The Transformation of My Opinion on Selfies

Ann’s selfie

By Ann Varner

Over the past 10 years selfies have become incredibly well-known. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a selfie as “an image of oneself taken using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks”. If you have social media, you’ve likely had many friends who post selfies, whether it’s just of themselves or with others. I’ll admit, for many years when I would see the same woman or man posting 10 pictures of themselves every other day, I would roll my eyes and think to myself that they were being vain or seeking attention. This is actually a common thought — that selfies are narcissistic. More often than not, I would think this about the women who posted their selfies more than the men. However, the American Counseling Association states that the personality traits that indicate narcissism are much more evident in men than women. Essentially, their studies found that when men took selfies, the act was for the most part linked to narcissism. But that same link was not nearly as present with women.

As selfies have become more and more commonplace in my social media feeds, I have watched as women began to explain why they were taking the selfies. One woman had an autoimmune diseases that would cause her skin to flare up. To help her become less self-conscious, she would post selfies of herself during a flare up to receive support from her online friends. Another woman had lost a lot of weight and wanted to show it off, so she would take selfies as a way of self-motivation. My eye rolling began to lessen as I began to see that selfies didn’t necessarily mean that these friends on social media were vain or seeking attention — it was a form of empowerment for them.

Curious about this realization, I reached out to my social media friends and asked one question: Are selfies empowering or narcissistic? Most people responded to say that they posted their selfies because they were proud or feeling good about themselves. Some responded that it depended on how often they posted their selfies. In all, it appeared that most people (limited to my social media) were supportive of selfies as empowerment.

One article perfectly explains the misunderstanding that people have with confusing narcissism with empowerment when women post selfies:

“Novelist and poet John Berger once wrote ‘You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure’. In a way, selfies are a perfect example of this. It isn’t permissible for a young woman to take control over how she is depicted, so people get worked up and freak out when a woman posts a picture of herself that somehow gives her social empowerment and validity”

In the end it comes down to this: we all have our own struggles and self-consciousness even if others can’t see it. We all have different reasons for our selfie posts whether it’s a hidden disease, weight loss, or feeling great about life. Try to empower your friends when they feel confident enough to post a selfie instead of rolling your eyes. After removing the bias from my mind, I now love seeing other’s selfies and encourage them to keep on posting.

To Bra, or Not to Bra: That is My Choice

By Ann Varner

About a year ago, I was sunburned so badly I had second degree burns on my back. The burns were so bad that I had to wrap my back in gauze to cover the open wounds from the blisters, and could not wear a bra due to the area where the burns were. At first, I was horrified that I would have to go without a bra. I still had to work and not wearing a bra made me terribly self-conscious. The entire time I was working, I was crossing my arms trying to cover up my unsupported chest. But after a few weeks of freedom from my bra, I found I was infinitely more comfortable without a bra. I really started to love being braless and couldn’t care less about what people were thinking.

Thanks to that sunburn, I have been liberated from my bra and the pressure to always wear one.  I have made the choice to go braless or at least only wear a simple bralette with no underwire and no padding. It’s enough to hold up the girls when I need the extra support, but that’s it. It’s comfortable, it’s what works for me, and it’s my choice.

Some women prefer bras for various reasons. And that’s okay. For instance, if you have a large chest, wearing a bra can help relieve back pain. Wearing a bra can also hold things in place while exercising. Those are fine reasons for wearing a bra. Those are also choices that a woman can make herself and that’s why I’m writing this blog. I think wearing a bra should be a choice, not a necessity.

Over the years I’ve heard comments from both men and women directed towards women that they notice who are not wearing bras. These comments are mostly critical about braless women being too “lazy” to put one on. I’ve heard people say, “She was so lazy she wouldn’t even put a bra on” and “I can’t believe she couldn’t take two seconds to put on a bra. That’s lazy.” I’ve even had my own friends direct similar comments toward me and my choice to go braless. For the record, friends: I am not too lazy to put on a bra. I am making a choice!

Being braless does not equal laziness. Choosing to wear a bra or not is a woman’s choice to make, and women should not feel ashamed or embarrassed if they make that choice. But why do people still think that they are entitled to have an opinion about a woman’s choice to wear a bra or not?

According to the online women’s health magazine, the bra wasn’t even invented until the 1900’s. Women went centuries without binding their chests in spandex and polyester. A woman named Mary Phelps Jacob came up with the first idea for a bra, which consisted of two handkerchiefs and a pink ribbon. However, it was a man named Frederick Mellinger (a.k.a. Fredericks of Hollywood) who created the first padded and push-up bra in 1947. He soon built a business of highly sexualized bras and undergarments. Mellinger’s bras helped bring focus to women’s breasts as objects covered in satin and fancy lace and coyly hiding one of the woman’s most titillating body parts – the nipple. Social rules of modesty have demanded that women must cover up their nipples, yet men have always been free to display theirs in any public setting without scrutiny. (The #freethenipple campaign is working to bring equity to the issue.) So because women’s breasts (and nipples) are seen as objects of sexual desire, the bra has become a tool to control that desire and a woman’s ability to control her own sexuality. A braless woman with her free wielding breasts and nipples sends the message that she is in control of her body and sexual desires, and that can make some people – especially men – uncomfortable.

I wholeheartedly believe that women should always be in control of their own bodies and I encourage you to make your choice to wear a bra or not based on what’s comfortable for you. After all, you were not put on this earth to make other people comfortable.

Four ways to engage your feminism this fall

By Kara Lewis

Here at the UMKC Women’s Center, fall has definitely started. Our staff members are wrapping themselves in jackets and flannels, making extra coffee and excitedly prepping for October events. As for me, I’m making a trip home this weekend to grab my sweaters.

But what if fall was about more than just pumpkins, leaves and all things Pinterest? Here are four ways to make sure your feminism doesn’t cool down this season.

1. Get out & about

Feminist events are where it’s at this fall! The Women’s Center hosts Crafty Feminist Fridays and Feminist Film Fridays through October. Come and knit something to cozy up in, or come watch Hidden Figures and The Girl on the Train with a side of popcorn and feminist discussion.

Then, we’re gearing up for our biggest event of the semester, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, on Oct. 5. Watch men walk in high heels and gain an understanding of women’s issues.

2. Check out feminist pop culture

Feminist TV favorites release new seasons this fall. The Mindy Project returns for its final season on Sept. 12, while Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin debut on Oct. 31. The Riverdale team, who hinted at a progressive season two storyline, drop a new mystery Oct. 11.

On the big screen, Battle of the Sexes chronicles the historic tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). The film depicts the discrimination female athletes face, but will likely leave audience members feeling empowered and inspired.

Lastly, one of my favorite feminist websites, Bitch Media, published this awesome list of September must-reads.

3. Fall in love with body positive fashion

Say bye to suffocating skinny jeans and limiting wardrobe options. Body positive online retailers, like ModCloth and ASOS, offer sizes up to 4X and 28, respectively. Snuggle into something from Aerie, a brand that offers comfy fall favorites like sweatshirts, sweaters and flannels in sizes ranging from XXS-XXL.

Need more suggestions? Check out this slide show of more inclusive fashion brands.

4. Plan your perfect Halloween costume— and avoid appropriation

I can’t wait to see lots of Wonder Women trick or treating this year! From Notorious RBG to Gloria Steinem, transform into your favorite feminist icon this October.

Be an unproblematic fave by avoiding cultural appropriation (using someone else’s race, ethnicity or culture as a costume).

Now, where can I get Extreme Sour Patch Kids?

 

The Dress Code

By Caroline Turner

As kids, some of us dealt with school uniforms. Luckily for me, I did not. I would have hated the idea of being restricted to wear only two pairs of pants and two different colored shirts. In fact I remember writing school papers passionately siding on why kids should be able to express themselves, make their own decisions, and wear what they want without uniforms. In an institution that requires strict dress codes or uniforms, you know what you’re signing up for. But in the real world once we graduate from those institutions do we still have dress codes telling us what we can and cannot wear as grown-ups, specifically as women?

When men go shopping there are many options to choose from. Wear a bow tie, wear a tie, or no tie. Get a tight tee shirt or a loose tank top. Wear baggy pants or tight pants. Wear sneakers or dress shoes. All of these choices are ok and express one’s freedom of choice and personal style preference. Once the clothes are purchased and taken home, the man would probably not have a second thought when getting dressed in his new clothes later on.

When women go shopping, very similarly, there are also many options to choose from. Wear a bra, wear a push up bra, or no bra. Get short shorts or jeans. Wear a crop top or wear a tank top. Wear sneakers or heels. Again, all of these choices are ok and express one’s freedom of choice and personal style preferences. During the process of shopping, once the clothes are bought, or maybe both times, there is a thought that creeps into women’s minds when getting dressed. And it’s not about how the clothing will feel, or if the clothes will last a while.  It’s a thought about how others will treat her based on what she’s wearing. “Is there too much skin showing? Will people be looking at me unwantedly? Will they think of me as promiscuous, easy? Will they interpret this clothing as me wanting to make a sexual advance? Will I be respected or taken seriously?”

Sexualizing women unwantedly has largely become socially acceptable. The media and our culture works to pin-point styles and behaviors as being sexual, even if there is nothing inherently sexual about them.

The in depth report on the sexualization of girls by the American Psychological Association explains that girls can then self-objectify themselves by “(internalizing) an observer’s perspective on their physical selves and learn to treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated for their appearance.” There is no clear dress code on what women can and cannot wear, but based on societal standards we monitor ourselves. For example, we may not wear shorts because they might be too revealing.

For women it seems there is a dress code, albeit one that is more clearly read between the lines. Some of us may be more aware of it than others, but it is one that is created by us, our sisters and brothers. This dress code is based on sexualizing women and teaching us how to monitor ourselves in the process. I never was a fan of dress codes, and this woman’s code is an especially sneaky one that has got to go.

Woman with the Pencil, Not the Pencil Skirt

By: Caroline Turner

Why do we notice women in the news for what they are wearing, and men in the news for what they are doing? Why are we more inclined to point out what a women has on than we are a man?

Source: Wiki-images

On Snapchat, pretty much daily, you will see story lines about what various female celebrities are wearing. Do women just dominate the fashion world? No. But why then is what they are wearing what makes them newsworthy? Men are rarely seen in Snapchat stories and media for what they are wearing. Rather, they are mostly mentioned for who they are with or what they are doing. So why is it that we are so focused on capturing, celebrating, and criticizing women for what they wear?

I did a Google search of “media’s focus on female fashion,” and many articles came up that illustrate why focusing on what a woman wears above all else, creates problems in the way they are perceived. The whole first page was full of articles about media coverage on female politicians and scientists. Attention for these women should focus on what they are doing in leadership and research, not on their fashion choices.  But that’s often where the attention goes and what makes the headline or story. The media never treats men this way. Part of the reason there are fewer women than men in these fields is because of this constant focus on what women are wearing, rather than what they are doing. This sends the wrong message to young girls and may discourage them from considering those careers. Focusing on a woman’s appearance devalues her professionally, and can , often to no avail.

When I changed “female” to “male,” in my Google search, what I found confirmed that this was largely a female issue. However, my searches did find that the media pays disproportionate attention to men with regard to sports and their athletic physique, which creates body image issues among young boys.  So maybe men are not being portrayed fairly in the media either; however, the specific focus that the media places on how women look and what they are wearing can be damaging to them professionally and can affect to how they see themselves and assess their own .

So why does the media focus so much on what women are wearing? How did this come to be?

The male gaze, coined by feminist film critic Laura Mulvey in 1975 describes the way in which the visual arts and literature depict the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure. An object does not do anything, it is to be looked at. An object is something that we do things to or do things with, but it does not act on its own. Perhaps media outlets have become like Mulvey’s man behind camera. The male gaze through the lens of the media can objectify women and distort how we value them, and this can have dangerous effects.

As media evolves and grows, pictures become stories and videos become GIFs. These narratives that we create in order to understand ourselves and others are becoming more and more embedded into our everyday lives. As media becomes more connected to us through social media, it is important to  become vigilant in recognizing the male gaze in the media so we can rise above its influence and decide for ourselves what is truly newsworthy.

Transwomen in Prison

Image courtesy of Flikr.

By Zaquoya Rogers

The Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” highlights many different female experiences that tend to occur in prisons across the globe. They portrayed the problems of women in prison within every race, sexual orientation and background. One that caused an increase in conversation was about trans women and how they were being treated within prison. Since, obviously, male and females are separated into different prisons, where do transwomen fit? People started asking what it means to be a women. Also, why are transwomen’s gender is being trivialized? Lindsay King-Miller states “A woman, no matter her background, should never be asked to prove she is a woman.”

Laverne Cox, a transwomen actor and speaker, played Sophia Burset in the popular series and accurately depicted the struggle and mistreatment of transwomen in prison. In prison, transwomen go through difficulty in consistently receiving necessary hormone medication. In Season One, Sophia’s medication had been reduced because it wasn’t deemed as necessary which caused her male characteristics like facial hair to return. This happens in prisons today and scars transwomen’s sense of self.  A transwomen inmate named Mary was placed in the male prison Boggo Road Gaol located in Australia. She was denied any access to hormones medication. She states, “It was like my identity was taken away from me. I look like a woman and I think if a transgender person is genuine and they are living as the opposite sex, then they should be housed in a female prison, even if you’re in a wing on your own.” Denial of one’s gender is abuse and is not fair.   

In Season Three, Sophia clashes with some of her fellow inmates and is brutally attacked by the same group. Instead of punishing the perpetrators, Sophia is the one sent to the SHU (Security Housing Units/Solitary Confinement) supposedly for her protection. In reality, this type of solution downgrades transwomen and serves as an injustice. Not only do transwomen experience abuse, discrimination and bullying when serving time but they cannot count on higher authority in prison to ensure their safety. They are turned against and devalued as human beings simply because of who they identify as. This is a problem that won’t change unless more conversations take place about these injustices. I think that a great majority of people still see being transgender as something unnatural. This is why transwomen are subjected to so much abuse. The more we speak on it and accept people for who they are and not who we want to see them as, the better it will get for transwomen.

 

Black Dolls Matter

ByImage courtesy of Flickr. Korrien Hopkins

Dolls play a pivotal role in the development of girls. I remember going to Toys R Us with my family to use the gift cards our uncle had given us for Christmas. I remember going through the aisle looking for that Easy Bake Oven I had been anxious to get. After I got it, I went to the doll section. I glanced through the dolls looking for one that resembled me. No Luck. So grabbed a doll from the long selection of white dolls. My grandma came over with my brothers and asked me if there were any black dolls. “No,” I responded. She quickly found an employee and kindly asked them if they had any ethnic dolls. The employee helped us look through the dolls and checked in back. Unfortunately, they had no luck in finding a black doll. I spent the rest of the money on something else. I was a bit disappointed but quickly got over it. I learned my importance and worth from my mother. What my mother didn’t tell me I found on my own. Thanks to community, to black media, and my spiritual interpretation; I have been greatly influenced by the black excellence I see. That I am pretty and important but, why is this something I had to find on my own?

Positive self-images should be poured into children. I can clearly see why it is important for stores to sell black dolls. Playtime Projects is an organization that collects toys for homeless children. “Author Debbie Behan Garrett explains, “When a young child is playing with a doll, she is mimicking being a mother, and in her young, impressionable years, I want that child to understand that there’s nothing wrong with being black. If black children are force-fed that white is better, or if that’s all that they are exposed to, then they might start to think, ‘What is wrong with me?’ By providing children with African-American dolls that reflect their beauty, we can help to instill in them a positive self-image.”

In my psychology class we have talked about the “Doll Study.” This was a study that’s was done in 1939 by psychologists Kenneth & Mamie Clark, it examined black children’s preferences for white and black dolls and found that the children tended to find the white doll to be “nicer” and more enjoyable to play with. Perhaps fewer people, though, are aware that this study was repeated in 2005 by the then 17-year-old Kiri Davis. She found similar results to the original study. While Dr. Thelma Dye of the Northside Center for Child Development cautions that these results should not lead to the assumption that all black children suffer from low self-esteem, she encourages continued exploration of the meaning of these studies.

Self-representation matters! Children should be able to think highly of themselves and see that they are thought highly of in society. Whether they are of African decent, European decent, Hispanic, or Asian, a child should be able see their culture present in the world. The United states is a country full of many different cultures and I believe those cultures should be represented and embraced in all communities. It should be easy to locate a variety of dolls that represent a wider spectrum of ethnicities wherever you may go.  Children should be able to see dolls of all shades because that is the refection of the world.

Free the Nips!

File courtesy of Google Images.By Zaquoya Rogers

Before the 1930s, going topless was illegal for both men and women. It was seen as indecent up until the 1930s when men were permitted to be without garment from the waist up. Women on the oth http://www.menshealth.com/sex-women/nipple-double-standard r hand, still had to keep their areolas covered.

Even today, the media is very stern on keeping female areolas off of their platform. Artist and professor, Micol Hebron said of her censored Instagram photo, “The fetishization and censorship of female nipples gets to the point where the body is being seen only as a sexual object.”  Instagram is one social media network that has been adamant and persistent in removing any photo that exposes feminine nips. Their justification states that it’s for “safety reasons.” But really, how harmful can a pair of female nipples be? This goes back to Hebron’s statement about how society sexualize the female anatomy and that’s really the underlying motive Instagram is acting on. Covering female nipples in public and on social media is completely unfair. Especially when the difference between male and female areolas is non-existent. In fact, male areolas and female areolas are EXACTLY the same. According to LiveScience.com, the first few weeks inside the womb, every developing embryo follows a “female blueprint”, which is why men even have nipples. The #FreetheNipple movement have provoked peaceful protests, celebrity support and conversation. This is helping to make more people aware of why we should free the nips

The Hairy Elephant in the Room: You Shouldn’t Be Embarrassed About Your Facial Hair

Photo courtesy of google images.By: Danielle Lyons

I totally have a beard. Seriously, I do. That feel’s weird to say, let alone type. It’s caused by Hirsutism. Sound unfamiliar? It’s new to me too. UCLA states, “Hirsutism in women is defined as excessive coarse hair appearing in a male-type pattern. It represents exposure of hair follicles.”  It can be caused by other conditions such as Insulin Resistance, Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, Cushing’s Disease and much more.  According to WebMD, 5% of women have hirsutism. However, I’ve encountered a lot of women that suffer from facial hair or excess body hair in general. For a condition that made me feel so alone, I was shocked and relieved to find comrades with the same issue.

One similarities I’ve noticed amongst women with hirsutism is the struggle of self-esteem. Most women don’t have to wake up to stubble or worry about their excessive body hair growth. I’m telling you, it’s not easy to manage. Like, dates for example. It sends me on an anxiety fueled hair removal frenzy. Armed with a razor, I’m like Conan the Barbarian preparing for battle. Nothing horrified me more than the thought of a date brushing against my stubble by accident. It’s a giant ordeal. According to Monash University, “Undesirable hairiness for a girl or woman can be a substantial cause of anxiety leading to low self-esteem and restrictions in lifestyle. For most women, unwanted facial hair generates the greatest anxiety.”

According to The Guardian, 40% of women have hair on their faces. Sure, some is more course or thick than others.  But that is a rather large number. The reactions I’ve gotten have generally been good. Some women confide that they have the same issue, or they know someone with it. Other women are just fascinated. I will admit, one or two people have been uncomfortable. But when raising awareness, you may not win them all.

Here’s the thing: Bodies are all so different. Any anyone worth keeping around, isn’t going to judge you or look at you any different. I forced myself to be more open about it because I was tired of being embarrassed. Slow but surely I started talking about it. And one day someone asked if they could feel my stubble. And you know what? The world didn’t end when I let them. They didn’t flinch or cringe. Without awareness, there isn’t much acceptance. Tina-Marie Beznec shared a photo of herself shaving to create awareness about Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. Hirsutism is often a symptom of this syndrome. In the caption she states, “Do you know how UNFEMININE this can make a woman feel?!? I’ve always been super self-conscious about it, but really just have to put this out there because I want create more awareness.”

Now, I’m not saying every sufferer has to post a photo or shout of from the rooftops. However, we owe it to ourselves to drop the shame. And we owe ourselves self-acceptance. S. E. Smith of XOjane states, “Women come in a lot of different flavors, and all of them are pretty great.” Next time you look in the mirror inspecting stray hairs or stubble, I hope you remember that you are beautiful, strong and wonderful. With or without the beard.

If you are at the beach, your body is beach ready.

By Mirella Flores

summer-timeSummer is quickly approaching, and with it an influx of articles on how to get that “summer body.” I am all for taking care of your body, including being more conscious of what you eat and drink and exercising. What disturbs me about these types of articles are not the tips they give, but rather the message they convey – Your body is wrong and you need to fix it.

No. Your body is not wrong. Society is wrong. There is a difference between taking care of your body and fixating on “improving” it. If it is summer, your body is summer ready. If you are at the beach, your body is beach ready. Unfortunately, I cannot control the hurtful messages out there, but I can provide you with a couple of articles that may help you reclaim your body.

11 Easy Things You Can Do When You’re Just Not Feeling Yourself. As the title gives away, this article contains 11 things you can do start feeling yourself again. Numbers 5, 6, and 7 are some of my favorites. Number five is “Give yourself a pep talk you would give your best friend.” Yes, feel free to go Leslie Knope on yourself.

The Cognitive Triangle

The Cognitive Triangle

Number six is “Do something that tests your strength, endurance, or coordination.” Instead of trying to “fix” your body, doing something that tests your body’s ability would help you appreciate your body for what it can do. Number seven, “Come up with a badass mantra that actually gets you pumped up,” is something I use in my work with clients (as a counselor). This tip is effective because it taps into the “thoughts” of the cognitive triangle (see right). Allow me to get into counselor mode. Our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are connected. The idea under telling ourselves a positive mantra is that we are controlling our thoughts, which then will affect our emotions and actions.

10 Little Spells That’ll Help Send Love To Your Body. Again, the title of this article is self-explanatory. Whether or not you are doing working for a flatter belly, take some time and do the spell for your abs, “Blow up a bunch of balloons to different sizes (or you can use bubble wrap) and attach them to your body, like you’re creating a balloon body suit. Jump up and down, dance, and roll around in your balloon armor because your belly is a beautiful shield that can expand and flex and handle a lot of crazy things that we don’t give enough credit for.” Silly I know, but no judgement whether you do it or not. The point here is to take some time to appreciate our abs (because we all have abs) and other body parts… you can have some fun with it!

Stop body shaming others and yourself. Get out there and enjoy the warm weather and water, or whatever outdoors activity you want to do.