Forced Sterilizations and Targeting Marginalized Communities

By Emma Gilham

Earlier this fall, whistleblower allegations at an ICE detention center in Georgia of forced sterilizations swept news headlines. Dawn Wooten, the whistleblower and former nurse at the center, claimed consent was not obtained for these procedures, the patients were not informed of what was happening, and those that objected were placed in solitary confinement. An investigation by the Department of Homeland Security has been opened into the misconduct at Irwin County Detention Center after significant urging from federal elected officials, as ethical questions such as obtaining informed consent and negligence have been raised. While the investigation is a start, it cannot be ignored that consistent complaints of misconduct have emerged from these detention centers and that the government has an unsavory history with forced sterilizations. The first eugenics law was passed in 1907 in Indiana, inspiring 31 other states to follow. In the CNN article, “In a horrifying history of forced sterilizations, some fear the US is beginning a new chapter”, “The laws, which led to officials ordering sterilizations of people they deemed ‘feeble-minded’ or ‘mentally defective,’” later became models for Nazi Germany.” Throughout the 20th century other government-backed forced sterilizations occurred, which unsurprisingly targeted BIPOC womxn. Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer had a non-consensual hysterectomy while she was having surgery for another health issue in 1961. She brought attention to the issue in her activism. Even into the 2000s, sterilizations were illegally funded by the state of California on incarcerated womxn. Time and time again vulnerable groups have been sterilized at increasing rates. To clarify, hysterectomies and tubal ligation are irreversible and valid forms of birth control. However, the aforementioned instances of forced sterilization often included preying on, coercing, or misinforming womxn into having these procedures. In the end, the investigation into the Irwin County Detention Center is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Stethoscope” by surroundsound5000 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

By Mia Lukic

October marks both Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the month of Indigenous People’s Day on October 12th, 2020. The Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women reports that 4 out of 5 native women are affected by violence today. The National Institute of Justice released a study that said 55.5% of native women experience physical violence by an intimate partner. Native women are murdered at a rate 10 times the national average, and they go missing and/or are murdered at a higher rate than any other ethnic group, according to Native Women’s Society. The lack of communication between tribes, local, and federal law enforcement are often cited as the reason only around 12% of missing indigenous women are entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Person System.

Last month, Congress passed two bills, Savanna’s Act, and the Not Invisible Act, which are focused on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women, and they await the president’s signature. Harper’s Bazaar breaks them down to explain:

Savanna’s Act is named after Savanna LaFontaine, a native woman who was brutally murdered in 2017. This act requires that the Justice Department reports statistics on native people, create and train law enforcement on the protocol for missing and murdered indigenous people, and reach out to tribes and organizations focused on indigenous rights.

The Not Invisible Act demands that the Department of the Interior “designate an official within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to coordinate prevention efforts, grants, and programs related to missing Indians and the murder and human trafficking of Indians” (HB).

These bills are a good step towards justice and can only be attributed to the tireless work of activists who fought and continue to fight for indigenous women. The statistics of violence against indigenous women are horrendous, and for people to still have to fight for something to be done about it is disgraceful. Do not forget the indigenous woman during Violence Prevention Month, or any month. Take some time on the 12th to learn what land you are standing on, go to school on, work on, live on. The website https://native-land.ca/ will break down the tribes that lived on the land before you with a simple zip code input.

What is the Green New Deal, And How Does it Affect Women?

“wind mill” by blubee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By Emma Gilham

As fire engulfs the West, tropical storms destroy communities, and temperatures reach unprecedented levels, climate change is on the public’s mind. The Green New Deal is something many of us have heard about from the news or from social media. Words like “expensive”, “socialist”, and “daydream” buzz around the idea. If someone was particularly interested, unbiased information on the topic is readily available. However, this takes a little more effort than turning on the television.

The Green New Deal is not a piece of legislation or even a proposal for one. It is a plan to address the climate crisis before it’s affects are irreversible. Based on the “October 2018 report entitled ‘Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 oC’’ by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the November 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment report”, the Green New Deal considers the advice of experts in climatology. With this knowledge, comes harsh realities. The 14-page document sets the goal “to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers…” by 2050. It also acknowledges and prepares for the millions of jobs that will be lost in this process. The plan proposes reinvesting in clean energy and guaranteeing people jobs and healthcare. In contrast to the way BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities have historically been left behind when the government makes new goals, the proposal takes on intersectionality. For example, “obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples for all decisions that affect indigenous peoples and their traditional territories…”. Although the atrocities inflicted upon native tribes by the government cannot be undone, there are ways that we can improve the existing relationships. The Green New Deal also addresses the gender pay gap as a crisis related to climate change: “a gender earnings gap that results in women earning approximately 80 percent as much as men, at the median…”. Climate change and pollution disproportionately effect “frontline and vulnerable communities” such as BIPOC communities, migrant communities, women, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled, and the Deal puts forth efforts to begin remedying this. I encourage you to read through the document. Ask yourself: Is this feasible? What are the benefits and drawbacks? How would this affect my life or my children’s lives? At this time, The Green New Deal has received a lot of criticisms and praises. While it doesn’t produce any legislation, it is the only document we have that has attempted to confront the issues we face. It paints a picture of a future to work towards. In the end, climate change is not going to wait for us to finish brainstorming, it’s time to act.

Sojourner Truth: A Timeless Women’s Rights Activist

By Skye VanLanduyt

Sojourner Truth escaped from slavery and became a powerful civil and women’s rights activist during the nineteenth century. Truth’s famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” will always be one of my favorite woman authored pieces in multi-ethnic literature. Her language is controversial, provocative, and unforgettable. She delivered the speech in 1851 at a Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio.

Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman” speech is meant to be controversial. Her speech criticizes white privilege while calling attention to gender and racial disparity in America. In the second paragraph, Truth exclaims “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted into ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?” Her critique of men’s treatment toward women runs deeper than the issue of men seeing women as submissive. White women may not be treated fairly but black women are not seen by men as women at all. Truth’s writing reveals why it is important to take a step back and realize women’s experience is not entirely universal.

At the end of the same paragraph, Truth compares her worth to a man’s. She boldly exclaims, “I could work as much and eat as much as a man-when I could get it-and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?” I love this line because Truth is challenging her role as a woman comparably with a man. She declares women do not “need to be helped” and should be seen as equal to men because they are able to do the same work. But she also calls attention to racial disparity in a new way. Her assertion, “I could work as much and eat as much as a man” is a powerful punch against the barriers white men put up against her.

As powerful as Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman” speech is, there is a shroud of mystery behind the piece’s publication. Her original speech was transcribed by journalist and audience member, Marius Robinson. Truth and Robinson were “good friends” and reportedly “went over his transcription of her speech before he published it.” A second transcription was published by writer, Frances Gage in 1863 in the New York Independent, a women’s suffrage magazine. Some speculate discrepancies in Gage’s transcription. The phrase, “Ain’t I A Woman” is not found in Robinson’s earlier version of Truth’s speech, nor is there any southern dialect. Although Gage was a feminist, her choice to falsify Truth’s dialect and word choice is counterproductive to the purpose of Truth’s speech. The piece loses its powerful flare and provocative language because Gage’s intended audience is not black. New York’s readership in the 1800’s was predominately white. A powerful black woman’s voice speaking out against white privilege and supremacy would not have received praise before the abolition of slavery.

Despite controversy, Sojourner Truth’s speech, “Ain’t I A Woman?” continues to reflect America’s history, present, and future. It is a reminder that while so much progress has been made in the fight for women’s equality, so much more still needs to be done.

Turning A Man’s World Into Our World

By: Maggie Pool

Since our first American History class, a few names have been imbedded into our minds regarding the history of equality and women’s rights. Names such as, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Harriet Tubman are familiar to anyone who received a general education in America. Noticeably, lessons surrounding women’s history is geared towards women’s suffrage, but the fight for equality did not stop once women gained the right to vote in 1920. After this leap toward equality, who continued the fight?

Joan Ruth Bader, known as Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG), was born on March 15th, 1933. She attended the Harvard School of Law but transferred to Cornell University after being scolded for pursuing a male dominated career. In 1954, Ginsburg graduated from Cornell in the top of her class. Despite facing gender discrimination, she became the first female member of the Harvard Law Review. Ginsburg continued fighting against gender discrimination, and in 1980 was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the U.S Court of Appeals. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court. She served as Associate Justice until 2010.

On December 25th, 2018, “On the Basis of Sex,” a biopic presenting RGB’s rocky beginnings as a lawyer in a man’s world was released. The film centers around a tax case about a Colorado man who is denied a tax benefit routinely given to women caring for family members. The case triggers a series of arguments about gender, society, and the law. Ginsburg’s ruthless dedication to prove many laws are generated on the basis of sex is catapulted by this one event, and the journey she faces forces her to maneuver longstanding sexist barriers by only using the weapon of law.

It’s hard for audience members to not get riled up about the discriminating figures Ginsburg confronts, especially since the movie sets up her logic behind the case. We are immediately on Ginsburg’s side, rooting for her to finally shed light on equality for those too stubborn to accept reality. “On the Basis of Sex” does its job of introducing Ginsberg and her struggling start as a lawyer but also her unwavering intensity for justice, which immediately grips you, inciting you to continue the fight for future generations.

Ginsburg, now 86-years-old, remains one of women’s fiercest advocates. When President Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court, he compared her legal work on women to that of Thurgood Marshall on behalf of African-Americans. Because of her heroic feats, I hope the name Ruth Bader Ginsburg is another woman’s name future students are taught to remember and respect throughout American history.

“We should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to the society, because we fit into a certain mold ― because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The 2019 Vagina Monologues

By Mackinzie Aulgur

“…find freedom, aliveness, and power not from what contains, locates, or protects us, but from what dissolves, reveals, and expands us.”- Eve Ensler

We all deserve to be ourselves, stand up for what we believe in, and voice our opinions; each and everyone one of us. This Thursday and Friday, February 21st-22nd, UMKC will be presenting the Vagina Monologues! Doors open at 7pm and performances will take place at 7:30pm. This year the monologues will have 18 presenters, all of which play vital parts. The Vagina Monologues are personal monologues read by a diverse group of women in our community. Their stories will touch on subjects such as sex, sex work, body image, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, and various names for the vagina. The main theme in the play is redefining the vagina to be seen as a symbol of female empowerment and the embodiment of our individuality (Mission, 2019).

In collaboration with V-Day, we will be selling our famous vagina pops (milk and dark chocolate), t-shirts, feminist mugs, Trailblazers’ blend coffee, and a variety unique of buttons before and after the performances. For those who may not know, V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. In fact, according to the United Nations, one of every three women on the planet will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime (Mission, 2019). While we cannot change the past, we have the opportunity to come together as a community, to show support and raise awareness for a better future. Please join us at this years Vagina Monologues as we all reflect on what unifies us in our fight for this goal.

Mission. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vday.org/mission.html

Thursday, February 21. UMKC Student Union Theater, 5100 Cherry St. 

  • Advance tickets: $10 for students, $25 for non-students, $5 each for groups of 5 or more students
  • At the door: $15 for students, $30 for non-students

Friday, February 22. UMKC Spencer Theater, James C. Olson Performing Arts Center, 4949 Cherry St. 

  • Advance tickets: $10 for students, $35 for non-students, $5 each for groups of 5 or more students
  • At the door: $15 for students, $40 for non-students

Tickets may be purchased through Central Ticket Office. Proceeds from all activities benefit the UMKC’s Women’s Center, Violence Prevention and Response Program and V-Day’s 2019 spotlight campaign.

 

Women’s Centers in Senegal

By Ann Varner

Over the winter break I was able to have one of the best experiences of my life-studying abroad in Senegal for two weeks. While there I studied gender, health, and development in Senegal on a program sponsored by the UMKC Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Black Studies Programs, the Departments of History and Foreign Languages & Literature, the UMKC Women’s Center, and the UMKC Honors College,. The experience was amazing, eye opening, and also saddening.

In Senegal there are many efforts for women’s equality. Women can get divorced, legally and religiously, and they can pursue justice if assaulted in any way by a man. Women can also go to college and have their own businesses. While in Senegal I visited multiple women’s centers. One of the women’s centers was similar to a legal aid office where women can come for support as well as legal advice. I asked how often women actually get divorced and due to the stigma of divorce and family shame, it’s not very often. Women in Senegal can get religiously divorced, but it is much harder to become legally divorced. It is such an issue that legal help is primarily what that specific women’s center is dedicated to.

The other women’s center was quite different. This women’s center was in a small village. There, the women went every day to harvest items to sell such as oysters and fish. They then came back to the women’s center and spent many hours preparing the items to be sold, and spent their afternoons either selling their items or learning. The lessons taught were reading and writing, as well as practical lessons such as how to market and manage money for their business. One of the stories that stuck out to me was when we learned of the small loans that the center gave out. For a while men and women could get a small loan to start their business and then were supposed to repay the loan. The women always did, and the men never did. After realizing that the men were not going to pay the center back a rule was instated that only women could procure small loans. When we asked what the motivations were, the response was that women were more worried about ensuring success for their families while the men were not.

Women in Senegal deserve the recognition for all they do on a daily basis. While all women work hard, there is something different about watching a woman with multiple babies strapped to her carrying a large basket on her head as she walks in the 100 degree heat to her market spot. I feel as though we Americans live in a bubble and need to be reminded that there are people in developing countries just trying to learn to read and write so that they can provide an income for their families. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have visited with the women I did and learn about their lives and culture.

A Woman’s Place

By Caitlin Easter

An important reminder to us all in today’s rough political climate: “A Woman’s Place is in the House…and the Senate.”

As I was browsing around the internet a while back, I came across a piece of artwork by Mike Luckovich that depicted the women of the 116th Congress entering the Capital Building below the statement, “A Women’s Place is in the House”. The illustration got me thinking about the cleverness and irony of the statement that was being made. I was seeing a statement that had been used as a means of oppression throughout the centuries beautifully interpreted and illustrated into artwork.

And if I’m being honest, I hope that all of the women stay in the House. Okay, admittedly we’re talking about two different houses here.

While statements like “women belong in the house” used to irritate me (relevancy check: a statement that was made to my face less than two months ago), I fully support Luckovich’s rendering of the statement to exemplify the start of the rise of women. A message that seemed to perpetuate itself in the mouths of people who don’t know what they’re talking about is now turned into a piece of artwork honoring the women who have fought the odds to get to where they are.

Dubbed “The Year of the Woman,” 2018 led us into a 2019 that has started off with a bang. A record number of 127 women are currently holding seats in Congress, a number comprised of 102 women in the House of Representatives and 25 women in the U.S. Senate.

While this is obviously an amazing feat, it isn’t for everybody, and women should be able to choose what they want to be and do. If you want to be a stay-at-home mother, that is great!  But for some of us, staying at home would be maddening, and the idea of motherhood is something a little less-than attractive. Regardless, my gender shouldn’t play into the scope of my options in life.

A woman’s place…is wherever she decides it is.

If you want to view Mike Luckovich’s piece of work entitled “Household”, it can be viewed at https://on-ajc.com/2BXCPPY.

Do Female Actresses Mind a Wage Gap?

By Christina Terrell

Watch some of television’s biggest female stars discuss their experiences in Hollywood.

When it comes to Hollywood stars, most people don’t see money as an issue for anyone – male or female. But what some people do not realize is that in today’s celebrity-focused world, women suffer from the biggest wage gape of all. These women come from different cultures and have varying ages and backgrounds, but that doesn’t matter to the entertainment industry.

In Net-A-Porter’s third annual Women in Television issue, four very well-known and talented female actresses gather to discuss why actresses don’t talk about their worth – and to talk about how they can use their voices to empower one another. These four women include Ellen Pompeo, Emma Roberts, Gabrielle Union, and Gina Rodriquez. Each of these women have held very memorable roles on the television screen. For example, you may know Ellen Pompeo from the hit show Gray’s Anatomy. In the YouTube video, she touches on her experiences with co-stars and crew members from the show, and how she found out that they were not getting paid equally, but still putting in the same amount of work as she was. For this very reason, Pompeo witnessed her hairdresser walk off set in the middle of shooting.

“I’m battling every day.”

Ellen Pompeo

This television debate also touches on some other reasons as to why women in the film industry suffer from such a big wage gap. The talented actresses say that they have experienced cultural discrimination, not just gender-based, and have not been paid equally or allowed to participate in certain projects. Gina Rodriguez, for example, speaks from her experiences and tells viewers how she has taken a job before where she later found out that someone before her was offered the same role, but for much more money. Rodriguez went to the directors of the project and asked for that same amount and was told no. She said that the personally felt as though the people working on the project did not see her as valuable and felt that she could easily be replaced.

“Growing up as a Latina in the United States, I didn’t see us portrayed positively on TV.”

Gina Rodriguez

Throughout the Net-A-Porter video, these gifted actresses go on to share many more experiences that they have had in Hollywood. They also debate ways in which this can be overcome, and share valuable tips about how to empower one another as females working in the entertainment industry.

Susan B. Anthony and the Women’s Right to Vote

By Ann Varner

We are less than a day away from the midterm elections for 2018. It seems that everywhere I turn there are political campaigns, and it’s impossible to escape from it on social media, the radio, the TV, or even signs on cars and in people’s yards. As much as the radio ads annoy me, I must remember and be grateful that I have my right to vote, and that the right for women to vote didn’t come easily. One of the people we can thank for helping move the 19th Amendment of the Constitution along is Susan B. Anthony.

Susan B. Anthony was “a pioneer crusader for the woman suffrage movement in the United States and president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.” Susan B. Anthony was born on February 15th, 1820 in Massachusetts. She grew up in a family that was active in politics. She became inspired to fight for women’s rights when she was denied the chance to speak at a convention campaigning against alcohol, because she’s a woman. She realized then that no one would take women seriously unless they had the right to vote. She founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869 with Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Over the years, the two women traveled around the country to give speeches regarding women’s right to vote. Sadly, she would die in 1906, before the 19th amendment was passed giving all women the right to vote. However, she will always be recognized for her efforts. It would not be until August 26th, 1920 that the senate ratified the 19th amendment and American women gained full voting rights. It was the National Woman Suffrage Association that continued to crusade and helped this right for women to happen. Without her, the NWSA would have not existed and it could have been many more years, if ever, that women were allowed to vote.

I am not only to tell you how to vote or for whom, but please always exercise your right to vote. When you haven’t had to fight for a certain right it is easy to take advantage of it or not use it at all. Without the right to vote the people are voiceless, and as women we must always use our voice and our right to vote to push for progress in this country.