Participate in 16 Days of Activism by Viewing The Clothesline Project

16_days_logo_englishBeginning on Monday, November 25, the Violence Prevention and Response Project and the Women’s Center is sponsoring The Clothesline Project during the 16 Days of Activism. This event is part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, an international campaign that aims to promote violence prevention education in order to eliminate all forms of gender violence.

The Clothesline Project will be shown in the East Hallway on the first floor of the UMKC Health Sciences Building (2464 Charlotte Street, Kansas City, MO 64108) from Monday, November 25 (International Day Against Violence Against Women) through Tuesday, December 10 (International Human Rights Day).

Nov. Clothesline_Flyer2013Stop by to be a witness to this visual display, and to stand up to gender violence!

For more information on this or other Violence Prevention and Response Project and Women’s Center events, please visit our website.

You can “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@UMKC_Womenc) and Tumblr, as well!

Women are WONDERful Leaders, Too

everything_know_feminism_31By Amber Charleville

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership, what it looks like and what it means to be an excellent leader.  I’ve had the good fortune to work with amazing leaders, and I’ve also been able to occupy leadership roles in many areas of my life. And while there are definitely certain qualities that make leadership easier, I want to dispel the myth of the “natural leader.”

First of all, I see that term applied to men and boys a lot. “Look how he takes charge and people automatically look to him for direction. He’s such a natural leader.” This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how men and women are socialized from a young age. Boys have more opportunities for leadership experience, and the skillset that is readily identified as optimal for leadership (assertive, authoritative, intelligent, charismatic, articulate, self-aware, and confident) is often ascribed to men.

These are not skills anyone is born with. These are skills that we are taught, that we are socialized to use. In fact, even when women have these attributes, they get completely different labels: pushy, bossy, stuck up, showy, know-it-all, self-obsessed, and conceited. Qualities that society does think of as feminine are also considered passive, sometimes even a weakness: compassionate, caring, nurturing, intuitive, and kind.

In reality, it takes both of these diverse skillsets to really flesh out the role of leader.

Second, even in a person that has all those skills, it still takes practice to learn how to apply them. Leadership is something we have to work at, that needs regular tweaking and evaluation. It’s something for which we need practice and support. This feeds directly back into my first point: men are often given leadership opportunities that women are not as they grow up. This teaches them valuable skills and gives them an opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t. They also often have leadership role models who share the same gender as them, something women are short on.

This sets men up for success in leadership roles and often keeps women from even trying to become one. I was always somewhat aware of that, but over the past weekend it became readily apparent. I went to the Mid-Year conference for the National Student Nurses’ Association, and in one session, we discussed how men were still a minority in the nursing field (only 9.6%) Yet although men represent less than 10% of the nursing population, there are an abundance of nursing leaders who are men. Just on the board of the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) alone, a little over 35% are men. That’s three and a half times the percent who are nurses.

If you compare this to women making up 51% of the United States population but only holding 15% of Senate slots and 16.6% in the House of Representatives, we really begin to see that the lack of female leaders is a problem that has deep roots.

WC_Logo-2COLOR-FHere at the UMKC Women’s Center, I’m lucky. I get to see strong women occupying leadership roles and I get to learn from them. One of the objectives of the Women’s Center is to foster opportunities for growth and development among campus women. As a work study student at the Women’s Center, I’m encouraged to develop and hone leadership skills I can use throughout my life and future career. It’s why the Women’s Center is so important to this community, and why similar organizations are vital to other communities and campuses across the country. Leadership requires practice, and women deserve a chance to gain that preparation.

For more information about the UMKC Women’s Center and our events, please visit our website, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and follow us on Tumblr!

Women are WONDERful Artists: There Needs to be Gender Equality in the Arts

Let's crush the gender gap in art! "Like" the Her Art project page on Facebook, and help support female artists in Kansas City!

Let’s crush the gender gap in art!
“Like” the Her Art project page on Facebook, and help support female artists in Kansas City!

By Anna-Maria Kretzer

The other night I was watching the Antiques Roadshow and I saw a story about a mobile by Alexander Calder that I got really excited about.  The woman who brought it explained that Calder had attended a party at her aunt and uncle’s house in 1958.  When he saw a pillow that the woman’s aunt had embroidered with an image of his artwork, Calder was “astounded.”  I imagine he had never seen modernist abstract imagery interpreted in a textile medium before that.  Calder was so excited about the pillow that the woman’s aunt gave it to him.  And in return Calder sent her one of his own creations: a mobile.

As a huge fan of textile arts I was thrilled to hear this story!  Alexander Calder recognized the aesthetic value of a needlepoint pillow as equal to his own work during a time that pretty much anything a woman might make in her own home had inferior status to art made by men in studios.  Although many feminist writers, including Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, have written about art forms that have traditionally been made by women, they are often still placed way below painting and sculpture in the hierarchy of high art.  A growing number of professional artists use “craft” media in work that is destined for a museum or gallery, but there is still a prejudice against people who learn their technical skills at home from a relative instead of at an art school.

Alexander Calder was able to see past the rigid boundaries of the established boundaries of what ART was in his time.  A newfound respect for Calder blossomed within me as I watched the show.  The appraiser, Christopher Kennedy, went on to explain that the mobile in question was probably made earlier than ’58, and that Calder was making larger “public art” by that time.  In contrast, this mobile was constructed on a smaller and more intimate scale.  Even so, the appraiser revealed that it would probably bring a million dollars at auction.  The story about Calder’s interest in a needlepoint pillow and the exchange that followed had almost roused me to that complete state of awe experienced by art nerds such as myself when I heard the (male) appraiser say, “Not bad for a pillow.”

My awe switched instantly to anger.  Calder may have valued a needlepoint pillow as much as one of his works of art, but the appraiser obviously didn’t.  His condescending comment made it clear that sexist ideas about what art is and who makes it are still very much alive today.  I wish I could see the pillow that “astounded” Calder so.  I would love to see it in exhibit with the mobile that Calder gave in thanks.  Especially if that meant that a needlepoint pillow would be on display in the Modern gallery at a prominent museum!

To support women in the arts in Kansas City, and promote gender equity in the arts, “like” our Her Art Project Facebook Page.

“Boys Make Passes at Girls in Glasses”


Image from ClipArt

Image from ClipArt

By Morgan Paul

So, a while ago I was doing some shopping on the Plaza when I walked past a store with books on top of the mannequin’s heads and writing on the window that said “boys make passes on girls in glasses”. I don’t know much about Kate Spade, but after seeing this it became so disgustingly obvious how often media portrays self-worth for women as being based on getting a man, and how marketing encourages this. I won’t even get into the heteronormativity or body image issues with this display today, but I will talk about how sexist and degrading this is. I don’t think I would be as surprised (although still disgusted) to see something like this from a male designer, but to see a female degrade her sisters is just sickening. And to make it worse, the Kate Spade website says this phrase was inspired by “all things library-related”. Excuse me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think boy’s passes are library-related. It’s as if they’re saying “You don’t have to read, just seduce him with your glasses!” “Nobody cares if you’re smart, just get a man and take care of a family!”

Due to my own outrage I Googled this phrase and was shocked to find nothing. I figured that this would have made at least a few other people upset! It’s telling women that we just have to look the part and that our intelligence isn’t sexy. But you know what I guess is sexy, an $88 bangle or a $228 purse with this outrageous phrase on it!? And furthermore, there is nothing fashionable about wearing this phrase: it’s desperate. Then I found their faux book clutches. This way you look smart walking around with The Age of Innocence or The Portrait of a Lady in hand, but you better hope that men coming onto you don’t ask about the book.

Maybe I’m overacting and this is really nothing more than an awful fashion statement, but even as a statement, it is standing for all the wrong things. How about something that says “Stop cheating and get to reading!”? I’ll admit it’s not the best phrase, but at least it promotes positive values! Ridiculous little things like this make it so hard to find a good store to shop at – not that I have the money to shop Kate Spade anyway. But I guess my point is, if you do have the money, then I suggest that you do research into all of the stores that you’re shopping at and find out where the clothes are coming from, who makes them, and what message the company is sending to the public. I know it’s hard, but it’s very important!

Nursing: It’s Not “Doctoring-light” and It’s Not “Women’s Work”


Image from Pixabay

By Amber Charleville

This week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about nursing and feminism.  Often, being a woman pursuing a degree in a highly skilled and technical field can feel not only like an uphill battle, fighting for a place in a “man’s world,” but it can also feel like we have to deny skillsets that are considered “feminine” like intuition and empathy. That’s not the case in nursing. We get to combine scientific data and research with the care and holistic approach that sets nursing practice apart from any other healthcare profession.

Unfortunately, nursing is often overlooked and undervalued, categorized as “women’s work” and therefore not as important. This is troubling on a few levels.

  1. It discourages men from entering the field, and just like women’s perspectives and voices are needed in so many men-dominated professions, men are a valuable asset to the nursing community.
  2. It discourages women from entering the field because they don’t think it’s a worthy pursuit. It’s what women do when they’re not good enough to be doctors.

These are both products of a world that’s done a very good job of convincing us that tasks traditionally associated with women are undesirable because they’re things men “passed over” so they could do the better, more skilled tasks.

I’m here to tell you that nursing is not “doctoring light.” It takes dedication and sacrifice, understanding of chemistry, biology, anatomy, and physiology, and the ability to connect with people on a personal level in order to give them the care that will help them, in whatever way they need. It’s providing education to your patients and advocating for them when they are at their most vulnerable.

The profession is full of dynamic, talented, and incredibly intelligent women who take on community leadership and advocate for the disenfranchised. My nursing professors, the majority of whom are women, are role models to whom I feel proud to learn from, empowered by their example. I get to learn things that most people don’t and I get to learn it from women who don’t feel like gatekeepers I have to fight against to gain access to an elite world.

Rather, they are welcoming and supportive; they cheer us on as we challenge ourselves and each other to become the best nurses we can be, to learn how to save lives and make a difference in the world, one patient at a time. Nursing as we know it today is a profession founded by an ambitious woman who broke away from the norms of her time and rejected the expected place for her as a woman in the world. And it is a field that continues to pioneer and make room for women and men from all walks of life.

I know this blog entry feels like the manifesto of a nursing student, and in some ways I suppose it is, but ultimately, I’d like to challenge everyone’s preconceived ideas. Take a look at the stay-at-home parent, the grade school teacher, and of course, the nurse. Think about how you feel about those professions and the people in them.

Why do you think those roles are so strongly gendered and poorly compensated/valued? Tell me your thoughts in comments or on Twitter @umkc_womenc!

The Continued Fight for Gender Equality: A Reflection

By Morgan Paul.

I was writing a journal assignment for class the other day and, as I was writing, I remembered a film I watched my junior year of high school in Women’s Studies: Iron Jawed Angels. As we continue to fight for gender equity, we cannot forget each battle that we have won.

When I took my high school Women’s Studies class I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew that women couldn’t always vote, but I did not know what a fight it truly was. I didn’t know about the hunger strikes and wrongful arrests. I didn’t know about the risks these women took and the women who actually opposed getting these basic rights.

It’s crazy how times change and history gets left in the past. I recall asking one of my history teachers why we never get the Native American perspective on the beginnings of the United States of America, or the African perspective on slavery; he told me “because the winners write history.” But if that’s true then shouldn’t the women’s suffrage movement be taught in every American History class? Unfortunately our male-dominated society made sure that didn’t happen. Women won, but we don’t write the history books. We have not won that battle yet.

If you need something to inspire you to continue fighting your own battles, or just a wonderful movie to watch, I suggest Iron Jawed Angels. This film is beautifully done and incredibly empowering.

The Gender Gap in Philosophy: “Women are Incapable of Having Seminal Ideas”

j4p4n_Thinking_Woman_-_7In 2011, The American Philosophical Organization released a statistic stating that “women make up 21% of full-time faculty in philosophy” (949, Paxton, et al.). “Why is this staggering?” you may ask; “I’m sure there are similar ratios in the fields of engineering, math, science, etc.”

To answer that, yes, there are similar ratios in those disciplines; however, philosophy is the only humanities division with that level of underrepresentation of women.  Why? Because philosophy is a discipline that requires tackling issues logically, thinking critically, arguing, and being rational – activities and qualities that are apparently too difficult or unseemly for women.

Dr. Sally Haslanger, a member of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT, shared her struggle as a female graduate student of philosophy in her 2008 article “Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone).” She states she was the “butt of jokes,” and that a professor once told her “he had ‘never seen a first rate woman philosophy and never expected to because women were incapable of having seminal ideas’” (1).


Why does this get me in a huff? Why have I dedicated a whole blog to this? First of all, as some of you may know, I am a graduate student of philosophy here at UMKC, so the topic is close to my heart. And, while I have never been met with resistance simply because I possess a certain set of genitalia at UMKC or during my undergraduate career at Rockhurst (I’ve had quite the opposite experience at both places-fantastic faculties on both accounts), I did have a run-in with some gender discrimination when I was visiting a few schools to decide where I wanted to apply for my graduate studies.

I went to meet with a faculty member at a particular university about the philosophy program there. The gentleman was standoff-ish, but initially, I shrugged it off. He asked me why I wanted to be in the program; I answered. He asked me if I, as a woman, thought I could handle the curriculum; I answered. He asked me what I “wanted to be when I grew up” because I was not going to find a career in philosophy; I thanked him for his time and left.

This type of stereotyping is not only unacceptable in philosophy, but in every field of academia (and all aspects of professional life, as well). There is no reason, as a student, that you should be deterred from your dreams because of your gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. As college students, whether your field of study is law, engineering, philosophy, math, criminal justice, English, or psychology, do not settle for discrimination; speak up, share your experiences, and aim to make a difference.

Haslanger, Sally. “Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone).” Hypatia, Vol. 23, Issue 2, pp. 210–223, May 2008.

Paxton, M., Figdor, C. and Tiberius, V. (2012), Quantifying the Gender Gap: An Empirical Study of the Underrepresentation of Women in Philosophy. Hypatia, 27: 949–957. doi: 10.1111/j.1527-2001.2012.01306.x

Demanding Equal Rights for All Bodies: Going Topless

By Morgan Paul


As many of you may know, Sunday was topless day! As nice as that sounds on hot days like today, it has much more meaning than just avoiding tan lines and sweat stains; it was a nationwide demonstration to fight another part of our gender equity battle. Few states allow women to go topless in public, and even the ones that do will arrest women for things such as disorderly conduct. Unfortunately, this is not a high priority issue to many women because they don’t want to go topless. That is completely their choice, but this does add to the over-sexualization of women’s bodies. Women are shamed every day for showing “too much breast” or “not enough leg.” Why must we be subject to such discrimination? Men walk around topless no matter their size, amount of hair, tan lines, etc. and are never told to cover up. It’s time for us to take charge of the streets and demand equal rights for equal bodies. You can learn more and sign the petition at

Girls Can Be More Than Just a Princess

When it comes to toys, the options for little girls have been limited to baby doll, tea set, and tiara. The “pink aisle” at Toys R Us and other retailers have been sending the message to girls for years that they will grow up to be a mommy, a housewife, or a princess.  In a recent article, the new toy company Goldie Blox finally says enough is enough. And after a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, Debbie Sterling, the female engineer from Stanford University who founded the company, developed toys to ‘prove to the world that engineering for girls is a mainstream concept.’ Check out the oh-so-awesome commercial


Did You Miss These?

By Bonnie Messbarger

College majors that put women on equal footing with men.

Male politicians think birth control isn’t that expensive; everyone can afford it. Think again.

The American Life League says Planned Parenthood is like a drug dealer, but with sex.

Women who choose to be mothers are more likely to drop out of the sciences as men.