Becoming Barbie

By: Caitlin Easter

From a very young age we are exposed to Barbie. From this early age we learn—and in turn internalize— the values and lessons of “health” as displayed by what we are exposed to. Barbie is the epitome of what children, especially little girls, are taught to want to be—thin yet disproportionately curvy, with blonde hair and a consistently perfect life. And even once we are grown, the ideologies instilled in us via Barbie never quite fade.  The society we live in is heavily influenced by consumer culture, and we are taught that we can also achieve what Barbie has if we are willing to spend the money to get there. If we don’t like our face shape we can invest in plastic surgery or even contouring products in order to change our face shape, if we have a problem with our bodies, we have millions of options of plans and regimes we can buy into in order to achieve the ideal Barbie physique.

However, Barbie’s shape has its own issues.. The South Shore Eating Disorders Collaborative affirms the unrealistic body expectations put forth by Barbie, stating that “if Barbie was an actual woman, she would be 5’9” tall and would weigh “110 lbs.” Due to this, “Barbie would have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the criteria for anorexia.” They also assert that due to her extremely unhealthy figure, she would “likely not menstruate” and that “she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.” We are, however, never told that Barbie’s shape is unrealistic and unachievable, we just go our whole lives wondering why we can’t reach this idealized standard.

Past the inherently subliminal messages that were passed on through Barbie, in 1963 a group of Barbie dolls—including most famously, Slumber Party Barbie—came with a scale permanently set to 110 pounds along with a book named How To Lose Weight that included a single page with the words “DON’T EAT!” displayed in capital letters. How did Mattel, the toy company that manufactures Barbie, think that this was a good message to feed to their young audience? With such a platform comes a social obligation to do good, or more simply, to not destroy the body image of young children all across the world. Barbie was literally teaching little girls that starving themselves was the proper way to reach their goal weight, and we wonder why most members of society have such deeply-rooted issues with their body’s appearance.

As long as we live in a culture where it is okay not to address these issues, they will never be fixed.  As of late we have seen the appearance of bigger Barbies, but the fact that they need to be advertised as being “bigger Barbies” instead of just “Barbies” highlights the fact that there is something inherently better about being unachievably skinny. There is nothing inherently healthy about Barbie and her lifestyle, and if we let our children continue to play with these toys without at least teaching them positive body image first, we will never see an end to these issues.

Yes, Barbie has a reputable image, but when Barbie is teaching children not to eat in order to maintain her “ideal” figure, is she really the role model we want to give our extremely malleable children?

Should Female Athletes Be Subject to Gender Testing?

By: Christina Terrell

Gender testing on female athletes has been around for some time now, however it has gone through phases. Gender testing happens to be the sex verification in sports, which grants eligibility for an athlete to compete in a sporting event that is limited to a single sex.

Back in the 90’s, it had been a mandatory and very extensive process. The gender testing process can involve evaluation by gynecologists, endocrinologists, psychologists, and internal medicine specialists. On a simple level, the athlete may be evaluated from their external appearances by experts. The athlete may also undergo blood tests to examine their sex hormones, genes and chromosomes. It was discovered that not all women have the standard female chromosomes, and this began to unfairly exclude some female athletes from competing in their sport.

In the year of 2009, mandatory gender testing resurfaced when Olympic cross-country runner, Caster Semenya won her race by more than just your typical two seconds. but she won the race by way more than two seconds. The public, along with race officials, began to talk, saying that it could be possible that Caster Semenya was really a man and should be disqualified. When Semenya went in for her gender testing, her results came back that she was “intersex”, meaning she possessed both male and female chromosomes. The tests were leaked to the public and the best day of her career turned into the worse day of her life.

Since the incident with Caster Semenya in 2009, the topic of gender testing and whether to make it mandatory or not has undergone many changes and discussions. As of 2018 the decision has been reached to mandate gender testing for females who solely compete in middle distance races of 400 meters to one mile. The reason for this being that these races require evaluations of speed, power, and endurance which are the components measured by the gender test and determine differences between females and males when it comes to testosterone levels. In the end, there are some people who feel this is fair and others who do not because women cannot help if their testosterone falls outside the range of what allows them to compete in the female categories. As a result, gender testing will continue to be an aspect of what females in the sports industry must rise above.

“Having Daughters is my Punishment..”

By Caitlin Easter

There is a huge discrepancy in our society between the way men and
women are expected to interact with members of the opposite gender. Society
tells us the “correct” way to behave with relational partners, but it is a very
gendered divide in how we understand and view the situations when people
don’t follow these guidelines. Our world is a lot more willing to forgive a man
who mistreats a romantic partner than a woman who should know better than to
treat a romantic partner poorly. It is almost expected of males to behave this way,
and no one blinks when men are accused of these fallacies.

I have often heard from parents in one variation or another “having girls is
my punishment for the way I treated girls when I was younger.” I have, however,
never heard the direct inverse of this statement. Women are expected to know
how to treat men even before they have sons, but society labels it acceptable for
men to have their learning curve so late in life. Given these—clearly—different
approaches to judging the outcome of a situation, why is it so hard for our society
to believe that we are not holding boys to the same standard as girls? Why is it so
hard to believe that we are raising the men in our society wrong, when even they
are haunted by the possibility of their younger selves’ behavior being directed
towards their daughters?

Holding boys to a higher standard for the treatment of others at a young
age will stop the perpetuation of this harmful cycle and help to teach boys to
treat women not just how they want their daughters to be treated in hindsight,
but also how they expect themselves to be treated.

Year of the Unapologetic Woman

By Nina Cherry

As we are now over a month into 2019, I finally found a theme and a personal goal for myself for this
year (a bit late, per usual). The theme? Unapologetic womanhood.

Now, being an unapologetic woman does not mean that you never apologize. It means you apologize
when an apology is actually appropriate. All too often, women (myself included) find themselves
apologizing for a wide range of unnecessary things, which is exactly what we have been conditioned to
do!

I do not have time to apologize for my womanhood. I do not have time to apologize for the
inconveniences and traumas brought about by my gender. I do not have time to apologize for being
“unladylike”, and ladies, neither do you. We apologize for some of the most natural things – especially
for displaying emotion, which is often conceived as being “dramatic”.
It is time we stop apologizing for our presence – whether that be for talking “too much” (which usually means a woman is talking the same amount as a man), crying, not shaving or wearing makeup, not looking “pulled together” enough. Let’s stop being polite because we feel like we have to be. Doing the polite or “ladylike” thing does not equate to doing the nice thing. In addition, politeness does not equate to honesty. We need to do what’s best for us, and stop apologizing for our existence.

I encourage you to follow in this manifesto – be unashamed and proud! Do it for yourself. Do it for other women. So watch out, because 2019 is the year of the unapologetic woman.

Here is a great list of the things we need to stop apologizing for in 2019:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bustle/23-things-women-apologize-for-all-the-time_b_5915414.html

Welcoming New Student Assistant to Women’s Center

By Brittany Soto

Hi, I’m Brittany!

I’m currently in my senior year here at UMKC and I’m about to receive my undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology this spring. I transferred to UMKC from Johnson County Community College in the fall of 2016. I’ve heard nothing but good things about UMKC from people I know who have attended here, which is why I ultimately chose to transfer to UMKC to pursue my undergraduate degree. My interest in Psychology began as a teenager, at an age where topics such as peer pressure, bullying, and changes to the mind and body where often discussed. These topics not only sparked my interest in Psychology and Sociology, but also led me to develop a passion for wanting to help others and make a positive difference in the lives of others and/or become a part of an organization that contributes to making a positive difference. Growing up, my mother always taught me the importance of women’s rights, especially when it came to self-worth, respect, and equality. Having this instilled in me, I am honored to be a part of the UMKC Women’s Center and I hope to continue to learn and grow throughout my time here. I am also looking forward to seeing what I will get to experience while working here as well.

 

The 2019 Vagina Monologues

By Mackinzie Aulgur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Woman’s Place

By Caitlin Easter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out with the Old; In with the New

By Chris Howard-Williams

My summer with the Women’s Center is drawing to a close.  During my time here, I’ve tried to educate myself about feminism and what I can do as a man to promote the cause of feminism.  For my last blog post in this effort, I want to focus on a slightly different question.  Instead of the “how”, I want to touch on the “why” – Why should I, as a man, support feminism?

I’m not going to lie … there are many articles out there already that explain the importance of feminism for men that will put it more eloquently than I ever could.  A quick Google search of “How men benefit from feminism” pulled up many different articles to read.  Reading through just three of the first articles that popped up from the Independent , the Crimson White, and the Medium, I realized there’s nothing I can really add to the discussion that would be new, save for one thing – my own voice.

So, in my own words, why do I support feminism?  Here’s my short list based on my own personal experiences with the inequality and toxic masculinity that still exist:

  1. Because I want to be able to cry and show emotion without it being seen as showing my “feminine side”;
  2. Because I want to be able to enjoy cooking and baking at home without being teased about making someone a “good wife”;
  3. Because I want to be able to say that I don’t enjoy sports without wondering if I’ll be viewed as “less than a man” because of it;
  4. Because I want to be able to stop the “male posturing” for strength and dominance without being called a derogatory term for the female anatomy;
  5. Because I don’t want to be regarded more highly than someone else simply because of my gender (or the color of my skin, while we’re on the subject);
  6. Because I want the women in my life to be considered for who they are and what they can accomplish rather than to be viewed through antiquated stereotypes;
  7. But most importantly, because it’s the right thing to do!

There’s probably more that I could list, but those are the big ones, folks.  Equity and equality matter, and they’re needed.  Men, if you don’t understand why, it’s time to educate yourselves.  It can start with a simple Google search, but it takes a real inner-self search as well.  It’s time to usher out the old, the outdated, the ignorance and the broken gender roles.  It’s time for the new to become the norm.

Friends and Feminism

By Maleigha Michael

*spoilers ahead*

Friends was one of the many trendy sitcoms that came from the ’90s that is seen as a classic by many. And even though its last episode aired in 2004, it still seems to grow in popularity. Because of its familiar presence in the TV world today, its values and themes are important to pay attention to since they have such a strong impact on their audience. The main point I want to get across is that while Friends integrated some feminist perspectives, they were often countered to promote patriarchal ideals. And just because the sitcom had a few progressive tones, that doesn’t make it a feminist show; moreover, it definitely doesn’t mean we should accept them today, or should’ve accepted them back then. There are examples in every episode that I could discuss and pick apart, but since I don’t have 18 pages (front and back) I’ll only be addressing a few.

For those that say Friends is a feminist show, I want to point out that sure, it could be seen that way. But only if you’re idea of feminism is very outdated. The show introduced characters from the LGBTQIA community (or just LGBT, as it was recognized at the time), which should always be applauded, but the way those characters were received by the other characters is why the show is seen by others as outdated. For example, Chandler’s transgender father was constantly made fun of and Ross’s lesbian ex-wife was far too often oversexualized.

And of course I have to talk about the finale. In the beginning, Rachel started off as this idol for independent women: leaving a man at the altar, breaking away from her father’s money, and pursuing her dream career in fashion (and yes, I realize how unrealistic this part was since she had no prior experience in the industry, or proper schooling). One of the main plot lines to the show was the whole will-they-won’t-they back and forth love affair between Rachel and Ross, so it only makes sense that that’s how the franchise ended.  But when the opportunity arises for Rachel to work for Louis Vuitton in Paris, episode after episode is focused on Ross trying to stop Rachel from leaving just so he could be with her. This all leads up to the end scenes of Ross convincing Rachel to stay. Ross wasn’t alone in this either. Phoebe and Joey actually encouraged him to go after Rachel, instead of encouraging him to support the woman he loves when she’s offered the chance of a lifetime. This ending was extremely disappointing for feminists for obvious reasons, but also because of the lasting impact it has on its viewers. After all of Rachel’s hard work and progress she’s made to get where she is, she turns down a major job opportunity to be with a man who wasn’t very supportive of her career choices in the first place.

For a character that had such a strong story line, the salute off the show that she was given is one of the many examples of how any feminist themes in Friends are overshadowed by regressive concepts that left a bitter taste in the mouths of feminists back then and especially today. The series may be one of the most popular sitcoms ever, but we shouldn’t accept any oppression of female dominance and simply pass it off as “that’s just how it was back then!” Finding feminism in any show is great, but Friends should NOT pass as a feminist show.

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.