Don’t Know Much About … Women!

By Chris Howard-Williams

It has been a truly educational summer for me. As part of my Couples and Family Counseling program at UMKC, we are required to take a course on sexual counseling.  Here is my personal paraphrase of what I’ve learned so far:

Men – When you encounter sexual issues, rest assured that there are volumes of articles and studies that have been done on many levels, including biological, physiological, psychological, and psycho-social ones. We have pills, positions, therapeutic techniques, and support groups available for you to tackle any problem that comes your way!

Women – (shrugging) Um … we really haven’t studied you that much.  Have you considered asking your husband if he will let you get a vibrator?

It has been eye-opening to me to see the disparity between the attention that we have given men and women just regarding their sexuality. I was appalled to learn in class recently that we put a man on the moon and created the Internet before we had a full understanding of the biology of the clitoris. Heck, it was another 10 years after that discovery before we could even scientifically determine how it worked! Women, I know you don’t need me to say it, but I’m going to anyway… it’s about time we devoted the attention to studying you as we have to studying men for centuries now!

The concept of “women’s studies” is relatively young, its birth as a formal study being in the early 1970s.  A quote from a USA Today College article gives a brief history of the evolution of women’s studies:  “In 1971, early women’s studies courses focused on women’s roles in economic and political institutions, and they also analyzed women’s roles in history, literature and equality movements. In the 1980s, courses emphasized cross-cultural perspectives of women and how humans identify gender, and by the late 1990’s, women’s and gender studies courses included topics on race, feminist thought and the socialization of women.”

So why do we need women’s studies courses?  The obvious answer is equity. For too long, our study of the world and everything in it has been dominated by the world of men. This biased focus does not give women the voice or the attention they so richly deserve. Beyond this, there are many more benefits than this already long blog can cover, so here’s a link to a great article instead that covers the bases pretty well.

On a more personal note, why do we need women’s studies? Because despite the progress that has been made in recent years, there is still a staunch resistance to erasing the imaginary barriers between the sexes. I have worked the Women’s Center information table at just two UMKC orientations now, and both times I have witnessed multiple variations of the same event: a parent walks by our table with their son to glance back at him and say, “Oh, you don’t need anything there!”  I’m here to say: You do, guys!  You need women’s studies.  You need feminism, and you need to get past this idea that some things are for boys and some things are for girls. It’s time to look at the world in a whole new balanced way!

If you would like to learn more about UMKC’s Women’s & Gender Studies programs, feel free to visit their website at, or email them at

Women’s History Month: An acknowledgement of the invisibility within

by Mirella Flores

Today marks the last day of Women’s History Month for 2016. It is pretty amazing to consider how it all began with celebrating women one day out of the year, and now has turned into a whole month. Women get thirty one days to be acknowledged for their many contributions and accomplishments. To some level this is great, but it is also very upsetting. I could use this blog to discuss the need to celebrate women during the remaining 334 days of the year, but instead I want to acknowledge some women who are still largely invisible within Women’s History Month.

Think of this: We need Women’s History Month because women are still marginalized in our society. What about women who also hold other marginalized identities? Trans women, LBQ women, women of color, women with disabilities, and women with multiple intersecting marginalized identities are all just as much women as all women with privileged identities. I will dedicate this blog to briefly acknowledge some of these women and their contributions.

Disclaimer: I will be grouping these women into trans women, LBQ women, women of color, and women with disabilities groups. However, some of them have multiple marginalized intersecting identities (i.e., trans women of color, women of color with disabilities) and should be acknowledged as such, rather just a part of their identity. 4a721dfc53ac94b28fcf52fd7776afa7

Trans women of color such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were co-founders of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), and are often erased figures of the Stonewall Riot. The Stonewall Riot went down in history as the event that set off what we now know as the LGBT movement; however, Rivera and Johnson’s contributions did not make much news. Johnson was the person credited for starting the riot and Rivera as the first bystander to throw the first bottle at the police. Other trans women like Christine Jorgensen and Renee Richards were also vital in terms of their visibility. These women were open about having had gender-affirming surgeries during a time when the very concept of these surgeries was considered extremely shocking to most. Their efforts helped to advance the very simple idea that trans women should be treated equally. Lynn Conway, a trans woman, is one of the pioneers of modern computer science and an Emeritus professor at the University of Michigan. Trans actresses like Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, and Caroline Cossey broke major ground in the film world decades ago, and women like Laverne Cox and Alex Billings continue to do so now. The list can go on.

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I always come back to this saying to remind me that I need to engage in self-care. I have to thank poet, writer, and activitist Audre Lorde for this quote, who also was a lesbian, womanist, and civil rights activist. LBQ women also take a place in entertainment history, for instance women like Josephine Baker, Greta Garbo, Billie Holiday, and Ma Rainey. LBQ women have also made a part of visual art history through Frida Kahlo, Patricia Highsmith, Amrita Sher-Gill, Cristy C Road, just to name a few. How about the sciences? Yup, LBQ women have been in the history of science through women like Margaret Mead, Louise Pearce, and Sofia Kovalesvsky. Even more recently we have women like Dr. Rochelle Diamond, the Chair of National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) and a research biologist at Caltech.

Earlier, I mentioned Sylvia Rivera and Frida Kahlo as women who have made contributions to history. Other Latina women to acknowledge are activists Comandanta Ramona and Rigoberta Menchú. Ramona was a package of fury and revolution as she led the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the 1994 New Year’s Day uprising in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, as the Zapatistas demanded land, jobs, housing, food, health care, and justice and democracy. Menchú is an activist dedicated to bringing recognition to the rights of Guatemala’s indigenous people and promoting indigenous rights in the Guatemala. Menchú was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 and the Prince of Asturias Award in 1998. Latinas have also been part of the literary history, with women like Rosario Castellanos, whose work explored the differences of being both Mexican and a woman, and Claribel Alegría whose poetry was political and encouraged women to rebel against the patriarchy. Alegría’s poem Ars Poetica is particularly poignant and hopeful. Check out this link to learn about the contribution of other Latinas.

In the antebellum period, many Black women became active abolitionists and supporters of Women’s Rights. Sojourner Truth was a former slave, abolitionist, and advocate of Women’s Suffrage. In 1851, she made her famous speech, Ain’t I A Woman? Other Black women suffragist and abolitionists from this time period included Margaretta Forten, Harriet Forten Purvis, and Mary Ann Shadd Cary. I mentioned the contribution of Audre Lorde as a writer, and other Black women who have made contributions to the history of literature include Alice Walker, best known for The Color Purple, and Bell Hooks. Another woman to mention is Alicia Garza, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter (read Garza’s own words on the movement here). There is also Karen Byrd, a woman who works to combat the notion that Black hair isn’t beautiful. For this purpose, she created Natural Girls United!, a company that customizes dolls with natural hairstyles.

East and South Asian women have become powerful figures in multiple arenas. Women like Pramila Jayapal, and Kshama Sawant have won city and state elections and been active figures in U.S. politics. Radhika Coomaraswamy is an internationally well-known human rights activist and served as the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. Comedians Aparna Nancherla and Mindy Kaling broke barriers on prime time television shows. Comedian Margaret Cho has become well-known for her stand-up routines through which she critiques social and political problems, especially around race and sexuality. Some Asian American women who have made their mark in executive roles include Keli Lee, Vice-President of Casting for ABC Entertainment Group, and Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO of Pepsi CO. Social activists like Bhairavi Desai, founding member of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, and Rinku Sen, executive director of Race Forward and publisher of Colorlines have become powerful voices for social change and racial justice.

I recognize I did not talk about the contributions of Native American women. This is not to say Native women have not done and continue to greatly contribute to history and society. I would encourage you to read Betty Mae Tiger Jumper and Judge Diane Humetewa‘s blogs. Furthermore, look into Native women’s fight in gaining protection against domestic violence.

March is not only Women’s History Month, it is also Disability Awareness Month. Women with disabilities have been part of history. For instance, Frida Kahlo had spina bifida and due to having polio as a child, one of her legs was thinner than the other. Kahlo drew inspiration from per pain and painted wonderful self-portraits, many of which she depicted herself in a wheelchair. Most of us maybe familiar with Helen Keller’s work. Keller, a deadblind person, made numerous contributions through her 12 published books and political activism in support of women’s rights and labor rights. Women with disabilities have also been a part of entertainment history. For instance, actress Marlee Matlin, who has been deaf since she was 18 months old, won an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for her leading role in Children of Lesser. Dancer and actress Sudha Chandran turned to acting upon losing one of her legs in a car accident. Chandran has been in numerous Indian shows, including Kaahin Kissii Roz and K Street Pali Hill. In terms of her dancing career, Chandran still graces people with her dance and has performed in many countries. Mayuri, a Bollywood film, where Chandran plays herself. Women with disabilities have also been part of the athletic history. Marla Runyan is a track and field, road runner, and marathon runner who’s legally blind. Runyan has remained three-time national champion in the women’s 500 meters race, and she has won gold and silver medals in the Paralympics.

 There are numerous women that deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments. Don’t let Women History Month end on March 31. I encourage you all to continue to acknowledge and celebrate the many contributions and accomplishments of women.

Today’s Trivia: Who is the woman unanimously elected Judge for the U.S. District Court for Arizona, making her the first Native American woman Federal Judge?

You may have heard Diane Humetewa’s name recently as a possible candidate to fill the position of Supreme Court Justice after the sudden death of Antonin Scalia. Humetewa was recently appointed Federal Judge to the U.S. District Court for Arizona, a historic appointment, making her the only active Native American judge and the first female Native American judge. Humetewa’s has spent her career working as a victim advocate, prosecuted violent crime cases, and advised on Indian Country issues.

Humetewa is a graduate of Arizona State University, earning her B.A. in 1987 and her J.D. from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in 1993. She served as victim-witness advocate for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona in 1986, prior to earning her law degree. Following her graduation from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, shNational_5e served as counsel to Sen. John McCain of Arizona, before returning to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona in 1996, where she worked as a Special Assistant then Assistant U.S. Attorney. In 2001, she worked as an appeals judge for the Hopi Tribe Appellate Court, where she fostered relationships between the office and Arizona’s Indian tribes. At the same time, she supervised the U.S. Attorney’s victim Witness program.

In 2007, she was appointed to U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona by President George W. Bush, where she served until he left office. Then-Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) described her as “the first Native American woman and, as far as I know, the first victim advocate, to serve our nation in this important office.”

Humetewa left office at the end of Bush’s Presidency, where she returned to the Arizona State University where she worked as a special advisor on American Indian affairs until Senator McCain nominated her for federal judge in 2013. Humetewa was unanimously elected to the position, and was sworn in in 2014. McCain described her as having “an impressive legal background, ranging from work as prosecutor and an appellate court judge to the Hopi Nation to service as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona.”

Art on the Rise

Curators-ExhibitKansas City is filled with such vibrancy and beauty. It is notorious for its art scene. This March, The Women’s Center has events planned to shed light on some talented artists. We will be hosting events such as The 50 Women Exhibit, which is a groundbreaking art exhibit featuring the works of 50 diverse women artist from around the world and the contributions they are making to the ceramic arts. Makers Curate/Curators Make Exhibit, highlights the challenges and the creative parallels between curating and artistic production, and features work from those curating the 50 Women Exhibit. Six distinguished people in all fields of artistic production came together with a shared concept: to demonstrate that whether making or curating, their work is visionary. The Artist Salon will be a discussion of the status of women in the art world. While, Roos in the City will be a guided tour of the art exibit, 50 Women: A Celebration of Women’s Contributions to Ceramics in the Changing Gallery. 3-19-16 Roos in the City-01The admission, transportation and lunch will be included.

When you think of great masters in art, you most likely have a male artist that comes to mind. It is of the utmost importance to elevate these fantastic female artist into the public eye; to display art that demands to be seen, and to recognize, celebrate, and promote awareness of the multicultural realities of women’s lives – particularly across race, sexual orientation, gender expression and identity, class, age, and ability. This is exactly what we aim to do through these events, and through the Women’s Center’s Her Art Project. The Her Art Project strives to support the achievements of female artists of all disciplines. Focusing on advocacy, education, and support, the Her Art Project takes action to ensure that women are included, recognized, and celebrated for their artistic contributions. 50-Women-exhibit-SCALAArtist-Salon-SCALA

Women’s Center Internships Available for Fall 2012

Below is a list of internships available in the UMKC Women’s Center for fall 2012. All of these positions can be used to fulfill the requirements for the Women’s & Gender Studies Internship Program (WGS 484).  To apply for any of the positions, contact the Women’s & Gender Studies Internship Coordinator:

Dr. Brenda Bethman, Director, UMKC Women’s Center / Acting Director, Women’s & Gender Studies Program

105 Haag Hall / Phone: 816.235.1643 / E-Mail:

Click here for more information about the WGS Internship Program.

Hippo Project Internship

Note: This internship will be based at the UMKC Women’s Center, but will also coordinate with an outside agency and its program directors.

Hippo Project/Hippo Soap is looking for an intern to assist a young startup company with all phases of start up.  Hippo soap is a three-division project aimed at increasing economic development, wellness, and prosperity for women in developing countries and educating children about healthy behaviors that could potentially save their lives.  Division one of the project involves actual production of a product: goat’s milk soap (called Hippo Soap). The model is that the profits from the sale of soap here in the U.S. will go to fund the second and third division of the Hippo Project: economic development for women in Africa via the creation of a soap factory and soap sales to support the other phase of the project: the educational component. The third division of the project is the education of children in Mali about the important health benefits of washing hands. Soap from the economic development division of the project is then used by the educational division of the project to keep kids and families healthy.Hippo Project/Hippo Soap is looking for a motivated individual to help us with ALL components of business development and maintenance, including both administrative and creative development of this entire project.Duties include:

  • Searching for product materials;
  • Developing an accounting system;
  • Working with graphic designers to help develop the Hippo Soap product;
  • Research on other companies and charities also working to increase women’s economic development in foreign countries.
  • Interns will work closely with the two project developers to supply both research information and novel ideas to guide the development of this entirely new venture. We are looking for someone who can take very minimal direction and run with an idea.

The intern would be expected to be comfortable doing the following:

  • Research on women’s economic development in foreign countries;
  • Research on legal issues with business development in foreign countries (specifically in Africa);
  • Investigation of FDA rules and regulations in the US for cosmetics/soap;
  • Project management related to travel and special events for Hippo Soap;
  • Communication and scheduling between outside entities and Hippo Soap;
  • Investigation of financial resources for small business development in the US and abroad
  • Investigating soap production;
  • Gathering soap materials;
  • Product testing and production;
  • Working with the graphic designers to produce website and product packaging;
  • Development of interactive apps to convey the goals and function of the Hippo Project;
  • Assisting in internal finance and accounting matters.

Programming Intern

  • Assist with the development, coordination, and execution of Women’s Center events.

 Public Relations Intern

  • Assist with design and creation of marketing materials for Women’s Center programs including fliers, posters, posters, and event calendars
  • Assist with coordinating the distribution of fliers, posters, postcards, brochures, events calendar, and other advertising/marketing material on campus and in the surrounding area.
  • Assist with online publicity, including, but not limited to, website editing, listing Women’s Center events on community calendars, and updating the Women’s Center events calendar

 Her Art Project Intern

  • Assist with the development, coordination, and execution of programs for the Her Art Project including art exhibits, music and dance performances, lectures, panel discussions, etc.
  • Assist with publicity and marketing for above programs
  • Background in arts and familiarity with Kansas City arts community preferred

 Violence Prevention and Response Intern

  • Work with the Violence Prevention Coordinator to assist with the development, coordination and execution of all violence prevention programming.
  • Assist with publicity and marketing for above programs.
  • Assist Victim Services Adjudication Advisor with training and violence prevention education.

 Social Networking Intern

  • Assist with updating and monitoring the Women’s Center Social Networking sites including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.
  • Coordinate Social Networking efforts with marketing of all Women’s Center programs

 Blog Editor Intern

  • Assist with regular maintenance of the Women’s Center Blog
  • Write clear and critical blogs on relevant topics
  • Edit all staff blogs for content and grammar and post to Women’s Center blog on a regular basis
  • Strong writing skills required. Please submit writing samples.

 All interns are also responsible for:

  • Answering phones, directing calls, and taking messages. Record every incoming call onto the telephone and referral log located next to the phones.
  • Answering requests for information about the Center and our services, including referring victims/survivors of sexual assault, domestic/relationship violence, and/or stalking.
  • Assisting visitors with our library, including checking out and in books/videos.
  • Posting Women’s Center flyers.
  • Running business errands around campus.
  • Typing correspondence, labels, and forms on the computer.
  • Assist in keeping the Women’s Center in an orderly fashion. This includes, but is not limited to, organizing brochures, dusting, and general cleaning.
  • Posting event reminders, relevant articles and current events regarding women’s issues, and status updates to the Women’s Center social networks
  • Writing at least one blog per week on a relevant women’s issue
  • Attending ALL staff meetings.
  • Attending Women’s Center programs as needed/available.
  • Other tasks as assigned.

Modern Day Nuns

By Sarina Smith

 When one pictures a nun in this day and age, what is it that comes to mind?   Personally, I start envisioning Julie Andrews running around on mountain tops, but when I googled pictures of nuns I saw a range of awkward Halloween costumes and cartoon women in habits, looking stern and holding rulers.   The latter is what I think the majority of people see in their mind’s eye, Catholic schools where nuns taught strictly.  I say ‘taught’, like they are gone now because, for most people, nuns seem like a thing of the past.  But here’s the deal, nuns still exist and they do a ton of different things.

           It was through my Histories of Reading, Writing, and Publishing: Medieval Women’s Literacies course led by Dr. Virginia Blanton (Department of English) that that I was drawn to start a service  learning project instead of writing a regular paper.  With my enthusiasm for the monastic life she guided me to go to Atchison, Kansas for a weekend trip to the Mount St. Scholastica’s convent.  There I found that these nuns hold a wide range jobs from being nurses, to artisans, to even being college professors.  They wear regular clothing and act like regular people.  This is where I really got to thinking about the place of nuns in our modern society. 

 It makes sense that nuns would be professors; nunneries were a key place to send your daughters in the past if you wanted them to be well educated so nuns should be well educated and good teachers if they are to uphold their traditions.  Even though I see the connection when I stand back, it still seemed surreal while inside Mount St. Scholastica’s.
I wanted to know more.  Dr. Blanton informed me that Atchison had a mission located in Kansas City called the Keeler Women’s Center so I visited there next.  These nuns are as modern-day as it gets.  They lead a center to help and educate urban women stuck in poverty and they are busy people.  With the help of volunteers, they see a hundred different women each week and try to feed their needs in all areas of life.  From offering classes in parenting, teaching people how to read, to introducing them to popular women advocates they cover more life skills than most people are ever exposed to. 

After seeing all of this I was drawn in further.  Asking the director of the Keeler Center, Sister Carol Ann Petersen, what it was that I could do to help led her to show me their bookcase.  For a center that teaches literacy, they are in great need of things to read.  When she presented me their two sad shelves of dusty books (most of which are saints’ lives or stories about nuns) we decided that they could use a few more books. 

 I encourage you to go home and look through your shelves, in case there is something there that you can part with.  Giving up a book or two can take you five seconds yet make a life time of difference to these women.   They are looking for anything: children’s books for daycare, easy adult reading for their women just learning to read and then books of general interest for the variety of people they see every day.  As for me, I’ve been upsetting Isabella, my daily book guardian who did not want to get up off of my bookcase at any point this week.  Regardless of cat problems, I was able to score a stack of books, including Dr. Seuss, J.K. Rowling, and Leo Tolstoy, which I am contributing.  Please do join me in donating to the Keeler Women’s Center.  You can do this by either contacting me: , contacting the Keeler Women’s Center: , or by simply dropping your books in the book-drive box that has been placed in our own, UMKC Women’s Center located on the first floor of Haag Hall.  Give a little, give a lot, give what you can from Monday, March 12th through Friday, March 23rd. 


A special thanks to Sarina for initiating the book drive and sharing her post with us! For more information about the book drive please contact the UMKC Women & Gender Studies Program or the UMKC Women’s Center