Brief Analysis of Chapter VI of A Vindication of the Rights of Women

By Emma Gilham

Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women, written in 1791, questions societal norms placed on women in that time from a philosophical perspective. Chapter VI “The Effect Which an Early Association of Ideas Has on Character” focuses on the concept that women would never be able to experience true love and intimacy unless they were educated equally as men. She claims, as things were, that women had false ideas of what love would be as they couldn’t connect on an intellectual level with their potential partner, hence chasing charming but undesirable “rakes”. Wollstonecraft asks, “And how can they [men] expect women, who are only taught to observe behavior, and acquire manners rather than morals, to despise what they have been all their lives laboring to attain?” (126). In the 18th century, young, middle-class, white women’s education consisted mostly of learning manners, politeness and creating a demure, inoffensive persona. Therefore, that aspect of a partner was inherently valued more heavily Wollstonecraft argues. In the end, this hindered the ability of these women to experience real love and adequately navigate suitors. She laments, “…women are captivated by easy manners; a gentlemen-like man seldom fails to please them and their thirsty ears eagerly drink the insinuating nothings of politeness…” (127).

In the beginning of Wollstonecraft’s work, the reader may assume most of her points are outdated, as education systems have drastically changed and been standardized. Yet, her observations are still applicable to issues many of us encounter when seeking a relationship today. Consistently, people are charmed by someone only to later realize this person is not who they had thought. Are these simply mistakes that anyone would make or are womxn still conditioned to value surface level traits more in a partner? This chapter brings up many feminist ideological and philosophical questions. I recognize that Wollstonecraft’s work is probably the furthest thing from intersectional. However, it is important to ponder how the societal norms and constructs we grow up in influence our preferences in a partner, views on romanticism, or even our ability to love. For instance, many of the movies I watched as a child revolved around a marriage or a romantic relationship. Did this give me the impression that romantic love is more important or valuable than familial or platonic? We may never know, but asking these questions can help us better understand the things we do and the people we choose.

 

Works Cited

                    Reed, Ross. The Liberating Art of Philosophy: An Introduction. Cognella, Inc., 2020

The Shadow Pandemic

By Mia Lukic

November 30th was White Ribbon Day, a part of the United Nations ongoing 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence which runs from the 25th of November to the 10th of December. This was a day to show solidarity with those who have experienced gender-based violence through signing a white ribbon and sharing the message on social media. Gender based violence is defined as “harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. It is rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms” (UNHCR) and is considered “a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection issue” by the United Nations Refugee Agency.

While the COVID 19 pandemic changed the circumstances of the event, it also has had a detrimental impact on gender-based violence worldwide. Even before the pandemic, 1 in 3 women experienced physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner (UN Women). The numbers are only increasing due to a multitude of COVID caused changes. The factors include: security, health, and money worries, cramped living conditions, isolation with abusers, movement restrictions, and deserted public places (UN Women)

Statistically, less than 40% of women who experience violence seek help, and during the pandemic calls to helplines in certain countries increased by 5 times (UN Women). What does that mean about the number of cases?

The United Nations has deemed this the Shadow Pandemic. The Coronavirus is without question one of the most difficult things the world has experienced in past years, and the increase in violence against women seems to be a symptom left out of the fact sheets.

PPE or Personal Protective Equipment, takes on a whole new meaning. The CDC recommends wearing a mask and social distancing, but a mask cannot protect from violence, and distance from abusers can be impossible during stay at home orders. So how do we combat this Shadow Pandemic?

The UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said:

 

“I would like to call on your government to make visible at the highest level your commitment to addressing violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19 by issuing a short statement on social media, in the form of a video message or a short text at the highest possible level, ideally at the level of Head of State/Government, highlighting:

  • Tangible actions undertaken to address violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19;
  • Future planning policies and actions to implement in this context;
  • Your Government’s commitment to raise awareness on the issue at the national and international levels.” (UN Women)

UN Women stresses the importance of the following during this Shadow Pandemic.

FUND

  • Prioritize funding for a minimum package of essential services and include violence against women prevention in COVID-19 fiscal stimulus packages.
  • Make urgent and flexible funding available for women’s rights organizations working at the nexus of COVID-19 and addressing violence against women

PREVENT

  • Declare national zero tolerance policy for violence against women and girls with a concrete action plan in place
  • Launch a COVID-19 behavior change social mobilization campaign

RESPOND

  • Undertake explicit measures so that services for survivors of violence are maintained as essential
  • Ensure continuum of adequate criminal justice system response.

COLLECT

  • Collect data for improvement of services and programs” (UN Women)

Whether you are calling your representatives to demand they address the Shadow Pandemic, checking in on your loved ones, or fighting your own battle, know you are not alone. For hotline numbers and resources in our area check out the link below:

Domestic and Sexual Violence Resources

Goodbye to a Feminist Icon: Betty Dodson

By Brianna Green

On October 31st of this year, we lost an amazing woman and feminist icon. Her website, with business partner Carlin Ross says Dodson was an, “artist, author, and PhD sexologist (who) has been one of the principal voices for women’s sexual pleasure and health for over four decades.” She’s received rewards from the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
(SSSS) and Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR). Playboy even named her in the top 100 most important people in sex along with Cosmopolitan who named her in the top 10 sexual revolutionaries.

Her incredible work started in the late 60’s after her divorce from husband. Her first book, Liberating Masturbation, was self-published in 1974 and was later republished as Sex for One: The Joy of Self-loving in 1986 (thedailybeast). Although more conservative feminists weren’t on board with her message, this best-selling book has a “simple but powerful message that shame-free masturbation is the foundation of every woman’s sexuality” (thedailybeast). However, Dodson didn’t just write books, she also ran “BodySex” masturbation workshops that taught women how to explore themselves and climax. Although these workshops started in the 1970’s, they got revamped in 2013 because, according to the icon herself, “In the 1970s there was no information for women. With the internet, there is misinformation” (thedailybeast).

I cannot express how important Dodson’s work is in my eyes. In my own blogs I try to spread a similar kind of message she did: de-taboo and normalize female sexuality and pleasure. As sad as it is that we lost such a significant figure, we still have her books (listed below) and videos of her spreading her knowledge and message.

Rest in Peace, Betty Dodson. Thank you for your decades of work and incredible knowledge.

 

Books:

Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving (1978)

Orgasms for Two: The Joy of Partnersex (2002)

My Romantic Love Wars: A Sexual Memoir (2010)

Sex by Design: The Betty Dodson Story (2016)

BodySex Basics (2017)

Talking About Consent

By Morgan Clark

I recently watched the Red Table Talk on consent, particularly consent and the “grey area”. It was interesting to watch, and I believe watching it can spark up conversations that need to be had in our society. They start the discussion by talking about consent and how up to 80% of the women they have survey said they have had unwanted sex. This leads the hosts to explain what they call the “grey area”. Before this video, I did not truly understand how there could be a grey area. They explain the “grey area” is more of a misunderstanding between the two parties when it comes to sexual activity. They used an example of a woman asking a man to come up to a hotel room. In the woman’s mind, she’s asking because she wants to hang out more, but to the man, he thinks she’s asking him to accompany her to lead up to sex. This example I do understand, because each person can have different intentions. I think this is where the grey area is, in the difference between what each person wants from the other.

But I also feel like that is where the grey area should stop. If one party advances sexually and the other party doesn’t want to have sex, it will show. Even if that party does not vocalize it, physically they will show signs of not wanting it. This was discussed amongst the women during the Red Table Talk. They invited Rumer Willis, who was open enough to talk about her own experiences, to join the conversation. She was not vocal about not wanting sex in her experience, but said that she showed it physically. Meaning she was not reciprocating the exact motion the guy was doing. For me, in this example and many others, I feel like many men take advantage of women. Knowing that she won’t speak up about not wanting sex and ignoring obvious signs is simply taking advantage, not “the grey area.” That’s what I think they should have made clearer in the video.

I also felt like there was some victim-blaming in the beginning. Although there is a preventive measure to make one safer from sexual assault it is never the victim’s fault, even if they do not use the preventative measure. They also should have made this clearer in the discussion, even if they were not victim-blaming. One thing I did like about the conversation is the diversity of the speakers. Giving us, the audience, different perspectives on the “grey area”. They even brought in a former football player, DeAndre Levy, who is now an activist who focuses on the issue of consent and the calling out of men. He spoke about how he did not hear about consent until he was an adult. (Which is alarming!) He also talks about how he was taught to believe that a women’s body belongs to him, especially when they already have had sex with him. He was asked by the other speakers how to educate men about consent. He states “holding those in your life accountable” is the best way to teach other men about the importance of consent. Rumer brought up teaching children at an early age about consent using non-sexual content. For example, not forcing children to hug adults when they don’t want to.

The last thing I did enjoy about this conversation was the “I want, I will, and won’t“ activity brought by Michelle Hope, a reproductive justice activist. In that activity is a list of what one would do sexually, for each item you should check yes or no. This is supposed to help a person know exactly what they want sexually. I think this is a cool idea and see no cons to the list. Overall, I think this video is worth a watch. The conversation surrounding sex is so taboo that people are not comfortable speaking about any aspect of it, including consent. If we were able to get comfortable about speaking about sex I believe the idea of “grey areas” would disappear.

 

SAD Winter Blues

By Abbie Lewis

It’s that time of year again where it’s dark all the time, or so it feels, and cold as all get out. Not my favorite of the weather options but we don’t get much of a choice living here in the Midwest, do we? I know that for a lot of us students, things are getting kind of stressful as well since we’re now over halfway done with the semester and things are piling up. People make a lot of jokes sometimes about the depression getting to them around this time, and about Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it is a very real disorder, and it’s never more important to monitor your mental health than in the cold months, especially for women.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is a type of depression related to season and weather changes. People don’t always realize it, but the sun and good weather really can play a huge part on our moods and emotions! Going without them for a long time when things are already stressful can be very hard. I know that I personally go through this kind of depressive slump throughout the winter. When we get a random sunny day with even a glimpse of the 40s, I get beyond excited and feel the need to do my make up, get all cute and make the most of it!

This is especially crucial information for women.  According to Mayo Clinic, women are nearly twice more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men are. It’s partly due to our biology and our hormones, but it’s also due to the immense amount of social stressors women experience. A lot of women work a job as well as carry most of the weight in their home life, making depression a much more prevalent thing for them. During the cold seasonal changes, when SAD can occur, it can be very hard for women, especially the many of us who already battle with chronic depression.

There are ways to combat SAD though, cool things like a lamp that mimics the sun and you can set it to be an alarm for you in the morning so it’s more like waking up to sunlight. As always, therapy can help tremendously too! I’m no expert by any means but I think that making sure you go easy on yourself during these times and staying as positive as you can, can help a lot. Hang in there and we will make it through this cold winter and come out on the other side!

 

Witches Get Stuff Done: The Salem Witch Trials

By Brianna Green

Happy Halloween Roos! Thank you for watching the Witches Get Stuff Done video and for coming to the blog for more information about the Salem Witch Trails!

So, what were the Salem Witch Trails? The Salem Witch Trials were, as the name indicates, witch trails that happened from January 1692 until May 1693. Around 150 people (men, women, and children) were accused of being a witch or using witchcraft. Sadly, 19 people, mainly women, were hanged after being convicted of witchcraft. Outside of the 19 hangings, a man was crushed to death because of his refusal to plead guilty or not guilty, and another 4 people died in prison awaiting trial (Brooks).

What started this mess that lead to 24 people dying? Let’s start with the context of the time. This was the late 1600s. Salem was a rural community that was very religion and had very strict gender roles, especially for women (Hasset-Walker). Not only that, but there had been a smallpox outbreak; they had a rivalry with a nearby community; they had fears about Native American attacks; and they were still dealing with after affects from the British war with France that happened in 1689 (Brooks; Hasset-Walker). They had a lot going on and there was already a lot of tension.

In January of 1692, two young girls (9 and 11) were diagnosed with bewitchment after having “fits” where they would have outbursts of screaming and violent contortions (History.com). After their diagnoses, other girls from the community started experiencing similar fits. Now, the first two girls named who they thought were causing their bewitchment. They named Sarah Good, Sarah Osborn, and a slave named Tituba. Tituba did confess to witchcraft and claimed others were involved; this confession made people go into panic and hysteria (Brooks). Although these were the first people accused, the first trail and execution happened in June of 1962 with the accused Bridget Bishop.

What’s interesting is that these women were considered outcasts before their accusations. For example, Bishop had been accused of witchcraft well before the trails even started (Brooks). Tituba was a slave. Osborn was an elderly widow who remarried a farmhand. And Good was a homeless beggar. These women did not fit the traditional mold women in these communities usually had which would include being proper, religious, married mothers who acted like caregivers (Hasset-Walker).

As you already know, the trails officially ended in May of 1693 after 24 people had perished. Over the course of the year, the panic slowly subsided and the court realized that they shouldn’t rely on spectral evidence, which is testimony in regard to visions and dreams, to convict someone. The court system apologized for what happened and provided financial restitution to the deceased family members in 1711 (History.com). Along with that, they pardoned the people accused of witchcraft and restored their names (History.com). Of course, with something horrific like this, the damage stayed with the community. This tragedy also inspired the play “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller in 1953 (History.com).

Now, what can we learn from this and how can we apply it to today? I would argue that women are still held to high standards today. From the way we look to the way we act. We can’t be fat but also can’t be too skinny. We need to wear makeup but not too much of it. We can’t be too sexual but also cannot be prudes. Working mothers are criticized for using nannies to help raise their children but if they were stay at home mothers, they’d also hear about how they can work and have a family. Although it’s no longer the 1600s, we still need to fight for our rights and our equality. However, we can use terms like “witch” to our advantage and make it liberating and empowering. After all, witches get stuff done.

Sources:

Brooks, Rebecca Beatrice, et al. “History of the Salem Witch Trials.” History of Massachusetts Blog, 28 May 2020, historyofmassachusetts.org/the-salem-witch-trials/.

Hassett-Walker, Connie. “Perspective | What the Salem Witches Can Teach Us about How We Treat Women Today.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 1 Apr. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/06/10/what-the-salem-witches-can-teach-us-about-how-we-treat-women-today/

History.com Editors. “Salem Witch Trials.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 4 Nov. 2011, www.history.com/topics/colonial-america/salem-witch-trials.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women Who Lead: Activism Through an Intersectional Lens – Panelist Jasmine Ward

Tune into the “Women Who Lead” Panel Discussion for an invigorating conversation with a panel consisting of a diverse group of local women leaders, Thursday November 5, 2020 6:00-7:30pm

Use the link below to register

https://umsystem.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJElf-GtrjsuE9LhA5KFTTUrsV7LnbyIiRxM

The “Women Who Lead” panel discussion is this Thursday! Continuing our introduction of the panelists and all the amazing things they do, we would like you to meet our second panelist, Jasmine Ward! Jasmine is a third-year law student at the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law, and a KC native studying education law, and criminal defense. She is currently a Rule 719 Legal Intern for the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office, president of the Black Law Students’ Association, and vice-president of the Board of Barristers. As with our previous blog on the topic, we asked Jasmine some questions about her community involvement and advice to future leaders, the following is that interview.

What motivates you to keep working towards justice in a time where the country is so divided, and many people choose to reject the realities of social issues and/or scientific fact?

Very long story short, I always think about my ancestors and my elders (including those who are still alive), who were fighting for things they weren’t sure would ever be realized, and who were doing so in much more dangerous situations (not to downplay the true dangers Black women and men face today). If they could do what they did, then I feel we can do anything.

How does your intersectional identity as a woman impact your outlook on the world and certain issues?

I think having identities that intersect as mine do – being a Black woman – it makes you think about all the little things that mainstream media or politicians don’t consider, all the things that “fall through the cracks” per se. And thinking about those things as they relate to Black women has made me hyper-cognizant that issues and realities fall through the cracks for millions of people with intersectional identities – so I’m always striving to look between the lines when I consider a person or a community and their needs. More than that, I find ways to just ask communities about their “between the cracks” needs, because it’s preposterous to think I could know things about communities to which I don’t belong.

What would you say to young female leaders who are just starting on their path to leadership?

First and foremost, don’t doubt yourself. If you’re in a room, you belong there, and you can stand with the best of them. And don’t take on a role, just be yourself – I don’t think anyone who is considered a “leader” thinks of themselves that way; you don’t have to assume some personality or way of being, who you are is already effective enough!

Are there any programs/projects you are currently working on that you would like to mention?

My main focus right now is graduating and passing the bar, but I am working with the Diverse Student Coalition and UMKC to try to make some necessary additions to our discrimination policies. Further, the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA) at UMKC Law is currently planning our Fall session of Street Law, a program where BLSA students, Black law professors, and Black attorneys teach diverse high school students, basic legal concepts. This year, we’ll be teaching those classes via Zoom, instead of in the law school, but we think high school students will still get the same learning experience and ability to see Black academic and professional success modeled.

Where can people go to learn more about the work you do?

LinkedIn would be the best place!

Be sure to register to see Jasmine in the Women Who Lead Panel and keep checking in to learn about the other panelists!

Two Steps Forward, A Hundred Steps Back

 

By Abbie Lewis

As if this pandemic hasn’t caused enough trouble, women all around the world are once again being set back. An article in the New York Times discusses how women with children make up much of the unemployed people right now. Women make up 56% of the overall job loss due to COVID, even though, before the pandemic, they only made up 43% of the overall workforce. Experts theorize this is due to the already struggling stance of women in the workforce, as well as the overall societal expectation that women are still responsible for the care of the household and children. With daycares and schools closing or switching to all virtual, someone must stay home with the kids and in most cases, it’s the woman. With everything women have going against them in the world, this seems to just be another obstacle that will set us back.

I know what some of you are wondering: Are gender roles really still that relevant? The answer probably varies on who you ask, but the reality of the situation is, there is still a wage gap between men and women in the workforce, and there is still an expectation placed on women to be the caretaker of the home, which is why men have been slower to step down from their positions at work to help with child care during this pandemic. Why must it always be the woman who steps back in her career choices if it comes down to one parent in a heterosexual marriage needing to? It’s not just men being unreasonable, the answer is also entangled in some institutionalized issues. Such as, in America, it only becomes harder for a woman to get another job once they’ve become unemployed, even if it is because of a pandemic. A 2018 study found that even after 1 year of unemployment women stand to lose 39% of their wage. That is on top of the gap they already face by just being a woman when compared to their male counterparts. I guess it would make sense for the one who makes the most money to continue their job, and that is often the male, which is a whole other discussion relating to how women are still behind in society.

With this year being the 100th year anniversary since women were given the right to vote, you would think we’d be further in society than we are. While the pandemic was certainly a shocker that we didn’t think would ever happen, even without it, women fight daily for the chance to be held as high as men are, in society, but especially in the workforce. As a woman, it makes me want to fight harder than ever and do whatever I can to make a name for myself and all my fellow ladies everywhere. This pandemic is just another hurdle we must jump over, but let’s jump super high and show everyone what we’re capable of!

 

Notice the Pink Tax

By Jordan Tunks

Have you heard of the Pink Tax? The pink tax is a pricing difference between female products and male products. There is not an actual tax added onto these items, but when comparing the female version to the male version, the female version of equal or lesser quality, is more expensive. This happens with items including but not limited to razors, deodorant, skin care products, and clothing.  According to Listen Money Matters, women pay more than men 42% of the time. This equals out to be $1,300 a year in extra cost!

To battle this tax, there have been subscription boxes created to try to fight the unfair price difference. A few examples of these boxes are Harry’s, Billie, and Boxed. These boxes provide quality products for the same price as men’s products. The Boxed subscription sells items in bulk and for a cheaper price than most retail stores, making them a great substitute for shopping in retail stores for personal care items. You can increase the amount that you receive or reduce the quantity if it begins to be too much. Care products aren’t the only thing subject to the Pink tax though.

In 2014, Old Navy was exposed for charging more for plus size women’s clothes than for men’s plus size clothes. Their defense was that women’s clothing has unique fabrics and design elements. Women’s plus size clothing cost anywhere from $10-$15 more where men’s plus size clothing was the same. Regardless of the reason, this can be seen as discrimination to women and we need to keep women aware of these price differences when they are shopping. Today, this price gap has decreased, but it is still a problem.

This has been a problem for decades and will continue to be a problem until we do something about it. To combat this problem, we need to collectively look at the products we are purchasing and compare them to the male product. Check to see if there are any real differences in the product besides the color or size. If these products are the same, buy the male product. Making more women educated about this issue can help reduce the number of women spending more money for the female product when it costs the same as the male. This could make an impact on the manufacture to lead them to lower prices on women’s items.

Congress Investigation into Fort Hood

Content Warning: Sexual Assault

By Emma Gilham

The summer of 2020 has been one of reckoning. Calls for accountability can be heard from almost all walks of life. We want answers and responsibility. Congress announced it will be opening an investigation into Fort Hood, Texas to find out if the 28 deaths at the station this year “may be symptomatic of underlying leadership, discipline, and morale deficiencies throughout the chain-of-command.” As one may recall, Fort Hood was the location of the sexual assault, disappearance, and murder of Spc. Vanessa Guillen. While this action is long overdue, I can’t help but wonder what they will discover (if anything) that we don’t already know about sexual assault in the military. From the fiscal year of 2016 to the fiscal year of 2018, the rate of sexual assault and rape experienced by all Service members jumped by almost 40%, but for women the rate increased by over 50% to the highest level since 2006. The United States Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (DOD SAPRO) already claims to be providing a holistic approach to combatting this issue, while we see no significant changes. In the DOD SAPRO fiscal year report of 2019, active duty focus group members “… believe senior leaders are actively driving change in the field.” The report also claims that the climate is changing due to younger recruits with increased awareness of inappropriate behaviors: “Junior leaders are on the frontline of the fight to eradicate these problems in our units and must serve as role models in this effort.” While I agree with the need to educate young leaders in the force, problems seem to be stemming from them as well as more entrenched military personnel. The data collected by the DOD SAPRO from FY2019 and FY2018 both indicate that many sexual assaulters are at the victim’s grade or higher. “Of women who reported a penetrative sexual assault, 59% were assaulted by someone with a higher rank than them, and 24% were assaulted by someone in their chain of command” (FY2018). After reading these reports, I have several questions: What is being done to educate and hold higher ranking officers accountable? How can this specific investigation into Fort Hood improve the issues that have perpetrated and presented themselves in the military for decades? Overall, I will be pleased if this investigation helps end the apparent climate of violence in the military, yet I cannot say I am too hopeful. However, I’m tired of the lack of transparency, and I think it’s safe to say that we are all ready for answers.