Wonder Women: The Fictional Ladies of T.V.

By Amber Charleville

I do a lot of thinking about fictional ladies. Don’t look at me like that! I mean it in a purely academic sense. Mostly. For the purposes of this blog, I want to talk about some of my favorite TV Shows with amazing women characters who are treated fairly and dynamically. I do a lot of talking about the way the media gets it wrong, but I think it’s also important to talk about the shows that get it right!

Image from Creative Commons Search.

Image from Creative Commons Search.

Without further ado, here is Amber’s List of Favorite Fictional Ladies in the Past Year:

  1. Dr. Cristina Yang of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, played by Sandra Oh. Cristina Yang demonstrates again and again what it means to be a woman who chooses career over having children, to not be someone who wants to be a mother. Cristina shows us how that can be both empowering and alienating in a society who expects all women to work toward motherhood as the ultimate accomplishment and goal. While there is certainly nothing wrong with having children (as demonstrated by numerous other characters on the show), Cristina’s struggle speaks to those of us who don’t feel that drive and know we never will.
  2. Detective Amy Santiago and Detective Rosa Diaz of Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, played by Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz. Funny, quirky, driven, and inspiring, both of these women show us that women don’t have to all act the same to be badass and amazing. They also teach us something about how important camaraderie and mutual support is among women, especially women in a “boys club.”
  3. Sophia Burset of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, played by Laverne Cox. Sophia Burset brings some much needed exposure to Transgender Women and their experiences with transmisogyny and cissexism. She’s funny, smart, and beautiful, and she shows us that what it means to be a woman in this world isn’t regulated by the sex you were assigned at birth.
  4. Carol Peletier and Michonne of AMC’s The Walking Dead, played by Melissa McBride and Danai Gurira. When it comes to drama at the end of the world, The Walking Dead does an amazing job of exploring gender essentialism, gender roles in survival situations, and what it means to be willing to do anything to stay alive. They are every bit as broken, dangerous, compassionate, and brutal as their male counterparts, and watching their growth over the past several seasons has been riveting.
  5. Sarah Manning, et al. of BBC America’s Orphan Black, played by Tatiana Maslany. It would be impossible to list every single character played by Tatiana Maslany on Orphan Black, but each and every one of the clones she portrays is unique, dynamic, and has different experiences and views in the world. It shows us what our identity looks like when it cannot rely on our physical features.
  6. Allison Scagliotti from Warehouse 13. Image from Google Images through Creative Commons Search.

    Allison Scagliotti from Warehouse 13. Image from Google Images through Creative Commons Search.

    Myka Bering and Claudia Donovan of Syfy’s Warehouse 13 played by Joanne Kelly and Allison Scagliotti. Warehouse 13 is one of my favorite shows on television even though it occupies a relatively obscure corner. Myka is ambitious and rule oriented, Claudia is daring and creative, and they both shine as individuals capable of so very much. They explore different and evolving relationship dynamics, what it means when the family you create is more important than the family you were born into, and how love is more than just romance. It’s friendship, partnership, sisterhood, and so much more. The show itself is maybe a little cheesy, but the characters, especially the women, make it stand out.

A Women’s Center for Everyone

WC_Logo-2COLOR-FBy Arzie Umali

The Women’s Center has had a home at UMKC for over 40 years; however, every day, someone new walks through our doors, attends one of our events, or discovers us on the internet.  That is what is so great about the Women’s Center. It is available and accessible to everyone.  It is a place to come when you want to meet people or you need some extra support. It is a staff of creative, passionate people who plan programs and events to educate you and raise your awareness about gender issues so that you feel inspired to get involved. And it is a service that helps you find resources for women, learn about the multicultural realities of women, and stay informed about current events that affect women. Our mission is to advocate, educate, and provide support services for the advancement of women’s equity on campus and within the community at large, and as a place, a staff, and a service for our students we strive to make this happen.

The Women’s Center is located in 105 Haag Hall. It is a convenient location for students who need a space to study between classes, finish up homework, or meet up with friends. We are open every weekday from 8 AM to 5 PM and we encourage all students to take advantage of our study lounge with computers and a comfy couch, conference room, and kitchenette. For nursing mothers we offer a private and secure lactation room with refrigerator for storing breast milk. And if it’s a book on women’s and gender topics you are looking for, our friendly staff is always happy to help you find a book in our library. The Women’s Center also houses the Violence Prevention and Response Project, where you can pick up information and resources about gender violence, stalking, and sexual assault, or stop by and speak to our Victim Services Adjudication Advisor if you need extra support. Our center really is about having a safer space to go when you need help, when you need to get away, or even if you need to see a friendly smile.

If activism and getting involved are what you want from your college experience, attending one or all of the Women’s Center’s programs is what you need to do. We offer a number of events that will raise your awareness about gender disparities and inspire you to get involved.  Through our Violence and Prevention Project we offer programs on sexual assault prevention to create a safer campus community.   This semester, our V-Day programs will begin in February with information tables at various locations across campus that will offer information about the international movement to end violence against women and girls. On February 19, we will be partnering with the UMKC Men of Color Initiative to offer a workshop just for men to discuss their own responsibilities in ending violence toward women. And on the evening of Tuesday, March 4, at the Student Union Theater, we will present a benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues, which includes a diverse cast of women from the UMKC student body, staff and faculty, as well as women from the community.  For more details about all our V-Day programs or to purchase tickets to The Vagina Monologues, please visit the V-Day UMKC website at http://www.umkc.edu/womenc/VDay2014/default.asp.

The Women’s Center also hosts a number of events that recognize the accomplishment of women and focus on gender equity. During the week of February 24,  we will be presenting Every Body is Beautiful Week, a series of programs that addresses eating disorders and negative body image as barriers to women’s achievement.  These programs are offered as a campus-wide effort in partnership with the UMKC Counseling Center, Office of Student Involvement, UMKC Athletics, Swinney Recreation Center, Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, and Student Health and Wellness to create more body positive messaging and ideals for women and girls. In March during Women’s History Month we will offer a trivia contest challenging our campus community’s knowledge of the accomplishments of women in history.  And on April 8, we will host an Equal Pay Day event to raise awareness of the pay disparities that women in America still face. All of these events are meant to engage our students in the unique experiences of all women.

The Women’s Center also addresses the issue of gender discrimination in the arts through the Her Art Project we address the issue of gender discrimination. This semester our programs will celebrate Wonder Women at two exciting events.  First, we are presenting a group art exhibit at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in the historic Crossroads Arts District. The exhibit will run February 7 – March 29 and will feature six local women artists who are superheoines of the local arts community and who create works that represent the strength, courage, and resilience of the empowered woman.  On the evening of April 22 at the Kansas City Public Library Plaza Branch, we will be hosting award-winning filmmaker Kristy Guevara-Flanagan for a screening and discussion of her documentary WonderWomen! The Untold Story of American Superheroines. Both of these events focus on creative women as leaders, change-makers, and inspirations to the next generation of Wonder Women. For more information about these, and all of our events this semester, visit our website, www.umkc.edu/womenc.

Finally, the Women’s Center is a vital resource for everyone, not just women, and not just student at UMKC or people in our community. We are here for everyone and available to everyone, 24-7, on the worldwide web. Through our website, www.umkc.edu/womenc, you can access resources for women, check out our calendar for events happening on campus as well as in the community for women, and learn about the staff and history of the Women’s Center. Through our Blog, https://info.umkc.edu/womenc/, you can get insight on current topics about women from articles written by our own student staff. And on our Social Media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr) you can find information, photos, and news about what’s happening at the Women’s Center and around the world. As you can see, the Women’s Center is more than just a mission statement. It’s a place, it’s a staff, and it’s a service dedicated to making UMKC and our community a safer, more equitable world for everyone.

For more information about the UMKC Women’s Center, please stop by 105 Haag Hall or visit us at www.umkc.edu/womenc.

Wonder Woman in STEM: Mary Barra

By Torshawna Grffin

Imag courtesy of Google Images; found through Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Google Images; found through Creative Commons

A big “congratulations” goes to Mary Barra for being General Motor’s first female CEO. Making it to the top in a male-dominated field is not the easiest thing. Mary has been with the company for 33 years. When given the promotion she said, “I’m honored to lead the best team in the business and to keep our momentum at full speed.” Mary has been with General Motors (GM) since she was 18 years old.  She attended General Motors Institute (known as Kettering University) as a co-op student (meaning that she had to find a GM unit to be her sponsor – she chose Pontiac). Mary has truly worked her way to the top through hard work and perseverance.

For me, being in the Mechanical Engineering field as a woman, it gives me hope that the car industry could one day be female-dominated.  Most people don’t understand that being a woman in a male-dominated industry is hard because not only are you competing with other women, but you are constantly proving to the men that you can be an asset to their company. I struggle with these hardships now within my classes. Because of women like Mary Barra, engineering will no longer be considered a male career. Mary Barra is truly a “WONDERful Woman”.

Wonder Woman and Microbiologist: Dr. Kelly Cowan

By Amber Charleville

In my ongoing quest to interview Wonder Women who inspire me, I knew I had to ask Dr. Kelly Cowan if she would be kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

I met Dr. Cowan in the spring of 2012 when I took her microbiology class at Miami University – Middletown, Ohio (Mum, as the locals call it). It was the first science class I’d taken in thirteen years, and I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect, but it was a class I had to take on my path to nursing. I wanted to get it right!

Little did I know I’d be walking away from the experience with a love of microbiology, a deeper appreciation for science, and a feminist role model. Dr. Cowan’s passion for teaching transfers to her students and gets them invested in learning.

While I love UMKC and have met many educators I’m thrilled and excited to learn from, Miami University will always hold a special place in my science-loving heart for allowing me a chance to learn from Dr. Cowan.

Now, we keep up through Facebook and Twitter, and I’m a regular reader of her blog, Microbiology Maven, in which she speaks frankly about life as a science professor and being a woman in a STEM field.

In addition to blogging and teaching, Dr. Cowan is also the published author of several popular microbiology texts through McGraw-Hill. So it’s no joke when I say I was lucky to grab a little of her time when she answered a few questions via e-mail for me!

 ***

Image found on Google Images through Creative Commons.

Image found on Google Images through Creative Commons.

AC: Can you tell me a little about your background? Where you’re from, education, why you chose microbiology, etc?

KC: I’m from Kentucky.  I got all of my degrees from the University of Louisville. Then [I] did postdoctoral training at the [University] of Maryland and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.  My path to microbiology was circuitous; I was a lost puppy in college being a first-generation college student.  I was at various times a math major, a psychology major, an English major, and a dental hygiene major.  At no time was I a microbiology major.

When I thought about graduate school, I was trying to decide whether to do creative writing or microbiology.  I chose microbiology figuring if I was going to write I’d better have some experience in something in order to have something to write about.

AC: You’re now a published author of a popular series of microbiology texts through McGraw-Hill, right? How did that come about and how does it feel to know you’re helping to educate not just the students in your classroom, but ones all across the country?

KC: Well, see the answer [below].  I thought, “I can do better than that,” while trying to use the existing textbooks.   Sometimes a little hubris can go a long way.  That was one of those things where it was much harder than I expected but also much more rewarding – being able to change a culture from “let’s put everything we know in this book” to “let’s decide what we want this population to remember five years from now” and meet students where they are.

AC: You have a somewhat unique approach and an infectious passion for your subject in the classroom. How long have you been teaching? And how did you “get in” to teaching?

KC: In graduate school I had some pretty arrogant and lousy professors.   It seemed like they mainly just wanted you to feel like they were smarter than you, and weren’t all that interested in whether they were communicating with you.  I thought to myself: I can do better than that.  And for that reason my favorite classes to teach are the ones with the LEAST prepared students – the 100-level students, non-majors, etc.  To teach that population you have to really know your stuff, and beyond that, be really empathic, and understand where they are and take the focus off of yourself.

AC: Recently, you’ve branched out to writing for your own website and blog, too. I enjoy reading it, but can you tell our readers a little about what sort of topics you tackle and what you like about blogging?

KC:  Well, it’s a blog about science, teaching science, and science and culture.  And the occasional Rumi poem.  Here’s a recent post that manages to tie together college football and women in science: http://www.microbiologymaven.com/miscellany/reflections-on-the-harassment-thing/

AC: You’re a working mom, too. How has that been challenging and rewarding for you? And how do you feel being a working mom differs from being a working dad?

KC:  I hope that soon there will be no difference, and I see a lot of progress towards that.  Unless you’re talking about the actual gestation and birth and recovery, there is no reason that being a working dad shouldn’t be as difficult as being a working mom!

But there is still a ways to go. For instance, in the academic world, the stage of life that you are on the tenure track, spending 5-6 years in full-out overachievement mode so that the one-time decision about whether you have a job for life will go your way – is the very same time, biologically, that you are likely to be giving birth and raising small children.

In academic fields that are male-dominated, it becomes even more difficult as your peers and competitors who are male are likely to have a partner who is managing the lion’s share of the parenting activities.   Because of long-standing gender norms, even if a female scientist has a partner, she is still more likely to be handling the bulk of the child raising.   That is changing for the current generation and it will continue to change.

AC: Recently, there have been a lot of strides to get women and girls more interested and involved in the sciences. Women are sorely needed voices in the scientific community at large. What has been your experience as a woman in science and why do you think it’s important for more women to join the (many) different fields encompassed by ‘science’?

KC:  The whole enterprise of science needs to change to accommodate not only women but the new models of “doing science” – crowd collaboration, interdisciplinary work, etc.   There are a lot of discussions going on about grants, publishing, tenure, etc and I anticipate that science in 20 years will look a lot different than it does now.   It’s sad that the revolution will come not because women have always been undervalued in it, but because the majority population (males) is itself being affected by unstoppable cultural forces.  But it is coming.

AC: Do you consider yourself a feminist, why or why not?

KC: Of course!  And for those women who are proud to say they are not, I would love to make an “It’s a Wonderful Life” movie for them and show them what they would be doing right now without the hard work of feminists before them.  Right after I make the “Wonderful Life” movie for the people who say government is bad, and show them what their “self-made” success would look like without roads, electricity, public health, and yes, taxes.

***

Thanks again to Dr. Cowan for making time to answer my questions. Our readers can find Dr. Cowan at her blog, www. microbiologymaven.com and on Twitter: @cowanmicro

Wonder Woman and Body Peace Advocate: My Close Friend, Bailey

Nowfoundation.org's Love Your Body Campaign Poster from 2009.

Nowfoundation.org’s Love Your Body Campaign Poster from 2009.

By Morgan Paul

Earlier this week I sat down with a good friend of mine to talk about body image. While I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by a supportive peer ground, I wanted to know how they became so supportive. Bailey and I met in the 6th grade, but it’s only been the past few years that I began to notice her body positivity. As a child she said that she was unhappy with her body, as most children are, but she also told me that when she would talk to her friends about her insecurities they would agree with her. So not only was she having these negative thoughts, but they were then being reinforced by her peers.

When kids openly talk about insecurities, it normalizes the notion that we should be unhappy with our bodies, and schools don’t help this idea. There is no intervention to body negative talk, and no support for body positive talk. When I asked Bailey about public school health classes she said that they leave things too broad. She believes that “schools should ask kids what they think, get opinions, and let them know that there are people they can talk to.” Growing up in public school I would have to agree that schools do next to nothing to inform students about health or to promote body positivity. We spent the majority of the time in my high school health class watching movies like Transformers and Cool Running.

Bailey was fortunate, as many of us are, to have access to alternative media. She soon began to think independently and stopped responding to the media’s images of women. She believes that media is a significant cause of insecurities and that exposing children to media so young is not healthy. She also explained that actresses in kid’s shows are too old to be playing the parts. Bailey found herself wanting to look like the character who is 16, but really she was trying to look more like the actress who was around age 25. Pressures from the media like this one are causing kids to grow up too quickly. Another example is the way break-ups are perceived in the media. We naturally get defensive and want to compare ourselves to their new partner, but Bailey says that we should focus more on the fact that there was obviously a problem in that relationship and that you should just be happy that you got out of it. She also says that it is never healthy to compare yourself to others. “Everyone is on their own journey,” she said, so you are not any better or worse than anybody else, you’re simply at a different part of your journey.

One of the things that stood out to me most in our discussion was when Bailey said “The amount of beauty you see in yourself you should see equally in other people.” I find that an important rule to live by, no matter how hard you try. Balance your negative thoughts with positive ones. I have been talking a lot about loving your body, but Bailey made me rethink my approach when she told me “you don’t have to love your body, but you need to love yourself.” It’s such a subtle approach to the significance placed on beauty. When we say “love yourself” people assume body, but really you need to love all of yourself. Love your imperfections and your talents and your quirks. “Loving yourself is the greatest thing you can ever do and loving yourself and others goes hand in hand,” Bailey said. “Any way that you want to better yourself and life, loving yourself will help you get there. You’ll be surprised.”

Wonder Woman, Healer, and Educator: Professor Brenda Walker-Williams

By Amber Charleville

As I traverse the bumpy and challenging terrain of higher education, I’ve been helped along by a few Wonder Women occupying the role of educator. It’s even made me aspire to follow in their footsteps one day after I pursue my first dream of running a women’s health clinic.

When Katie (of Graduate Assistant Fame here at the Women’s Center) suggested I do one or two profile pieces on professors who have inspired me, one of the first that came to mind was Professor Benda Walker-Williams. I had Professor Walker-Williams as my instructor in two classes this past spring: Nursing 101 (along with the equally wonderful Professor Jolene Lyn), and Anatomy and Physiology Lab.

Professor Walker Williams. Picture from her personal collection.

Professor Walker Williams.
Picture from her personal collection.

Professor Walker-Williams has been in nursing for 30 years and has been a nurse educator about half that time. She’s been with us here at UMKC since 2008, full time since fall of 2010. Also an avid poet, one of her areas of focus is how art such as poetry, music, etc. can be used to facilitate healing. She was kind enough to make time for me in her busy schedule, and this past Friday we sat down to talk about nursing, science, being a woman professional, and some of the unique challenges she faces as a woman of color.

*****

Amber Charleville (AC): Starting out with kind of a basic question, but what do you love about nursing?

Prof. Walker-Williams (WW): What I love about nursing is that you get to recreate yourself. […] I always feel like I want my mind to be growing and I want to be learning new things. I like to go outside my comfort zone, and so when I do that, in order to do that, sometimes you have to change your interest in nursing, and I love that nursing gives you the opportunity to do that.

AC: And what do you love about being a nurse educator?

WW: I love being among students who are  serious and motivated about coming into nursing gives as it gives me hope for the future profession of nursing. I feel like I am contributing to them and their knowledge, their ability to take care of myself, family members, or other persons who might be entering into the healthcare arena. I feel like this is my way of giving back, passing on some of my pearls of wisdom for those who are interested and want to know.

AC: How do you feel like nursing empowers you as woman?

WW: For nurses, you have to be able to critically think. You have to be able to think on your feet. You need intelligence and fortitude. It helps you to be strong when you need to be strong, and to tap into your weak side when you need that, too.  It teaches you to challenge situations, don’t just automatically accept what is – question, question, question.

I wish I had the gumption I have now when I first got into nursing because back then it was like what we taught you all in Nursing 101, talking about the folk image and the servant image*. We actually had the servant image more so when I first came into nursing. When doctors came around, you got out of the seat so they could sit in their special chair, and you brought them coffee or tea.  You made sure they had a pen and access to all the charts which were put on a chart rack.

My first job in pediatrics it was like that, and I kept thinking, “That’s not what I came into nursing to do.” So I’m glad to see a lot of that has changed. Particularly with nursing today, it does give you that fortitude to be strong.  Sometimes you need to be strong, particularly when you’re dealing with different healthcare issues, advocating for the client to get them the assistance they need. It takes a strong and a motivated person to be able to do that.

[*AC: ”Folk image” or “Servant image” refers to the old image of nurses tirelessly slaving at the bedside without complaint, the white skirts and the cap, the doctor’s servant without any autonomy in patient care.]

AC: As you mentioned, we talked a lot about the image of nursing and the profession of nursing in Nursing 101. What does it mean to you to be a nursing professional?

WW: It’s about how you conduct yourself. It’s about your ethical and moral principles that guide you day to day. How you interact with not only patients, but staff and the students here at the school or other colleagues.

AC: How do you feel about nursing being seen as “Women’s Work” and therefore not as important?

WW: Well, women have always historically taken care of the sick before the profession started. So it’s hard for us to totally get away from that stereotype or that image because it’s what’s put on us because we happen to be female. So, again, I think as time evolves, I can see some changes coming about. We have more men, more people from the LGBTQ community, more people from all walks of life. I think is a good thing because why not have representatives of all walks of life in nursing? I mean, that’s what it’s going to take because sometimes you need someone that looks just like you when you’re that person lying in the bed. When you make that connection, it might be what they need to get them to the next step toward wellness.

AC: Speaking of inclusivity, how do you feel the challenges and the experience has been different for you as a woman of color in nursing?

WW: Well, there have been some challenges, and I know they still exist. We all know even with us having a black president, you still have people who are… narrow-minded, I’d say. And we have the same thing in healthcare. As far as the nursing profession, we still have people who are narrow-minded, and so sometimes just because you are a person of color […] they don’t give you a chance.

You always feel like you have to work that much harder than other people would have to work to get the same recognition, the same… even pay. There have been a lot of instances where just because you are who you are, that’s what you’re going to get paid. It doesn’t matter about your education background or your experience. They automatically will give you a lower pay than some of your colleagues. There are a lot of injustices as far as that goes.

That’s a whole issue that I’m thinking someone will tackle one day, and who knows? It might even be me. I haven’t thought about this in a long time, but I know it exists. It’s something that needs to be dealt with.

AC: Definitely, and I know even in my class, the majority of the students are white like myself. So I think it’s important that the students of color do have persons of color on the faculty and staff, especially such a strong role model like you. It’s like you were saying with patients, it helps when there’s someone that looks like you. As a student, it lets you know there’s someone that understands where you’re coming from, and makes it easier to picture yourself in that position.

WW: Yes, right, it does!

AC: So, I know that you’re the director of the Anatomy and Physiology labs. Can you tell me a little about nursing as a science, why it’s important for nurses to be scientists?

WW: Well, that’s the spirit of inquiry, where you question. So that automatically leads you to using the scientific method. You need to figure out what is the answer? Why is the answer what it is? Do I need to challenge that answer?  And that’s important for when you have patients and you need to advise and teach them about their disease and how their body is responding, why they’re having the problem that they’re having.

AC: I just want to wrap things up by asking if you’re working on any research yourself right now?

WW: I have a few things in mind. I’ll be starting hopefully by the end of the year. I’m not sure if you know I write poetry and it’s kind of my therapy. And in grad school, I came up with an intervention that had not been done before, using my poetry. And so that’s the first thing on my plate that I want to address. How you can use poetry to deal with families and some family issues. It’s a way to make people feel important particularly when you write something about them. Sometimes people don’t see their own worth. They’re never told they have worth, and when an outsider shows them they have worth, it  makes all the difference in the world.

*****

I just want to thank Professor Walker-Williams again for taking time out of her schedule to speak with me for the Women’s Center blog. She truly is a Wonder Woman, and I hope that she sees her own worth just as much as she helps her patients and students to see theirs!

Malala Yousafzia: Survivor, Activist, Feminist, and Wonder Woman

By Morgan Paul

We’ve been talking a lot about Wonder Women this year at the Women’s Center, and the media’s been talking a lot about Malala Yousafzia, so what better woman to blog about than sixteen-year-old Malala!

I first heard about her a few nights ago while watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The Daily Show is a show that I frequently watch, but I have never seen Jon Stewart admire anyone the way he did Malala. By seventh grade Malala, was blogging for the BBC about life under Taliban rule. Her home was taken over, her school was closed, and she survived an assassination attempt. Although she has been surrounded by violence most of her life, Malala still promotes peace and believes that education is the key to ending war. It’s terrifying to think about having to take that stand at such a young age, but Malala had support. Her father is an teacher, school owner, and activist as well. He is obviously very proud of her, and has coerced her to be a politician. She says she hopes to found a political party based on education. She has been awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize along with many other nominations and awards. Her book I am Malala is out now, and I strongly urge you to read it. Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to watch her interview with Jon Stewart.

A “Thank You” to all of the Feminists

Image from Google Images.

Image from Google Images.

By Amber Charleville

It’s been a busy semester here at the Women’s Center, and we’re only halfway through.  (On the other hand: Woohoo, we made it through the first 8 weeks of classes!) We’ve done events at the Kansas City Public Library, the Plaza, across campus, and everywhere I’ve gone I’ve met women eager to reach out and connect with each other. Even when I’m not working events, when I tell people where I work, they always ask me questions. They want to know more: how they can get involved, what kind of services we offer, and if it’s okay if they just come by. (The answer to the last one is a resounding YES).

One of the biggest arguments against feminism I hear is that “women don’t have it that bad.” It’s not like we can’t vote or hold a job. It’s not like we can’t go to school. What’s the big deal? But when I meet women from all different backgrounds who all face the many and varied challenges of being a woman every day of their lives, I know it’s not all in my head. It reminds me why I proudly tell people that I’m a feminist. It reminds me why I don’t stay silent and why, no matter how tiring it can be, I always try to educate people on what it means to be a feminist.

Basically, what I want to say is: thanks. Thank you to the women I’ve met this semester (and all the semesters previously) who have inspired and encouraged me. No matter how corny it sounds, it gives me strength knowing I’m not in this on my own.

In acknowledgement of that, some of my blogs going forward are going to feature WONDERful WOMEN right here in our own backyard: professors who make me proud to be a part of this school, who fuel my drive to count myself among UMKC’s alumni.

A Wonder Woman and Inspiring Chicana: Dr. Norma E. Cantú

Picture from http://bit.ly/1dOkMsv

Picture from http://bit.ly/1dOkMsv

By Maritza Gordillo

Dr. Norma E. Cantú is a postmodernist writer and an English and Latina/Latino Studies professor at UMKC. Her areas of specialization are: border studies, Chicano/a literature, cultural studies, folklore, and feminist studies. I recently went to a book reading she had on September 5, 2013 at the Central Library on one of her award winning books, Canícula, as well as other works of hers. The pieces she read were inspired by her own life experiences and with lots of humor like in one of her recent projects, Hair.

After hearing her childhood experiences, I have come to realize that we all have our own story that we should be writing. As women, we go through a lot of experiences from childhood to adulthood changing physically, emotionally, economically, etc… that make us who we are. We need to embrace them and share them with others. Dr. Cantú continues to inspire me through her work as an empowering Chicana, feminist, and poet. I feel honored to have her as my professor, to have her as a friend, and to have her as a mentor.