What’s in a Name

"...there are no powerful women, but all women are powerful!" Image from Creative Commons

“…there are no powerful women, but all women are powerful!”
Image from Creative Commons

By Morgn Paul

Paul, Morgan?

I’m used to hearing teachers mess up names, giggling and drawing out letters to avoid embarrassing themselves (or the student), but I never really had to deal with this. “Morgan Paul” is too simple to screw up saying, aside from the occasional “Megan”. What I’m more used to is “Paul Morgan”. It never really fazed me until my professor was handing back papers one day and I noticed the way she paused. My name was clearly typed at the top of the page, “Morgan Paul” In that order, no comma.  But when she got to my paper she stopped, whispered my name to herself, and then asked “Paul Morgan?” I politely corrected her, took my paper, and checked to see if I had written my name backwards. I had not. I soon realized that even though it was more likely that my name was written correctly she was worried that if I were a man it would have been insulting to have been confused with a woman. She may not have blatantly recognized this fear, but I do believe that is why she said my name that way. I believe that’s the reason why most teachers throughout my education career have not questioned my gender, but immediately assumed that I was a boy. This experience reminded me of a quote by Ian McEwan that has lodged itself into the most concrete part of my brain and peaks its head out daily to remind me why I am fighting against the patriarchy. “Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it’s okay to be a boy; for girls it’s like promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading.” These words are constantly haunting every piece of me. When I want to celebrate the growth of women’s rights I realize it’s not a growth of women’s rights but a transition into a new category of masculinity. This is the same reason that women in pant suits working in corporate offices are seen as manly instead of powerful women. This is the same reason that girls playing in the dirt are tomboys instead of girls who don’t mind getting dirty. And furthermore, this idea of quiet weak women makes me feel the need to make the distinction between women and powerful women or girls and girls who don’t mind getting dirty as if they’re not still women or girls! I hope that I’m not the only one who is upset by these realizations, and I hope that I’m not the only one who will support the idea that there are not powerful women but that all women are powerful!

Marginalized Voices in Eating Disorder Recovery

NEDAwarenessLogoIn honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week and UMKC’s Every Body is Beautiful Week, this is a guest blog from the  National Eating Disorders Association Blog.

For more information about UMKC’s Every Body is beautiful Week events, please visit our Facebook page.

By Melissa Fabello, Editor, Everyday Feminism

Pick up any eating disorder memoir at your local bookstore, and you are more than likely to find some iteration of this narrative arc.

Well-to-do, young white woman develops an eating disorder, spirals into near-oblivion, seeks treatment for her eating disorder (which usually results in her being admitted into a residential facility), experiences a myriad of successes and failures, and eventually commits to finding her Self again. Well-to-do, young white woman walks out of treatment with a new sense of hope on the road to recovery.

From a consumer-driven standpoint, it makes complete sense. Of course people are buying (and selling) these stories. Just as we see in our media landscape, there is a huge market for the most extreme and “graphic” version of any issue, and there will be people who are attracted to cathartic memoirs that are moving in that they’re so terrifying. It takes courage to tell your story of struggle with a mental disorder, to confront the stigma. They may be written from a place of good intention to educate and raise awareness about how serious eating disorders are, but they can also have the unintended effect of making us feel better about ourselves, our lives – hell, even our diets. “At least I’m not like that,” or “I’m not that sick.”

From an eating disorder recovery perspective, we have to ask ourselves whether these limiting representations of life with an eating disorder are doing more harm than good in the absence of other diverse voices and experiences with these illnesses.  As important and valid as stories like the above are about a commonly misunderstood illness – and as necessary as it is for people, from the field of psychology to the general public, to read and understand them – they simply aren’t telling the whole story.

My eating disorder didn’t look like that, and it’s been difficult to find stories that more closely resemble my own. My eating disorder was private and lonely. My rapid weight loss raised a few concerned eyebrows and flippant comments, but only one intervention. My doctor didn’t offer anything to me except a nutritionist and an SSRI prescription – oh, and the dreaded diagnosis of EDNOS. My eating disorder wasn’t (yet) killing me. It wasn’t making strangers stare at me. It looked entirely from the outside – so long as no one ever got a peek at my journals – like a diet.

And yet, my eating disorder was terrifying. And it was serious. And it mattered. Considering most people struggling with bulimia are of average weight, binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder, most doctors hardly  receive any training about eating disorders, and people are socially rewarded in our culture for dieting or weight loss, I have a suspicion that I’m not alone.

While some may argue that these bestsellers are raising important awareness about a growing problem, my question is: How beneficial is it if the scope of what the shoppers see is such a narrow picture of eating disorder experiences? How concerning is it that many write these memoirs without realizing how critical it is to share their story responsibly – in ways that doesn’t invite comparisons of “not sick enough to count” or with triggering images and instructive behaviors?

Because here is what happens when the only eating disorder stories that we hear are the ones that fit the aforementioned description: We use them as examples to hold our own disorders up to. We use them to judge and determine what is and isn’t “really sick.” We start to trust that these narratives represent “real” eating disorders, and that experiences that fall outside of these confines just don’t count.

And that’s dangerous.

It’s dangerous for the men and the boys who are struggling when they’re looking in the mirror. It’s dangerous and invalidating for women and other people of color when eating disorders are chiefly looked at as a “white woman’s problem.” It’s dangerous for trans* folks whose body image battles are always lumped in as related to gender-related dysphoria.

It’s dangerous to every person who’s ever peered into the DSM for diagnostic criteria and thought, “Well, I don’t purge that much” or “I haven’t lost that much weight.” It’s dangerous to every person who’s ever thought that they must not be “that bad” just because they don’t see stars when they stand up or don’t have heart complications or haven’t been questioned about erosion by their dentist or don’t have to take a leave of absence from school or don’t ever see a therapist or don’t get admitted into residential treatment or don’t have to be fed through a tube.

As is every structure that exists to serve a hierarchy of power, when the landscape is primarily non-inclusive eating disorder stories, it’s dangerous to the marginalized. They say, “Your voices don’t matter. Your experiences aren’t important.” It’s dangerous to reality.

And something has to change.

So, with that in mind, I (in collaboration with NEDA) would like to collect and curate your eating disorder stories. We want to highlight recovery stories that challenge that dominant narrative formula. There are already some brave people out there sharing their stories, talking about how their ethnicity, gender identity, orientation,  age, or religion have impacted their experience with an eating disorder, but as a field and community, we have still have so far to go. You are invited to join us.

We want all of it: your successes, your messes, your relapses, your questions. We want to hear from people of marginalized identities and from different parts of the world. We want to span the entire spectrum. We want to create a collection of stories that tells the whole truth so that we can present the world with what the reality of most eating disorders look like – because how can we truly address a problem if we don’t know what it looks like?

So if you have ever read an eating disorder memoir and felt misrepresented, underrepresented, or unrepresented, we want to hear from you. Submit your story now!

Interested in sharing your experiences as a step toward public enlightenment? For guidelines and to submit your stories, check out our submissions page here.

And for more on what I wish people understood about eating disorders, check out this video.

Let’s Break the Gender Stereotypes about Women in Sports

By Torshawna Griffin

Image from Creative Commons.

Image from Creative Commons.

Two athletes, both African American, both going through the same situation. The difference is that the media took one athlete’s “moment” and shrugged it off, but made a story of the other. Britney Griner was a first draft pick for the WNBA and currently plays for the Phoenix Mercury. In April of 2013, she openly came out about her sexuality. Why you didn’t hear about this? Well, because the Sports Association and media both shrugged it off due to the stereotype, “Female athletes are lesbians” (Complex Sports 2013). Why is this the gender stereotype of females in sports in America? Because female athletes are portrayed to be masculine, pushing everyone to believe that they must be lesbians if they are “manly”.

While on the other hand, Michael Sam, a college male athlete that is going into the NFL draft, has received more publicity for this same personal landmark.  Michael Sam attends Mizzou and is currently pursuing a career in the NFL.  He openly came out and told the world that he was gay. Media has spun a controversy of whether his sexual orientation will out shine his talents. Michael’s agent has said that he does not think his decision to acknowledge his sexual orientation will hurt his draft prospects (Palm Beach Post 2014), while the media and a few NFL executives think otherwise. “I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” a personnel assistant told New Republic Magazine. “In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this time it’s still a man’s-man game.” What does that mean, a man’s-man game? Is he any less of a man because he likes other men?

Which brings the subject, why women are automatically lesbians for being an athlete and why are men criticized for being anything out of the status quo of masculinity. It should not matter whether Britney or Michael are gay. The thing that should draw the media to them is the fact that they both shine tremendously in their sport. We fight for gender equality every day. Gender roles should not exist because a woman can do anything that she puts her mind to, just a like a man can do anything he puts his mind to. Had the media not made a “story” of this young man’s courage, maybe he would not have plummeted 70 points in the CBS NFL draft board (since has regained 50 of those points). The media should be focusing on positive aspects of both these athletes’ lives. Instead of blasting Michael’s sexuality, Britney should have been congratulated for being the first openly gay athlete to sign an endorsement with Nike.

Real Men Show Respect


By Maritza Gordillo

I came across this video on YouTube and, after watching it, to my surprise, it had a different ending that what we would expect. Now, I say “ what we would expect” in the sense that society has taken rape culture as a norm so that we aren’t even surprised to hear about another rape victim. It should be the other way around; we should be surprised when it happens (which it shouldn’t), not when it doesn’t happen. This man portrays what should be the norm and how men (and anyone!) should treat women.  Watch and see for yourself.


T-Shirts, Buttons, and Chocolate Vaginas, Oh My!

The season of V-Day is upon us!

We have tons of events going on to celebate V-Day, and promote violence prevention for violence against women and girls. There are events all month long (and into March!) that aim to bring attention to the V-Day Movement and call the UMKC campus to action to end violence against women and girls.

Have you licked your vagina today? Stop by 105 Haag Hall to purchase a chocolate vagina, and lick away!

Have you licked your vagina today? Stop by 105 Haag Hall to purchase a chocolate vagina, and lick away!

At all of our events we have our amazing V-Day T-Shirts and V-Day Buttons for sale. In addition, we have the renowned chocolate vaginias in both milk and dark chocolate. Stop by any (or all!) of our events listed below to purchase items! Or, swing by The Women’s Center at 105 Haag Hall during normal business hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) to buy any of the items!

We hope you will join us in the fight to end violence against women and girls!

Our Events:

We have various interactive tables where participants can refelct on healthy relationships and express their reflections by creating shrink art charms! The dates/times/locations of our tables are as follows:

  • Thursday, Feb. 13; 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.; Royall Hall
  • Monday, Feb. 17; 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.; Health Sciences Building
  • Thursday, Feb. 27; 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.; Oak Street Residence Hall

We also have our V-Men event, where a facilitated discussion about gender violence takes place among men. Our event will be on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 5 p.m., and there will be FREE PIZZA!

Our V-Day initiative for the year comes to a spearhead on Tuesday, March 4 with our benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues. The doors open at 7 p.m., and the performance begins at 7:30 p.m. o purchase tickets, please visit the UMKC Central Ticket Office at 4949 Cherry or online at http://bit.ly/1g2O7Sh.

For more information about all of our V-Day events, please “like” us on Facebook and Tumblr, follow us on Twitter, and visit our UMKC V-Day 2014 site!

Double Standards in the Workplace


By Maritza Gordillo

I found an interesting article on upworthy.com titled: This Ad Calls out 5 Ridiculous Double Standards Women Face in Less Than 60 Seconds. It discusses and showcases and advertisement from Pantine Philippines about women in the workforce. The video is pretty self-explanatory, but it depicts how women are looked upon and labeled differently when doing the same job as men.

Let’s not let those labels affect our presence in the working world!

The Countdown Begins: “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence”

Walk a mile in her shoes is a playful opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediation to sexualized violence. In a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease control of 5,000 college students at over 100 colleges, 20% of women answered “yes” to the question “In your lifetime have you been forced to submit to sexual intercourse against your will?” That’s an astounding one in five college women reporting rape at some point in her lifetime- so it is vital for us to stand together as a community and increase awareness.  Walk a Mile in her Shoes literally asks men to walk one mile in Women’s high-heels, it’s a fun way to get the Kansas City community and students to talk about gender relation and sexual violence.

We are calling all men in the Kansas City community and on Campus to register and walk a mile in women’s high-heeled shoes- to help better understand and appreciate women’s experiences, improve gender relationships, decrease the potential for violence, and open discussion in general. There are only a few more days more until the event, so if you haven’t registered, do it now!

To register, visit our website, for more information please email Kelly Rifenbark, call 816-235-6175, or vist the Facebook event page.