Help End Period Poverty.

By: Anel Sandoval and Crystal Lum

Did you know that over 1.8 billion people menstruate each month? Did you also know that over 500 million of these people struggled with obtaining menstrual products pre-COVID-19? If you thought that was bad, it became harder when the pandemic hit. Economic security significantly decreased during the pandemic, with women more likely to become unemployed and overall reliance on support services increasing significantly.

Along with this, supply shortages sometimes left stores out of stock and the pandemic resulted in quarantines that prevented people from leaving their homes, so people were suffering even more than before.

There is a term for this disparity, appropriately named period poverty. Period poverty is the state where people who menstruate are not able to obtain products to treat their periods. It becomes a barrier to their rights to being clean and their rights to being healthy. It limits their social, physical and mental health. People tend to miss out on parts of their lives due to being ashamed of their periods.

Examples of those barriers are the pink tax, lack of resources, lack of education, waste management and hygiene facilities. What is the pink tax? The “pink tax” isn’t a literal tax in a sense. It’s the action of marking up products directed towards women for items that function the same as men’s products. The products tend to be designed with feminine colors and shapes that tend to appeal to women. Not only does that account for menstrual products, but it also targets beauty products and even clothing apparel. A blatant example of this pink tax is shown below, where Ace Hardware marked the price of an identical item marketed to women up over 30%.

Image

Source: Twitter, @TomKatMPLS

 

How do we fight this?

You can be an ally to combat this ongoing issue by educating others about the need for free menstrual products. Contact your local and federal governments to implement laws and policies to end period poverty. Participate in donation drives, promote menstrual donation drives to the student body and faculty at your university. If you know anyone that needs menstrual products, CVS Pharmacy has done their part to make buying products affordable.

 

Someone’s Gotta Say It: The Word “Girlboss” Needs to Die 

By: Emma Sauer 

It’s been some time since I wrote one of these blogs, but I’m coming in hot today with an irritating trend that isn’t going away anytime soon. 

When’s the last time you walked into Target, TJ Maxx, Kohls, or any one of those conglomerate department stores? Have you noticed all those mass-produced t-shirts, tumblers, bags, book-ends, blankets, pillows, posters, and planners have one particular word plastered across them? Something like this:

Source: Amazon

Ugh. Girl Boss. Just typing that out feels like I’m manifesting the worst kind of cutesy faux feminism. Anyway, let me tell you why I hate this word so much. 

The word “girl boss” is a word ascribed to any woman in a position of leadership. It’s vague enough that it can mean a lot of different things, whether it’s a female CEO, business owner, or a middle aged white woman at home selling her Lularoe leggings. I also see it from time to time in Instagram bios or other places on social media. 

So, my main problem with cutesy phrases like “girl boss”, “boss lady”, or “she-eo” is that they’re infantilizing. (And also make for hideous interior design.) A woman in a leadership role shouldn’t be made into a huge deal— at least, not in a way that doesn’t recognize her accomplishments for what they are. When a man is in a leadership role, we don’t call him a “boy boss”, right? That just sounds silly and dumb. Same thing for “girl boss.” It’s dumb, and it makes me roll my eyes. I’m all for lifting up women, but instead of vaguely virtue-signaling with a sparkly pink “GIRL BOSS” plaque on your desk, do the work to focus on specific gender inequity issues.

And you know what? I find this whole “girl boss” thing totally disingenuous. It’s become a way for corporations to create merchandise and market themselves as being feminist, when in reality they’re destroying the environment, using child labor, and under-paying their employees.

Support Women’s Athletics at UMKC at Roo Up! With the Women’s Center

By: Crystal Lum

Hi Roos! UMKC Women’s Center is back with Roo Up! with the Women’s Center! The Women’s Center is a huge supporter of women’s athletics, and we want to hype up and show our pride to our athletes. It’s important to show our support to strive for gender equality in sports! According to the National Women’s Law Center, women who participated in sports were reported to have higher grades, score higher on exams, were more likely to graduate and improve in science classes. There is a dire need to stop perpetuating harmful stereotypes and myths that discourage girls’ participation in sports. We should not undermine their ability to feel supported, comfortable and equally respected while doing something they love to do. The lack of support from their fellow peers can drastically affect their morale. The current disparity between men and women’s sports must be addressed. Women’s games need to be publicized by the student body to recognize their hard work and to encourage them to keep playing.

If you want to join us, check out the following dates to support our women’s soccer and volleyball teams by attending the games and visiting our information table at the event. You can get a really cool pin and other awesome merch to show off! We will be attending these dates:

Roo Up! With the Women’s Center at Bark in the Park

Friday, September 16 at 6 p.m. at Swinney Recreation Center (Game begins at 7 p.m.)

Ticket information here

Roo Up! With the Women’s Center

Tuesday, September 27 at 6pm at Swinney Recreation Center (Game begins at 7 p.m.)

Ticket information here

Hope to see you all there!

Back to Basics #6: Can Men Be Feminists?

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 By: Anel Sandoval

We are bringing it Back to Basics this week! In this blog segment, we explain feminist terminology, myths, concepts and more! Today’s question is…

“Does a feminist have to be female?” 

Being a feminist means believing that women and men are equal and deserve equal rights. If you agree with that, then you’re a feminist. With that being said, all genders can be a feminist! True feminism is intersectional. Feminism spans across any and all genders, sexual preferences, or ethnic identities. And yes, men can be feminist allies too! 

“Why are men important in advocating for gender equity?”  

Men can be important allies to women in fighting for gender equity and promoting violence prevention. Women have been fighting for women’s equality for hundreds of years, but men also have a role to join in the fight as they’re not the problem, but part of the solution. One example of a self identified male feminist is former President Barack Obama. In August of 2016, President Obama penned his famous This is What A Feminist Looks Like where he reminded us that “it is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too.” His administration also took big steps to combat campus sexual assault and violence against women, improve equal pay protections, and actively promote women’s issues. 

“What can I, as a man, do to become an ally for women’s human rights?”  

 Great question! Here is a list of ways:  

  • Support women’s organizations such as the Women’s Center here on campus. We have many events you can attend this semester!  
  • Educate yourself on the history of women’s fight for equality as well as current issues.  
  • Start a conversation with women in your life. Listen to women who are fighting for their rights and ask them questions on how you can support them. 
  • Do not be a bystander to women’s violence. If you see it in your home, workplace, campus, or any public place, do not be silent, report it.  
  • Do not share sexist content that belittles or discriminates against women in any way. 
  • Advocate and educate others. Men can challenge other men in a way that women can’t, and if you use that opportunity to try to educate other guys, or just send the message that sexist attitudes are not okay, that can go a long way. It can feel awkward, but it’s worth it and very appreciated. 

Remember that absolutely anyone can be a feminist regardless of their gender and it is our duty, as society, to change the fact that women aren’t equal to men. To learn more click here

Back to Basics #5: What is the Women’s Center?

By: Emma Sauer 

Something I get asked a lot, whether at events, in the office, or just when talking about my job is…

What do you actually do at the Women’s Center?”

I’ll tell you! 

The Women’s Center at UMKC serves several purposes. Our office houses a wide array of resources available to the community, such as information on housing assistance, local shelters, and LGBTQIA+ resources. These are available either as brochures or links collected on our Campus and Community Resources tab. We also have a library, a lactation/self-care space, and a kitchen, all available to faculty and students. Of course, we’re also just open as a safe space for any marginalized students, and students are welcome to come in and just hang out. 

Another huge thing our staff does at the Women’s Center is our programming– if you are a student at UMKC, you may have spotted us at one of the many events we host, co-sponsor, or attend. Examples of programs we’ve run in the past include running a menstrual product drive to spread awareness about the Pink Tax, promoting body positivity during Every Body is Beautiful Week, and the Their/Her Art Project, which exhibits and uplifts local female and nonbinary artists. Throughout the semester, the student staff are constantly planning new events like these to promote awareness of gender equity issues with the help of Arzie, our awesome director.

There’s even more to the Women’s Center I could go on and on about, but that’s another post for another time.

“So what’s the point of having a Women’s Center and doing all these programs?” 

 Well, speaking as a woman and outspoken feminist, the Women’s Center matters to me personally because it allows feminism to have a physical, vocal presence at UMKC. The Women’s Center is also important because it provides a safe space for marginalized groups on campus, and our programming throughout the school year means gender equity always has a voice. In other words, we want UMKC– and Kansas City in general– to be more feminist! 

“Feminist? What’s that?” 

… Oh boy. That’s a question for a previous B2B blog, my friend. And if you want to learn more about why women’s centers are so important to have at universities,  you can check out this great article from WIHE (Women in Higher Education). 

Engaging Students Through Healing Arts at UMKC

Image Credit: A Window Between Worlds, https://awbw.org/engaging-students-at-umkc/

By: Arzie Umali

The following blog was written by the director of the Women’s Center, Arzie Umali, and was originally posted on the A Window Between Worlds blog at awbw.org/blog/umkc. Arzie is a certified healing arts facilitator and has been offering workshops at UMKC since 2013.

The Women’s Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) has had the honor of hosting A Window Between Worlds healing arts workshops since 2013. As an artist and survivor of trauma, I knew firsthand the healing power of art; now, for almost 10 years, I have been sharing that knowledge and empowering our students to use art to heal not just from trauma, but also navigate through the daily stressors of college life.

Through our art program, we are giving students the tools they need for self-preservation so they can find success not just in college, but in life.

Bringing an AWBW program to the Women’s Center was a perfect fit. It was African American feminist writer, Audre Lorde, who said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Our students are often overwhelmed and juggling multiple responsibilities, never having enough time for themselves. Being a college student today is hard, and many of our students we support are not just college students. They are also care-givers, and parents, and self-supporting individuals with jobs and families. They are also dealing with different traumas and stressors like debt, illness, loneliness, family violence, and/or a global pandemic. For many of our students, college is also the first time they have felt safe to come to terms with their own identity. For most students, college comes first and everything else comes last – especially themselves. I often find myself telling students that self-care is just as important as showing up for class, studying hard, and acing their finals. And that’s where our AWBW program comes in.

From the first time our students come to campus during summer orientation, we engage them with healing arts. During orientation, we offer students the opportunity to create Stepping Stones. This art activity allows them to ground themselves as college students and see their journey as a series of steps leading them towards graduation. This activity guides them in keeping focused on their end goal, and if they should stumble along the way, their Stepping Stone is there to remind them to keep taking steps forward.

Throughout the academic year, students can engage with our AWBW program through multiple avenues. Whether they need support dealing with trauma, managing their anxiety, coping with stress, or just a timeout, our healing arts workshops are available to them all year round. During Welcome Week, we offer Journey Charms workshops using shrink art where students can visualize college as one of life’s journeys that may be full of good and bad surprises. We also offer Touchstones workshops where students create art that ties them to the larger UMKC community and reminds them that we are there for them, no matter what. Finally, at the end of each semester, we host Shrink Your Stress. This signature program takes place during our campus Stress Less Fest and gives our students a window of time during finals week to step away from their studies to do some self-care and stress relief by creating fun and meaningful shrink art.

Image Credit: A Window Between Worlds, https://awbw.org/engaging-students-at-umkc/

Our most successful and fastest growing art workshops are our Healing Arts Corners. These self-managed healing arts stations are set up in various locations across campus to reach as many different populations as possible. In 2015 we started these workshops with just four locations and this past semester we were in twelve spaces on campus including the Women’s Center, International Student Affairs, the LGBTQIA Rainbow Lounge, the MindBody Connection (a collaborative space of our Counseling Center and Student Health and Wellness), the At Ease Zone in Student Veterans’ Services, the Student Advising Office, the Writing Studio, the Health Sciences Library, the Village in Multicultural Student Affairs, and our three residence halls. These stations provide students an outlet and resource for doing self-care on their time and on their terms. Students learn quickly where the stations are, and they return time and again when they need a little art to get them through the day.

Since 2013, our AWBW program has engaged students across campus, from classrooms in Arts and Sciences, to lounges in our medical school, to the sidelines of our basketball court. Our program has grown from serving 245 participants through 17 workshops during our first year, to serving 1800 participants at 67 workshops during the 2018-2019 academic year. With the COVID-19 pandemic came an even greater need for our workshops. We pivoted several times in order to continue offering art to students in the safest way possible.

The AWBW program at the Women’s Center is vital to the overall health of our campus. I am confident that through our art program, we are giving students the tools they need for self-preservation so they can find success not just in college, but in life.

Arzie Umali, MPA
Windows Facilitator
University of Missouri-Kansas City

Children Should be Feminists Too

Image Source: Francisco Ororio, Creative Commons

By: Alyssa Bradley

Gender equality starts at home.  Current issues around gender, racial, and LGBTQ+ equality should be discussed with the younger generations, who can bring their visions for a better world to fruition. That is why it is important to teach children to grow up feminist. Feminists have the perspective that men and women should be equal when it comes to their rights and privileges. Make a commitment daily to be a role model for the society you wish to leave; this will enable your children to view the world through the lens of gender equity.

Children of all genders should be having more open and honest conversations about the personal struggles they encounter. Being comfortable discussing important issues with your kids can make them more confident and secure in themselves to prevent things such as abuse, mistreatment, or disrespect to others.

Dismantling systems already put in place like gender roles can be a good start to liberating your kids with a feminist mindset. Boys and girls should be able to engage in gender-neutral activities without fear of being seen playing with “a girl’s/boy’s toy”.

Another important tool to teach kids how to be feminists is to ask children to think critically about the world around them, especially the media they are exposed to. We are often surrounded by over-sexualized, gendered, and even violent content that can inhibit gender equity. Be honest about the effects these systems have on our world and teach children to be emotionally intelligent and vocal about their beliefs.

These teachings encourage both young boys and girls to respect and treat women the same as men and in turn not contribute to the misogyny of today’s society. While some might say that children aren’t to be involved in serious political matters we have to remember that the ideas that are instilled among children now will be what carries over in the future. Creating young feminists will propel the younger generations to enact positive change in the future. Anti-feminist behaviors are taught and not learned, so if more parents implement feminist ideals into their children’s lives, they’ll grow into individuals who will be part of a kinder, more feminist future.

We need to change the dress code, not what girls wear.

By: Laura Yac 

While being in school, a very common phrase that young girls/teenagers are scared to hear is,  “Are you aware of the school’s dress code?” This is a short phrase that can bring so much shame and embarrassment to these individuals in a place where they are meant to feel safe. Young girls are described as a distraction because of what they choose to wear. At such a young age, girls are being sexualized and that only causes long term harm. Establishing these ideas in young girls only leads them to grow to be ashamed of what they choose to wear due to the feedback that they may receive. It’s crazy to think we have been taught to believe that showing your knees or too much shoulder is an issue to our education.  One might ask; how does wearing a tank top have anything to do with test scores?

I hope that with time there is change brought to this now socially acceptable way to embarrass young girls covered by being a dress code violation. I believe that young girls should be allowed to wear what they see fit without being considered a distraction to others. Because being honest, how distracting can a person’s collar bone be? Until change is made district if not nationwide, we are left with seeing young girls filled with guilt for how they choose to dress.

Want to learn more on this issue affecting young girls? Click here or here.

 

Someone’s Gotta Say it: Female Comedians Don’t Get a Fair Shake

By: Emma Sauer

In 2019, A Little Late with Lily Singh aired for the first time on NBC. Singh, a comedy youtuber and influencer, launched her career from her YouTube channel. Initially, fans and critics were cautiously optimistic, and at first the show seemed like it would be promising–then the first episode came out. 

Christ on a cracker, was it bad. Every joke fell flat, every skit was played out, and Singh’s presentation felt forced and awkward.  I’m not going to argue Lily Singh is some comedy genius, but I do think the widespread scorn she received was disproportionate. Sure, she made a bad show, and some jokes that were in poor taste, but it was her first time appearing in front of a TV audience. The show had budget and time difficulties, and it was filmed in the heat of COVID-19, further throwing a wrench into the show’s production. The problems audiences and media critics had with the show extended way beyond its quality, but that’s another blog for the time. For the time being, let’s just say some people thought Singh got a little too comfortable appropriating Caribbean/Black culture. 

Everyone on the internet seemed to agree for one brief, delicious moment–A Little Late with Lily Singh was a swing and a miss. But then, it became clear to me that there were some people taking the opportunity not just to bash Singh’s comedy, but just female comedians in general. I remember seeing a lot of discourse online throughout YouTube, Reddit, and 4-chan. (Shout-out to 4-chan for always being there to remind me humanity is doomed.)

This incident reminded me of an ongoing argument that has never really ended- are women even funny? If you’re a rationally thinking person, this sounds like an incredibly stupid argument, and I agree with you–it is stupid. It’s ass-backwards, even. The idea that women can’t be comedians based on their gender is something I wish we left back in the early 2000s, but unfortunately it is still a thing. On the bright side, you won’t find a lot of reputable sources declaring women incapable of fun. On the not so bright side, you’ll find it’s the opposite on internet forums and social media. 

So what exactly are people saying about female comedians? Well, I’ll save you the pain of googling it yourself. (You’ll have to take my word for it. I don’t want to link where I found these remarks–they’re hateful and not worth your time to read.) Here’s what I found: 

  1. “Women are more concerned with their appearance than telling jokes.” In a YouTube video called “Women are NOT FUNNY” (very creative title, 10/10), the guy in front of the camera reacts to some unfunny TikTok videos from a woman. His takeaway from a couple seconds-long videos? “Women just don’t seem to appreciate comedy at the same level a man does.” He also states that men are better at comedy, because they are willing to self-deprecate from an early age, while women prefer to avoid drawing attention to their imperfections. He categorizes women as being too vain and self-absorbed to take a joke. This dude talks like women are an entirely different species. His ideas were kind of interesting, but he had nothing to back it up- no research, no articles mentioned or cited. The comments had nothing but  high praise for him though, and he’s got ~200,000 subscribers. Go figure, I guess. 
  2. “Female comedians joke too much about their vaginas.” This is another blanket statement I’ve come across on social media threads, and I’m sure it’s something female comics have been hearing for decades now. In my humble opinion, this is a double standard at play. I haven’t even watched that much stand-up comedy and even I’ve heard a ton of dick jokes from male comics. Why is it that guys can make dick/sex jokes all they want, but when a women does the same thing, people find it so gross? I think it has to do with the fact that people don’t expect sex jokes from a woman. From a man, they’re funny. From a woman, it’s annoying and icky. Comedian Emily Weir had some insightful things to say about this in an article from Farrago Magazine. The article is from 2016, but it still makes great points. 
  3. “I don’t like(insert female comedian here) therefore all female comedians are bad.” This isn’t a statement I hear from people online–rather, it’s the thought process I’ve observed from people who hold that belief. Ok, remember what I said about Singh earlier? People took that one instance and spun their own narrative of all women being poor comedians, not just Singh. I see the same thing happen all the time with mainstream female comedians, such as Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, and Ellen DeGeneres. It’s important to recognize that the comedian world is male dominated. Men make up roughly 75% of comedians. The few female comedians you see in the spotlight are not necessarily an accurate picture of all the others. There’s a cornucopia of gut-busting female comedians out there- you just aren’t looking.  Additionally, I’d argue that there are a lot of mainstream male comics who are equally obnoxious and groan-inducing. I don’t like Joe Rogan, but that doesn’t mean every bald, red-faced, middle-aged man is a hack, just most of them! (Kidding, kidding… I didn’t mean it, Dad.) 

It goes without saying that women are just as funny as anyone else. These three points don’t prove anything, and as soon as you start to think about them, their reasoning falls apart. As time goes on, more people are catching onto the weak arguments against female comedians. The way they’re viewed is changing, and I feel like the climate is improving for women in comedy. Even still, these backwards ideas against them still persist. They’ve always bugged me, and someone had to say it. 

P.S) Here are a few of my favorite female comedians. Feel free leave your own favorites in the comments! 

Nicole Byer

Jamie Loftus

Catilin Reily 

Sex Sells…But at What Cost?

By: Ebony Taylor 

Ever watched a movie or tv show based in high-school? Think about the female characters. There’s often a character who’s a “school slut” or girl who wears revealing clothing. She is almost always over-sexualized. Reporters have noticed the almost obsessive need to sexualize the teenage experience, especially with Gen-Z. As a borderline millennial myself, I do not think movies and tv shows accurately represent teen life because the film industry has a skewed view of the high school experience. A more recent example is HBO’s Euphoria, a show meant to portray the mind of young teens.  

Although I have not watched the show, many critics of the show feel its objectification of underaged girls is an issue. The Daily Targum, an online newspaper, mentions that Hollywood has a history of setting unrealistic beauty standards, focusing on the women characters’ sexual development. This may have to do with men filling writing and directing roles, and that female characters are being used to appeal to the male eye.

This idea was brought to my attention on Euphoria,  because the writer and director of the show is also male. Are male writers and directors conscious of how they’re portraying women? Those who have watched Euphoria  agree that the show is not shy about displaying nudity. With the numerous sex, nude, and drug scenes, the Guardian writes that younger audiences may be accidental targets. From featuring former Disney costars, attractive models, to a soundtrack made of popular artists, I can see how this show would be appealing to them.   

The main topic of discussion here is to consider how society imposes sexuality on young girls. Media outlets like social media, tv shows, and movies impact girls and their mental health. Sexualization in media suggests that being “sexy” is liberating and powerful. However, when girls are exposed to unrealistic portrayals of girls their age, it can lead to internal conflict, confusion, self-loathing, according to a Verywell Mind article. Not only do media platforms persuade young girls to express their sexuality, but they open a channel for them to do it.  

Due to labor laws, directors may cast women to play the roles of high school-aged girls. I was shocked to learn that actress Rachael McAdams was 25 when she starred in Mean Girls  as a high school bully. The Daily Targum gave an opinionated review that though the sex lives of teens cannot be completely censored, it is a “fine line between sexualizing young women and being informative on how teens view and experience sexual activities.” It can give teens the wrong perception, that what they see (a grown, developed, working woman) is how they should look in high school. Granted, some girls develop more than others in their teens, but these films and shows are setting the bar almost impossibly high for growing girls.  

For social media outlets, there is a negative side to sexual exposure. The American Journal of Psychiatry mentions Nancy Jo Sales, writer of American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, who concludes that social media can reinforce sexism and objectification. Many times, young girls are sent unwanted penis pictures, pressured to send nude photos, or portray themselves in a sexualized way to compete with other girls for “likes” online. It’s not only happening in the media, but in other parts of teen’s life. The answers for why girls’ sports feel that they need to dress in more revealing uniforms, why women who are more endowed and shapely play high schoolers, or why sex scenes can’t be censored and have to be shown repeatedly, can only come from females in the media industry. There need to be more women in the media to stop the sexualization of girls and young women. Female writers, directors, other creatives could help create realistic portrayals of women in the media. Stricter and more protective laws for women can also ensure safety for women of all ages.