You Can’t Objectify Me or My Leggings

By: Christina Terrell

Over the years women have always been told what they should and should not wear. Even in the current year of 2019 women are still held to a stigma that they should not wear things that show their “curviest” assets or skin. The impression has been that when women are body shamed for what they wear and how their body is built, it is men who are doing the scolding. This is far from the case of Maryann White and how she expressed her feelings about young ladies wearing leggings.

Maryann White is a mother of two boys who one day when she was at Notre Dame’s church for mass service, noticed a group of young ladies dressed in “black painted on leggings”, with short shirts that did not cover their backsides. This was a distraction in Maryann’s eyes, not only for her but also her children. She responded by writing a letter to the Notre Dame student newspaper, expressing her concerns with the wearing of leggings and how young ladies should not be allowed to do so in mass or on campus.

However, after Notre Dame received this letter, it was quickly published in the student newspaper by request of the female students in question. The female students of Notre Dame decided that the best way to respond to this through awareness and peaceful protest. One of the outcomes of their actions included the women of Notre Dame starting a #leggingdayND. During this day, which later turned into a full week, encouraged the women of the Notre Dame campus to wear their leggings and then to post a video or picture to social media, expressing that there is no one or nothing that should be allowed to tell a female what they should and should not be able to wear on their campus and religious spaces.

In my opinion women should not be objectified to having to look a certain way in a place of religion but they should instead be able to freely practice their religion in their own skin or what makes them comfortable. It is important that we engage in the conversation that no one wants to have, women are not the issue, and neither is what we decide to put on our bodies, after all, it is our body!

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

By Caitlin Easter

“People want this to be an anomaly…. we can handle monsters, we can’t handle our neighbors doing these things. We can’t believe these are the same people we see at Christmas parties, and basketball games.” ― T. E. Carter

Did you know that 1 in every 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime? Did you know that in 8 out of every 10 rapes, the victim knew the perpetrator? April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so let’s talk about it. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center defines Sexual Assault Awareness Month as “a campaign to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it.” This year’s theme is “I Am,” and serves to “champion the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.”

In its officially documented capacity, this year is the 18th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM); if you’re wondering why this month should be important to you, I’ll tell you why—sadly, almost everyone knows a victim or a perpetrator, and sexual assault doesn’t seem to be a thing that is getting better. This campaign aims to bring awareness and spark a conversation about sexual assault and its long lasting effects. As we talk about it more, we create a safer and less stigmatized space to come forward and say #MeToo.

This month the Women’s Center, in partnership with campus sororities, will be hosting a Denim Drive from April 8 – April 19 and a Reclaiming Denim art event on April 19 where we will decorate the denim to prepare for Denim Day on April 24 where all of the denim artwork will be displayed on the quad as part of a sexual assault awareness campaign. We would love for you to join us!

The NSVRC has some amazing resources for understanding and teaching consent for Sexual Assault Awareness month. If you would like to view these resources, you can find them at https://www.nsvrc.org/saam

You can read more about the history of SAAM at: https://www.nsvrc.org/saam/history

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Mrs. Kathryn Johnson

By Caitlin Easter

For my final blog of Women’s History Month, I would like to talk about a woman who not only made an incredible impact in my life, but also works every day to show every young girl that has the privilege to meet her what it means to be a strong woman. Mrs. Kathryn Johnson majored in Secondary Education with a focus in English and a minor in Speech and Theater at the University of Missouri – Kansas City and went on to get her Masters in School Counseling from the University of Central Missouri. Mrs. Johnson taught and counseled at a few different schools before finally landing in the town where I would finally have the chance to meet her, Warsaw. I’ve known her for quite a while as I grew up in the same class with one of her sons, but it wasn’t until the 8th grade that I was able to meet Mrs. Johnson in the capacity that had the strongest influence on my life. Serving as not only the Guidance Counselor of John Boise Middle School, but also as the Speech and Debate coach of Warsaw High School, she influenced my life in many ways. She served as trained shoulder to cry on and an advocate for my mental health when I pushed myself too far with obligations. From being the person who shared her hidden chocolate with me on bad days to being the person who introduced me to Speech and Debate and fielded my first mental breakdown in college, Mrs. Johnson did—and continues to do—it all.

In her role as my speech coach, she allowed me to realize my potential and led me to State Speech for three of my four years in high school. And one of those years, she went way past what is expected of her, more than she even usually does, and took on a huge time commitment to allow our group event, Reader’s Theater, to write our own piece. Reader’s Theater is a collaborative event by a team that uses more of an interpretive style of acting as opposed to normative styles of acting; with Reader’s, you have a lot more freedom to interpretation and you are allowed to write your own performance piece instead of using an existing one. As the wife of a farmer, the mother to two boys, a Guidance Counselor, an active community member, and the coach of a speech and debate program, there isn’t much time left over for anything else, but that didn’t stop her from doing so much more. She took it upon herself to lead a group of eight girls to find our vision and write our piece, and then she organized, edited, and directed it alone. Our piece was entitled “Fight Like a Girl” and embodied the struggles and triumphs of being a woman as written and told by eight students and one amazing teacher, as well as a few already existing poetry pieces that we mixed in. We covered everything from periods, to what it is to be a woman, to our own personal stories of sexual assault and abuse. She led us in our triumphs such as making State Speech and our shortcomings such as missing qualifying for finals at state by a single place. She allowed us to tell the truths of being a woman even though some people in my rather small community might not approve. She allowed us to experience being a woman through the eyes of girls with different viewpoints, cultures, ages, and experiences. She didn’t ask us to perform a pretty piece to appease everyone who was going to watch it, she asked us to perform our piece in a way that was true to ourselves and what we wanted to say. She didn’t do the job for the recognition or the pay, she did it for us and would do it for anybody who walked through those school doors.

She is one of the biggest reasons I came to UMKC, but beyond that she is a huge reason that I am the woman I am today. Always going a step further than she is called to, Mrs. Johnson will forever be tied with some of my best memories, as my mentor, my friend, and generally one of the greatest women I will ever know.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Martha Coffin Pelham Wright

By Ann Varner

Martha Coffin Pelham Wright was one of five women who planned the first women’s right convention and presided over numerous women’s rights and anti-slavery conventions (womenshistory.org). She is known for her contributions to humanities and was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007. Wright was born in 1806 to a large family with “a strong female role model in her mother, Anna Folger Coffin, and the Quaker tenets of individualism, pacifism, equality of the sexes, and opposition to slavery, young Martha was well prepared for her future role as an abolitionist and suffragist” (womenofthehall.org).

On July 19th and 20th of 1848, she and five other women held the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Following that historic event, Wright went on to continuing activism in women’s rights and the abolishment of slavery. She worked with the American Anti-Slavery Society and was the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Wright passed away in 1875 but was able to witness the abolishment of slavery. There is a Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls which has a life size statue to commemorate her. The statue shows her as pregnant because when she held the women’s rights convention she was six months pregnant with her seventh child.

Picture from womenofthehall.org

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Deborah Tucker

By Brittany Soto

Deborah D. Tucker is best known for her efforts in taking steps to end violence against women. Her determination to advocate against violence began when she volunteered at the first rape crisis center in Texas in 1974. Since then, she has helped to create shelters, battered intervention programs and other services that aid women who are victims of domestic abuse. She went on to promote laws and policies in order to improve how law enforcement responds to these cases and became one of the co-founders of The National Center of Domestic and Sexual Violence. She has dedicated her life to advocating and speaking out against gender based violence and went on to receive many awards for her leadership and contribution to this issue. Among these awards, were the Domestic Violence Peace Prize, Standing in The Light of Justice, The Sunshine Lady Award, Outstanding Achievement Award, and her very own Deborah D. Tucker Staff Achievement Award.

Domestic violence is a serious issue that many women face and it’s people like Deborah D. Tucker who ensure this issue is never swept under the rug or forgotten about, It’s people like Deborah who act as a voice for the many women who are victims of domestic violence, and it’s people like Deborah who inspire me to want to help others and make a positive impact in the lives of others such as she has. In honor of Women’s History Month, I am proud to give a shout out to this amazingly compassionate woman.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Sonie Ruffin

By Christina Terrell

My first encounter with Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin was at the Women’s Center 2019 “Persistent Muse: Women, Art and Activism” event. For this event the Women’s Center partnered with the Inter-Urban Art-House where a panel of influential Women, like Ruffin, spoke about how their artwork advocates for Women’s rights and issues.

During the panel event I found that Sonié’s presentation really spoke to me personally. She embodied a very vibrant and genuine personality. Sonié was not just lecturing and telling us about her background and career but she was putting emotion, humor while sharing a story with the audience that really connected all she has done for women’s activism too her audience.

Another aspect that drew me to Sonie’s story was that along with the fact that she is a renowned contemporary fabric artist, author, lecturer and independent curator, she has also conducted workshops and lectures on African-American quilting.

Ruffin’s extraordinary textile work has been displayed in numerous museums, art exhibits and galleries internationally. However, one place that her quilts have been displayed that really hits home for me would have to be that her very first art exhibit was displayed right here in Kansas City and more importantly, at UMKC African American Culture House .

Sonié has been a-part of many influential events, but to imagine that to this day she loves to come back to where her activism journey all started. She is honored every time she comes to educate and advocate here at UMKC and share her story with young women like me. She has inspired myself and others to explore their artistic side and I commend her because you never know where or when your women’s activism journey will start.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Dr. Diana E. H. Russell

By Caitlin Easter

“Professor Russell is the recognized academic expert on the empirical study of sexual violence
against women in the United States, and a leading authority on this subject throughout the world. None
of the conceptual, factual, political, or legal advances in understanding, documenting, and opposing
violence against women in this country, including my own work, would have been possible without her
ground-breaking studies and scholarly publications.” – Catharine MacKinnon, Ph.D.

Dr. Diana E. H. Russell is one of the pioneering advocates for ending violence against women,
and taught one of the first ever courses on women in the United States.
After earning a PhD in Sociology from Harvard University, Dr. Russell went on to publish an
abundance of research, author and co-author 17 books, design a feminist flag, and redefine femicide to
mean “the killing of females by males because they are female.” Dr. Russell published many books in her
over 40 years of activism, but one of the first and most noteworthy was titled “The Politics of Rape.” It
was published in 1975 and, according to her website, was one of the first analyses of rape culture that
suggested a causal relationship between our societies “accepted notions of masculinity and the
perpetration of rape.”

In addition, she conducted the first ever scientific study about the prevalence and effects of the incestuous abuse of females, was a founding member of the first feminist anti-pornography organization in the world named Women Against Violence in Pornography and Media (WAVPM), and organized the first ever feminist International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women speak-out. Her books covered a wide variety of topics related to violence against women, including: the many different kinds of rape categorized based on the perpetrator relation to the victim, pornographic sexual violence, woman beating/battering, the torture of women, femicide, and incestuous and extramarital child sexual abuse.

She also started the Feminists’ Anti-Nuclear Group, also known as FANG, in 1983 which sought to show people the role that the patriarchy plays in the development of nuclear arms.

“Russell’s survey on sexual assault is the best that’s been done…. She convincingly shows that sexual exploitation occurs in mammoth proportions, and she presents the first hard data to answer dozens of questions. This is a giant step forward in our accumulation of knowledge about rape, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment.” – David Finkelhor

For more information of Dr. Diana E. H. Russell, visit her website at:

http://www.dianarussell.com/index.html

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Zainab Salbi

By Ann Varner

Zainab Salbi grew up in Iraq and came to the United States at the age of 19. She attended George Mason
University where she received her Bachelor of individualized study degree in sociology and women’s
studies, and received her Master’s degree in development studies from London School of Economics
(keynotes.org). At the age of 23, Salbi founded the Women for Women International organization. The
National Women’s History Alliance website states that Women for Women International “is an
organization dedicated to serving women survivors of wars by offering support, tools, and access to life changing skills to move from crisis and poverty to stability and economic self-sufficiency”
(nationalwomenshistoryalliance.org).

Salbi has written several books: Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam, Freedom is an Inside Job, and If You Knew Me You Would Care. She also is the creator and host of the show #MeToo, Now What. Salbi has received many awards and recognition’s. People Magazine named her as one of the “25 Women Changing The World” in 2016, Foreign Policy Magazine named her as one of the “100 Leading Global Thinkers,” and Fast Company identified her as one of 100 “The Most Creative People in Business” (zainabsalbi.com). Thank you, Ms. Salbi, for helping to make the world a better place.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Dorothy Cotton

By Caitlin Easter

“I’m tired of people saying, “And now we present her, who marched with Martin Luther King.”
Well, a lot of folk flew down there one weekend and marched, but I worked.”- Dorothy Cotton

Dorothy Cotton was very similar to other women in the fact that she never got the recognition
she deserved. Even today, the name Dorothy Cotton doesn’t ring a bell in the average American’s
imagination, because beyond the fact that she was black, she was also a women. Despite this, she was a
major champion of the civil rights movement and never allowed her gender to stop her from doing what
she wanted to do. She believed in the power of speech, and encouraged others to speak the truth with
her organizations. She was a major advocate for human rights education and leadership. She spoke at
workshops and with her Institute helped people to understand and shape themselves as leaders to
advance human rights. The Dorothy Cotton Institute was founded in 2007, and works to secure human
rights for everybody through education, interactive exhibits, and movements and campaigns. The
Institute works to develop Human Rights leaders, build a community for these leaders, and promote
practices that lead to justice and healing.

According to The Dorothy Cotton Institute, Ms. Dorothy Cotton was the Education Director at
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the director of The Citizenship Education Program, the
Vice President for Field Operations for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolence Social Change,
the Southeastern Regional Director of ACTION under the Carter Administration, the director of Student
Activities at Cornell University, a 2010 National Freedom Award Recipient, and the founder and
namesake of the Dorothy Cotton Institute. Ms. Cotton is now being recognized as a 2019 Honoree in the
National Women’s History Alliance following the theme of: “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace &
Nonviolence.”

Before her death on June 10, 2018, she was a strong and influential advocate for violence
reduction and humanitarian issues. She was a speaker, a teacher, a facilitator, a peaceful resister, and a
woman. Her name will always be tied to Dr. Martin Luther’s because of their strong bond and joint work,
but her impact will forever be so much more than that.

More information about Ms. Cotton and her institute can be found at:

https://www.dorothycottoninstitute.org/

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Medea Benjamin

By: Christina Terrell

Medea Benjamin is an American activist who has advocated for human rights for over twenty
years. Benjamin has traveled to many different countries learning and advocating, writing eight books that are about her experiences abroad along the way. In 2002 Benjamin’s activism took a change of color and tone when she became the co-founder of the women’s organization CODEPINK. A woman led organization that is “working to end
U.S. wars and militarism, but supports human rights and initiatives, so that we can redirect our
tax dollars into healthcare, education, green-jobs and other life affirming programs.” Benjamin
and other prominent CODEPINK founder’s make it their duty to partner with lots of local
organizations who are sure of imposing joy and humor with tactics such as street theatre, creative
visuals, civil resistance and always challenging powerful decision makers in the government and
major corporations. While doing all this, Medea and her Code Pink crew never forget to support
their cause by wearing the lovely color pink!

In the years that Medea Benjamin has been active as an American activist she has had many successes. For example, in 2006, Code Pink put out their first book as an organization that was titled “Stop the next war Now; Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism”, which was a book that contained a collection essays contributed from very prominent woman involved with activism. Benjamin was then nominated alongside other influential women for the “1000 Women for The Nobel Peace Prize”, which was a collective nomination for women representing women who work for peace and human rights everywhere. Then again, in 2012, Medea Benjamin was awarded the US Peace Memorial Foundation’s Peace Prize to recognize her creative leadership on the front lines of the anti-war movement. Medea Benjamin has been advocating for twenty plus years and she does not seem to be slowing
down anytime soon!