The Vanity Myth of Makeup

By Christina Terrell

There should be no shame in doing something that makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. One of the latest trends that has taken the beauty community by storm has been the development of all the possibilities that makeup offers. The only issues are women have started to get backlash for exploring all these makeup possibilities, for instance women are being told that since they wear makeup, that they are trying to wear a mask that hides their true self from the world, rather than this is something women do to empower themselves. Sha’Condria, also known as “i’Con” is a female poetry empowerment speaker and at the 2015 Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival, Condria presented a poetry piece titled “In My Skin”. In this poetry piece Condria speaks about her personal experience with being shamed for wearing makeup and how it is almost as if people treat the word makeup as if it were a curse word.

From my personal stand point I feel as though a woman should not be told what defines her as beautiful, because beauty should not be what anyone else’s definition of it is but should be whatever your own personal definition is. Self-love is a concept that is already hard to acquire and find in one’s self and when you add the negative opinions of others it can make things much harder on a woman who may deal with insecurities.

There is an issue that stands in the way of women who choose to wear makeup and then the people who disagree with wearing makeup. That issue being that typically someone who says you shouldn’t paint your face to be pretty or that natural beauty is the best beauty. Would be that those individuals do not understand, is that in a harsh world when women find peace and something that aids their happiness then they must do all they can to continue to empower and up lift themselves.

To watch Sha’Condria’s powerful piece, follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_kkbKs9pY4

 

Catcalling is not a Compliment, it’s Harassment

By Brittany Soto

Since our center has been promoting the “Meet us on The Street” event all throughout this week, focusing on the issues of gender-based street harassment, I wanted to turn my attention to one of my biggest pet peeves; catcalling. Catcalling is when an individual whistles, shouts, or makes sexual comments toward another individual as they are walking by. Women are often the ones faced with having to deal with this ridiculous issue. The fact that I get a little nervous when I decide to get dressed up because I don’t feel like getting harassed, is a problem. Women shouldn’t have to feel self-conscious or nervous every time they get dressed to head out the door or every time they pass by men on the street.

The most common defense that men have against this issue is that catcalls are their way of “complimenting” a woman’s looks. Going up to a woman and telling her she’s beautiful is one thing, but shouting “damn!” “hey sexy!” or whistling and honking the car horn as a woman walks by is a different story. Catcalling can even get to the point of being dangerous if women decide defend themselves or ignore the cat-callers, because often they will get offended causing them to act in an aggressive or intimidating manner by name calling or going as far as assaulting women. THIS is harassment.

What men need to understand is that catcalling is not cute, funny, or complimenting. It’s degrading, demeaning, and disgusting. It lets women know they are being objectified and looked at as nothing more than a piece of meat. It makes women feel as though they have no rights or values. Women are not dogs to be whistled at and they are not sexual objects. Women are more than their looks. Women have the right to be treated with as much respect and dignity when walking down the street as any man. Women deserve to feel safe.

For additional information on how women are fighting cat-calling visit: http://www.womensmediacenter.com/fbomb/how-i-took-a-stand-against-catcalling

The Settings Change, but the Story Doesn’t

By Caitlin Easter

I recently came across an illustration by Kasia Babis that made me think about the state of women today in relation to where we were as women when the Salem witch trials were happening. This got me thinking about the oppression of women that we see incessantly perpetuated throughout history, and why things don’t appear to be getting any better.

The image was a two panel comic strip with a witch being drowned and a man saying, “If she dies, she’s innocent, if she survives she’s a witch.” The second panel depict a woman holding a sign that says “#MeToo” and a man saying “If she seems ok, nothing happened. If she claims it was an assault, she’s just seeking attention.”  The artwork can be viewed at: https://thenib.com/how-sexual-assault-claims-are-like-a-witch-hunt.

While we may no longer be placed on ducking stools for behavior that is deemed inappropriate by society (aka white men), we are now put on trial to defend ourselves and our stories. Perpetrators might be the ones literally on trial, but the burden of proof and behavior has always rested on the shoulders of the victim. While going from being on trial and killed for being a “witch,” to being grilled at a trial that is not our own because of our “decisions” might be a step in the right direction, symbolically it isn’t that huge of a leap towards what we need to see.

At what point in history did we stop trusting women? Have we just always had this innate distrust for this entire diverse group of people? Women aren’t trusted by doctors when we say that there is something wrong with our own bodies, and we aren’t trusted by society when we talk about our experiences. Why is the scope of women’s expertise concerning ourselves and our environments seen as something that has such an incredibly limited quantity? In the future, when I talk, I want to be heard. A women’s experiences are just as valid as a man’s.

“Your silences will not protect you….We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language. I began to ask each time: ‘What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?’ Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever….Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end. And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had…And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”

― Audre Lorde

 

Dorothy Gilliam: Paving the Way for Female Journalists

By Christina Terrell

Have you ever sat back and thought about the woman who produces all the interesting feminist articles, blogs, newspaper and magazine columns that you read? Or have you taken a moment to consider where the journey of feminist’s articles began? It all started with Dorothy B. Gilliam, an African American woman from Memphis, Tennessee who went on to attend Ursuline University in the year of 1952. It was there where her journalism journey began.

Just at the age of seventeen, Gilliam was named Society Editor at her local newspaper, known as the “Louisville Defender”. Gilliam then went on to tap into her niche of journalism, which was writing about the topics that no one wanted to cover due to the time period. This included subjects such as the civil rights and the women’s suffrage movement. In 1957, Gilliam was approached by an editor with “Jet magazine” who offered her a position as an Associate Editor. Gilliam stayed at “Jet Magazine” for two years before wanting to go back to college to further her education in journalism. So, she started at Columbia University, where she received her graduate degree in journalism. Gilliam then went on to work for the “Washington Post”, where she covered a lot of ground breaking stories on the desegregation of colleges and the presidential term of John F. Kennedy and most importantly, the women’s suffrage movement.

Dorothy B. Gilliam is a very influential woman and she was one of the first women to break down barriers and get her foot into the door of some very, what is known today as, prestigious names in journalism. Without the efforts of Gilliam and her bravery, there would not be very many female journalists, let alone someone to tell and create all the feminist articles that we enjoy.

What exactly is “Wifey Material”?

By Brittany Soto

The term “wifey” is a fad used to describe what a “real woman” is, you know, one that cooks, cleans, and provides for her husband, making sure he’s always happy. A “wifey” is expected to do all of these things while maintaining her appearance, never looking sloppy, and never complaining. A “wifey” never goes out and parties with her friends, because that wouldn’t be “lady-like” or most importantly “wifey material.”

Our society has come a long way when it comes to the sexist expectations of how women behave and present themselves, however, this terminology has brought to light the mindset that women belong in domesticated roles, nowhere else. I see it everywhere now, especially on social media. There have been misogynistic memes saying things like “if all she does it work, cook, and handle business, she’s wifey material” or “wifey material doesn’t get drunk and go out every Friday.” If a woman doesn’t embody any of the things that a “wifey material” should embody, then they are immediately slut shamed or seen as un-worthy of a man’s heart. My question is, where are the expectations for men?

Women deserve to be respected regardless of their looks or their ability to play housemaid. Women are not dolls. We are human beings that deserve to be treated as such. This “wifey” mentality that promotes unrealistic expectations of how “real women” should conduct themselves, needs to be left in the past along with the sexist and outdated expectations of women.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

By Caitlin Easter

“People want this to be an anomaly…. we can handle monsters, we can’t handle our neighbors doing these things. We can’t believe these are the same people we see at Christmas parties, and basketball games.” ― T. E. Carter

Did you know that 1 in every 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime? Did you know that in 8 out of every 10 rapes, the victim knew the perpetrator? April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so let’s talk about it. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center defines Sexual Assault Awareness Month as “a campaign to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it.” This year’s theme is “I Am,” and serves to “champion the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.”

In its officially documented capacity, this year is the 18th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM); if you’re wondering why this month should be important to you, I’ll tell you why—sadly, almost everyone knows a victim or a perpetrator, and sexual assault doesn’t seem to be a thing that is getting better. This campaign aims to bring awareness and spark a conversation about sexual assault and its long lasting effects. As we talk about it more, we create a safer and less stigmatized space to come forward and say #MeToo.

This month the Women’s Center, in partnership with campus sororities, will be hosting a Denim Drive from April 8 – April 19 and a Reclaiming Denim art event on April 19 where we will decorate the denim to prepare for Denim Day on April 24 where all of the denim artwork will be displayed on the quad as part of a sexual assault awareness campaign. We would love for you to join us!

The NSVRC has some amazing resources for understanding and teaching consent for Sexual Assault Awareness month. If you would like to view these resources, you can find them at https://www.nsvrc.org/saam

You can read more about the history of SAAM at: https://www.nsvrc.org/saam/history

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Mrs. Kathryn Johnson

By Caitlin Easter

For my final blog of Women’s History Month, I would like to talk about a woman who not only made an incredible impact in my life, but also works every day to show every young girl that has the privilege to meet her what it means to be a strong woman. Mrs. Kathryn Johnson majored in Secondary Education with a focus in English and a minor in Speech and Theater at the University of Missouri – Kansas City and went on to get her Masters in School Counseling from the University of Central Missouri. Mrs. Johnson taught and counseled at a few different schools before finally landing in the town where I would finally have the chance to meet her, Warsaw. I’ve known her for quite a while as I grew up in the same class with one of her sons, but it wasn’t until the 8th grade that I was able to meet Mrs. Johnson in the capacity that had the strongest influence on my life. Serving as not only the Guidance Counselor of John Boise Middle School, but also as the Speech and Debate coach of Warsaw High School, she influenced my life in many ways. She served as trained shoulder to cry on and an advocate for my mental health when I pushed myself too far with obligations. From being the person who shared her hidden chocolate with me on bad days to being the person who introduced me to Speech and Debate and fielded my first mental breakdown in college, Mrs. Johnson did—and continues to do—it all.

In her role as my speech coach, she allowed me to realize my potential and led me to State Speech for three of my four years in high school. And one of those years, she went way past what is expected of her, more than she even usually does, and took on a huge time commitment to allow our group event, Reader’s Theater, to write our own piece. Reader’s Theater is a collaborative event by a team that uses more of an interpretive style of acting as opposed to normative styles of acting; with Reader’s, you have a lot more freedom to interpretation and you are allowed to write your own performance piece instead of using an existing one. As the wife of a farmer, the mother to two boys, a Guidance Counselor, an active community member, and the coach of a speech and debate program, there isn’t much time left over for anything else, but that didn’t stop her from doing so much more. She took it upon herself to lead a group of eight girls to find our vision and write our piece, and then she organized, edited, and directed it alone. Our piece was entitled “Fight Like a Girl” and embodied the struggles and triumphs of being a woman as written and told by eight students and one amazing teacher, as well as a few already existing poetry pieces that we mixed in. We covered everything from periods, to what it is to be a woman, to our own personal stories of sexual assault and abuse. She led us in our triumphs such as making State Speech and our shortcomings such as missing qualifying for finals at state by a single place. She allowed us to tell the truths of being a woman even though some people in my rather small community might not approve. She allowed us to experience being a woman through the eyes of girls with different viewpoints, cultures, ages, and experiences. She didn’t ask us to perform a pretty piece to appease everyone who was going to watch it, she asked us to perform our piece in a way that was true to ourselves and what we wanted to say. She didn’t do the job for the recognition or the pay, she did it for us and would do it for anybody who walked through those school doors.

She is one of the biggest reasons I came to UMKC, but beyond that she is a huge reason that I am the woman I am today. Always going a step further than she is called to, Mrs. Johnson will forever be tied with some of my best memories, as my mentor, my friend, and generally one of the greatest women I will ever know.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Martha Coffin Pelham Wright

By Ann Varner

Martha Coffin Pelham Wright was one of five women who planned the first women’s right convention and presided over numerous women’s rights and anti-slavery conventions (womenshistory.org). She is known for her contributions to humanities and was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007. Wright was born in 1806 to a large family with “a strong female role model in her mother, Anna Folger Coffin, and the Quaker tenets of individualism, pacifism, equality of the sexes, and opposition to slavery, young Martha was well prepared for her future role as an abolitionist and suffragist” (womenofthehall.org).

On July 19th and 20th of 1848, she and five other women held the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Following that historic event, Wright went on to continuing activism in women’s rights and the abolishment of slavery. She worked with the American Anti-Slavery Society and was the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Wright passed away in 1875 but was able to witness the abolishment of slavery. There is a Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls which has a life size statue to commemorate her. The statue shows her as pregnant because when she held the women’s rights convention she was six months pregnant with her seventh child.

Picture from womenofthehall.org

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Sonie Ruffin

By Christina Terrell

My first encounter with Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin was at the Women’s Center 2019 “Persistent Muse: Women, Art and Activism” event. For this event the Women’s Center partnered with the Inter-Urban Art-House where a panel of influential Women, like Ruffin, spoke about how their artwork advocates for Women’s rights and issues.

During the panel event I found that Sonié’s presentation really spoke to me personally. She embodied a very vibrant and genuine personality. Sonié was not just lecturing and telling us about her background and career but she was putting emotion, humor while sharing a story with the audience that really connected all she has done for women’s activism too her audience.

Another aspect that drew me to Sonie’s story was that along with the fact that she is a renowned contemporary fabric artist, author, lecturer and independent curator, she has also conducted workshops and lectures on African-American quilting.

Ruffin’s extraordinary textile work has been displayed in numerous museums, art exhibits and galleries internationally. However, one place that her quilts have been displayed that really hits home for me would have to be that her very first art exhibit was displayed right here in Kansas City and more importantly, at UMKC African American Culture House .

Sonié has been a-part of many influential events, but to imagine that to this day she loves to come back to where her activism journey all started. She is honored every time she comes to educate and advocate here at UMKC and share her story with young women like me. She has inspired myself and others to explore their artistic side and I commend her because you never know where or when your women’s activism journey will start.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Dorothy Cotton

By Caitlin Easter

“I’m tired of people saying, “And now we present her, who marched with Martin Luther King.”
Well, a lot of folk flew down there one weekend and marched, but I worked.”- Dorothy Cotton

Dorothy Cotton was very similar to other women in the fact that she never got the recognition
she deserved. Even today, the name Dorothy Cotton doesn’t ring a bell in the average American’s
imagination, because beyond the fact that she was black, she was also a women. Despite this, she was a
major champion of the civil rights movement and never allowed her gender to stop her from doing what
she wanted to do. She believed in the power of speech, and encouraged others to speak the truth with
her organizations. She was a major advocate for human rights education and leadership. She spoke at
workshops and with her Institute helped people to understand and shape themselves as leaders to
advance human rights. The Dorothy Cotton Institute was founded in 2007, and works to secure human
rights for everybody through education, interactive exhibits, and movements and campaigns. The
Institute works to develop Human Rights leaders, build a community for these leaders, and promote
practices that lead to justice and healing.

According to The Dorothy Cotton Institute, Ms. Dorothy Cotton was the Education Director at
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the director of The Citizenship Education Program, the
Vice President for Field Operations for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolence Social Change,
the Southeastern Regional Director of ACTION under the Carter Administration, the director of Student
Activities at Cornell University, a 2010 National Freedom Award Recipient, and the founder and
namesake of the Dorothy Cotton Institute. Ms. Cotton is now being recognized as a 2019 Honoree in the
National Women’s History Alliance following the theme of: “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace &
Nonviolence.”

Before her death on June 10, 2018, she was a strong and influential advocate for violence
reduction and humanitarian issues. She was a speaker, a teacher, a facilitator, a peaceful resister, and a
woman. Her name will always be tied to Dr. Martin Luther’s because of their strong bond and joint work,
but her impact will forever be so much more than that.

More information about Ms. Cotton and her institute can be found at:

https://www.dorothycottoninstitute.org/