Women’s Center Update

Effective March 19, UMKC Women’s Center staff will be working remotely in accordance with the University COVID-19 response. While all in-person programming remaining for the spring semester has been canceled and the the Center has been closed until at least April 13, please know that you can still contact us and set up virtual appointments by emailing bethmanb@umkc.edu or umalia@umkc.edu

 

We recognize that this is a difficult time for many, but remember that you are not alone, and if you need support please contact us or utilize these other resources available to you:

Resources Page:

https://info.umkc.edu/womenc/services/campus-and-community-resources/

UMKC COVID-19 Response:

 

Lucretia Mott, The Lioness

Image credited to Wikimedia Commons

By Kyra Charles

There is a reserved canon of influential women who were considered pioneers of the Women’s Suffrage movement. Through the years, the Women’s Center has written about Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells and Sojourner Truth. But today, I want to write about Lucretia Mott, one of the famous suffragists who will be appearing on the back of $10 bill this August. Throughout her life, Lucretia fought tooth and nail not only for women’s suffrage, but for social reforms like the right to divorce and African Americans’ right to vote. Without Lucretia, many of the famous suffragists we know wouldn’t have made the strides they did.

Lucretia Mott, born Lucretia Coffin in 1793, was raised as a Quaker. Her religious education and upbringing taught her that all people were equal under God, including those that were living in slavery. She founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, and hosted the second Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women in 1838. Throughout this time at her life, she was under constant threat from abolition opponents and even other abolitionists who didn’t want women at their meetings. Angry mobs targeted her events and gathered outside her home. Lucretia was unfazed, and at the 1838 convention, assigned every white women to walk arm and arm with a black women for safety.

Her efforts paid off, as she was invited to the White House to speak in front of Congress and met with President John Tyler. Lucretia was also one of the six women who spoke at the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention, and gained the title of “Lioness of the Convention” for her speech. She dazzled the crowd, including a twenty-four year old Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who Lucretia would take under her wing.

Together, they organized the famous Seneca Falls Convention, where many of the brightest minds fighting against social injustice gathered to discuss women’s rights. She signed the Declaration of Sentiments, which not only demanded a woman’s right to vote, but to education, divorce, property, and career. Following the Civil war, she became the first president of the American Equal Rights Association. But when her former pupil Elizabeth Cady Stanton joined with a known racist businessman, Lucretia resigned. For years, she tried to heal the divide between the white female suffragists and African Americans, truly believing equality didn’t stop with a white woman’s right to vote.

From appearances alone, Lucretia Mott doesn’t give the impression of a “Lioness” but that is exactly what she was. For decades she fearlessly advocated for equal rights and the end to slavery, even in the face of violence and unpopularity. She was able to take her voice where few women had gone before, and keep going after that. Lucretia was able to lead a life that many women after her hoped to live, one where she practiced what she preached with determination and kindness.

Harvey Weinstein: A Man Who Went From Greatness to Rapist

By Maggie Pool

Trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault and rape.

Harvey Weinstein is a famous former Hollywood film producer and a convicted sex offender. How did he end up with those two descriptions in the first line of his Wikipedia page?

Harvey and his brother grew up with a passion for films. They didn’t start off in the film business, though. They began by producing rock concerts along with their friend Corky Burger as Harvey & Corky Productions through the 1970s. They brought in top-notch acts like Frank Sinatra, Jackson Browne, and The Rolling Stones. Using the money made from their days as Harvey & Corky Productions, the Weinstein brothers purchased their own independent film distribution company and called it Miramax, a mashup of their parents’ names, Miriam and Max Weinstein.

Now, Miramax is a renowned company for producing many of America’s prized independent films, like  Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), The Crying Game (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), Heavenly Creatures (1994), Flirting with Disaster (1996), and Shakespeare in Love (1998). Weinstein won many awards for these films, including an Academy Award for producing Shakespeare in Love. He also went on to succeed in producing arthouse cinema and more independent film. Miramax had so much success that in 1993 Disney offered to purchase the company from Weinstein for $80 million dollars. So where did it all go wrong?

In 2017, a new movement set the nation on fire. The #MeToo Movement united women in telling their stories of sexual harassment. Over a dozen women accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and rape. Once these accusations took hold of the media, Weinstein was fired from his production company, expelled from the Academy, suspended from the British Academy, and denounced by several political figures who previously supported him.

Weinstein was formally charged by New York police with “rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct for incidents involving two separate women” on May 25, 2018. A jury convicted Weinstein on February 24, 2020 of criminal sexual assault in the first degree and one count of rape in the third degree. Weinstein faces between 5 to 29 years of prison.

Mimi Haleyi, who testified at the weeks-long trial that Weinstein forced oral sex on her in 2006, was in a coffee shop when she heard the verdict. She said to Good Morning America, “I just sat down, and I started crying, and I had to go out into the street because I didn’t want to be crying in a coffee shop,” she said. “It was just a huge sense of relief – relief that the jury got it; that they believed me and that I was heard.”

Here are some statements from other victims of Harvey Weinstein, and supporters of those victims, after his conviction:

“He will forever be guilty.”

-Tarana Burke

“This is what he has created for himself, prison, lack of remorse, lack of accountability.”

-Ashley Judd

“Every day that I live and enjoy my life is a victory over Harvey.”

-Rowena Chiu

“I did it for all of us. I did it for the women who couldn’t testify. I couldn’t not do it.”

-Dawn Dunning

“It’s time for men who witness bad behavior to have the courage to step up and bear witness to it.”

-Irwin Reiter

“Hopefully this gives more women the strength to come forward.”

-Lucia Evans

Operation Beautiful: How We Can Be More Body Positive To Others

By Haley Dean

When we think of being body positive, we often think about ourselves. However, being body positive towards others is just as important. With body image disorders and eating disorders being as common as they are, often times people say things without even realizing that it can be hurtful towards others. So, how can we be body positive to not only ourselves, but others, too?

The first thing you can is shut down other’s negative comments. Whether it’s on social media or in person, and whether or not they are aware that they are saying something negative, be the person to tell them that what they are saying is hurtful. Let them know how to be more positive. For a general rule of thumb, not commenting on physical aspects is the way to go. Instead of commenting on physical aspects, keep comments more general. For example, “That skirt looks great on you!”, or “I love your lipstick!” Another thing to keep in mind is to not comment on other people’s food. If they are eating, if they aren’t eating, what they are eating, etc. It’s usually better to not make any comment about it. You never know what little thing you say could affect somebody.

And then, there’s skinny shaming. Not cool. While you may think that commenting on somebody’s thinness can’t be an insult, it can be. Telling somebody “you need to eat a cheeseburger”, or “you need some more meat on your bones”, is still body shaming, even though it’s not fat shaming. Fat shaming and skinny shaming can both be hurtful towards others. Some people may struggle to gain weight, while others may struggle to lose weight. It doesn’t matter your size; how big, how small, it can still be hurtful. To be safe, don’t comment on somebody’s size. Again, back to the general terms when complimenting others.

Remember, everybody is beautiful. Be conscious of what you say about others, stop the negative comments, and always spread positivity.

Help us spread positivity on campus by participating in the Operation Beautiful Events!

Make shrink art and post sticky notes around campus with body positive sayings on them!

Crafty Feminist Afternoon at the Women’s Center: Tuesday, March 3, 12:00-2:00 pm. Haag Hall Room 105.

Operation Beautiful Information Table: Thursday March 5, 11:00-1:00 pm. Royall Hall 1st Floor Lobby.

Roo Up, Woman Up

By Shanakay Osbourne

For this semester, the Women’s Center partnered with the UMKC Athletics for tabling events. The purpose of the Roo Up with the Women’s Center event was to promote the KC Roos Women’s Basketball games. On behalf of the Women’s Center we reached out to individuals by introducing them to the services we provide and our mission to educate, support, and advocate for women. During the event we gave away free items such as Roo up buttons and free pens. 

 

I believe that partnership with others is essential to creating successful and effective programs. Groups work together as a team to plan and implement ideas for events. Collaborating with others allow for networking opportunities. Not only are you able to work with others, you can also learn about the resources that they use and what helps them to be successful when putting on events. Partnerships also promote support. Student organizations and departments can support each other’s events. Also, you will be able to reach a larger audience to promote them. 

 

For me, the event was a great experience. I had the opportunity to learn more about UMKC Athletics. I also met other UMKC students and faculty. Interacting with others allows me to inform individuals about the Women’s Center and build a rapport. Participating in the events helped me to improve on leadership skills, communications skill, and practice teamwork.  

 

One advice that I would give to others is to get involved on campus. I know as students it can be difficult to maintain a work-life balance when you have school, work, and extracurricular activities. Participating in campus events allow individuals to know about the resources that they have available to them. In addition to getting free stuff, you get to meet new people and develop networking skills. Most importantly, you will be able to educate others about what you learned and refer them to resources here on campus. 

The Vagina Monologues: Are They Still Relevant?

By Elise Wantling

As you may have heard, this year, like many years past, the UMKC Women’s Center is putting on a production of The Vagina Monologues on February 27th. When I was first hired at the Women’s Center last October I was told this was an event we would be putting on, and it piqued my curiosity. I had heard of the monologues but beyond the name I didn’t know much about them, as I had never attended or heard of a school where they were put on local performances. As someone with a vagina who does not identify as a woman, it initially bothered me that the monologues were still a thing, as it seemed like it was using “vagina” interchangeably with “woman”. As we now know in 2020, not everyone with a vagina is a woman, nor do you have to have a vagina to be a woman. Before I made any sort of judgement about the monologues though, I decided I should do some digging and find out just what they were all about.

After reading up a bit about it on the Wikipedia page, I learned a bit more about the history of the monologues. Originally, it was written about cis women and their bodies. But in 2004, playwright Even Ensler added a monologue about being a trans woman. In a 2015 Time article, Ensler wrote that “The Vagina Monologues never intended to be a play about what it means to be a woman. It is and always has been a play about what it means to have a vagina. In the play, I never defined a woman as a person with a vagina.”

Yes, some of the monologues are written from the perspective of girls or women explicitly, but not all of them are. Some can be interpreted just as experiences of other vagina-owners. UMKC currently opens our performance to be performed by all women and nonbinary people who would like to be involved. The Vagina Monologues is ever-evolving, with Ensler adding new ones and tweaking the script each year. Perhaps in the future she could write from the perspective of a trans man’s vagina, or a non-binary person’s vagina. Or she could consult some trans women who have elected for bottom surgery about their experiences with their vaginas. Or even non-bottom op trans women about their experiences with what vagina means to them. I feel there’s a lot of different topics she could explore while striving to make the play more inclusive. There are thousands of stories out there about vaginas, how the shape of one’s genitals dictates their treatment in society and the roles they are allowed to play. All of those stories deserve to be told. As long as Ensler keeps working on telling those stories and doesn’t intentionally leave any out, I think she’s doing good work.

I do not think The Vagina Monologues are free of criticism, but I do think they try their best to be inclusive. It’s a fluid project, and the script seems to be a living document, changing from year to year. It is definitely a project I am excited to support, and I look forward to seeing the performance for the first time this February. You should come check it out too!

Meet Val Baul, Which Rhymes With Foul Ball

By Sabrina Zavala

This week I had the privilege to interview one of our amazing cast members in The Vagina Monologues. She is a mother to an almost 18-year old boy, she loves to travel all around the world, including places like Peru, and she loves to call herself a feminist! Her name is Val Baul.

Val Baul decided to join The Vagina Monologues after seeing her friend perform in them. She loved being in a room of people who were so hyped to be involved. She has seen the monologue twice before in 2008 and 2015, but after meeting with our very own Senior Assistant Director, Arzie Umali, she was encouraged to try out and connect with people who are passionate about women’s issues. Being a performance artist, Val pushed herself to try and not only perform for herself but perform for the audience as well.

Val will be performing in The Flood and The Angry Vagina. When I had asked her what each of the monologues meant to her, she was excited to tell me why she loved each monologue so much. The Flood gave her the opportunity to not only talk in a British accent, but it gave her the chance to talk about a topic that no one really ever talks about. Val believes it’s important to “amplify a voice so profound” Val’s passion doesn’t stop at The Flood, but also to The Angry Vagina. I could tell that Val was stimulated by the monologue and how meaningful it was to her. If you were given the opportunity to talk with Val, you could tell that she is very energetic and loves to play different types of roles. The Angry Vagina gave her the opportunity to play angry because “if you’re not outraged, then you’re not paying attention” The Angry Vagina is a declaration for motivation and expression of anger. “Everyone comes from a uterus, it is a great moment to articulate the (sic) anger” she says. Val loves The Angry Vagina because everyone deserves to be angry and “have a reason to be a voice about the anger (sic) for billions of women”

While performing on stage, Val hopes to gain more knowledge in women’s issues that she’s not fully aware of. Yes, she considers herself a feminist, but not every feminist knows everything. She’s not worried about what she will get out of performing, but mainly what the audience will get out of it. Val had told me that she wants to be the “voice of the voiceless” To me, she has already achieved that.

When talking with Val, I was given so much inspiration and knowledge on things that I honestly did not know about. If she could say one thing to someone coming to the Vagina Monologues for the first time, it would be, “Don’t be afraid. Be fearless and play” Val and all the other cast members of the Vagina Monologues are giving a voice not just to the figures in the monologues, but to the audience and any other woman too afraid to speak up.

A Reflection on V-Day

By Adriana Suarez

V-Day, most would think, means Valentine’s Day. The day of the cupid and for love birds to celebrate their love for one another. For us at the Women’s Center it means a lot more than that. V-day, in fact, does NOT just stand for Valentine’s Day during the month of February. In fact, it stands for Victory Day. Working at the Women’s Center has been an eye opener because I never knew that V-day was something other than Valentine’s Day.

What is Victory day?

Victory day is a global movement that stands to end violence within the community. More specifically it is geared towards girls and women, whether they are cisgender, transgender, or any other gender subject to violence.

V-day is a correlating event that happens with the production of the Vagina Monologues. (Information about Vagina Monologues included below). Vagina Monologues is a play written by Eve Ensler. It touches on very important and sensitive topics that not many people want to discuss. This play has played a very important role in women’s empowerment and that is part of the reason why we take part in producing the play every year in the month of February.

As a center that supports women’s equity not only across campus but also within our community, this time of the year is especially important because we are able to expressively and openly share V-Day at tabling events across campus.

Honestly, it’s a really exciting time around the center because we are encouraging and engaging with community members and students to learn more about these topics and promoting the Women’s Center at the same time. I enjoy working here around this time because it’s a large fundraiser for us to fund other events we hold throughout the year. In the earlier months of October and November, we get many inquiries about auditions and people visiting the center and it’s really exciting to see people engage in this and their willingness to participate.

Our next V-Day table will be:

Monday February 24, 12:00- 2:00 pm, Royall Hall Lobby, 800 E. 52nd St.

We hope you join us at Vagina Monologues on Thursday, February 27th.

Resource Fair begins at 6:30; Doors open at 7:00 pm; Performance starts at 7:30 pm

Am I a Gender Traitor?

By Elise Wantling

My name is Elise, and I am nonbinary. Yes, I work at the Women’s Center, but I am not a woman. I’m not a man either. I’m just Elise. When addressing me I ask that people use “they” pronouns instead of “she” or “he” to reflect this. Yes, sometimes it’s hard grammatically or trips people up, but I feel it is necessary to be called “they” so that I can feel a little bit more like me.

Being nonbinary is difficult, plain and simple. A lot of people refuse to believe there can be more than two genders in the first place, or accept the idea that gender ≠ sex. Usually after introducing myself and my pronouns I have to do a lot of educating, about who I am and how I feel and why I choose to identify as nonbinary instead of as the gender I was assigned at birth. What people don’t understand is that being nonbinary wasn’t a flippant choice for me. I did a lot of internal work before I decided to go public about my gender identity.

One of the biggest struggles I had before fully accepting I was nonbinary was with the idea of being a “gender traitor”. I felt like I was turning my back on women-kind. I had been raised and encouraged by so many strong women, women who poured so much into me and expected me to do the same with other girls to make them into strong women. But what if I wasn’t a woman? Would their work have been in vain?

Growing up I was a proud Girl Scout (I actually have a lifetime membership now), my best friend was my mom, I believed in girl power and supporting other women and girls, I wanted to be the first female president. I was 100% a die-hard “strong woman” on the outside. But on the inside, things were more complex than that. Being a woman was like wearing a shoe that was too small; the toes pinched, I had a few blisters, but dang the shoes looked nice on the outside. It didn’t quite fit, and the problems were gradually beginning to show.

I struggled with wanting to wear the shoes that fit and loving the style of the shoes that were too small. I knew being nonbinary was who I truly was. Being a woman felt more like an act or a persona for me, but I loved the culture. If I went public about the way I was feeling, I would be losing a special kind of bond that I had with so many wonderful women in my life. No longer would we be sisters at arms, I would become an Other.

Of course, I am now writing this blog from the perspective of an openly nonbinary person, so it is something I overcame. It was a major struggle, and probably my biggest hesitation about coming out. I didn’t want to seem like a gender traitor, but I know I’m not. I’m still an ally to women and girls. I didn’t turn my back on them or “betray” them, I focused on becoming true to myself and found strength in that. I didn’t come out as nonbinary because I was turning my back on being a woman, because I was never a woman. I’m simply living my truth.

A Theatre Minor’s Thoughts on the Vagina Monologues

By Kyra Charles

Last year, I caved to the advertisements around campus for the Vagina Monologues and went to go see it. I hadn’t a clue what to expect. Two dozen women, most of whom I didn’t know, walked onto the stage and started talking about sex, masturbation, birth, surgery, violence, and most importantly, their vaginas. It was a remarkably intimate space, one that made me laugh, shudder, and ultimately feel more hopeful. I ended up staying for the Q & A and wishing I’d bought a vagina pop before they’d sold out.

This year, I auditioned and was accepted for a role in the show. This is my first time ever performing in the Vagina Monologues. I’m a theatre minor with emphasis in acting, and a relative of mine called it my “first big production” I’m nervous, not from stage fright, but because my parents and possibly more of my family will try to attend, and none (except for my mother) are comfortable with saying the word “vagina” This might be the rawest, most vulnerable show I’ve been in yet.

Being an actor and performing in the monologues seems obvious, and yet doesn’t feel that way. Many of the other performers are locals who identify more as students and business women than actors. Most of my friends in the theatre department are working on other, more extravagant productions. The rehearsals are shorter because of the cast size, the lines aren’t required to be memorized, and the show itself is less of a play and more of a compilation of essays. Sometimes I wonder how it would look professionally on my acting resume.

That isn’t to say I feel any regret about my involvement. What other people say and think is not important to why I’m doing the Vagina Monologues. This show does everything it can to be about everything involving vaginas. It creates a feeling that you aren’t alone. Outside of the monologues, vaginas are often treated as dirty, subpar and submissive to other forms of genitalia, or even monstrous (like the facehuggers in Alien). But in that theatre, among the audience of people who want to talk about vaginas and their inherently controversial existence, there’s a reassurance that you aren’t alone. I adore these stories with my entire heart.

Although I identify as cisgender, I will be part of a monologue that tells the story of a trans woman and her struggle to be comfortable with her identity. I’m not trying to be this woman, but I want to do my best in being an outlet for her story, from her dreams to her darkest moments. Part of being an actor is paying attention to the details of what a character says and gaining a better understanding of them. It’s a psychological assessment that brings that person, fictional or otherwise, to life onstage. There are thousands of trans women around the world that are going through what this unnamed woman does, and the least I can do is relay her story with respect. Her experiences are not mine, but I truly believe she needs to be heard.

Acting in the Vagina Monologues has been a mix of excitement, nerves, and determination. I’m unsure of the reaction from my family or the audience or any future director I’ll be working with, but I want to give this show my all. Maybe I’ll even audition for it again after I graduate. The Vagina Monologues continues to exist for their relevance, brutal honesty, and ultimate beauty. I hope everyone who reads this blog will come see the show, whether they have a vagina or not. I’m ready for whatever this show will bring me (though I really hope it’ll include a vagina pop).