The Vagina Monologues: A gay man’s perspective

By Joseph Salazar.

IMG_7786I’m what the LGBTQ community calls a “Gold-Star Gay”. In other words, I’ve never been in any sort of romantic situation with a woman. Practically speaking, this means my experience with female anatomy is limited. Furthermore, I’ve never learned about vaginas in school. The Vagina Monologues, performed by students at UMKC on Thursday, March 7, was a very positive learning experience.

Before watching the performance, the vagina was, to me, a very mysterious place. Largely, this was because I was almost totally uneducated about female anatomy. However, in another respect, the vagina was mysterious simply because it was different than the anatomy I am used to seeing. Unlike a penis, the vagina is an internal organ. With a penis, what you see is what you get. Vaginas, as one performer put it, have layers upon layers upon layers. And when you have no idea what those layers entail, it’s terrifying.

After watching the performance, I can now say I know a little bit more about what those layers entail. I know what a clitoris is (and that it’s the only organ part of the human body that is designed purely to produce pleasure).  Unfortunately, I still have no idea what a labia is. And I’m still unsure as to what a clitoris looks like. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?

IMG_7753The most interesting thing about watching The Vagina Monologues was learning about how some straight men feel about vaginas. The monologue that sticks out most to me is the monologue in which an older woman from New York talks about her first kiss—it details how a woman’s first kiss goes wrong when she starts “flooding” unexpectedly. For the woman in the play, the young man’s negative reaction to her physiological response to his kiss is devastating. She closes up her vagina for good. My thoughts on hearing this sad, yet humorously performed story were full of questions, “Don’t straight men like vaginas? Don’t straight men like sex? Do straight men prefer artificial lube to the real deal?” To be brutally honest, the flooding is what I had always envied about women—for gays, preparing for sex can be an hours-long ordeal; women may come ready to perform.

 

Another aspect of the monologues that really startled me was how many of the characters revealed they had never seen their own vagina. The monologues being my first impression about women and female anatomy may have created the inaccurate impression in my mind that this is a common phenomenon. Even if it is nowhere near common, however, the play forced me to think about why any woman would never see her own vagina. I was shocked to hear characters express feelings of disgust about their own bodies in a heart-wrenching, shocking, and thought-provoking manner. In my mind, I contrasted this experience of women to the experience of men in a locker room, where the penis is celebrated as the physical manifestation of one’s masculinity and, in turn, worthiness.

IMG_7834In the end, The Vagina Monologues did not leave me with near as many answers as it did questions. In that respect, the performance was a success—the performance got me to think about things I had previously been totally unaware about, namely, the sometimes negative way women and straight men feel about vaginas. I want to know more about why women and straight men feel the way they do about vaginas. The shocking statistics offered by the performers about female genital mutilation and other forms of sexual and physical violence also made me more interested in learning about the ways in which I can do more to end violence against women. I feel more enlightened about women’s issues and how female anatomy relates to those issues than before the performance; the performance was a very rewarding experience.

Support Women Student Filmmakers at CineWomen

Join us this Thursday, March 14th, at the Screenland Crossroads for CineWomen: A Refreshing Showcase of Women in Film. Our evening begins at 6:00 PM with a panel discussion, followed by a screening of ten short films by area women filmmakers. After the screening, we’ll have a Q&A session and the end the evening with a reception and networking opportunities.

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For more information about this and other Her Art Project events, visit us online. Come by the Women’s Center at 105 Haag Hall, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

Book Review: Push by Sapphire

By Briana Ward.

Push novel coverPush is a novel written by a woman named Sapphire. This novel is far from vapid, taking its audience through the mind of a rape victim named Precious. She tells her disturbing story in the most graphic ways so that “WE”, the reader,s could feel her pain. Precious took us from her horrifying struggle inside a dark tunnel to the light of a new life.

She struggled to find her identity that was taken from her by her father. She had no one to turn to, not even her mother. This novel leaves you with a feeling of sadness and hurt even if you are not a victim of such tragedy. Through this hurt and pain, the author sent subliminal messages to teens who are victims of incest and rape.

Reading this story, I was touched. I was affected by what Precious went through. I wondered: how is it that mere words cause such emotion? I was affected because the author covered the trials almost all women go through: low self-esteem, lack of confidence, jealousy, and many more. All women, including me, have problems like these. I was able to find the hidden messages in her because I was once judged and put down.

Hidden within her words, you heard Sapphire calling out, “Even though you have been down, you can get up.” When Precious thought she couldn’t do it, when she began to lose faith for herself and her children, she found HOPE! She found hope in a bittersweet moment, getting kicked out of school for being pregnant, and being placed into an alternative school that changed her life for the better. This was a message Sapphire was trying to send to her readers, “Life is never perfect, even perfect is not perfect.” Precious would always try to find her identity in what she thought was perfection; actresses on television who were slim and lighter skinned. Have you ever felt that you were not perfect? You are not perfect, you’re “YOU”. That’s what perfect is, being who you are. Sapphire helped her readers who have suffered low self-esteem, and were always told they could not do it. But you can!

Changed for Good: A Review

If you’d like to know more about Stacy Wolf and Changed for Good, join us Tuesday, March 5 at the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. Wolf will be lecturing on the topics addressed in Changed for Good. Her lecture begins at 6:30 following a reception at 6:00 PM. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.

By Andrea Fowler

6281589012_db5a0c5f31-Broadway TourBroadway and film musicals have entertained American audiences for generations. And we have certainly noticed how those musicals enter our social consciousness and when our favorite characters reflect changing attitudes. But how often do we step back far enough to really look at the progression and evolution of these characters? Author Stacy Wolf does just that in her books A Problem Like Maria: Gender and Sexuality in the American Musical (2002), and Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical (2011).

I have had the pleasure of reading Changed for Good for a class this semester. As a singer and voice teacher, there have always been songs or characters that I gravitated towards because of the strength or emotion they presented. But it wasn’t until reading Wolf’s book that I really took the time to consider why I was drawn to these particular women. Or why I rejected other characters who did not exhibit those same qualities. Wolf’s interpretations provided new insights that I was unaware of in my previous studies of these shows.

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Wolf sets up her examination of women’s roles on a decade by decade basis, with each chapter focusing on a specific female character type that is prevalent in that decade. Her ideas are well supported by thoughtful interpretations and primary source material from musical industry insiders of the time.

For more information on this event, visit the Women’s Center online, on Facebook, or Twitter.

Wine Tasting and Networking is a Success!

By Joseph Salazar

IMG_7472Last week’s Wine Tasting and Networking Event at the Blue Room was a fun and lively event. Over 50 members of the UMKC and Kansas City communities came out for a night of jazz, wine and good times.

 

 

 

IMG_7499Attendees sampled six different types of wine and tested the accuracy of their palates by guessing which sample went with which type. The red wines, including a complex Malbac and smooth Pinot Noir were challenging for even seasoned tasters to distinguish. However, even the amateur wine enthusiasts were able to distinguish between the white wines, which included a Chardonnay and sweet Moscato.

 

IMG_7484Many of our guests were old friends but the event was also a great opportunity to make new friends and professional contacts under a cloud of smooth jazz sounds. We loved getting to meet a group of sorority sisters from Delta Phi Beta and were thrilled that Dr. Frisch from job the Department of Urban Planning brought a faculty candidate. We were happy that so many people came out and joined us for a night of fun.

 

Join us on for our next Her Art Project events on Tuesday, March 12 and Thursday, March 14. For more information on these and other events, please visit the Women’s Center on the web, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

 

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Teaching Feminism

By Morgan Elyse Christensen

The girl wants everything in pink and purple. The boy refuses to even look at anything that is. She wants to read books and play with fluffy kittens. He wants to laugh at farts and destroy things in video games. Trying to debunk stereotypes and teach 10-year-olds the importance of gender equity in a 4th grade world where these boy/girl clichés are all that seem to give them a sense of identity – especially with schoolmates – seems to be almost a lost cause. However, after having a reassuring conversation with my boy/girl twins about feminism from their perspectives, I have a feeling that, on a deeper level, I must be doing something right.

We talked about equal pay for women, women’s representation in the arts, and the illusion of male over female competency on the job. I told them that, on average, men make more money than women and that there are less works of art by female artists in most museums all over the world. My son gasped and said, “That’s not fair!” I said, “I know!”

Photo by Tod Baker

Photo by Tod Baker

Recently, their school held elections for school council. I asked them if they thought girls and boys were treated equally in the election. “Of course”, I thought to myself, “At this age they’ll surely be about equal.” To my surprise, however, my son replies, “A lot of people don’t vote for the girls because they think they’ll turn the school all girly-girlish like make the school paint the walls pink and put unicorns on them.”

Photo by Tod Baker

Photo by Tod Baker

Apparently, last year, there was only one girl on the council as treasurer. Contrariwise, this year the school has elected female members for the roles of president, vice president, and treasurer. Well, aren’t we just a little mirror of our 2013 Congress? On a side note, my daughter had her own thoughts about the voting process outside of the girl vs. boy agenda and, my, does she have a grasp on politics already. In her words: “Running for student council is just a huge popularity contest…I didn’t just vote for who was popular, though.”

So I asked them how they did vote and my son said, “Well, I voted for the girls because they were cut out for the job (I know, right?). They actually do their work in class. The boys who were running this year just goof off in school and on the bus.” My daughter said she voted for the girls as well. I asked her if that was just because they were girls like her, but she “didn’t just choose the girls because they were girls – they were just the people who worked best in class.”

Photo by Tod Baker

Photo by Tod Baker

So, despite their arguments over what’s “for girls” or what’s “for boys” and them passing this mentality on to their 5-year-old little brother (which, frankly, makes me cringe every time he says, “I want to play a boy song” because a female artist’s track is on Just Dance 3), I know that the underlying message is getting through. Whether it’s the little things like my youngest son finding a bottle of Hello Kitty bubbles in his stocking or the big moments like having these meaningful conversations, it’s working. I just hope that as they get older, and start to realize the physical differences in gender and their respective peer groups become even more influential, that I can maintain their understanding of equality between boy and girl, man and woman in the areas that truly matter.

Meet Our New Student Staff Member: Shelby Hook

shelbyHey everyone. My name is Shelby, and this is my second semester here at UMKC. I am a mass communications major. I chose UMKC because it is close to home, and I love Kansas City. I am interested in working at the UMKC Womens Center because it seems like a fun and welcoming place to be. I love meeting new people and I intend on making new relationships here at the Women’s Center.

Violence is violence, isn’t it?

By Joseph Salazar

Photo by DionGillard

Photo by DionGillard

Gays, like women, suffer from domestic violence at the hands of intimate partners. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, an organization that “empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education, and support survivors through counseling and advocacy,” documented 19 cases of homicides committed in same-sex or transgender intimate relationships in the year 2011 alone. Of those 19 cases of homicide, 63% of victims were gay men.  The collation also found that 61.6% of survivors of violence in the LGBTQ community were denied access to shelter and other survivor resources.

Members of the House of Representatives taking up the Violence Against Women Act have called protection for LGBTQ victims a “side issue” that should be addressed separately, given that our federal government does not recognize same-sex relationships.

Photo by AnnieCatBlue

Photo by AnnieCatBlue

But that’s not entirely true. Already, the Violence Against Women Act serves women who are in relationships not federally sanctioned by the federal government, namely women who are in relationships that are not categorized as ‘marriage’. The idea behind the Violence Against Women Act is that women who have been victims of violence in intimate relationships should have access to resources they need, regardless of marital status or circumstance.

The version of the Violence Against Women Act passed by the Senate expands this principle to include men. The idea behind the expansion is simple: Violence is violence. And it’s wrong. Period. One’s gender does not make surviving domestic violence easier or harder. The exclusion of gays from protection in the Violence Against Women Act recently passed by the House is a troubling political tactic with an illogical rationale.

Violence should never be protected because it is politically popular to allow violence to happen to a minority group. Allowing victims of domestic violence to receive access to invaluable services isn’t an endorsement of a lifestyle. It’s not going to lead to the destruction of the American family. It simply allows for gay men to get the same resources as straight and lesbian women receive. However you feel about homosexuality, we should all be able to agree that any step towards the protection of people’s lives is a positive one. The House of Representatives should send that message to the American people and the world when they take up the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act once more.

Intimate partner violence should never be a “side-issue”.

Call for Entries – CineWomen: A Refreshing Showcase of Women in Film

By Morgan Elyse ChristensenHerArtProject_logo2_pink_Hi-RES

Attention women student filmmakers! March is Women’s History Month and the UMKC Women’s Center has many fabulous programs lined up to celebrate it with all of you. One of our most anticipated events is the CineWomen film showcase and panel discussion. See below for information on submitting entries.KCWIFT_Logo_finalizations

Collaborating on this special Women’s History Month project are the Her Art Project, Kansas City Women in Film & Television, UMKC Department of Communication Studies , the Paris of the Plains International Student Film Festival group, Avila University, and University of Kansas Department of Film and Media Studies. Together, we are organizing a remarkable evening of discussion and CommStudiesnetworking, as well as a screening of short films to showcase the talent of the Kansas City area’s emerging female filmmakers.

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CineWomen will be held at The Screenland Theatre in the Kansas City Crossroads District on Thursday, March 14th. There will be a reception at 6pm, followed by a discussion with a few of Kansas City’s highly regarded female filmmakers and professors beginning at 6:30. We will then take a look at the work of some of Kansas City’s most talented student filmmakers before we come together to end the evening with mingling and an opportunity to network. Light refreshments will be provided as well as a cash bar. This event is free to the public – no RSVP required.

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Entries for short films written/directed by female students are being accepted until 5pm on February 21st.  Filmmakers, get your work sent in quickly! Official regulations, procedures, and entry forms available at the Women’s Center or for download here. For more information, please contact Morgan Elyse Christensen at PoPFilmKC@gmail.com or the UMKC Women’s Center at umkc-womens-center@umkc.edu or 816.235.1638.

This event was designed to celebrate the wonderful things that women of the Kansas City area have accomplished and are accomplishing within our arts community as well as help inspire our younger generation to achieve their dreams as they also develop into important role models by giving them screen time in front of Kansas City’s art and film enthusiasts and the opportunity to listen to and speak with their experienced mentors. We hope you’ll join us and show your support for female artists of every generation in the Kansas City area.

 

In Case You Missed It

By Joseph Salazar.

The semester is in full swing. Take a quick break to catch up on some news items that you might have missed in the past week.

“First lingerie line for transgender women launches”

T-Strings are the fashion industries response to the lingerie needs of transgender women. Along with T-Strings, Chrysalis Lingerie will be launching a bra line with built in-silicon inserts that appeals to both women who are transgender and women who are not transgender but have received mastectomies. The new fashion line intended to make all women feel beautiful launches this spring.

 

“Senate poised to renew Violence Against Women Act”

7218014214_fb1a366f4e_tThe Senate is expected reauthorize the Violence Against Women act with new protections for gays and lesbians. Additionally, the legislation will allow Native courts on American Indian reservations to try perpetrators of crimes against women on Native land. Immigrant women married to abusers are also to receive new protections under the new law.

 

“More mammograms mean more problems for older women, study finds”3721951306_edbca985b7_t

Women should receive mammograms only once every 2 years and only between the ages of 50 and 74, a new study has found. Recent research published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute claims that women who receive mammograms once or more per year are more likely to receive false positive diagnoses. The study also found that receiving a mammogram every year does not reduce the chance of being diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer.

 

“For Women, Reduced Access to Long-Term Care Insurance”

Women who are seeking out insurance that will allow them to receive long-term care, either in a nursing home or at home, will soon be paying as much as 40% more than men in premiums. Companies justify the changes by arguing that women are much more likely to cash out on the benefits than men are. The changes come at a time when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get long-term care insurance in the first place.

 

“Heart Disease: Women Can Miss the Warning Signs”

Women may experience different and easier to miss signs of heart disease. The confusion occurs because women often attribute warning signs to something else. This is because, for women, a heart-attack can feel similar to flu-like symptoms or dull pain.

 

“Funding: There’s a New Source for Women Entrepreneurs”

Astia Angel LogoAstia Angel is a new group looking to invest in women-led startup companies that have the potential to grow. The group, already known for providing business opportunities to women-led businesses over the past 14 years, is now starting an “angel” project that will connect women with investors interested in companies that are led by women. Startup companies led by women are much more likely to succeed than male-led companies and receive a very small slice of the pie in terms of investment.

 

“African-American women have played role in every war effort in U.S. history, research shows”5968195557_5f916edbda_t
Since black women were promised freedom if they served as spies in the Revolutionary War, they have been an integral part of fighting for America. During the Civil War, Harriett Tubman served as a spy and Cathy Williams, a former slave at a Missouri plantation, served for two years in the 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment, passing as a man. Celebrate Black History Month by reading more about this story.

 

“Women In Combat Favored By Most Voters: Poll”

6891996935_6c71260946_t75% of respondents in a poll found no problem with women serving in combat positions in the military. Women and men support the new Department of Defense policy equally. About 59% of men and 45% of women also support including women in the military draft if it were to be reinstated.

 

“Robin Roberts to return to ‘Good Morning America’ on Feb. 20”GOOD MORNING AMERICA - ROBIN ROBERTS GM08 (ABC/ Ida Mae Astute )

Breast cancer survivor and Good Morning America host Robin Roberts will be returning to the airwaves on February 20. The popular morning host had been on leave for treatment of a rare blood disorder.