Who Wants to Stand with Us Against Violence? Can We See a Show of Hands?

IMG_7043Come lend us a hand in our efforts to sand against violence!

Next Wednesday (October 23), between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., participate in the I CAN, WE CAN Day of Action at UMKC, featuring These Hands Don’t Hurt and the White Ribbon Campaign, to take a stand against violence. Stop by our table in the Atterbury Student Success Center (right outside the cafeteria) to create an “I CAN prevent violence by…” statement and design a shrink-art hand which showcases your statement. The Women’s Center staff will take your designed hands back to the Women’s Center to shrink them, and then hang them around campus to spread the word about ending violence!

Co-sponsored by the Violence Prevention and Response Project.

For more information on this and other Violence Prevention and Response Project and Women’s Center events, please visit our website, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

A “Thank You” to all of the Feminists

Image from Google Images.

Image from Google Images.

By Amber Charleville

It’s been a busy semester here at the Women’s Center, and we’re only halfway through.  (On the other hand: Woohoo, we made it through the first 8 weeks of classes!) We’ve done events at the Kansas City Public Library, the Plaza, across campus, and everywhere I’ve gone I’ve met women eager to reach out and connect with each other. Even when I’m not working events, when I tell people where I work, they always ask me questions. They want to know more: how they can get involved, what kind of services we offer, and if it’s okay if they just come by. (The answer to the last one is a resounding YES).

One of the biggest arguments against feminism I hear is that “women don’t have it that bad.” It’s not like we can’t vote or hold a job. It’s not like we can’t go to school. What’s the big deal? But when I meet women from all different backgrounds who all face the many and varied challenges of being a woman every day of their lives, I know it’s not all in my head. It reminds me why I proudly tell people that I’m a feminist. It reminds me why I don’t stay silent and why, no matter how tiring it can be, I always try to educate people on what it means to be a feminist.

Basically, what I want to say is: thanks. Thank you to the women I’ve met this semester (and all the semesters previously) who have inspired and encouraged me. No matter how corny it sounds, it gives me strength knowing I’m not in this on my own.

In acknowledgement of that, some of my blogs going forward are going to feature WONDERful WOMEN right here in our own backyard: professors who make me proud to be a part of this school, who fuel my drive to count myself among UMKC’s alumni.

Chill Out with the Women’s Center Wrap Up

Our event, Chill Out with the
Women’s Center, IMG_8526was a great success! Students, faculty and staff members all stopped by on the first day of classes to enjoy some delicious smoothies. It was a great way to get back in the swing of classes, and proved to be a fantastic opportunity to educate new students about the Women’s center.

In case we didn’t get to see your smiling face on Monday, be sure to stop by our office at 105 Haag Hall to pick up a calendar of events for the semester. We are open 8am – 5pm every weekday; we’d love to see you!

Also, be sure to visit our website, “follow” us on Twitter, and “like” us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on all future Women’s Center events.

IMG_8520  IMG_8523


New Women’s Center Student Assistant Wants to Make a Difference

mopaulllllHello! Howdy! Hey! Hi! My name’s Morgan Paul and I’m a new addition to the Women’s Center! I am a first year student at UMKC and I chose to come to here because I knew that it was a LGBT friendly campus and very innovative. I chose the Women’s Center for the same reason. I want to make my time here count,not only by being involved, but by really making a difference. I plan on majoring in psychology and minoring in women’s and gender studies, and would like to go on to get my master’s degree in queer theory/human sexuality. My final goals are to help queer youth and fight the inequities in this world. I am so excited to be able to attend and assist with all of the wonderful events that the Women’s Center has to offer and I hope to see you there!

The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power

By Jasmin D. Smith

Arianna Huffington, photo by JD Lasica
Arianna Huffington, photo by JD Lasica

Huffington Post’s first ever Women’s Conference took place in New York City on June 6th. It was hosted by Arianna Huffington and Mika Brzezinski along with others who took turns speaking beside them on the panel. A live feed during the conference was recorded, and my reaction to it is one of amazement! These ladies discussed topics that ranged from leadership skills to balancing family and careers.



Mika Brzezinski, photo by Mark Mathosian

Mika Brzezinski, photo by Mark Mathosian

Each panelist offered their professional insight and real life experiences, testimonies on certain issues that a lot of women truly go through. I admired their style of speech, not complicated or unprofessional but real and straight to the point. Although I was not actually present, I felt as if I was – they made the listener feel so comfortable and engaged in the discussion.






One of the highlighted topics that most intrigued me was about women balancing a career and family. Brzezinski said that some women today have young children AND some of the highest paid jobs in the country! Women continue to prove that they can indeed balance family and a career. The ladies express that the key to doing this is learning to compartmentalize. Huffington adds in that men are incapable of doing this. Ha!

They go on to say with this important skill, as well as being efficient on the task at hand, success and money is just around the corner. Brzezinski encourages throughout the conference stating “(Women) live your life for you, and ignore others expectations. Make your own decisions and continue to strive for the freedom to make those choices, and finally a sense of humor is the best medicine in life!” Women in powerful positions were mentioned such as Susan Rice, current United States Ambassador to the United Nations, now appointed by President Obama as the new national security advisor.

This conference was meant to give strength and encouragement and to challenge all women to exceed expectations! If you would like to view the entire conference please click here.

What Do Our Gender Symbols Really Mean?

By Morgan Elyse.

secondsex ♀: you see it everywhere – from book covers, to necklaces, to advertisements – and always in reference to the female gender – the UMKC Women’s Center even uses it in the logo for our CineWomen event. These days the symbol for the female gender is a representation of feminism, the pride in being a woman, and the pride in sisterhood. There are also versions of the male and female gender symbols which represent pride for a variety of sexual orientations, i.e., a figure with two linked male symbols is an icon used by homosexual men, a figure with the wearer’s gender centered between a male and a female symbol represents bisexuality, the transgender community uses a couple of adaptations that fuse together both symbols as well as adopting the sign for Mercury in favor of Linnaeus’ meaning (see chart), etc., etc.




Most of us are well aware of what these emblems signify in today’s culture, but where on earth did they come from? Well, they came from space, actually; Venus and Mars, to be exact. 1367542071_venus-mars-july_11


If you perform an internet search on the origin of the symbols, you will come across a plethora of explanations, some as misguided and offensive as “X marks the spot where pointy things go”, but most of which reference Greek mythology. William T. Stearn’s 1962 article,”The Origin of the Male and Female Symbols of Biology,” published by the International Association for Plant Taxonomy’s journal, Taxon, gives us a comprehensive account of how these symbols and their uses have evolved since 5th century BCE.

The Symbol The Celestial Body/god(dess) The Metal Elemental Abbreviations Linnaean Properties
The Sun Gold Au Annual
The Moon Silver Ag (not used)
Saturn Lead Pb Woody
Jupiter Tin Sn Perennial
Mars Iron Fe Male/
Mercury Mercury Hg Hermaphrodite
Venus Copper Cu Female


Venus_Tablet_of_AmmisaduqaFound carved in ancient stone, the Greek symbols in the chart above were used to reference the heavenly bodies as well as their corresponding gods and goddesses.








The same signs were later used as shorthand in the practice of alchemy and even later in chemistry. Prior to Berzelius’ abbreviations for the Latin word for each element (which remain on the periodic table today), each planetary character represented a different metal. So what does that have to do with gender other than the fact that Venus was a woman and Mars was her male counterpart/love interest? Eighteenth century botanist, Carl Linnaeus was actually the first in recorded history to use these symbols in reference to gender. Linnaeus also used them as shorthand, but to represent different properties of his botanical specimens rather than metals.

Stearn also references the work of French scholar Claudius Salmasius in what he calls a more “academically acceptable” theory of the origin of the symbols. Salmasius explains that ♃, ♄, ♂, ☿, and ♀ all derive from contractions in Greek script which were used as abbreviations for the names of Greek gods but have, over so much time, come to form the pictographs we see today. Renkema illustrated this phenomenon:


from “The Origin of the Male and Female Symbols of Biology” by William T. Stearn.
Taxon , Vol. 11, No. 4 (May, 1962), pp. 109-113.


Stearn also mentions a “less” academically acceptable theory (as do many other internet sources), which is that each symbol illustrates a physical attribute of each god and goddess, i.e., Mars’ shield and spear, Venus’ hand mirror, Mercury’s winged helmet, Saturn’s scythe, Jupiter’s lightning bolt, etc.

athene2_NEW murcury venus1

It’s been more than 50 years since this article was published, and Stearn’s article is the only scholarly work I could find on this subject – and it still sort of leaves us questioning whether the metamorphosing script theory or the illustrative traits of the gods theory is more accurate. Personally, particularly when taking in to consideration the symbol for the sun and the moon, as well as the symbol for Neptune being an unmistakable trident, the pictographic analogy seems much more valid.



everything_know_feminism_31Despite its ostensible sensibility however, this concept leaves me with yet another question: If we feminists are flaunting about a hand mirror as a symbol of strength, might we want to reevaluate its cogency? If you consider the mythology of Venus and how she got a raw deal just because she was a woman and she was beautiful, in conjunction with the fact that today, women have yet to overcome the same sexism, and you use this as a symbol of perseverance – then, by all means, flaunt the $#!% out of ♀. Do you think the symbol being both a visual remnant of the stereotyping and gendering that women are fighting against and a textual embodiment of a goddess who undoubtedly could sympathize with our plight today (even though she didn’t actually overcome any of her own), can put some positive meaning behind it? Sure, I think it works.

Once used as shorthand for astronomy and the gods, then for science, now used as shorthand for gender equity and empowerment, the simple yet mighty ♀ is a recognizable insignia that’s been around for centuries and will most likely be for centuries to come. So recognizable, mind you, that most of us hadn’t even questioned its genesis. It makes me wonder, though, what all these symbols will mean, how they’ll be used, or if they will even exist in another 2500 years.

What do the gender symbols mean to you?


(Re)Discovering Frida Kahlo

By Morgan Elyse.

Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Masterpieces of Modern Mexico is open to the public at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art until August 18. The exhibit was compiled from pieces in the private collection of Jacques and Natasha Gelman.

Natasha Gelman, born Natasha Zahalkaha, was originally from what is now the Czech Republic. She moved to Mexico around 1939 and there she met her husband, Jacques Gelman, a French producer best known for his Mexican films starring Cantinflas. The two married in 1941 and obtained Mexican citizenship. The Gelmans lived a lavish lifestyle in their adopted homeland, hosting parties and collecting fine art. Their collection includes work by Matisse, Picasso, Max Ernst, Miró, as well as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Kahlo and Rivera were very close friends of the Gelmans – you can see Diego Rivera’s famous portrait of Mrs. Gelman in the exhibit currently on display at the Nelsen-Atkins Museum of Art. You can also see artists Lola Alvarez Bravo, Leonora Carrington, Gerardo Suter, Ángel Zárraga, Carlos Mérida, Cisco Jiménez, Betsabeé Romero, and a prodigious display of work by Frida Kahlo.

Ten years ago, I didn’t even know who Frida Kahlo was. I’d seen the commercialized images of the unibrowed woman with a mustache printed on everything from buttons to shopping bags. Then one day I caught the Hollywood biographical drama, Frida (2002), on television, and I began to connect it with the images I’d seen in passing. After that, I became extremely interested in her work and her story.




220px-FridaposterI find it quite disheartening that Kahlo was not previously introduced to me academically until I took an upper-level college Art History course, and even then she was only grazed over. I guess something positive can be said about Hollywood and its bringing to light certain stories (however inaccurate and overdramatized) that seem to be, for whatever reason, less noteworthy to the world of academia. It’s sort of sad and backwards, isn’t it?





Frida Kahlo painting

Women artists are and always have been, if not considered altogether incompetent as artists, underrepresented. So it can truly be valued that the Gellmans recognized Kahlo’s talent and cared so much for her work because hardly anyone was making it a point to collect women’s art in the early 20th century. If you know Kahlo’s work, you can also agree that it must have been collected, not simply out of an attempt to even the playing field or out of consideration for Diego Rivera’s wife, but out of sheer appreciation for the skill and beauty that was illustrated in her paintings.


aga-frida_kahlo8126kioy862Check back with the UMKC Women’s Center blog for more on Frida Kahlo this month. In the meantime, I highly recommend visiting the Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera: Masterpieces of Modern Mexico exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum. If you’ve never seen Kahlo’s work in person, it is quite the experience. Here’s a neat idea: If and when you go, keep in mind the ideals of feminism and gender equity and how that may or may not come across in her work and in the exhibit as a whole.


Book Preview: Warrior Princess

By Jasmin D. Smith

A new book titled Warrior Princess, written by Kristin Beck and Anne Speckhard, and released this past weekend, really sparked my interest. This book focuses on the life of retired Navy Seal Chris Beck, starting from his childhood as a football playing, motorcycle riding, macho teenager who grew into a warrior serving our country for over twenty years. Chris’s impressive resume includes thirteen deployments, including seven combat deployments, and being awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. His credentials made him a hero, a true warrior. However, underneath it all, this warrior forever longed to be a princess. During Chris’s youth, he always felt something was different about him: he thought he should have been born a girl.  After many years of hiding his true feelings, and retiring from the Navy Seals, Chris reveals his secret.  Not only does Chris express how he feels internally, he discusses how he plans to make his body to match his identity. Chris is undergoing sexual reassignment surgery and has begun wearing makeup, wigs, and women’s clothes. The book aims to reach out to the younger generation, to individuals who may be struggling with revealing their true identity. Beck and Speckhard give encouragement, compassion, and strength through Chris’ story, a boy turned woman, and the emotions of the transgender experience.  I believe this book will be an awesome read. Whether or not you relate specifically to being a transgender person, the idea of acceptance and finding your identity are basic concepts that all readers can relate to.

Photo from ABC News

Photo from ABC News

For more information, read Lee Ferran’s column for ABC News here.


By Andrea.

Merida by Michelle Wright

Merida by Michelle Wright

Disney has received a lot of negative attention recently for their “makeover” of Merida from Pixar’s Brave. Her new look has thousands of fans outraged at the new princess appearance: her trademark curly red hair is now in long waves, her waist is slightly smaller, her face is covered in makeup, and her dress now features an off-the-shoulder collar. And…her bow was missing.

News of Disney’s new 2-D rendering of Merida spread across the internets like wildfire. Upset fans called out Disney artists for the new look, and even started a petition at Change.org to #keepMeridaBrave. The creators of popular website, A Mighty Girl, have even created a webpage dedicated to those who want to join the fight against Disney to leave Merida as she was, complete with sample telephone and email scripts and contact information for Disney. Brenda Chapman, writer and co-director of Brave, has given many interviews in recent weeks. She states that fan support for Merida has been overwhelming. Like Merida’s fans, Chapman is outraged that young women are receiving a message that their happiness ultimately resides within the princess fairy tale image: married to a handsome prince and living in a castle while wearing  a ball gown.

Below are several links for interviews and op-eds on the controversy, including a link to footage of Merida’s recent Walt Disney World coronation.


Washington Post: No Merida Makeover? Brave Director Brenda Chapman on Disney Princess and “Sexing Her Up”

Christian Science Monitor: Disney Misses the Point In Response to the Merida Petition

L.A. Times: Jon Stewart Slams Disney’s Makeover of Brave Heroine Merida

Moviefone: Disney Pulls Redesigned Princess Merida After Backlash

Huffington Post: Brenda Chapman, Brave Creator, Calls Merida’s Makeover “Atrocious” [UPDATE]

KQED Public Media Blog: Has Disney Backed Down On Merida Makeover

Inside the Magic: Merida Becomes 11th Disney Princess

Disney's princesses by Inside the Magic

Disney’s princesses by Inside the Magic

Meet Our New Student Assistant: Jasmin Smith

JasminHello! My name is Jasmin D. Smith and I am the new undergraduate office/event student assistant! I am currently a senior here at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Psychology with a minor in Family Studies. I plan to graduate in the Spring of 2014 with a Bachelors of Arts. Post graduation, I anticipate working full-time in an office setting for a company or university that can utilize and enhance my skills. I am very excited to be joining the Women’s Center this semester! I believe this position will give me a chance to raise awareness on women’s issues and violence prevention and allow me to be more active on campus.