A Farewell from Taylor Michl, our Graduate Assistant

 

By: Taylor Michl

Boy am I ready to sip cold drinks in the summer sunshine. But, not before reflecting on a busy semester—and year—filled with growth and fun. I’ve been graduate assistant at UMKC Women’s Center since August and it’s bizarre to think that this is the end of the road.

At the Center, I’ve been surrounded by colleagues and visitors who deeply care about the liberation of women and others that experience gender marginalization. There’s something really special about going to work everyday knowing that the smiling faces I will see deeply care about justice in the same ways I do. This semester, I have witnessed Women’s Center staff persevere, create, educate, empower, and grow. I have learned so much from them about ecofeminism, using art to empower and heal, dismantling fatphobia, and using creativity to meet students where they’re at. I’ve also been lucky to work with a variety of students, faculty, and staff in other departments through our Women’s Center programming, which has made me feel a deeper sense of community at UMKC.

Although I don’t plan to work at a university women’s center in the long term, I know that planning events, supervising staff, and building connections here will make me a more thoughtful counselor, researcher, and faculty member in the future. So, I guess all that’s left to say is thank you. Thank you all for making my feminism more informed, nuanced, and caring. Thank you for engaging in our growing gender equity community at UMKC. To anyone reading this, thank you for continuing to show up for yourself and your community every day even though it can be painful to live in a world that is less kind to some than others.

I hope your summer is filled with loved ones, fun, and taking breaks. You deserve it!

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!

Reflecting on my Women’s Center Experience

By: Jetzel Chavira

This has been one of the most fulfilling and busiest years of my life. I am reflecting my time at the Women’s Center and my most favorite part about working here was meeting my co-workers. On the daily I work with Adriana and Sierra who are my fellow work-study students. Apart from them, I also get to work with the interns which include Laura, Ebony, Emma Sauer, Emma Stuart and Alyssa.

The most challenging part of working here has been balancing work and life. I tend to get overwhelmed a lot and when I don’t organize or prioritize than I usually end up procrastinating. I found that using a physical planner and my Outlook calendar really helped. I would also make lists of what tasks I needed to do and prioritize them. Overall, the Women’s Center has been a good experience. I learned management skills, organizational skills, and had so much fun hanging out with my coworkers.

The Importance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By: Adriana Miranda

TW: sexual assault, violence

Did you know that 1 in every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape? But this doesn’t just affect women. Men who are students and 18-24 years old are FIVE times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than men of the same age who are not students. Transgender, genderqueer and nonconforming (TGQN) students are also at higher risk than other college students (source for all of these here). And these are just reported cases; who knows how much larger the number is for people who don’t ever talk about their assault? That being said, SA is something that affects us all. If you have friends who are women or TGQN, there’s a high chance they’ve experienced some form of SA. If you have male friends there is a chance they’ve experienced the same.

This is why SA Awareness Month (SAAM) exists. It’s a time for us to come together to raise awareness and to take action against sexual assault.

The Women’s Center is dedicated to spreading awareness about SA and this SAAM. As part of our programming, we participated in Denim Day on April 26, 2022. Denim Day began as the result of a court case that victim-blamed a woman for her assault. Why? The Italian Supreme Court ruled that her jeans were too tight for her rapist to remove by himself, so she must have helped remove them.  This past Wednesday, we also shared a“What Were They Wearing” display to share the stories of SA victims, heard from a survivor speaker, and finished out the event with healing arts and snacks as a break from the heavy subject matter.

 

At Coachella, Let Latin-American and Black Artists Own the Spotlight.

By: Jetzel Chavira

Karol G is a Columbian musician. She recently performed at one of the most popular music festivals, Coachella. She covered music from Latin icons such as Selena, Shakira, and Celia Cruz. She chose her outfit to have colors of the Columbian flag, as she wanted to honor Columbia. In 2022, she performed at Coachella, marking a step in the right direction for representation at this historically white festival. Although Coachella has stepped up its game this year, in the past its appropriation of different cultures has made it a toxic environment for minority attendees.

In Teen Vogue, Terri Burn writes about her experience attending Coachella as a black woman. Burns discusses how she witnessed white people scream the n-word during every rap performance, wear black hairstyles, and even encountered people who would ask to touch her hair. Even before she even went to Coachella, she stopped by an African braid shop to get her hair braided and for the first time she saw a handful of white and Asian women at this hair shop. They had just returned from the first Coachella weekend. Burns heard Kendrick Lamar perform “Alright”, and she pointed out how the song was not meant for all the white people in the crowd shouting the n-word. When Lamar starts of the song with “Alls my life I has to fight”, this is only truly meaningful to the victims of discrimination and police brutality. She witnessed appropriation to the highest degree.

In the 2022 Coachella there was much more representation. We saw Karol G, Mexican American artist Becky G and even banda act such as Grupo Firme and Banda MS. Here’s hoping that 2023 does even better.

Cosplay is for Everyone!

Harley Quinn (Batman) at Phoenix Comicon 2011, Kevin Dooley, Creative Commons

By: Emma Sauer

Over last weekend, I attended Planet Comicon. I had a blast, and it reminded me of a topic I’ve always felt strongly about. Cosplay.

If you need a definition for cosplay, just think of it like dressing up at Halloween, but instead you’re doing it at a public event. Some people even do it for a living! What’s wonderful about cosplay is that it’s a craft for anyone and everyone. There are dedicated cosplayers who dedicate days, weeks, or even years, into creating their own hand-made costumes, but there are also others who take a more relaxed approach with a store-bought costume. Both, in my opinion, are great! 

Some people care a lot about making sure they look exactly like the character they portray, but others just want to cosplay a character because they like them–and that’s completely valid. Unfortunately, a real risk cosplayers face is judgement from other fans. This judgement is often  centered on the cosplayer’s physique, gender and body type.

When I was in middle school, a good friend of mine posted her cosplay of an anime character online. She looked adorable, and she worked hard on both her cosplay and the photo shoot! The comments were awful, saying she was “too fat” to cosplay as the character. She got other nasty remarks too, all from strangers on the internet who felt like they somehow had the right to police how this teenage girl chose to portray a character she loved. 

As someone active in many online fandoms, I’ve seen many, many awful comments directed towards cosplayers just minding their own business, and more often than not, they’ve been women. Even in the realm of fandom, women still have their appearances policed by neckbeards who think it’s okay to bully others just because a cosplay doesn’t look “right”. This is so silly, it infuriates me! Why are these guys so invested in how a stranger chooses to portray a character? What makes them think they have the right to tear down teenage girls like my friend? 

Cosplay is about expressing your love or passion for a character. Just because someone doesn’t have the same cup size, weight, or appearance of a character doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to dress up as them. And by the way, if you do like a cosplayer’s outfit, that never means it’s okay to touch them or make inappropriate comments without their consent. 

To make a long story short: 

Shut up and let people have fun.

“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

Someone’s Gotta Say It: True Feminism Includes All Trans People.

By: Emma Sauer

(Alternative title: JK Rowling needs to be blasted from a cannon straight into the sun.)

J.K Rowling is one of those rich people who could have had things so easy. She wrote a beloved children’s book franchise, sold upwards of 500 million copies, and made a crap-ton of cash from her beloved books becoming equally beloved movies. I can only guess the billions of dollars in sales she got from those life-size Dobby statues.  

All she had to do was shut up and live out the rest of her days in her stupidly lavish multi-million dollar mansion. But for some reason, that’s never enough for celebrities. They have to feel big and important, so they become activists on whatever suits their fancy–animal welfare, poverty, the whales. Usually that’s harmless, but JK Rowling wanted to champion herself as a woke-AF independent woman™. This started as her declaring characters such as Albus Dumbledore to be gay, and embracing fan visions of the characters as POC (people of color). A nice gesture, if a bit of an empty one, seeing as how she never actually put in the effort to include quality representation into her books (We have only a few POC characters, and they’re riddled with stereotypes. See Cho-Chang, whose name is a couple letters away from an asian slur.)

As the years have gone on, she’s gone from being an insincere activist to a mouthpiece for transphobic politicians. To be more specific, she’s an outspoken TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist). TERFS identity as feminists, but they exclude the rights of transgender women from their advocacy of women’s rights. Often TERFS appear progressive on the surface,  and will be loud and outspoken about their desire to protect and empower cis women. Underneath that facade, however, is an ugly rhetoric that harms trans women’s sense of self and safety (Which, if you ask me, makes them pretty lousy feminists). TERFS often partner with certain lawmakers and political groups to push against transgender equality in areas such as athletic competition, access to public spaces, and healthcare for trans kids. 

Rowling in particular is dangerous to the feminist cause. It’s one thing for a celebrity to make a mistake, an off-color joke, or have done bad things in the past. It’s a whole other thing when they actively campaign against a group on social media. In Rowling’s case, it seems to be even easier to attract people to the TERF cause because of the language she uses. One of her “deepest concerns” is that by allowing trans-women into public spaces such as bathrooms, sexual predators will also be invited in. In her own words: 

“When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.”

Except no, it’s not. Nondiscrimination laws say nothing about allowing men into women’s statements. Allowing transgender folks in bathroom is a civic necessity. The discomfort, shame, and fear they feel of not being able to have that access is very real, and Rowling is willing to shove all that aside for the false claim that it will allow men into women’s bathrooms. Rowling either believes a false version of the law or is deliberately lying to further her point.  In this statement Rowling also alludes to the long-held myth that sexual predators pretend to be trans and skulk around women’s bathrooms all day, ready to strike at any moment. This myth has been debunked over and over by watchdog groups like Media Matters.

As someone who has enjoyed Harry Potter into even adulthood, it’s difficult to grapple with the fact that someone who has created such a beloved property could have bigoted views–especially when Rowling is so outspoken about the importance of feminism. I can agree with her there–but I don’t want any part in a version that doesn’t include all women.

Women Who Lead, Read

By: Ebony Taylor

Women’s Center Library, 105 Haag Hall

Since starting college, there has been little time, if at all, that I have gotten to sit down, pick up a book, and read. No distractions, no emails, no assignment deadlines, just me and the smell of printed paper.  As a book lover, I came across a list of feminist-written reads that I had to share. If you have already been introduced to the world of feminist writing, or are just getting started, this list is compiled with reads from feminist thinkers and novelists to poets and producers of feminist pornography. There is something for all. I have picked 7 books that I think I would want to pick up, but you should visit Esquire to get the entire list.  If you want even more feminist reading, don’t forget to check out our Women’s Center library, located in our office at 105 Haag Hall! 

 This collection of essays and poems are from women of color who raise awareness for issues that women continue to face. This book is said to connect with women of all ages, race, and genders.  

This witty, humorous collection of stories recounts memories from the author’s life and identity as a Native American woman.  Midge reflects on feminism, tweeting presidents, and white-bread privilege. Enjoy Midge’s urban-Indigenous identity and how it has impacted her ideas on culture, race, media, and feminism. 

Rana el Kaliouby is entrepreneur and scientist, working in the field of emotional intelligence, Emotional AI,  and cofounder and CEO of Affectiva, a start-up company spun off of MIT Media Lab. This book is a memoir that highlights the conflict between her Egyptian upbringing and her goals in life. 

This book shows how men express emotions in different stages of life, status, and ethnicity and how toxic masculinity skews men away from an important part of themselves. It discusses men’s concerns, like the fear of intimacy and their role as patriarchs in society.  

 We already know stories of magical creatures and witches, but Circe recreates the sorceress from Homer’s Odyssey in a feminist light. The overlooked character of Circe gives rise to her independence in a male-dominated world.   

A collection of writings from feminists in the adult entertainment industry and research by feminist porn scholars. This book investigates how feminists understand pornography and how they produce, direct, act in, and buy a into a large and successful business. Authors of these writings also explore pornography as a form of expression where women produce power and pleasure.  

Serano writes about her journey before and after transitioning, expressing how fear, suspicion, and dismissiveness towards femininity molds society’s view on trans women, gender and sexuality. Serano also proposes that feminists today and transgender activists must collaborate to embrace all forms of femininity.  

Artist Salon Spotlight: Meet Stasi Bobo-Ligon!

By: Emma Stuart

This is the start of a segment of blogs highlighting local artists that will be involved in the Artist’s Salon, sponsored by the Women’s Center at the InterUrban ArtHouse on April 1, 6-7 p.m. This posting is about local artist Stasi Bobo-Ligon. Staci is a local to Kansas City and studied at UMKC before moving to Chicago. In Chicago she attended the Art Institute of Chicago where she developed her art as a contemporary artist. While studying there she received highly sought after, Art House Studio Gallery’s Artist-in-Residence position. While maintaining her residency her art practice thrived and allowed her to create an expansive portfolio. She is currently showing work at the InterUrban ArtHouse. To get to know our featured speakers we asked them some questions about themselves and their work.

Q: What is your preferred medium of creativity?

“My preferred medium of creativity is mixed media. I like to mix painting, with collage and assemblage work.”

Q: What is your interest in participating in the Artist’s Salon?

“I am always interested in exchanging information, feedback and ideas about what inspires and motivates creatives. I’m especially excited about this Artist Salon because I have the opportunity to talk with a diverse group of women about what motivated and inspired us to create for this show—I’m looking forward to hearing about and learning from their experiences! Also, I’m excited to be part of an art program hosted by UMKC’s Women’s Center because I’m an alum of the university.”

Q: What is a source of inspiration for your work?

“Because I currently have a full time job taking up most of my time, often, a primary source of my work is an emotional reaction or response to a moment. Like for example, the inspiration for my work in the Her Art/Their Art show was/is my reaction to various women rapper’s braggadocious and vulgar lyrics in their songs, as well as my reaction to last year’s Grammy performance by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion while rapping their collab, ‘WAP’.”

Q: Are there any projects you are currently working on that you are excited about?

“I’m excited about the Her Art/Their Art show because of the diversity of perspectives being shared artistically.”

Q: How do you see the intersection of art and gender in your own work? And how has this empowered you, or others?

“The intersection exists because I deliberately see and interpret the world through an identity that is first Black and then cisgender female. That empowers me because my art helps me share a perspective that can be left up to interpretation by the receiver.”

If you are interested learning more about Stasi and her work, she has a profile on The Art House Gallery linked here. And if you want to hear what Stasi has to say on the intersection of art and gender join us at the InterUrban ArtHouse on April 14, 6-7 p.m. for our discussion-, “Gender, Art, and Power”.