Teaching Kids Feminism

 By: Anabelle Obermaier 

Teaching our future generations feminism is very important for our growth in society. This is because improving our mindset on gender equity is one set closer to a peaceful and kind world. I am going to be talking about ways we can teach our children feminism in ways like books and movies, our own personal values and teaching, and current events in media.

One way to introduce the concept of feminism to children is through the books and movies they consume. When picking a book to read to your kid, think does this represent women in a positive light without harsh stereotypes? When picking a movie, try to watch one with strong diverse female leads. Introducing your good values to kids is a very important ideal. This can be in ways just by simply changing your language; for example, you can discourage the use of stereotypical phrases of offensive language. Another example is to not put our children in boxes based on their gender. Instead let them express their gender through clothing, their hair, the toys they play with, as they wish.

Lastly, keeping your kids updated on age-appropriate current events in the media is crucial. To keep them educated on what gender issues are going on in the world is crucial. This can be for older kids in their early teens as a way to introduce them to current gender issues in media, government, and internationally. Overall, raising kids with the information to become a future feminist can be tricky, but these simple ways can be an easy way to introduce feminism in a safe and fun way!

Reflecting on 50 Years of Service to the University of Kansas City-Missouri

 

“Attention” by Summer Brooks, medium: black clay, spray foam, underglaze, luster, butterfly clips

By: Emma Sauer

Since its establishment by Alumni and former Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes in 1971, UMKC’s Women’s Center has been a proud voice for gender equity on campus. Through 50 years of continuous education, advocacy, and support services, the Women’s Center has diligently worked to cultivate a feminist-friendly community at UMKC. Most recently, our programming has revolved around supporting UMKC’s female athletes, our healing arts corners, and increasing our menstrual product supply available to the public. Our office is and always will be a safe space for every marginalized student, faculty member, or community member who walks through our doors.

To celebrate half a century’s worth of service, the Women’s Center is proud to unveil “Ms. behaving!”, an art exhibit co-curated by Women’s Center Director Arzie Umali and Sonie Ruffin. The exhibit will feature artwork showcasing acts of gender empowerment. In the words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “well-behaved women seldom make history”. In other words, to enact real change, we must refuse to silence our voices. Activism demands determination and resilience in the fight for equity. Even the smallest act of courage, resilience, or rebellion can create lasting impact. 

During our opening night on Friday,  November 4, we saw an incredible turnout, despite the heavy rain! Now that I’ve been with the Women’s Center for two semesters, I can confidently say our art exhibits hosted through “Her Art Project” are my favorite events.  During a brief speech at the event,  our director Arzie emphasized the importance of giving female artists a platform.  She pointed out that if you ask someone to name male artists,  nobody ever has an issue listing off a whole list of them–but ask for female artists, and people will struggle to name even one. That’s a problem.  There are a plethora of female artists out there just as, if not more, talented than their male counterparts, but art communities often fail to recognize them. At least now, after someone sees in the exhibit, they’ll be able to name more than a dozen right in KC.

The UMKC Women’s Center Anniversary Exhibit will be up for viewing at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in the Crossroads Arts District until January 28. We invite you to stop by, enjoy the art, and reflect on what you find there. 

We hope this exhibit inspires you to walk in the footsteps of other trailblazers throughout history: abolitionists, suffragists, and feminists who misbehaved!

 

Someone’s Gotta Say It: The Word “Girlboss” Needs to Die 

By: Emma Sauer 

It’s been some time since I wrote one of these blogs, but I’m coming in hot today with an irritating trend that isn’t going away anytime soon. 

When’s the last time you walked into Target, TJ Maxx, Kohls, or any one of those conglomerate department stores? Have you noticed all those mass-produced t-shirts, tumblers, bags, book-ends, blankets, pillows, posters, and planners have one particular word plastered across them? Something like this:

Source: Amazon

Ugh. Girl Boss. Just typing that out feels like I’m manifesting the worst kind of cutesy faux feminism. Anyway, let me tell you why I hate this word so much. 

The word “girl boss” is a word ascribed to any woman in a position of leadership. It’s vague enough that it can mean a lot of different things, whether it’s a female CEO, business owner, or a middle aged white woman at home selling her Lularoe leggings. I also see it from time to time in Instagram bios or other places on social media. 

So, my main problem with cutesy phrases like “girl boss”, “boss lady”, or “she-eo” is that they’re infantilizing. (And also make for hideous interior design.) A woman in a leadership role shouldn’t be made into a huge deal— at least, not in a way that doesn’t recognize her accomplishments for what they are. When a man is in a leadership role, we don’t call him a “boy boss”, right? That just sounds silly and dumb. Same thing for “girl boss.” It’s dumb, and it makes me roll my eyes. I’m all for lifting up women, but instead of vaguely virtue-signaling with a sparkly pink “GIRL BOSS” plaque on your desk, do the work to focus on specific gender inequity issues.

And you know what? I find this whole “girl boss” thing totally disingenuous. It’s become a way for corporations to create merchandise and market themselves as being feminist, when in reality they’re destroying the environment, using child labor, and under-paying their employees.

Back to Basics #6: Can Men Be Feminists?

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 By: Anel Sandoval

We are bringing it Back to Basics this week! In this blog segment, we explain feminist terminology, myths, concepts and more! Today’s question is…

“Does a feminist have to be female?” 

Being a feminist means believing that women and men are equal and deserve equal rights. If you agree with that, then you’re a feminist. With that being said, all genders can be a feminist! True feminism is intersectional. Feminism spans across any and all genders, sexual preferences, or ethnic identities. And yes, men can be feminist allies too! 

“Why are men important in advocating for gender equity?”  

Men can be important allies to women in fighting for gender equity and promoting violence prevention. Women have been fighting for women’s equality for hundreds of years, but men also have a role to join in the fight as they’re not the problem, but part of the solution. One example of a self identified male feminist is former President Barack Obama. In August of 2016, President Obama penned his famous This is What A Feminist Looks Like where he reminded us that “it is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too.” His administration also took big steps to combat campus sexual assault and violence against women, improve equal pay protections, and actively promote women’s issues. 

“What can I, as a man, do to become an ally for women’s human rights?”  

 Great question! Here is a list of ways:  

  • Support women’s organizations such as the Women’s Center here on campus. We have many events you can attend this semester!  
  • Educate yourself on the history of women’s fight for equality as well as current issues.  
  • Start a conversation with women in your life. Listen to women who are fighting for their rights and ask them questions on how you can support them. 
  • Do not be a bystander to women’s violence. If you see it in your home, workplace, campus, or any public place, do not be silent, report it.  
  • Do not share sexist content that belittles or discriminates against women in any way. 
  • Advocate and educate others. Men can challenge other men in a way that women can’t, and if you use that opportunity to try to educate other guys, or just send the message that sexist attitudes are not okay, that can go a long way. It can feel awkward, but it’s worth it and very appreciated. 

Remember that absolutely anyone can be a feminist regardless of their gender and it is our duty, as society, to change the fact that women aren’t equal to men. To learn more click here

Break the Cisnormative Status Quo with These Five Tips! 

By: Emma Sauer

An important part of being an intersectional feminist is advocating equality for all genders, including people who identify as genderqueer, nonbinary, intersex, or otherwise gender non-conforming. If you try to be a “good feminist”  like me, you probably know this, but sometimes it can be hard training our brains to not ignore this issue. We’re raised in a society (cue Joker voice) that aggressively pigeon-holes men and women into their respective roles, leaving little room for anything in between. It’s important we recognize, accommodate, and advocate for not just cis women, but also people outside the gender binary. These groups of people face increased discrimination through discriminatory laws, policies, and in their everyday lives. Here are five ways you can break that cycle in your own small way. 

1. Help normalize stating your pronouns: Include your preferred pronouns on places like your instagram or twitter bios, your email signatures, or face to face introductions when necessary. 

 This might feel awkward and unnatural at first, but saying your pronouns isn’t all that weird when you think about it. It’s just an extension of saying your name or any other personal characteristic. Once you get used to introducing yourself with your pronouns, it’ll come much easier. 

2. Use gender neutral language. 

By making minor tweaks to the way we speak, we can easily be more accommodating to all genders. Ex: “Hello, everyone!” instead of “Hello, ladies and gents!”. Again, this may feel forced at first, but you get used to it quick. To those wondering, you can absolutely use “their” or “theirs” in place of “his/hers” or “he/she”. It’s not grammatically incorrect, either

3. For god’s sake, let people whatever restroom they need. Trans or nonbinary people should be allowed to use whatever bathroom they’re most comfortable with, end of story.

 It’s a popular myth that predators will use flexible restroom policies to sneak into the “ladies” or “men’s” room, and it’s been debunked over and over. If you hear someone spreading misinformation about this issue, you can politely educate them on the actual facts about this supposed phenomenon. We need to let this myth die.

4. Make an effort to support LGBTQ+ owned businesses and artists. 

Uplifting female business owners and entrepreneurs will always be important! Let’s not exclude those who don’t fall in the gender binary, though! Here are some super neat businesses I found to get you started: Steer Queer Ya’ll (those They/Them earrings are a MUST), Queer Candle Co., and Peau De Loup.

5. Always be open to what the gender-nonconforming people in your life have to say. 

If you mess up and say the wrong pronoun to someone, don’t sweat it: rather than overreacting and begging for forgiveness, apologize, move on, and make a mental note to do better. When someone from the LGBTQ+ community points out something that you’re doing is cisnormative or transphobic, listen. Being defensive will get you nowhere. 

I hope this list was informative for you, or if you already know this stuff, I hope it was a good refresher! Thanks for reading this far, and check out the rest of our blog for more info on feminist topics! 

Back to Basics #5: What is the Women’s Center?

By: Emma Sauer 

Something I get asked a lot, whether at events, in the office, or just when talking about my job is…

What do you actually do at the Women’s Center?”

I’ll tell you! 

The Women’s Center at UMKC serves several purposes. Our office houses a wide array of resources available to the community, such as information on housing assistance, local shelters, and LGBTQIA+ resources. These are available either as brochures or links collected on our Campus and Community Resources tab. We also have a library, a lactation/self-care space, and a kitchen, all available to faculty and students. Of course, we’re also just open as a safe space for any marginalized students, and students are welcome to come in and just hang out. 

Another huge thing our staff does at the Women’s Center is our programming– if you are a student at UMKC, you may have spotted us at one of the many events we host, co-sponsor, or attend. Examples of programs we’ve run in the past include running a menstrual product drive to spread awareness about the Pink Tax, promoting body positivity during Every Body is Beautiful Week, and the Their/Her Art Project, which exhibits and uplifts local female and nonbinary artists. Throughout the semester, the student staff are constantly planning new events like these to promote awareness of gender equity issues with the help of Arzie, our awesome director.

There’s even more to the Women’s Center I could go on and on about, but that’s another post for another time.

“So what’s the point of having a Women’s Center and doing all these programs?” 

 Well, speaking as a woman and outspoken feminist, the Women’s Center matters to me personally because it allows feminism to have a physical, vocal presence at UMKC. The Women’s Center is also important because it provides a safe space for marginalized groups on campus, and our programming throughout the school year means gender equity always has a voice. In other words, we want UMKC– and Kansas City in general– to be more feminist! 

“Feminist? What’s that?” 

… Oh boy. That’s a question for a previous B2B blog, my friend. And if you want to learn more about why women’s centers are so important to have at universities,  you can check out this great article from WIHE (Women in Higher Education). 

Meet our new Intern, Crystal!

By: Crystal Lum

Hello! My name is Crystal Lum, and I am one of the BHS undergraduate interns at the UMKC Women’s Center. I am a senior here at UMKC and I am about to graduate this upcoming fall. I am majoring in Health Science with a minor in Exercise Science. I chose UMKC because I really liked the environment and the amount of diversity that the campus offers. Through my years at UMKC, I have made so many friends and experienced a lot of college life here at this institution. I have learned a lot about different cultures and met many people with different identities. Interacting with others and helping people in need is one of my passions. I love meeting new people, either through events or just through mutual friends.

I was interested in interning for the Women’s Center because their focus and goals aligned with my own personal values. The organization is inclusive to people regardless of their personal identity. I support their mission values, which are to advocate, educate and provide support services for women’s and gender equity. I am looking forward to planning fun and new events for not only the students and faculty, but for the entire Kansas City community to take part in. I hope for people to learn about what the Women’s Center offers, and for people to feel welcomed in this space.

My personal favorite things to do in my free time are hanging out with friends, attending concerts and visiting different coffee shops!

Welcome our new Women’s Center Intern, Anel!

By: Anel Sandoval

Hello everyone! My name is Anel Sandoval. I am a senior at UMKC and will be graduating in December 2022 with a bachelors degree in Health Sciences! I am a Mexican-American woman who grew up in Kansas City. I have three brothers, who all graduated from UMKC. Although I took a three year break for traveling and work experience, I decided to return to school and earn my degree. My mother moved to the United States from Mexico to give her children a better life and for that reason I want to graduate, because she didn’t have the opportunity to attend college. Attending UMKC has allowed me to stay close to my family and friends in Kansas City who have supported me through this educational journey.

When exploring the different options for internships, I learned about the Women’s Center and knew that I wanted to intern here and work alongside other people that work towards empowering women and advancing women’s equity. During my time at the Women’s Center I hope to gain more knowledge about gender equity and help educate, advocate, and raise awareness to these issues in our community.

When I’m not on campus I enjoy traveling, watching movies, hanging out with my family and friends, and cuddles with my elderly cat. I am so excited to work at the Women’s Center and take this experience with me to my next endeavors and I hope to meet many of you soon

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.