Celebrating Women’s History Month: Rosa Parks

By: Brittany Soto

In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to focus my attention on Rosa Parks. Most people are familiar with who Rosa Parks is but to those who aren’t, she was a civil rights activist who was best known for courageously refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person during a time when segregation was legal. She was thrown in jail as a result of this incident, sparking the infamous Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott. Her vital role in this movement helped bring attention to the mistreatment of colored people and fought against racism and segregation. Her courage and leadership served, not only as an inspiration to people of color, but to ALL women. She was dubbed the second most popular historical figure to be talked about in schools according to a survey by American
students. (Wineburg, 2008).

Rosa Park’s courage and determination to challenge racism and segregation did not start with the bus incident. This is something that has been instilled in her since childhood. She was never afraid to speak up against the mistreatment of colored individuals by standing up against white children who
would try to harass or bully her. She was also the secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and continuously pushed to end segregation in schools and in public places. Despite the challenges she faced as being a fearless colored woman who was determined to fight for what was right, going as far as receiving daily death threats to her and her family, this never stopped her from fighting for peace and the rightful treatment of colored individuals. This just goes to show that doing what’s right isn’t always easy, but is necessary. Rosa Parks is now a legend and an
inspiration to women worldwide.

The Vagina Monologues Were a Success!

By: Ann Varner

On February 21st and 22nd we held our traditional vagina monologues. Performers for the
monologues included community members, staff, and current students. The monologues touch
on many different issues concerning the vagina, and the performers did a fantastic job of delivering their scripts.

Some of the monologues were funny, some long, some short and to the point, and some very powerful. Having never seen the monologues before (I know, how can I work here for years and have never seen them?!) I was unsure of what to expect. I am a fidgety person, so sitting for extended periods of time in theaters is something I do not enjoy. However, the monologues had me captivated the entire time and I hardly noticed that I had been sitting still for a few hours.

I think that the monologues have a great deal of importance because even when the script was funny, there was always an underlying point to be made. It reminded me a bit of Nanette, which was a Netflix special that premiered this summer by Hannah Gadsby. Nanette, like the monologues, used comedy to speak on very difficult subjects with some moments becoming very
tense as the audience realized it was not all for laughs.

Thank you to our performers, all the different partners we had in putting on the shows, as well as
our supporters. We sold many t-shirts, vagina pops, buttons, and mugs. We appreciate your
support very much. Please come see us next year if you were unable to make it this year.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Mary Jane Patterson

By: Christina Terrell

When it comes to Women’s History many people think of influential women such as Rosa Park’s or Amelia Earhart. This is phenomenal, however, sometimes that spot-light can skip over women who have been a part of Women’s History as well. Not because they are less important, it’s just people need to be reminded that no matter what your contribution to history is, the fact that you want to contribute and are contributing is what leaves an impact.

For instance, Mary Jane Patterson was a young African American woman from North Carolina, born into slavery in 1840. However, as a young girl Mary Jane and her family moved to Oberlin Ohio in the mid 1850’s and when Mary Jane Patterson was around 17 years of age, she started her collegiate education. Mary Jane Patterson did one year of preparatory course work at Oberlin College , then in 1862, she enrolled into what was known as a “Gentlemen’s Course” at the time. This was a four-year program in classical studies that lead to a Bachelor of Arts degree. Mary Jane Patterson went on to graduate from college in 1868, which would be the year she made history, because she was the first woman to graduate from a four-year Bachelor program.

Following her education at Oberlin College she moved around quite a bit working as an educator and activist for women’s rights. In 1971 she became a teacher in Ohio, then she went on to Pennsylvania where she taught at an institute for colored youth for about five years. Later she would move to Washington D.C. to teach at a Preparatory high school, where she became the assistant principle and then eventually the head principle.

Once Mary Jane Patterson retired from being an educator in 1884, she remained in Washington D.C. where she continued to advocate for women’s rights with the Women’s League in Washington D.C. until her death in 1894.

Concluding Everybody is Beautiful Week

By: Christina Terrell

Everybody is Beautiful Week is a movement that the UMKC Women Center puts on to celebrate body positivity and combat eating disorders. The idea comes from the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). This nonprofit organization, based out of New York City, has been around since 2001 with a mission of supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders while serving as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. Although this is the main mission of the NEDA they also participate and advocate for many other things that go hand and hand with spreading body positivity and uplifting others and accepting themselves physically, mentally and emotionally.

There are many great ways that the NEDA tries to get involved and supply support to the world and one is through some of the events that they put on. For starters, they host an annual walk called the NEDA Walk, for families and friends to join their loved ones to walk in their own communities to silence eating disorders. Along with the NEDA walk, there are many other events that are put on in order to fulfill their mission.

In honor of Body Positive Week, UMKC Women’s Center decided to put on a project called Operation Beautiful. During this week we hosted several events that supported NEDA’s mission. To Jump start the week we began with doing a movement around the UMKC campus, which included students on campus making colorful sticky notes that had body positive phrases on them, stating things such as “RIOTS BEFORE DIETS” and “I AM STRONG, I AM ENOUGH, I AM BEAUTIFUL”. Throughout the week we, along with other students, posted theses sticky notes on campus to spread the word.

Some other great events that we put on during Operation Beautiful included a Crafty Feminist Session where students could come make shrink art or a body positive sticky note to spread around campus. To close out Operation Beautiful we hosted a tabling event here on campus, which displayed lots of information about the NEDA and other body positive information, the table also included activities that the students could partake in to get their own message about Body Positive Week out on UMKC’s campus!

Becoming Barbie

By: Caitlin Easter

From a very young age we are exposed to Barbie. From this early age we learn—and in turn internalize— the values and lessons of “health” as displayed by what we are exposed to. Barbie is the epitome of what children, especially little girls, are taught to want to be—thin yet disproportionately curvy, with blonde hair and a consistently perfect life. And even once we are grown, the ideologies instilled in us via Barbie never quite fade.  The society we live in is heavily influenced by consumer culture, and we are taught that we can also achieve what Barbie has if we are willing to spend the money to get there. If we don’t like our face shape we can invest in plastic surgery or even contouring products in order to change our face shape, if we have a problem with our bodies, we have millions of options of plans and regimes we can buy into in order to achieve the ideal Barbie physique.

However, Barbie’s shape has its own issues.. The South Shore Eating Disorders Collaborative affirms the unrealistic body expectations put forth by Barbie, stating that “if Barbie was an actual woman, she would be 5’9” tall and would weigh “110 lbs.” Due to this, “Barbie would have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the criteria for anorexia.” They also assert that due to her extremely unhealthy figure, she would “likely not menstruate” and that “she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.” We are, however, never told that Barbie’s shape is unrealistic and unachievable, we just go our whole lives wondering why we can’t reach this idealized standard.

Past the inherently subliminal messages that were passed on through Barbie, in 1963 a group of Barbie dolls—including most famously, Slumber Party Barbie—came with a scale permanently set to 110 pounds along with a book named How To Lose Weight that included a single page with the words “DON’T EAT!” displayed in capital letters. How did Mattel, the toy company that manufactures Barbie, think that this was a good message to feed to their young audience? With such a platform comes a social obligation to do good, or more simply, to not destroy the body image of young children all across the world. Barbie was literally teaching little girls that starving themselves was the proper way to reach their goal weight, and we wonder why most members of society have such deeply-rooted issues with their body’s appearance.

As long as we live in a culture where it is okay not to address these issues, they will never be fixed.  As of late we have seen the appearance of bigger Barbies, but the fact that they need to be advertised as being “bigger Barbies” instead of just “Barbies” highlights the fact that there is something inherently better about being unachievably skinny. There is nothing inherently healthy about Barbie and her lifestyle, and if we let our children continue to play with these toys without at least teaching them positive body image first, we will never see an end to these issues.

Yes, Barbie has a reputable image, but when Barbie is teaching children not to eat in order to maintain her “ideal” figure, is she really the role model we want to give our extremely malleable children?

Should Female Athletes Be Subject to Gender Testing?

By: Christina Terrell

Gender testing on female athletes has been around for some time now, however it has gone through phases. Gender testing happens to be the sex verification in sports, which grants eligibility for an athlete to compete in a sporting event that is limited to a single sex.

Back in the 90’s, it had been a mandatory and very extensive process. The gender testing process can involve evaluation by gynecologists, endocrinologists, psychologists, and internal medicine specialists. On a simple level, the athlete may be evaluated from their external appearances by experts. The athlete may also undergo blood tests to examine their sex hormones, genes and chromosomes. It was discovered that not all women have the standard female chromosomes, and this began to unfairly exclude some female athletes from competing in their sport.

In the year of 2009, mandatory gender testing resurfaced when Olympic cross-country runner, Caster Semenya won her race by more than just your typical two seconds. but she won the race by way more than two seconds. The public, along with race officials, began to talk, saying that it could be possible that Caster Semenya was really a man and should be disqualified. When Semenya went in for her gender testing, her results came back that she was “intersex”, meaning she possessed both male and female chromosomes. The tests were leaked to the public and the best day of her career turned into the worse day of her life.

Since the incident with Caster Semenya in 2009, the topic of gender testing and whether to make it mandatory or not has undergone many changes and discussions. As of 2018 the decision has been reached to mandate gender testing for females who solely compete in middle distance races of 400 meters to one mile. The reason for this being that these races require evaluations of speed, power, and endurance which are the components measured by the gender test and determine differences between females and males when it comes to testosterone levels. In the end, there are some people who feel this is fair and others who do not because women cannot help if their testosterone falls outside the range of what allows them to compete in the female categories. As a result, gender testing will continue to be an aspect of what females in the sports industry must rise above.

Mass Media and Body Image

By: Brittany Soto

In a world that is heavy on technology and social media usage, it makes it easier to communicate and connect with others, but the question is, is the media always trying to spread a positive message to people out there in the world? This is especially true when it comes to body image. Advertisements such as TV commercials, for example, tend to emphasize that a person’s body should have a slim appearance to them and that they are less-than if they look any other way. This is far from the truth because, in reality, everyone has a unique body shape and structure and just because someone is thin, doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthy. These kinds of expectations that the media portrays can have a serious effect on an individual’s mental and physical well-being leading to low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction issues leading to even more serious conditions such as eating disorders.

Generally, women are thought to be the only ones who suffer from body image issues and eating disorders as a result of what the media portrays, but this can also have an effect on men as well. “Pressure from mass media to be muscular also appears to be related to body dissatisfaction among men. This effect may be smaller than among women, but it is still significant.” (National Eating Disorders Association, 2018). This is a growing problem since, nowadays, people spend the majority of their time on the media. I think it’s important for people to understand that what is portrayed on the media isn’t always the truth. I think it’s also important for people to practice self-love and self-acceptance, so they aren’t constantly measuring their self-worth based on the media. As human beings, especially as women, I think it’s important to emphasize these things when the media tries to tell us that we aren’t enough.

Boys Will Be..

By: Caitlin Easter

I ran across an image on the internet the other day while just casually scrolling through
my Facebook feed, and I couldn’t help but to stop and save it. It was uploaded by a page called
“Feminist News” and it was the image of a poster that said, “Boys will be boys what they are
taught.”

It made me consider the societal and structural violence that we see perpetuated against
women in our society that cause the misattribution of blame to be shifted off onto females and
away from the perpetrators. “Boys will be boys” has been a statement that allowed people to hide
their transgressions behind their “expected behavior” for too long. Making the word “boy”
synonymous with doing abhorrent things does nothing to help or further our society, and instead
serves to symbolically (and sometimes, physically) hurt everybody.

We teach boys from a young age that when they do something wrong, that it isn’t
completely their fault. This serves to hurt girls from a young age, and men once they’ve grown
up and society expects them to act a little more like adults than they were previously expected to.
This brings me to another saying that I love, “Boys will be boys held accountable for their
actions, just like girls.” I have seen this one plastered on posters and embroidered onto dish
towels for so long, and I think it is a very nice complement to the earlier quote. We need to hold
boys accountable for their actions from an early age in order to set the standard early. If we don’t
teach them to be better, it will never get better. We can’t expect every male in the world to
suddenly figure out what they are doing wrong, we need to help them to see their subtle issues,
even if it’s one boy at a time. If you are taught something from a young age, it’s hard to unlearn
it, especially when it is a thing you can take advantage of to get ahead in life. We inadvertently use our privilege every day, and it’s time we show boys the effect that the toxicity of their behavior has not only on the females of the world, but also themselves.

I’m going to leave you with one more thought: “girls don’t mature faster than boys, girls are punished from an early age for the same behavior that boys are allowed to indulge in well into
adulthood.”

“Having Daughters is my Punishment..”

By Caitlin Easter

There is a huge discrepancy in our society between the way men and
women are expected to interact with members of the opposite gender. Society
tells us the “correct” way to behave with relational partners, but it is a very
gendered divide in how we understand and view the situations when people
don’t follow these guidelines. Our world is a lot more willing to forgive a man
who mistreats a romantic partner than a woman who should know better than to
treat a romantic partner poorly. It is almost expected of males to behave this way,
and no one blinks when men are accused of these fallacies.

I have often heard from parents in one variation or another “having girls is
my punishment for the way I treated girls when I was younger.” I have, however,
never heard the direct inverse of this statement. Women are expected to know
how to treat men even before they have sons, but society labels it acceptable for
men to have their learning curve so late in life. Given these—clearly—different
approaches to judging the outcome of a situation, why is it so hard for our society
to believe that we are not holding boys to the same standard as girls? Why is it so
hard to believe that we are raising the men in our society wrong, when even they
are haunted by the possibility of their younger selves’ behavior being directed
towards their daughters?

Holding boys to a higher standard for the treatment of others at a young
age will stop the perpetuation of this harmful cycle and help to teach boys to
treat women not just how they want their daughters to be treated in hindsight,
but also how they expect themselves to be treated.

Year of the Unapologetic Woman

By Nina Cherry

As we are now over a month into 2019, I finally found a theme and a personal goal for myself for this
year (a bit late, per usual). The theme? Unapologetic womanhood.

Now, being an unapologetic woman does not mean that you never apologize. It means you apologize
when an apology is actually appropriate. All too often, women (myself included) find themselves
apologizing for a wide range of unnecessary things, which is exactly what we have been conditioned to
do!

I do not have time to apologize for my womanhood. I do not have time to apologize for the
inconveniences and traumas brought about by my gender. I do not have time to apologize for being
“unladylike”, and ladies, neither do you. We apologize for some of the most natural things – especially
for displaying emotion, which is often conceived as being “dramatic”.
It is time we stop apologizing for our presence – whether that be for talking “too much” (which usually means a woman is talking the same amount as a man), crying, not shaving or wearing makeup, not looking “pulled together” enough. Let’s stop being polite because we feel like we have to be. Doing the polite or “ladylike” thing does not equate to doing the nice thing. In addition, politeness does not equate to honesty. We need to do what’s best for us, and stop apologizing for our existence.

I encourage you to follow in this manifesto – be unashamed and proud! Do it for yourself. Do it for other women. So watch out, because 2019 is the year of the unapologetic woman.

Here is a great list of the things we need to stop apologizing for in 2019:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bustle/23-things-women-apologize-for-all-the-time_b_5915414.html