKC community, the Women’s Center is doing a display called “What Were They Wearing?” full of outfits that were worn by people when they were assaulted. This display will show how rape culture and victim blaming are part of the rape myth. You can join us on Wednesday April 27 from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. on the second floor of the Student Union, as well as Thursday, April 28 to see the display and get connected with more information. 

Thank you for supporting our programming during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Back to Basics #3: Body Posi Club! Starting Now, Ending Never!

By: Sierra Voorhies

Welcome once again to Back to Basics! In these posts, we break down feminist concepts for readers curious about feminist vocabulary, concepts, and ideas! Today’s question is….

“What is body positivity?”

Body positivity is a movement and a set of ideas based around body acceptance and challenging social norms of thinness as beauty. It challenges diet culture and the thin ideal with radical body acceptance and practicing intuitive eating.  We as a society have been policing fat bodies and shaming fat people, and body positivity is a response to diet culture, limited sizing, and discrimination based on size. 

 

“So what does it mean to be body positive, like for me and my body?”

It’s different for everyone, but the basics of the practice are…

1. Practice appreciating all your body does for you instead of evaluating it on aesthetics

2. Do what feels good for your body, not what others tell you to do. This doesn’t mean eat sweets 24/7 because it feels good, it means listen to the cues from yourself to eat when you’re hungry, take naps when you’re tired, and  exercise when you can.

3. De-center your body from your self image and self worth, and cast off magazines, billboards, and other media that would tell you to become thinner to conform to a beauty standard. 

 

“Isn’t body positivity unrealistic? I mean, bodies can’t be healthy at any size.”

 It is literally impossible to know someone’s health by just their body. Body positivity is a response to fatphobia and policing bodies based on their size and beauty standards. The whole idea of body positivity is to not judge yourself, or others based on looks and size. So, if someone is very large or very small, it’s not anyone’s societal duty to shame them. Making inferences about people’s health and shaming them to eat less, or exercise more is not helpful or healthy. 

We should all practice body positivity, regardless of your gender, age, or size. Some people feel like “body neutrality” or “body acceptance” is a more suitable name for the movement, but all three terms describe roughly the same ideas. Wanna learn more about body positivity? Click here. And, if you want to learn more about basic feminist topics, check out our post on the myth of “man-hating feminists” or  intersectional feminism!

A Brief History of Women in the U.S Military (Part 2)

By: Sierra Voorhies

Trivia Question: True or False? Army and Navy nurses, all of whom were women, weren’t given veteran’s benefits and equal rights in the military until 1947, when they were granted officer’s status. 

Answer: True

World War II (1939-1945)

In WW2, all branches of the military accepted women into their organizations. Their role expanded from clerical jobs to driving, repair persons, lab workers, operators, parachute riggers, and air combat trainers (USO). 68,000 women served as nurses across the Army Nurse Corps and the Navy Nurse Corps – sometimes working on front lines, and sometimes being killed or taken as prisoners of war. Black women served as nurses overseas and stateside, and were continuously used as auxiliary forces that were called in so men could serve on the front lines when needed. In 1948 Truman signed an Integration Act that desegregated women in the Army and the Organized Reserve Corps where Black women had been serving without official recognition. 

Interesting Fact: Aesthetically, in WW2, uniforms were skirts, and having hairdos, makeup and nail polish was emphasized, this is different from today when makeup, nail polish and skirts are not allowed (USO). 

In 1948 (Before the Korean War) Truman signed an Act that allowed ‘women to serve as full, permanent members of all branches of the Armed Forces.” (USO) Truman also issued an executive order to desegregate the military and allow Black women equal service (USO).

Vietnam War- Present
  • In the Vietnam War, women were allowed to command units that included men. 
  • Since the 80’s progress continued to be made, including women becoming fighter pilots, rescue swimmers, and four-star generals in the Army (USO).
  • In 1991 Operation Desert Storm started, and an estimated 40% of women serving were Black women (NABMW).
  • In 1994 Clinton got rid of the “Risk Rule” which let women be in any position besides direct ground combat roles (USO). 
  • In 2015 Women would be allowed to serve in direct ground combat roles, meaning almost every role in the armed forces is now open to women (USO).

In conclusion, Black women continue to face intersectional issues in the Armed Forces, but those who have served and volunteered since pre-colonialism paved the way for those who serve with full recognition and benefits now. Proportionately, Black women serve at a higher rate (in noncommissioned officers) than White women or Black Men, meaning they tend to stay in the service longer. The military can be a place of opportunity that civilian careers might not equal in the eyes of some Black women today (NABMW).

Like in every other aspect of life, the United State’s history of slavery, segregation, and racism plays an important role in the way Black women serve. But all the same, women will persist. 

Note: I would love to write a part two about the history of queer people in the military, but as this is so long, I will refrain from including it in this blog. Stay tuned! 

A Brief History of Women in the U.S Military (Part 1)

 By: Sierra Voorhies

Trivia Question: True or False? Army and Navy nurses, all of whom were women, weren’t given veteran’s benefits and equal rights in the military until 1947, when they were granted officer’s status. 

Answer: True

The role of women in the armed forces has only increased since the Revolutionary War in The United State’s history. The history of Black vs White women in the military has commonly been segregated, so in this article I try my best to elaborate side by side the roles and obstacles White and Black women faced as their service roles grew. 

Historical timeline

Revolutionary War (1775-1783)

During the Revolutionary War, women traveled alongside soldiers and did cooking, cleaning, mending, and healing but didn’t participate in battle. There were exceptions of women who disguised themselves as men to serve. Notably Margaret Corbin kept fighting even after her husband was shot and killed. Black Women who were enslaved were brought into the house to help slave owners wives when their husbands went to serve in the militia. They also worked with men to build forts and served as spies under the promise of freedom after their service (NABMW).

Civil War (1861-1865)

During the Civil War, women grew crops, cooked, sewed, fundraised, and notably served as official nurses; about 3,000 women nurses worked for the Union Army. Historians estimate upwards of a thousand women also dressed as men to fight in the war.  Black women were also official and unofficial nurses and served in both Union and Confederate hospitals, as well as the Navy. Black women in the North were paid to raise cotton on plantations for the Union to sell. At first black and troops of color weren’t paid for their service, so their wives, black women and women of color had to support their whole family by laundering other soldiers’ clothing and making food to sell in the camps. Not until 1864 (3 years into the war) were black men paid fully (NABMW).  

World War I  (1914-1918) and 1939-1945)

Before the First World War, the US Army Nurse Corps was formally established. This is a big turning point because women still didn’t have the right to vote, but they could officially serve in the US military. The US Navy also hired 12,000 women to serve as yeoman, who worked at desks, as operators and translators. The US Army Signal Corps also hired women to be telephone operators “3 kilometers from the trenches in France.” (USO) Black women were not allowed to be military nurses until after Armistice had been signed, and all were terminated from hire when the war was over. So Black women served in other ways during WW1 but were still not allowed full participation (NABMW). 

 

Someone Call Elle Woods Cause I Need a Lawyer to Fight the Pink Tax

 

Source: Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/30478819@N08/50531102396

By: Sierra Voorhies

We all know that there is a gender pay gap; women on average make 83 cents on the dollar that men make. This is worsened by intersections of ethnicity and gender. For example, black women make 63 cents to the white man’s 1-dollar, while Latino women make 55 cents to a white man’s 1-dollar. But did you know about the pink tax?

The pink tax refers to an increase in price for feminine or feminine coded items. So, this commonly refers to things like razors and soaps but can apply to anything from dry cleaning to tech accessories. For example, at Target right now 4 women’s triple blade disposable razors from the Up & Up brand is $3.89 but 8 men’s triple blade disposable razors by the same brand is $4.89.  So, for a man’s razor it’s 61 cents per unit, and for a women’s razor it’s 97 cents per unit. This might not seem like a large difference, but over a lifetime of every hygiene product, it costs a lot more to buy feminine hygiene items than masculine ones.

Now that we are familiar with the Pink Tax, let me introduce you to our Pink Tax Donation Drive, happening Saturday, February 12 at the 2:00pm in the Swinney Center! Come to the game and get a free button from us and donate some Pink Tax item(s)! Ideas for items are things like razors, shampoo, bodywash, deodorants, soaps and more- basically hygiene products. They don’t have to be feminine-coded, just items that the pink tax could affect. For example, get the larger and cheaper pack of razors labeled for “men” to donate instead of the smaller more costly pack pink razors labeled for “women” if you want to! These items will go to the UMKC Kangaroo Pantry and the game is free for students! To get a ticket go to https://kcroos.com.

 

Call Me Slim Shady Cause We’re Back, Back Again

By: Sierra Voorhies

Hello y’all. If you have been a reader of the Women’s Center blogs, you might be familiar with me. I have written blogs about pronouns, gender, and bisexual erasure, as well as stories about my family and tv-shows. I will be continuing to work at the Women’s Center this semester, until May when I hope to graduate with a bachelor’s in psychology and a minor in women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

I am passionate about educating myself and others about how to be a good ally and member of the queer community. I hope to explore some fun subjects and stories this semester, while developing myself and programs through the Women’s Center. Gentle reminder that the Women’s Center is for all genders, and I hope if you have a little extra time around Haag Hall, you will come check out our library, sit on our comfy couch and sip some tea with us.

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!

My Maternal Grandma

By Sierra Voorhies

(Hackers, her name is not the answer to any security questions. Go away.)

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my Grandma Rios, but I would also like to share a little bit about my Grandma Carol. She’s amazing, she’s a Virgo, and she’s incredibly smart; she likes to clean, and red lipstick is a part of her signature look. Unfortunately, my grandma has directly faced many women’s issues in her life. One of her stories goes like this:

Carol worked at the Bell Telephone Company, and over her career she held a bunch of different job duties there. She worked switch boards, installed telephones, fixed telephone wires on high poles, put up satellite dishes, and more. One Friday night at 5 pm, when Carol was in her 30’s, she was installing a dish on an apartment building roof. Carol was three stories up on a huge ladder, when a man from a third-floor apartment opened his window underneath her and said, “Can I ask a question? Are you a boy or a girl?” 

My grandma laughs at this today, but at the time this was incredibly irritating. She was wearing steel-toe boots, a button-up work shirt, and a hat—I don’t think she minded looking androgynous, but having her gender brought up and questioned was one of the things she had to deal with on the job, despite her gender being irrelevant and her being busy. In this case, her womanhood was being questioned because of her presentation and her profession in a field largely dominated by cis men.

Grandma Carol also took a lot of flak from cis men coworkers and customers. They would give her difficult assignments in rough neighborhoods, send her under houses (literally underneath them) without backup, and not tell her about safety guidelines—all to “test” her, to see what she would do, or to pass off assignments that others had declined to do. Carol says that they were wanting her to say no, hoping to prove that a woman couldn’t do the job. She did every single job they sent her way.

Today, my grandma tells these experiences like funny stories, but at the time they were offensive and often dangerous incidents of workplace discrimination. Equalrights.org has a comprehensive definition of gender discrimination and lists this as an example: “being held to different or higher standards, or being evaluated more harshly, because of your gender identity, or because you don’t act or present yourself in a way that conforms to traditional ideas of femininity or masculinity.” If that doesn’t hit the nail on the head, I don’t know what does. Even though this was 30–50 years ago, gender discrimination at work is still a problem. The Pew Research Center says roughly 4 out of 10 women have experienced gender discrimination, whether that be by earning less money, receiving little jabs, or being passed over for opportunities and promotions. My grandma doesn’t like to consider herself a victim of gender discrimination, probably because she’s a very fortunate and generous woman, but she should not have had to experience what she did, and I think it’s important to talk about the past and present, and contextualize issues women and gender minorities continue to experience. 

 

Grandma Rios

By Sierra Voorhies

My grandma Paula Rios died a couple years ago. She and I were pretty close and she had a few core tenets that she instilled in me.

One was the importance of a higher education. Paula got married and moved out of her home when she was about 18, and then she had kids, moved to California with her husband, and they raised my dad and aunt together. It turns out my grandpa wasn’t faithful to my grandma. She was sticking by him “for the kids” as people say, but when he started taking advantage of her financially, and his girlfriend reached out to her, my grandma finally called it quits. 

At this point, they had moved back to Missouri, and my grandma decided to go to UMKC to get a degree and a teaching license. She specialized in special education and taught for over 20 years before she retired to a home she paid for by herself. She didn’t get married again. She chose to remain unmarried even though she had a long term live-in partner—maybe because she had been burned by my grandpa.

She is the person who taught me how to write my name—on a dry erase board in her living room, leaning up against the ledge of the fireplace. One thing she said to me then, which I probably didn’t understand, was that I was going to go to college straight out of high school. “No breaks,” she always said. When I was older she was proud of me: I went to college just like she wanted. 

One day when we were hanging out, I told her I was spending a lot of money fixing up my old car. The next week, or maybe two weeks later she gave me a call right after class and said she was going to buy me a new car. 

That happened during the school year. We stayed close that school year, and that summer I studied abroad in Seville, in Spain. I got a call in the middle of my program—she was in the hospital. I didn’t think anything could ever happen to her.  She didn’t want me to know, but I later learned that she was struggling with brain cancer. 

When I came home from Europe, I remember she asked me for a drive to the hospital. Towards the end of her life, I took her to get meds, and hung around the house with her, and tried to help her partner manage all of their finances, which she had been the main organizer of. 

Her dying was the first major grief I had ever been through. She lives on in me and my brother and her children, my father and my aunt, in her siblings and in all the people she impacted as a teacher. Education and higher education were the most important things to her, because she saw them as a key to independence. If I had ever been reluctant to get a higher education, she would have thrown a fit, because she never wanted me to be vulnerable to financial abuse, or be dependent on someone else, like she once was. 

She was one of the strongest, softest, smartest people I knew, and I love her. I hope you all can think of your elders and see some of the lessons they taught you, even if their history or your relationship isn’t perfect.

This story is part of Her Life as Art: Coming Together Through Grandmother Stories, a unique, multi-dimensional, week-long series of events celebrating the wisdom and legacy of the grandmother figures in our lives, taking place Nov. 6 – 12, 2021 at the Kansas City United Church of Christ, 205 W. 65th St. KCMO, 64113. We invite you to view the art exhibit and attend other related events. For details, please visit www.kcucc.org.