Cosplay is for Everyone!

Harley Quinn (Batman) at Phoenix Comicon 2011, Kevin Dooley, Creative Commons

By: Emma Sauer

Over last weekend, I attended Planet Comicon. I had a blast, and it reminded me of a topic I’ve always felt strongly about. Cosplay.

If you need a definition for cosplay, just think of it like dressing up at Halloween, but instead you’re doing it at a public event. Some people even do it for a living! What’s wonderful about cosplay is that it’s a craft for anyone and everyone. There are dedicated cosplayers who dedicate days, weeks, or even years, into creating their own hand-made costumes, but there are also others who take a more relaxed approach with a store-bought costume. Both, in my opinion, are great! 

Some people care a lot about making sure they look exactly like the character they portray, but others just want to cosplay a character because they like them–and that’s completely valid. Unfortunately, a real risk cosplayers face is judgement from other fans. This judgement is often  centered on the cosplayer’s physique, gender and body type.

When I was in middle school, a good friend of mine posted her cosplay of an anime character online. She looked adorable, and she worked hard on both her cosplay and the photo shoot! The comments were awful, saying she was “too fat” to cosplay as the character. She got other nasty remarks too, all from strangers on the internet who felt like they somehow had the right to police how this teenage girl chose to portray a character she loved. 

As someone active in many online fandoms, I’ve seen many, many awful comments directed towards cosplayers just minding their own business, and more often than not, they’ve been women. Even in the realm of fandom, women still have their appearances policed by neckbeards who think it’s okay to bully others just because a cosplay doesn’t look “right”. This is so silly, it infuriates me! Why are these guys so invested in how a stranger chooses to portray a character? What makes them think they have the right to tear down teenage girls like my friend? 

Cosplay is about expressing your love or passion for a character. Just because someone doesn’t have the same cup size, weight, or appearance of a character doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to dress up as them. And by the way, if you do like a cosplayer’s outfit, that never means it’s okay to touch them or make inappropriate comments without their consent. 

To make a long story short: 

Shut up and let people have fun.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Fannie Lou Hamer: Civil Rights Activist

By Tatiahna Turner

You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.

The youngest of 20 children, Fannie Lou Hamer was born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi. From the age of 6 Fannie picked cotton with her family. She was allowed to attend the plantations’ one-room school house where she discovered her love for reading and poetry. However, at the age of 12 Fannie had to leave school to support her parents. She continued picking cotton and it said that at the age of 13 she could pick 200-300 pounds of cotton daily despite having a disfigured leg as a result of polio. She continued to develop her reading skills in Bible Study at her church, and in 1944, when her plantation owner found out that she was able to read and write, he selected her as the plantations’ time and record keeper. That same year, Fannie married a tractor driver on the plantation. Perry “Pap” Hamer and Fannie remained married for the next 18 years. Later, In 1961, while having surgery to remove a tumor Hamer was given a hysterectomy without consent by a white doctor. This was part of the state’s compulsory sterilization plan to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state and blacks in general. She is credited soon after for coining the phrase, “Mississippi appendectomy”.

Hamer became interested in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950’s when she heard leaders in a local movement speak at the annual Regional Council of Negro Leadership. In 1962, Hamer learned about the right to vote from volunteers at a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) meeting. After this meeting, she began taking action in the civil rights movement. On August 31, Hamer traveled to Indianola, Mississippi to attempt to register to vote. She was not successful in this endeavor and when she returned home to the plantation she was fired by the plantation owner who had warned her against trying to register. Hamer’s husband was required to stay on the plantation until the end of the harvest season. On September 10, while staying with a friend, Hamer was shot at 16 times by the Ku Klux Klan. In fear of further retaliation, Hamer and her family moved to Tallahatchie County the next day where they stayed for three months. On December 4, Hamer returned to her hometown to take the literacy test but failed and was turned away. It is said that she told the registrar, “You’ll see me every 30 days till’ I pass.” Fannie said about the event, “I guess if I’d had any sense, I’d have been a little scared — but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was kill me, and it kinda seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”

After being hired as a field secretary by the SNCC in 1963, Hamer attended a citizenship conference in Charleston, South Carolina. On the way, the party stopped in Winona, Mississippi where they were refused service inside of a local café. Shortly after, a highway patrol man came into the establishment with a bat and intimidated the activists to leave. As one of the members of the group was jotting down the license plate number of the officer’s car, a police chief entered and began arresting anyone that was with the party. Hamer and her colleagues were arrested and taken to a local jail where they were beaten and brutalized. Hamer was taken to a cell where the inmates were instructed to beat her with a baton. The police made sure that she was held down during this almost fatal attack. Hamer was released on June 12, 1963. It took her more than a month to recover, and she was still left with injuries. She sustained a blood clot over her left eye and permanent damage to one of her kidneys. When Fannie returned to Mississippi she organized a voter registration drive.

Hamer died of complications of hypertension and breast cancer on March 14, 1977. She was buried in Ruleville, Mississippi. Her tombstone was engraved with one of her famous quotes, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Ida B. Wells: Suffragist, Feminist, and Leader

By Dasha Matthews

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, better known as Ida B. Wells was born on July 16, 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi. She is known to the world as a prominent African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist, and early leader of the Civil Rights Movement. She is also one of the 60 founders of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

Wells was born a slave. Just a few months before sitting President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, her parents James and Elizabeth Wells were both enslaved by an architect. The family stayed in what is now known as the “Boiling-Gatewood House”. Wells’ parents were both advocates for the rights of black people. Her father was educated at Rust College, where she also attended but was expelled for starting a dispute with the university president. In 1878, at the age of 16, Ms. Wells went to visit her grandmother in Mississippi Valley. While there, she learned that a yellow fever epidemic had struck her hometown and claimed the lives of her parents and her youngest brother. Left to care for five other siblings, Wells left school and took up a job as a teacher in a black elementary school. Along with the influence of her parents, her teaching job sparked interest in politics of race. In the segregated school system white teachers were paid $80 per month, while black teachers were paid $30 per month. Later on in the 1880’s Wells moved with her siblings to Memphis, Tennessee and continued teaching, but for higher wages.

In 1884 Wells filed a lawsuit against a train car company in Memphis for unfair treatment. She had been forcibly removed from her first class seat and moved to a “colored only” car, despite having a ticket. Wells won the lawsuit and was awarded $500, but the decision was then overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1887. As a result of this injustice Wells turned to journalism and began having articles published in black newspapers under the alias ‘Iola’. She eventually became the owner of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.

After the lynching of three of her friends in 1892, Wells turned her attention to white mob violence and became a well-known anti-lynching activist. She began investigative journalism and raised money to investigate lynchings and publish her results. She found very little basis for the frequent claim that black men were lynched due to sexual advancement towards white women. She recorded her finding in a pamphlet entitled Southern Horrors: Lynch Laws in All Its Phases”.

Wells was involved in many different groups focused on the equality of African-Americans and women. She was a founder of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club, which dealt with issues around civil rights and women’s suffrage. In 1913, she founded what was possibly the first black women suffrage group, the Chicago’s Alpha Suffrage Club. She was also a part of the founding of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), but later distanced herself from the group due to its “white and elite black leadership” along with the fact that she felt the group lacked action-based initiatives.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett died of kidney disease on March 25, 1931 just a few days after the passing of her husband Ferdinand Barnett. She left behind four children and quite a remarkable legacy. She will always be remembered in history for her fearless battles against discrimination and her influence during the civil rights movement.

The Life of Angela Davis

By Tatiahna Turner

Born Angela Yvonne Davis on January 26, 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama she is best known as an African-American political activist and for her relations to the Black Panther Party.

Davis grew up in a middle class neighborhood that was nicknamed “Dynamite Hill” due to the amount of African-American homes in the area that were bombed by the Ku Klux Klan. She was aware and affected by racial prejudice from her experiences with discrimination while growing up in Alabama. As a teenager, Davis organized interracial study groups that were broken up by the police. Davis’ mother Sallye, taught in an elementary school and was also an active member of the NAACP. Davis pursued higher education at Brandeis University where she studied philosophy, and then later, as a graduate student she attended the University of California, San Diego.

In 1969, Davis accepted a position as an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). At this time she was known to world as a radical feminist and activist, a member of the Communist Party USA, and an associate of the Black Panther Party. Davis was fired from her job at UCLA due to her ties and beliefs with the Communist Party, but was then rehired after a judge ruled that she could not be fired solely due to her relations with them. A short while later, on June 20, 1970, Davis was let go from her position at UCLA again, but this time the reason was “inflammatory language” that she used during speeches. The report written for her dismissal stated, “We deem particularly offensive such utterances as her statement that the regents ‘killed, brutalized (and) murdered’ the People’s Park demonstrators, and her repeated characterizations of the police as ‘pigs’.”

Angela Davis was a strong supporter of the Soledad Brothers, who were three inmates accused of killing a guard at the Soledad Prison. As reported by FamPeople, the incident that took place was as follows: “On August 7, 1970, Jonathan Jackson, a heavily armed, 17-year-old African-American high-school student, gained control over a courtroom in Marin County, California. Once in the courtroom, Jackson armed the black defendants and took Judge Harold Haley, the prosecutor, and three female jurors as hostages. As Jackson transported the hostages and two black convicts away from the courtroom, the police began shooting at the vehicle. The judge, one of the jurors, the prosecutor, and the three black men were killed in the melee. Davis had purchased the firearms used in the attack, including the shotgun used to kill Haley, which had been bought two days prior and the barrel sawed off. She had also written numerous letters found in the prison cell of one of the murderers. Since California considers “all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense… principals in any crime so committed,” San Marin County Superior Judge Peter Allen Smith charged Davis with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder in the death of Judge Harold Haley” and issued a warrant for her arrest. Hours after the judge issued the warrant on August 14, 1970 a massive attempt to arrest Angela Davis began. On August 18, 1970, four days after the initial warrant was issued, the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover made Angela Davis the third woman to appear on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List.”

Davis fled from California and, according to her autobiography, hid in the homes of close friends. She was captured on October 13, 1970. On June 4, 1972 after 13 hours of deliberation Davis was found not guilty by an all-white jury. They decided that her owning the guns used in the crime was not enough evidence to convict her. After years of traveling and lecturing, Davis returned to the US where she taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz until her retirement in 2008. In 2017, Davis attended the Women’s March on Washington as a featured speaker and was made honorary co-chair.

The Perseverance of Pam Grier

By Dasha Matthews

Pam Grier is known to the world as an iconic African-American actress. Many know her from Blaxploitation films such as Foxy Brown, but she has contributed much more to the African-American society than just entertainment. Grier endured many hardships during her childhood and adult life that led her to become the strong and inspiring feminist that she is today.

At the age of 6, Grier was raped by two older boys when she was left alone at her Aunt’s home. In an interview given while on her book tour, Pam spoke briefly on the incident saying, “It took so long to deal with the pain of that… You try to deal with it, but you never really get over it. And not just me; my family endured so much guilt and anger that something like that happened to me.” Grier was then a victim of date rape at the age of 18. She said that she had not told anyone about either of these incidents until she wrote the memoir. When speaking about her decision to reveal what happened to her she said, “I wanted others out there to understand the emotional trauma that is involved in sexual aggression and abuse and that not all of us get over it or even survive the abuse. I have that opportunity to speak about this as the icon—the object and let others know that in spite of it all, I am still here.”

In 1988 Grier was diagnosed with stage-four cervical cancer. In an interview, Grier states, “They couldn’t operate or start treatment for another six weeks… They gave me only 16-18 months to live and was told to start preparing for treatment and to organize my will.” Grier says that she coped with her diagnosis “minute to minute” and that her recovery was possible through the combination of chemotherapy and her doctor’s recommendation of a Chinese herbalist who prescribed her “herbs and tinctures.”

Despite all of the trials and tribulations that Grier endured, she persevered and used each experience as a teaching lesson. She fought from the beginning of her career for the independence and free expression of women. In another interview, Grier states, “And what the (feminist) movement was saying was to be independent on your own. And I realized that is what I was going to have to do, no matter what trauma went on in my life. Women could still survive and they must have independence and not be co-dependent, which is what society was teaching women to be”

You can follow this link to read more about her life.