Dorothy Arzer : Hollywood’s Most Prominent Woman Director

By Maggie Pool

Director, editor, and screenwriter, Dorothy Arzner is one of the most prolific woman studio directors in the history of American cinema. She was the only woman directing feature-length studio films in Hollywood in the 1930s. Her career spanned from 1919 to 1943. Arzner was one of the few directors to successfully continue their career from the silent era into the era of sound in film.  She worked on a total of 25 films, many of which have received significant attention from feminist film critics and queer theorists. Arzner began her career in the film industry typing scripts for the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, later known as Paramount. After six months, she became the chief editor in charge of film cutting and editing. This led to Arzner’s first “big picture,” cutting and editing Blood and Sand (1922). This was the first film for which she undertook some of the filming.

Eventually, Arzner was entrusted with directing feature films at Paramount, all of which garnered much success. Some of these silent films include: Fashions for Women (1927), Ten Modern Commandments (1927), Get Your Man (1927), and Manhattan Cocktail (1928). Because of her triumphs, Paramount bestowed upon Arzner the directing role for the studio’s first sound film, The Wild Party (1929) starring Clara Bow.

Arzner left Hollywood in the 1940s and was all but forgotten until the 1970s, when feminist film theorists dug up her work, and she was brought to new recognition. Much of Arzner’s legacy lies in feminist critics analyzing her work such as Christopher Strong (1933) and Dance, Girl, Dance (1940). Christopher Strong is about female aviator, Lady Cynthia Darrington (Katharine Hepburn) and Parliament member, Sir Christopher Strong (Colin Clive). The two characters meet at a party and become instantly attracted to one another. Azrner’s direction leads you to believe Lady Darrington is willing to tie down her free spirit for love, but this dramatically changes. Rather than sacrifice her independence for a man, Lady Darrington broke the world record for height achieved in air, and removed her oxygen mask, causing her to lose consciousness and send the plane into a deathly nosedive.

In Dance, Girl, Dance, Arzner explores female stereotypes, such as women being just a “spectacle” for men and are either wrapped up in sexuality, grace, or innocence. The movie centers around two good friends, Judy and Bubbles who are both dancers. While Bubbles uses her good looks and sassy personality (sexuality) to get jobs, Judy is a dedicated ballerina (grace and innocence) and finds it more difficult to succeed in her chosen profession. Arzner’s Christopher Strong and Dance, Girl, Dance showcase the challenges women face while pursuing their passions and careers.  It is for this reason, that Arzner’s work as a female pioneer in the early ages of Hollywood has become an important area of film.

 

The First Woman to Make Feminism Fashionable

By Maggie Pool

“If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.”
-Katharine Hepburn

Hollywood Actress, Katharine Hepburn will always be remembered for her fierce and fiery performances in film. After all, she still holds the record for the most Academy Awards (in either gender) for acting*. However, Hepburn is not solely known for her ability to perform. She curated what is considered the “modern woman” of the 20th century by separating herself from several of society’s conformities, like evading the Hollywood publicity machine, wearing trousers before it was fashionable or acceptable for women, and living independently for the rest of her life after being married for six years.

Hepburn was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1907 to Thomas Norval Hepburn and Katharine Martha Houghton. Her famous rebellious spirit was inevitable. Her father established the New England Social Hygiene Association, which worked to enlighten the public on venereal disease while her mother advocated for women’s rights. Hepburn joined her mother for many women’s suffrage demonstrations, and for a time, dressed as a tomboy, cut her hair short, and called herself “Jimmy.” From a young age, Hepburn frequented the movies every Saturday night and put on plays for her neighbors, friends, and siblings for 50 cents a ticket**. Katharine continued acting in college and found success on Broadway. Raving reviews led to her led to her recognition in Hollywood. When Katharine hit the big screen, she didn’t shed her revolutionary values to please anybody. She remained uninterested in publicity (for most of her life). On one occasion, she snatched a camera out of a reporter’s hand for taking pictures without permission.

Her never-ending aggressive energy wasn’t subverted when it came to the standards of women’s fashion. In the 1930s, women’s fashion had not felt the effects of World War II. It was still possible for a woman to be arrested and detained on the charge of “masquerading as men” if they were caught wearing slacks in public. In an attempt to force Hepburn to wear a skirt, RKO Pictures stole her blue jeans from her dressing room while she was on set. However, instead of succumbing, Hepburn paraded around in her underwear. Her jeans were soon returned. She went on to star in, Christopher Strong (1933), The Philadelphia Story (1939), Women of the Year (1942), and Adam’s Rib (1949).

Despite the backlash and oppression Hepburn faced, she lived out her beliefs never altering to conformity. To this day, she is an important cultural icon of American history who continues to influence and empower women.

Many paid tribute to Hepburn when the actress passed away in 2003:

“Confident, intelligent and witty, four-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn defied convention throughout her professional and personal life … Hepburn provided an image of an assertive woman whom [females] could watch and learn from.” – Horton and Simmons

“What she brought us was a new kind of heroin—modern and independent. She was beautiful, but she did not rely on that.” – Jeanine Basinger

 

A Black Female Rapper Is Changing The Narrative

By Skye VanLanduyt

During my last semester at Baker, I discovered Lizzo’s single, “Good As Hell” off her EP, Coconut Oil. I found it catchy, empowering, and fun to listen to during my 7 a.m. workouts. Between studying for exams, writing papers, and enjoying my remaining days as a college student I did not know the song released earlier in 2016, nor did I know her third studio album, Cuz I Love You would release on April 19, 2019.

After graduating from college, a friend asked “have you heard of Lizzo?” I shook my head not realizing she was the mastermind behind “Good As Hell.” It didn’t take long before I found myself falling in love with her spunky vibrato. Lizzo’s songs on her newest album, “Cuz I Love You” do more than promote single-woman hood. Her songs celebrate sexuality, black female power, and body image. In an interview with NPR, she says her intentions for writing this album come from wanting to be “body positive” and “help people find a positive place within themselves.” You can click the link to listen to her full interview here https://www.npr.org/2019/05/23/726098695/lizzo.

I started listening to Lizzo because I liked how catchy and uplifting her lyrics were but now I appreciate her in a different way. Lizzo isn’t just a female rapper who encourages self-love and body-love through her music. On social media, she encourages her fans and followers to be intune with their mental well-being. A lot of young artists, especially in the music industry struggle with opening up to fans about their mental health. I love that Lizzo isn’t afraid to sit down and be emotionally honest. In June, she opened up about her struggle with depression and encouraged fans to start a conversation about coping strategies. This was inspiring, given so many Americans struggle with a mental health disorder. By being honest and willing to have tough conversations, Lizzo is creating a dialogue for men and women of all different backgrounds to unite in pursuit of self-love.

A couple of days ago, she posted a video on Instagram asking her fans, “not to be like her” but to” be like themselves.” I think it is refreshing to see an artist preach what they sing, especially when the message is so positive. I wish more people, including myself discovered Lizzo when her first EP came out in 2016.  I am thankful she is making her voice known in 2019 but it concerns me that it has taken her this long. Sure, we have other artists such as,  Cardi B, Beyoncé,  Camila Cabello, and Rihanna.  All have grown to be successful women in the music industry but there is something different about Lizzo.  She is consciously aware of the struggles she is up against as a black woman and she is not afraid to tear them down.  Her lyric, “I am a queen but I need no crown” is repeated countless times in her albums.  She is ready to break down the medium and encourage women they can love themselves and their bodies no matter what. I hope Lizzo and her music continues to inspire change in the music industry.

She is our mentor, she is our friend, and she is our sister.

To learn more about Lizzo’s life, you can visit this website: https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/lizzo-explains-where-her-stage-name-came-from.html/

A Semester in Reflection by the Women’s Center’s Christina Terrell

By Christina Terrell

I have been at the Women’s Center since November of 2018 and Spring 2019 was my second semester here and it has been nothing but non- stop excitement all semester long. However, this spring semester has really taught me a lot and allowed me to really get involved with campus life.

I was able to attend about 18 out of the 25 events that we hosted this semester, which gave me the opportunity to witness and experience things that I had not done before. For example, this semester I took on the role of taking pictures for most of the events, which allowed me to see things through a different lens, literally. It really brought me joy being able to capture such great moments of some of our events such as, The Vagina Monologues, The Her Art Women’s Persistent Muse Luncheon, and Denim Day. Being an armature photographer was not something that I pictured myself doing in a million years, however I am glad this new venture was brought to me because it showed me, I have interest in things I would not have thought of on my own.

Reflecting on my semester here at the Women’s Center, another big highlight for me was that I took on some leadership roles this semester, which allowed me to gain skills and confidence in areas that I had not realized I embodied. For instance, this semester I oversaw office information such as managing our Women’s Center Library. Along with I decided to take on the role of organizing the end of the year celebration that we have at the end of each semester, which allows us to come together and reflect on the highlights of the semester.

In the end my semester here at UMKC’s Women’s Center has been nothing short of exciting, and fulfilling, being a work-study student here has really allowed me to get involved, experience new things, and embody roles that I would not have imagined of doing before becoming a part of such an empowering team like this one.

A Semester in Reflection from the Women’s Center’s Caitlin Easter

By Caitlin Easter

As the semester draws to a close, inevitably so does my time here at the Women’s Center. As sad as this is, it provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on what I have done and the things I have learned from working here.

While I have always had a passion for the helping the advancement of women, I never thought I would one day be lucky enough to work at a place devoted to advocating for the equity of women. Coming to Kansas City from a small town, I never realized the opportunities and experiences that would be afforded to me in college just because I was in a space with more people and ideas.

When I first saw the “hiring” poster last semester in Haag Hall, I expected all the positions to be filled at that point in the semester, and was incredibly surprised when there was room for me on staff. That interview was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’d ever done. What if they told me I wasn’t a good enough feminist? More than just being turned down for a job, the fear of being told that I wasn’t fitting the feminist side of myself as much as I had always believed was terrifying for me; the possibility of not being what I had always labeled myself as was such an odd thought. What if I didn’t fit into position and environment because I was a fake feminist? Being accepted for that position helped me to achieve some of the most defining moments of my life through this job.

Getting to wear so many hats in the Women’s Center was also very beneficial! I got to play different roles such as secretary, event organizer, and blog writer! Never being stuck doing the same thing every day was such a change from traditional jobs, and was a nice experience in multitasking for me.

My favorite experiences during my time at the Women’s Center were the Vagina Monologues production and the Healing Arts Corners. The Vagina Monologues was very similar in theme to a production I had done in high school, and was something I was very much looking forward to. Watching other women perform and display our experiences in an open and raw way really deeply touched me. The Healing Arts corners were something I took over near the beginning of this semester, and they have been such a satisfying thing to manage. Beyond just the satisfaction of getting to play with sculpey clay at work, it was also a incredible to see that impact that something so small could make on someone’s day and life.

This semester, I have learned that though my time at the Women’s Center may come to an end, my feminist spirit will never, and it is just about finding new ways to advocate and express this feminism. At the center I have learned about women who use their art to advance women, and if art can spur social change, what else could do the same?

One of the biggest things that inspired me was the culture around feminism in the center. Coming from a place where the title feminist was synonymous with “crazy liberal” to a place where people understood that wanting to be equal was NOT too much to ask, was such an important shift for me. It was nice to be in a healthy place where I could grow, away from people telling me that I was asking too much for wanting the same as everyone else.

The biggest think I will take with me, is that we all have a part to play in the advancement of women in our society, and that doubting how good I am of a feminist is not doing anything for me.

Celebrating Jedidah Isler, Ph.D.: A Woman in STEM

By Ann Varner

I stumbled upon an article titled “5 Powerful Women in STEM You Need to Know” (http://news.janegoodall.org/2018/03/08/5-powerful-women-stem-need-know/ ) and while reading it came across someone I found incredibly interesting and wanted to write about. Her name is Dr. Jedidah isler and she is the first African American woman to earn a PhD in Astrophysics from Yale.

According to jedidahislerphd.com, “Dr. Isler is an outspoken advocate of inclusion and empowerment in STEM fields and is the creator and host of “Vanguard: Conversations with Women of Color in STEM.”. Her non-profit organization, The STEM en Route to Change (SeRCH) Foundation, Inc., is dedicated to using STEM as a pathway for social justice and has developed a variety of initiatives including the #VanguardSTEM online platform and web series. Brief CV.”

In the STEM field women are vastly underrepresented, especially African American women. Women such as Dr. Isler are very much needed to advocate for inclusion and empowerment in the STEM field as well as represent themselves. Great work, Dr. Isler!

Photo credit: http://jedidahislerphd.com/about/

Time Magazines Top 100

By Caitlin Easter

Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the year came out recently, and it’s one of the most diverse and intersectional issues ever. The list also features the most women ever awarded, at almost half of the list being female. There are 48 women featured in this year’s list, which is up from the 45 who were featured last year. The list is made up of pioneers, artists, leaders, icons and titans, and women are representing in each category.

The list is selected every year from a list of candidates who made the largest impacts in the world, good or bad.  Nominated by list alumni and voted on by the public, the list embodies the changes that happened throughout the beginning of each year.

This year’s list is made up of strong, groundbreaking women from all walks of life: activists, chefs, athletes, authors, scientists, actresses, singers, models, painters, directors, designers, politicians, a first lady, survivors, journalists, business women, and architects. We see big names such as Sandra Oh, Taylor Swift, Michelle Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ariana Grande, but also have the pleasure to learn names that we’re not all familiar with such as Greta Thunberg, Vera Jourova, Jeanne Gang, and Jennifer Hyman.  Women are finally starting to be equally represented in different aspects of life, and we’re ready for it!

A full list of this year’s recipients can be viewed at: http://time.com/collection/100-most-influential-people-2019/.

 

The Vanity Myth of Makeup

By Christina Terrell

There should be no shame in doing something that makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. One of the latest trends that has taken the beauty community by storm has been the development of all the possibilities that makeup offers. The only issues are women have started to get backlash for exploring all these makeup possibilities, for instance women are being told that since they wear makeup, that they are trying to wear a mask that hides their true self from the world, rather than this is something women do to empower themselves. Sha’Condria, also known as “i’Con” is a female poetry empowerment speaker and at the 2015 Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival, Condria presented a poetry piece titled “In My Skin”. In this poetry piece Condria speaks about her personal experience with being shamed for wearing makeup and how it is almost as if people treat the word makeup as if it were a curse word.

From my personal stand point I feel as though a woman should not be told what defines her as beautiful, because beauty should not be what anyone else’s definition of it is but should be whatever your own personal definition is. Self-love is a concept that is already hard to acquire and find in one’s self and when you add the negative opinions of others it can make things much harder on a woman who may deal with insecurities.

There is an issue that stands in the way of women who choose to wear makeup and then the people who disagree with wearing makeup. That issue being that typically someone who says you shouldn’t paint your face to be pretty or that natural beauty is the best beauty. Would be that those individuals do not understand, is that in a harsh world when women find peace and something that aids their happiness then they must do all they can to continue to empower and up lift themselves.

To watch Sha’Condria’s powerful piece, follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_kkbKs9pY4

 

Catcalling is not a Compliment, it’s Harassment

By Brittany Soto

Since our center has been promoting the “Meet us on The Street” event all throughout this week, focusing on the issues of gender-based street harassment, I wanted to turn my attention to one of my biggest pet peeves; catcalling. Catcalling is when an individual whistles, shouts, or makes sexual comments toward another individual as they are walking by. Women are often the ones faced with having to deal with this ridiculous issue. The fact that I get a little nervous when I decide to get dressed up because I don’t feel like getting harassed, is a problem. Women shouldn’t have to feel self-conscious or nervous every time they get dressed to head out the door or every time they pass by men on the street.

The most common defense that men have against this issue is that catcalls are their way of “complimenting” a woman’s looks. Going up to a woman and telling her she’s beautiful is one thing, but shouting “damn!” “hey sexy!” or whistling and honking the car horn as a woman walks by is a different story. Catcalling can even get to the point of being dangerous if women decide defend themselves or ignore the cat-callers, because often they will get offended causing them to act in an aggressive or intimidating manner by name calling or going as far as assaulting women. THIS is harassment.

What men need to understand is that catcalling is not cute, funny, or complimenting. It’s degrading, demeaning, and disgusting. It lets women know they are being objectified and looked at as nothing more than a piece of meat. It makes women feel as though they have no rights or values. Women are not dogs to be whistled at and they are not sexual objects. Women are more than their looks. Women have the right to be treated with as much respect and dignity when walking down the street as any man. Women deserve to feel safe.

For additional information on how women are fighting cat-calling visit: http://www.womensmediacenter.com/fbomb/how-i-took-a-stand-against-catcalling

The Settings Change, but the Story Doesn’t

By Caitlin Easter

I recently came across an illustration by Kasia Babis that made me think about the state of women today in relation to where we were as women when the Salem witch trials were happening. This got me thinking about the oppression of women that we see incessantly perpetuated throughout history, and why things don’t appear to be getting any better.

The image was a two panel comic strip with a witch being drowned and a man saying, “If she dies, she’s innocent, if she survives she’s a witch.” The second panel depict a woman holding a sign that says “#MeToo” and a man saying “If she seems ok, nothing happened. If she claims it was an assault, she’s just seeking attention.”  The artwork can be viewed at: https://thenib.com/how-sexual-assault-claims-are-like-a-witch-hunt.

While we may no longer be placed on ducking stools for behavior that is deemed inappropriate by society (aka white men), we are now put on trial to defend ourselves and our stories. Perpetrators might be the ones literally on trial, but the burden of proof and behavior has always rested on the shoulders of the victim. While going from being on trial and killed for being a “witch,” to being grilled at a trial that is not our own because of our “decisions” might be a step in the right direction, symbolically it isn’t that huge of a leap towards what we need to see.

At what point in history did we stop trusting women? Have we just always had this innate distrust for this entire diverse group of people? Women aren’t trusted by doctors when we say that there is something wrong with our own bodies, and we aren’t trusted by society when we talk about our experiences. Why is the scope of women’s expertise concerning ourselves and our environments seen as something that has such an incredibly limited quantity? In the future, when I talk, I want to be heard. A women’s experiences are just as valid as a man’s.

“Your silences will not protect you….We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language. I began to ask each time: ‘What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?’ Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever….Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end. And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had…And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”

― Audre Lorde