Back to Basics #4: What is the Patriarchy?

By: Emma Stuart

Welcome to Back to Basics! In these posts, we break down feminist concepts for readers curious about feminist vocabulary, concepts, and ideas! Today’s question is:

“What is Patriarchy?”

Patriarchy is defined by Oxford Languages as “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” Due to most modern societies being patriarchal, women are restricted access to the power and privilege that is attributed to men. Feminists and advocates for gender equality have consistently fought against the values that have been enforced by patriarchal societies.

“How am I impacted by the patriarchy?”

The patriarchy affects everyone in many aspects of our lives. It impacts the lives of women and men all around the world in countless ways but here are a few examples:

  • Men are not allowed to show emotions, and if women do, they are ‘out of control’.
  • Women are perceived as objects by the world.
  • Sexual violence perpetrated to and by all genders, and sexual violence committed against masculine people is not taken seriously.
  • Inequity of pay for preforming the same jobs.

“How can I oppose the patriarchy in my life?”

Tackling the patriarchy is not an easy job to do but here are some small ways that we can work against it:

  1. Make sure to educate yourself and keep your mind open to growth.
  2. Challenge the expectation of gender roles but continue to respect all gender expressions.
  3. Hold leadership accountable.
  4. Don’t be blinded by your anger, it is important to acknowledge your anger but don’t let it control you.
  5. Support all women, non-binary, and trans people’s careers, their success is your success don’t make it a competition.

The patriarchy is a constant presence in our lives, and it can be a great burden to bear. However, do not let it control your life and drag you down. Surround yourself with those who lift you up and support you to lighten this load. If you want to learn more about the patriarchy and its effects click here. And if you want to learn about more basic feminist topics check out our post on the myth of “man-hating feminists” , intersectional feminism, and body positivity.

“But What Were You Wearing?”

By: Sierra Voorhies

Trigger Warning: rape culture, victim blaming, and sexual assault. 

I’m not quite sure how to start this blog, but I think I will start with the phrase, “What were they wearing?” This is a common question that has been asked in cases of rape and sexual assault, and it perpetuates and supports rape culture. Rape culture is “the belief that victims have contributed to their own victimization and are responsible for what has happened to them” (University of New Hampshire SHARPP). The question “What were you wearing?” implies that someone’s outfit could consent for them to sexual acts, but no matter what someone is wearing, clothing – slutty, provocative, or skimpy – does not give consent for the wearer. Behind this question is the idea that there is some dress, jeans, or some outfit that could make the victim actually the one culpable for the crime against them because they are somehow “asking for it”.

By asking a victim of rape or sexual assault this question, one is placing the blame back on the victim for the crime perpetrated against them. Imagine asking someone, “Why were you wearing that watch? What were you doing in that suit?” This is an outrageous and illogical question,  because it’s obvious in this scenario that the victim does not hold any of the blame for the crime done against them. The same thought must be applied to victims of sexual assault.

In order to bring awareness and growth to the UMKC community, the Women’s Center is doing a display called “What Were They Wearing?” full of outfits that were worn by people when they were assaulted. This display will show how rape culture and victim blaming are part of the rape myth. You can join us on Wednesday April 27 from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. on the second floor of the Student Union, as well as Thursday, April 28 to see the display and get connected with more information. 

Thank you for supporting our programming during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Children Should be Feminists Too

Image Source: Francisco Ororio, Creative Commons

By: Alyssa Bradley

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

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

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

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

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

Whose Femininity Is It Anyway?

By: Adriana Miranda

Have you ever thought about how, like, femininity is SO strongly tied to men? Hear me out!

Yeah, femininity is traditionally associated with women. BUT! Think about what kind of women are afforded femininity. It tends to be straight women, or white women, orrrr thin women, or just women that fit into the cishet male gaze of desirability in one way or another. So if femininity (at least to a cishet world) means “desirable to men” has it ever really been ours to begin with? And what if our performance of femininity ISN’T for men, what happens then?

Now we all perform gender, right? I personally present very feminine, i’m talking almost-strictly-wears-dresses feminine. I also happen to be a lesbian. And plus-size. And a person of color. This for some reason sometimes confuses (and angers) cisgender heterosexual people.

Either my femininity is called into question or my sexuality is called into question: “Are you sure you’re not at all attracted to men? You dress so cute! I bet you secretly do like us.” Or…“Do you just dress this way because you’re not comfortable being your true self?”

Why does it need to be one way or another? Why does my femininity have to be me trying to attract men or make up for my fatness for men or appear more “soft” for men? What if I just want to present feminine? And even if I was if I was doing it for anyone other than myself, it’s definitely for other lesbians. Femininity can and DOES exist entirely on its own, completely separate from men.

Sex Sells…But at What Cost?

By: Ebony Taylor 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fridging Women”: How the Comics Industry Flubs Female Characters

By: Alyssa Bradley

Lynda Carter as “Wonder Woman”, 1976

The absence of female authors and the large majority of male readers has potentially skewed the comic book industry. Overly sexy female characters, constraining female characters to secondary roles, and dull or extreme personalities are the patterns of sexism observed in comic books or graphic novels. “Women in Refrigerators” or “fridging women” is a term coined by Gail Simone, which is used to refer to the disempowerment or maiming of female characters. The origin of the term came from the 1994 comic The Green Lantern #54.The hero, Kyle Rayner, returns home to find his girlfriend, Alexandra DeWitt, killed and stuffed in a refrigerator. This trope became recognizable as a way for authors to use female characters as devices to project their male characters forward in their story.

“Fridging women” as a trope applies to much more than just comic books. Utilizing female characters as assets to their male counterparts contributes to the sexism women are subjected to their entire lives. Young girls or women who consume this media get the impression that they are only a mere accessory to the plot rather than an influential factor in the story.

Acts of sexism extend beyond the over-sexualized characters. Female authors have become gradually marginalized with the growth in the industry and female fans are attacked and criticized for their opinions. The results of these problems can damage the social image of women and make it increasingly difficult to fight the gender equity issues concerning our world today. Equal representation in the entertainment industry must take precedence in order to undo society’s status quo.

 

Back to Basics #2: Do Feminists Hate Men?

By: Laura Yac

We are bringing it back to basics this week with a common misconception involving feminists.  When I talk about my feminist beliefs, I often get asked the question, “Do you hate men?”  My answer,  like Cher from Clueless would say is: “Ugh! as if…”

Yet the question still remains if feminists really hate men, and for the most part we don’t! I have come to the conclusion that many individuals (especially men) feel attacked by the term feminist and the concept of women wanting to be seen as equal and receiving the same opportunities that men do for simply being male. This is where I believe individuals got the common misconception that we hate men.

If you go online right now and look up the term feminist, the definition is  “advocacy of women rights on the basis of equality of sexes.” From that, we can gather that overall feminists just want to be seen at the same standards the world places men. We want nothing more than to be treated as the powerful individuals we are and because of that, men shouldn’t feel threatened or hated on. It is simply a matter of wanting change. Women are tired of being treated like they are unable to do certain tasks, tired of being underpaid and underestimated.

It is time that individuals realize that. Instead of seeing such movement as a threat, they should join the cause for the women in their life who have been shut down and underestimated their whole life. For now, it seems women’s rights will be a battle we continue to fight.

For the mean-time here is some extra helpful information on what feminism really is and to leave on a good note… Men, we don’t hate you!

Helpful articles to learn more about feminism: click here and here.

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s History Trivia: First Female African American Physician

The New England Female Medical College (Image Source: Wikipedia Commons)

By: Alyssa Bradley

Trivia Question: Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African-American woman to become a _______ (occupation) in the United States. 

Answer: Physician

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler is recognized for becoming the first African-American woman physician in the United States. As a young girl, she grew up in a house with her aunt who took care of the ill. Rebecca was always considered a “special student” and was allowed to attend many prestigious private schools because of her intellect.

Later in life, she pursued her shared family passion for medicine.  During 1860, Crumpler applied and was accepted into the New England Female Medical College. This institution was founded in 1848 and had only started accepting its first female student, a class of 12, in 1850. The women at this college faced ridicule from male physicians who derided the institution. They complained that women “lacked the physical strength to practice medicine”. Others thought that women were incapable of understanding a medical curriculum and that the topics taught were inappropriate for their “sensitive and delicate nature”.

In 1860, there were only 300 women out of 54,543 physicians in the United States–and none of them were African American. Despite the discouraging odds, in 1864 Crumpler became her school’s only African-American graduate.

After completing her schooling, Crumpler relocated to Richmond, Virginia where she found her calling. She discovered “the proper field for real missionary work, and one that would present ample opportunities to become acquainted with the diseases of women and children.” It was here she worked under the Freedman’s Bureau, an agency dedicated to helping newly freed African American slaves.

Throughout the rest of her practice, Rebecca faced daily issues of racism and sexism from her colleagues, pharmacists, and many others. Rebecca Lee Crumpler continued to practice medicine and even wrote a book called A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts. She passed in 1895. Crumpler achieved many things in the name of gender and women’s equity and paved the way for many of those who continue to defy adversity.

Back to Basics #1: What is Intersectional Feminism?

Image source: marcn, Creative Commons

Editor’s note: Hi, Roos! Welcome to the first installment of… drumroll please… Back to Basics!  In this blog segment, Women’s Center staff take on core feminist ideas, terminology, myths, and more! We hope you enjoy and learn a thing or two!

By: Adriana Miranda

We’re bringing it back to basics this week with: intersectional feminism! What is intersectional feminism you ask? Great question! So let’s say just for example: You’re a white woman. You work with a Latina or Black (or both) woman and a white man. For every dollar this white male coworker makes, you make 82 cents. Unfair, right? But look at your Latina/Black female coworker; she only makes 56-64 cents.  

So you’re thinking, “Wow this is clearly a gender issue! We women make less than men! But why does my other female coworker make even less than me?”

That’s because there are other factors to your coworker’s identity that already add to her oppression. Yes you’re both women, but she is Latina/Black. Taking these different identities and layers of oppression into consideration in our fight for gender equity is intersectional feminism. “Intersectional” means we recognize the issues of all marginalized female-bodied individuals, not just the cis white women.

“But Adriana, why can’t we just advocate for ALL women without highlighting differences? Why can’t we just come together as women?”

I’m so glad you asked! For women of color, trans women, disabled women, etc. we can’t just separate from our identities. Even within women-centered and feminist spaces, non-white, disabled, and LGBT women may still face oppression among other women. It’s like, you can’t pick and choose what parts of you exist right? They all do!

We’re all whole complex beings, and fighting for gender equity means fighting for those with identities different to ours, and acknowledging their experiences unique to their identity. We should be intersectional in our feminism. 

Click here or here for more info!

Someone’s Gotta Say it: Anime’s Issue With Sexism

 

By: Emma Sauer

Hi again, and welcome to a shiny new blog segment! Thrice a month, I’ll be diving into an aspect of pop culture with a feminist twist.I think this will be a great way to bring some awareness to popular media’s relationship with feminism. This time, we’re talking about anime. In other words, I’m going to ruin fun things for everybody by talking about how they suck.

Fun!

Anyway, if you know anything at all about me, you know I’m a huge anime fan. My friends can attest to the army of anime figures on my bookshelf, my enthusiastic rants about the most newest shows, and those who have seen me at my most depraved will recall my Kuroshitsuji cosplay (we do not speak of those dark times). But as someone who has watched anime for half a decade now, there are things about it that I’ve never grown fully accustomed to. 

There’s the fanservice- upskirt shots of barely legal schoolgirls, beach episodes showcasing cleavage, seemingly random nude scenes, and jokes that often end with an embarassed/angry woman as the butt of a joke. To clarify, I don’t have problem with dirty jokes or sexy characters in anime–this is not the issue. Rather, what skeeves me out is when sexual harassment is played for laughs, or when the “sexy” character in question looks like a child. For example, take the first season of the Netflix original anime, Seven Deadly Sins. The main character constantly harasses another character by groping or looking up her skirt, while the other characters berate him for being a pervert. This is supposed to be a running gag. 

That’s not a joke. It’s just sexual assault.  

Even elements of anime as simple as character design show blatant sexism. Let me present to you: a murderous assassin who attacks under the cover of London fog, Jack the Ripper. If you clicked that link, I’m sorry. No, the show does not provide a reason for Jack the Ripper, of all things, to appear as a skimpily-dressed minor.  And no, there’s not a good reason for her to be wearing a bikini. And no, I have no idea why she’s wearing heels. We all know that if this character was a dude, there’s no way he would be dressed like that.

Although these aspects of anime are unsettling, at least I can skip them. I can easily avoid a scene that will make me uncomfortable. If I’m bothered, I can just skip, or I can laugh at how stupid it is. But you know what I can’t skip or laugh off? 

Crappy female characters—especially those in otherwise decent shows. Don’t get me wrong, anime has no shortage of awesome female characters, but too often, especially in shounen (usually action oriented and marketed towards boys), female characters are sidelined by their male counterparts. Take for example, a character that’s been universally hated since her inception: Sakura Haruno, from Naruto.

Sakura’s a train wreck of a character. Her deepest desire is to get together with a boy who has the romantic appeal of an enraged housecat. Sakura doesn’t have any complex desire for self-realization, or a reason to push herself that doesn’t involve a dude.

The manga’s creator intended for Sakura to be the quintessential “girl” character, which makes me pretty concerned about what he thinks the average woman is like. If every woman acted like Sakura, I think the human race would just be doomed. She’s a walking stereotype: a constant damsel in distress, weak, boy-obssessed, annoying, and vain. However, Sakura does have her redeeming moments- she gets very little action compared to the male characters, but she does have some fight scenes, and she’s regarded as a capable ninja in her own right. Personally, I can’t bring myself to hate her fully. I love Naruto, and since she’s one of the only major female characters, I have to take what I can get.

Although poor Sakura is an extreme case of a poorly written female character, I see the same issues she has in female characters all over anime. Female characters are seen as lesser in all contexts, both by other characters, the audience, and the people who create them. This issue is perhaps more complex than I give it credit for: anime is created for a Japanese audience, not an American one. They have their own unique issues when it comes to gender equality, as does the United States. The way Japanese society views women is different, and it’s important to keep that in mind as you enjoy your favorite anime. At the same time, I believe that’s a poor excuse for anime to have such poor female representation. I’ve seen great anime that don’t use the harmful tropes and stereotypes I’ve described, that allow female characters to be more than set-pieces for the male ones. It’s possible. Anime can do better. 

If you’re like me, it can be hard to let go of anime, despite all of its systematic issues. I’ve spent my whole childhood watching anime. At this point, it’s just a parasite sucking out my brain noodles and replacing them with cup ramen. You don’t have to stop watching the anime you love. I understand it’s not possible for every person to do that. However, as anime fans, we need to at the very least, recognize the sexism at play in anime. The degree to which it’s ignored is astounding. 

I get it’s asking a bit much to demand that the anime industry abandon its weird obsession with school-girls and french maids, but can we at least acknowledge it’s weird that it’s there in the first place?

I mean, someone’s gotta say it!