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

By Morgan Paul

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

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

A “Thank You” to all of the Feminists

Image from Google Images.

Image from Google Images.

By Amber Charleville

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

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

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

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

“Stop Telling Women to Smile” Exemplifies Artistic Activism

Image from Google Images.

Image from Google Images.

When I read about “Stop Telling Women to Smile” by Brooklyn-based artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, I was struck; it is a fantastic visual display aiming to raise awareness about street harassment and violence against women. The Huffington Post online Article that featured the project on Friday mentioned that Fazlalizadeh wants to bring “Stop Telling Women to Smile” to Kansas City (as well as other cities across the nation), and is looking to do so through a Kickstarter campaign; I really hope that becomes a reality!

Check out the Huffington Post article here: “Public Art Project Addresses Gender-Based Street Harassment In A Big Way”: http://huff.to/17kI8mF

To visit the “Stop Telling Women to Smile” website, click here: http://bit.ly/17Ld1BL

The Idolization of Frida

Frida Kahlo, "Henry Ford Hospital," 1932. Image from Fickr

Frida Kahlo, “Henry Ford Hospital,” 1932. Image from Fickr

By Morgan Elyse Christensen

There seems to be some debate in the webiverse over whether or not Frida Kahlo should really be the poster-child for art and feminism. Those who believe Kahlo establishes a harmonious relationship with the feminist movement tend to cling to her defiance of gender norms such as her lax attitude in regards to facial hair, her bi-sexuality, and the fact that her art was collected in the early 20th century when hardly any other women were blazing the same trail (that’s kind of the big one). Those who oppose the view that Frida brings a positive note to feminism, take note of the fact that she remained in an unhealthy relationship with her misogynist husband/ex-husband/husband-again, Diego Rivera, and that her paintings were only painted for and because of him.

Here’s what I think: It’s totally unfair for anyone but Frida Kahlo to assess her feminist credibility – especially since she’s been unable to defend herself since 1954. So when people say “Frida Kahlo; No Feminist” or “Frida Kahlo: Best Feminist Ever”, how can they really know? Even if said people knew her personally, they’d know only what Kahlo would have allowed them to see her do and hear her say, not how she truly felt on the inside and what she was really thinking; that’s what the canvas was for – Frida’s vibrant diary. But you still can’t judge her as a person – only her art – and art is subjective.

We can never really know what was going through Kahlo’s mind when she painted them, we can only try interpreting the meanings behind works such as “Diego in My Thoughts”, “Without Hope”, or “Henry Ford Hospital”, for each person it will be different. For me, and for many feminists, Frida’s work encapsulates several of the same ideas on to which we’re still trying to turn the general population like how women feel trapped, forced to fulfill societal conventions, and how the female reproductive system is not some mysterious, taboo thing that should be hidden away.

There’s no doubt that Frida Kahlo wasn’t afraid to discuss subjects in her paintings that cause the viewer to think very deeply. Thought provoking art, painted by a female, famous in a time when women typically weren’t for their art; I say let the idolization of Frida continue…for centuries. Plus, I think her work is amazing, period!

The Gellman Collection which contains works by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and several other remarkable Mexican artists will remain on display at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art through August 18th. Go see it for yourself and get your own impression of what Frida means to the art world and to feminism.

Summer movie worth watching: “Snow White and the Huntsman”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55Dq2psogSw[/youtube]By Armelle Djoukoue

Last weekend my friends and I decided to watch the movie “Snow White and the Huntsman,” starring Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen, and Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman. I had been debating whether or not I should see the movie because of the other Snow White stories I’ve read and movies I’ve watched that portrayed Snow White as a helpless maiden waiting to be rescued by her prince. But I thought it would be a fun movie to see with friends – so I went… and I’m glad I went.

Kristen Stewart’s Snow White is not helpless at all. In fact, she is powerful and courageous and she dominates over Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman as she leads the battle to save her nation. I like that this movie can empower women and young girls and show them that they don’t need to dream of the day their prince will come. Snow White shows them that they have the courage and strength, not only to save themselves, but others around them. And as the Time magazine review put it, “Snow White is the fairest feminist of them all.”  

Although, I think Kristen Stewart’s acting was still in her “twilight zone,” her Snow White character is definitely a better role model for young girls than her “Twilight” character Bella. Unfortunately, movies with strong female lead characters this summer are few and far between (besides the new animated feature, Brave, that just came out this past weekend). But at least Hollywood made this Snow White tale is worth watching.

What Feminism Means Today…

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

By Bonnie Messbarger

Celebrating 40 years of Ms Magazine, Gloria Steinem, Jamia Wilson, Letty Pogrebin and Abigail Pogrebin appear on the Today show and discuss the feminist movement and its relevance. Gloria Steinem at one point says, “Gratitude never radicalized anybody.” What do you think about the feminist movement and women of today’s attitude of being grateful for what we have and not being angry about what we don’t?

2011 Starr Symposium… Will “Survive!”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cioK-DKS-xQ[/youtube]

By Arzie Umali 

Yesterday, the UMKC Women’s Center and Women’s Council hosted the Starr Symposium, an all day event featuring two keynote speakers – Gloria Steinem and Dolores Huerta – workshops to empower women, and entertainment by the Wild Women of Kansas City. There were several highlights during the day that focused on the theme “Age Becomes Us: Leading, Empowering and Building Capacity across the Generations,”  but one of the most exciting moments was the spontaneous dance party that happened during lunch when Millie Nottingham, of the Wild Women, performed an electrifying rendition of “I Will Survive.” Check out the video to see Gloria Steinem, Dolores Huerta, and women from all over Kansas City get swept in by the music.

Join Us for Nedra Bonds’ Quilt Camp!

Looking for something to do this summer? Stop by the UMKC Women’s Center and become part of the Women’s Center forever! Under the guidance of local textile artist Nedra Bonds, you will create a 12×12” quilt square that will become part of the Women’s Equity Quilt and permanently installed in the Women’s Center in honor of its 40th Anniversary. No sewing skills necessary. Walk-ins are welcome, but space is limited. Reservations are encouraged.

When: Every Thursday, 1 – 5 p.m.; June 9 – July 28

Where: UMKC Women’s Center, 105 Haag Hall, 5120 Rockhill Road, KCMO

Cost: Free; but donations are welcome to support the Women’s Equity Quilt Project. Donations of $20 ($10 for students) will allow participant to create a second quilt square that they can keep

For more information or to reserve a spot, contact Patsy Campos at umkc-womens-center@umkc.edu or 816-235-1638.

Co-sponsored by the Her Art Project, the Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City, and the ArtsKC Fund.

Cross-posted on the UMKC Women’s & Gender Studies Program blog.

The End of My Journey at the Women’s Center

By Nikeisha Fortenberry

As I finish my last week at the Women’s Center, it amazes me to know that three years have gone by. It seems like only yesterday I was interviewing for a work-study position, and now, I am transitioning into a different chapter of my life—leaving memorable moments behind here.

I can write about so many experiences I had (and trust me, there are many); however, I will only share a couple of memories and keep the rest dear to my heart. One of my fondest memories is the evolution of my feminism. During my undergraduate studies, I had taken a Women’s and Gender studies course that discussed first-wave, second-wave, and third-wave feminism. The course did provide good insight about each aspect of feminism; however, I did not know how it applied to me. I did not know what it meant to be a feminist.

When I was given the opportunity to work at the Women’s Center, one of the first pieces of information I learned was the mission. The Women’s Center mission, to “advocate, educate, and provide support services for the advancement of women’s equity on campus and within the community at large,” continues to stay with me. Eventually, I realized that feminism applied to me because I had the responsibility of understanding the importance of advocating for women’s issues and advancing women’s equity through programming, collaborations, and research. But most importantly, I found real value in listening to women’s stories and learning about their many contributions to helping women in their own communities. Through my time here, I learned that being a feminist meant not only being a strong woman, but it also meant being dedicated to educating the community about the importance of women’s issues. I tried to convey these meanings through the programs I chose to create while an intern here, such as the “Love Your Body Day Fashion Show,” “Is America Obsessed With Body Image,” “Everybody is Beautiful Week”, and the “Rock Who You Are Fashion Show.“ All these events focused on dispelling the myths about body image created by the media and hoped to promote positive body image in everyone. I also created the event “Throwing Like A Girl Since 1972,” a panel discussion about the history and impact of Title IX.

As my own feminism evolved, I moved from someone with a lack of understanding (and someone afraid to say the F word out loud) to someone with a personal passion to proactively advocate for women’s issues and promote gender equality, who was no longer afraid of the word “Feminism.”

In addition to the discovery of my feminist identity, the other memories I will always cherish from my time at the Women’s Center are the relationships I made with each person on staff. I was very fortunate to work with such passionate people that were filled with knowledge about women’s issues. Also, I definitely enjoyed all of the parties we had. The food was yummy, but the laughter that we all shared showed that we were not only co-workers, but we all very good friends.

It saddens me to go, but I will always remember that my time at the Women’s Center was a life-changing experience for me. Thank you for the opportunity. Although my journey ends at the Women’s Center, I will continue to keep hold of the mission to advocate for the advancement of women.

My Two Years at the Women’s Center

By Bethany Reyna

My 1st year at the Women's Center!

Last year was my first year at the UMKC Women’s Center. I had never had a job like this where we worked for a cause through tabling and events. What I have learned from working at the Women’s Center has made a significant difference to me as a student and as a feminist.

When I first started attending UMKC I wasn’t involved and I had never lived in a city setting before. When I got on campus I was attending community events and seeing an environment that was outside of my campus and dorm life. I started to attend Women’s Center events and realized that the issues they represented not only affect students but also the surrounding community. It was slightly overwhelming to me; I had just graduated high school and then I found myself participating in events like Walk A Mile in Her Shoes and the Vagina Monologues. I had never got the opportunity to experience events like these before because those types of perspectives can be frowned upon where I’m from. During my first year at the Women’s Center I felt like I was impartial to everything that I was involved in  because I couldn’t decide how to define my own feminism.

In my second year at the Women’s Center I feel like I have a bit more perspective and I am less overwhelmed than my first year.

My 2nd year at the Women’s Center!

Now I know that I am a feminist and I can fully understand the importance of each event that we put on for the Women’s Center and the Violence Prevention and Response Project. I feel good knowing that these events might change a person’s perspective or save a person’s life. Having a job like this makes me want to continue to help people in need and I think that once I’m no longer with the Women’s Center, I will miss that aspect of the job the most. After I  graduate, or when I no longer work here, I will continue to try to get involved with my community. Working for an organization like the Women’s Center has been a great experience so far and I hope that it continues to be for the rest of my college career!