Ending War On My Body

By Elise Wantling

 

One day, when I was very young, probably 6 or 7, I was drawing at the kitchen table with some crayons. I was furiously working on a self-portrait. I picked out the perfect shade of blue that matched my eyes, made sure my hair went down to my waist (as it did at the time), drew a t-shirt and pants in my favorite colors. I remember looking down at the drawing of a little girl lying in front of me, and something struck me as off. Then I realized the difference between the drawing and myself: she was skinny, and I was not.

My weight has been my biggest insecurity since I was young. I have always resented my flabby stomach and my thick thighs. I have been consciously fighting my body for over a decade now, trying to make myself slim while my body insists on being all curves. It didn’t help that other people enabled me. Like when my fourth-grade teacher, who ran into me in the cafeteria when I was in fifth grade complimented “it looked like I had lost a lot of weight.” I can’t recall the exact words anymore, but at the time they stung, and they weighed on me for years. Or the aunts and uncles who were always quick to give me dieting tips when I saw them on the holidays, or let me know if I had gained or lost a few pounds since I had last seen them. Some of my worst enablers were my friends, who would sit with me and lament about their own bodies. We would plan how we could lose weight and dreamt about how great our lives would be as newer, skinnier people.

I wish I could say one day I woke up and said “no more” and that was it, but that wouldn’t be the complete truth. I have reached high points with my self love a number of times. There have been many times where I have concluded this is just how my body is meant to be and what is truly important to me is being healthy. But I’ve dipped to low points as well, like crying in the fitting room while trying on clothes and vowing that next time I came back to that store, they would fit like they were supposed to. Loving your body is a constant struggle, especially when we exist in a society that is constantly encouraging us to do the opposite.

While no one has found the perfect solution to the problem of negative body image, there are tools out there to help. One such tool is Jameela Jamil’s “I Weigh” campaign. The purpose of her campaign is to push back against the negative things people see in the media and on social media, like advertisements for weight loss products, body negative posts, toxic beauty standards, etc. She encourages people to take unedited photos of themselves and over those photos insert texts saying “I weigh….” And then list the positive, immeasurable things they “weigh”. For example, one could say “I weigh wonderful friendships, fulfilling career, loving partner, bright future”. She then encourages people to post these photos on social media and tag her account @i_weigh so that she can like and share them on her page. She also encourages people to redo their posts when they’re feeling down and need a reminder about why they are worthy and wonderful.

Maybe making a social media post won’t be the final thing to help me end the war I’ve started with my body, but it can at least help me in not feeling so alone while fighting these battles, and it’s a good way to show support for others who are fighting their bodies too. The important thing is to remember, there is so much more to every one of us than the number on the scale.

Another Tinderella Story

By Elise Wantling

If you currently are, or recently have been, single, then you’ve probably heard of an app called Tinder. Or its’ more feminist sibling, Bumble. Perhaps, you’ve even heard of Grindr or Her if you’re LGBTQ+ identifying, or just well versed in dating apps. Online dating is nothing new. It dates back to 1995 with the creation of Match.com, but the creation of Tinder really revolutionized the industry, (though it was not the first dating app on the market). The release of Tinder spurred the creation of more and more dating apps.

With Tinder, no longer did you have to look at full profiles, and read detailed descriptions of who someone thinks they are and why they think they’d be a good match for you. Instead, you could simply swipe through photos without ever opening the profile and determine solely based on looks whether or not you think you’re compatible with someone. Tinder simplified things down to a science: swipe right if you’re interested, left if you’re not. If they like you too, you’ll match and you can chat. If they don’t like you back, you can’t message them. Simple, easy.

When I first got on Tinder back in 2016, I was nearing the end of high school and had recently turned 18, making me one of the people in my friend group old enough for the full Tinder experience. (At the time, Tinder also had a teen section for ages 16-18). My friends had gotten into it while I was seeing my first girlfriend, but after we broke up they encouraged me to download the app. I was recently out as bisexual, and the queer dating pool at my high school was pretty limited, so I decided to give it a try.

It wasn’t until I was a few weeks away from leaving for college that I got brave enough to go on my first Tinder date. It went horribly, we were not at all compatible (plus he showed up almost an hour late, said he would buy me coffee, but didn’t, and talked my ear off for two hours without me getting a word in edgewise). Despite that, I swiped on.

Tinder has a reputation for being a hookup app, an app people can use to find a quick date or a one night stand. While yes, some people do use it for that, a survey of 1,000 Americans done by Simple Texting found 52% of Tinder users surveyed said they never had a one night stand. From that same survey, almost 14% of those surveyed said they were engaged/married to someone they met on Tinder. Despite public opinion, the facts are there: Tinder is a viable way of meeting a long term partner.

Flash forward to my sophomore year of college. One lonely night I’m swiping through Tinder, only half paying attention, when a cute guy catches my eye. I open his profile and see that his chosen anthem is “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman (one of my all-time favorite songs!). I swipe right, and we immediately match, so I shoot him a message. Flash forward again, another two years, to October 2019. We’re now engaged and counting down to our wedding day that is in less than 7 months. We live together, we recently added a puppy to our family, and we have Tinder to thank for bringing us together.

One might assume my Tinder love story is an exception to the rule, and not the standard. Perhaps it is (though we are the second couple that I know in real life who met on Tinder and are getting married). However, according to the Pew Research Center, as of 2016 5% of Americans who are in a married or committed relationship said they met online. That is not an insignificant number of people! If you’ve been considering giving online dating a try, or getting back into it, consider this your sign- perhaps you can become just another Tinderella story.

 

 

 

Period. The Movement

By Adriana Suarez

Period. The Movement is an organization founded in 2014, by two 16-year old high school students with a passion for periods. Their mission is to end period poverty and stigma through service, education, and advocacy. The organization is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a nationwide network of over 400 chapters serving local communities. The organization provides service through 3 subcategories: Pads & Tampons, Period Packs, and Menstrual Cups. The organization partners with companies such as TAMPAX Cup, AUNT flow, L’ORÉAL, and Nike to name a few.

The first time I had my period was in the fifth grade, in elementary school. This is a shocking fact because that is when most girls begin. Therefore, the bathrooms are not stocked with the products needed. My first period was thankfully in the privacy of my own home. Yet, the days I begin a new cycle are unexpected and can sneak up on me. Sometimes I would have to leave the bathroom to embarrassingly whisper to my friends (girls) asking them if they had anything in their bookbags for two reasons. The first being there would not be any kind of pad/tampon dispenser in the restrooms, or secondly, because there was a dispenser but it was either empty, or you had to pay a quarter which would not have just been laying around in my pocket.

I personally feel like it would be great to start a chapter here on campus to provide support for all women. It is important for young generations to continue being involved in this movement. It shows a passion for what we believe in. If they can do it, it is possible to start a campus wide movement. If it gains successes, there can be possibilities for other chapters to open up in the community, other universities and in middle and high schools in the area.

Is Barbie Forever?

By Skye VanLanduyt

My English professor in college distorted my image of Barbie after assigning Marge Piercy’s poem, “Barbie Doll.” Piercy’s poem criticizes Barbie’s negative psychological impact on young girl’s body image. In my opinion, the last stanza is particularly haunting not just for its sexual implications but for its praise of non-bio-degradable beauty standards. For me, this is what makes Barbie so controversial. Her “perfect body,” painted lips, and little outfits are put into the hands of little girls around the world. This teaches little girls there is only one standard of beauty.

I was excited when the UMKC Women’s Center announced M.G Lord, author of “Forever Barbie: An Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll” would be coming to The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures to speak about the complex role Barbie plays in the feminine experience. In September, Mattel launched “Creatable World,” a gender-inclusive doll line. I was surprised by the Lord’s response to Mattel’s efforts. She felt the gender-inclusive doll is nothing new. “Children mutilate and cross-dress their dolls. I was that child. Children have been making dolls their own for years.” So, perhaps, Lord has a point. I know as a child, I too, cross-dressed and cut the hair off of my Barbie dolls. I am sure most kids experimented with their dolls’ hair and clothing.

For Lord, her reasoning is deeply psychological. At the height of her childhood, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Lord believes she coped by “cross-dressing her Barbie dolls as a way of protecting her vulnerability.” The act of dressing Ken in feminine clothes preserved her image of her mom. For corporations, she poses these questions, “is there only one way to be non-binary?” and “does Barbie reflect or shape the market place?” In some respects, Barbie is a teaching tool for gender performance. Lord calls this “impersonation, approximation.” Drag Queens have been using Barbie as a feminine paradigm for years.

While I think it is amazing the LGBTQIA community is uniquely invested in Barbie’s femininity, I wish the doll was not idolized by young girls. Lord talked about a number of different Barbie’s Mattel released such as the Sally Ride Barbie, the David Bowie Barbie, and Skipper. Lord claims none of Mattel’s career themed Barbie’s are deeply loved. She calls the David Bowie Barbie and Skipper “grotesque,” and I would have to agree with her. Although the Skipper doll comes with a desk for academic studies, Lord explains, “When Skipper grows up her desk for homework turns into a vanity.” What is even more alarming is knowing Skipper and the David Bowie doll were created by men. It seems like corporations are teaching girls to become vain and overtly feminine. In the case of women’s equity, the marketplace is a bad teacher for “shaping” women to be a certain way. Thus, answering Lord’s previous questions regarding non-binary expression and the market place.

Lord’s extensive knowledge on the inner workings of Mattel and the corporate world reiterate similar, troubling themes from Marge Piercy’s poem. However, Lord provides some hope for those worried about gender expression and equality. If children are making Barbie their own rather than being swayed by corporate ideas, where does children’s idolization of Barbie come from? Is Barbie really forever? Maybe this all draws from childhood psychology. Lord’s talk left me with so many unanswered questions. It would be interesting to continue research on why and how Barbie is still in the hands of so many young girls today.

Why I Choose Not To Wear Makeup

By Anonymous

After I graduated from high school, I made the decision to stop wearing makeup. I vividly remember looking at myself in the mirror without makeup and being scared to really look at my own reflection. It was only until I had on makeup for the day that I could look at myself without cringing. I knew in the moment, this was not okay. On one hand, I generally enjoyed makeup, but on the other hand, I realized I had been using it as a crutch to keep myself from truly loving my physical appearance. So, I made the choice not to wear makeup for a while. I wanted to get to the place where I would be able to wear makeup in a way that added to what I hoped would become my already existing self-confidence.

Flash forward two years later, and here I am, still not wearing makeup. After getting over the initial hurdle of desperately wanting to cover every imperfection I perceived, I realized I was so much more at peace with my personal confidence when I forgoed makeup altogether. It was amazing to feel truly comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life. However, I was confronted daily by many feminist issues surrounding the modern conversation about makeup. The first difficult crossroad I came to was whether or not I should wear makeup to a job interview. I was so paranoid if I did not wear any makeup, my potential employer would perceive me as lazy, tired, unkempt, etc. Nearly every woman that wears makeup has experienced the slew of “concerns” people have for their well-being if they go a day without it.

Among other women, I noticed some speculated I choose not to wear makeup as an attack on their freedom to enjoy the artistry and enhancement of makeup. Others envied the freedom I had in my workplace to wear makeup, or not wear it. I had a close friend at the time, who was required to wear a full face of makeup as a part of her dress code. Her male coworkers could wear makeup but it was by no means a requirement. At the heart of the issue, perpetuating all of the trickle-down effects that follow, is the media and many men make something like makeup into a requirement, indication of character, standard of beauty, etc.

My decision to stop wearing makeup was not a politically charged act of defiance. It was a choice made as a personal step toward being at peace with my physical appearance. But those around me, for better or for worse, often box me into having an agenda. All of this has opened my eyes to the larger issues about this topic. I made the conscious choice going into that job interview to not wear makeup and risk the negative opinions someone might have of me. In the interview, I had to ask “Is it okay that I do not wear any makeup?” Their response was ‘Yes, of course” but there was hesitation.

I made the conscious choice to not work anywhere where I might feel pressured to wear makeup. But I still love the artistry of makeup. I love the talent other people have, and I appreciate the passion others have for it. I encourage the women around me to present their face to the world in whatever way makes them feel the most confident.

A Semester in Reflection by the Women’s Center’s Christina Terrell

By Christina Terrell

I have been at the Women’s Center since November of 2018 and Spring 2019 was my second semester here and it has been nothing but non- stop excitement all semester long. However, this spring semester has really taught me a lot and allowed me to really get involved with campus life.

I was able to attend about 18 out of the 25 events that we hosted this semester, which gave me the opportunity to witness and experience things that I had not done before. For example, this semester I took on the role of taking pictures for most of the events, which allowed me to see things through a different lens, literally. It really brought me joy being able to capture such great moments of some of our events such as, The Vagina Monologues, The Her Art Women’s Persistent Muse Luncheon, and Denim Day. Being an armature photographer was not something that I pictured myself doing in a million years, however I am glad this new venture was brought to me because it showed me, I have interest in things I would not have thought of on my own.

Reflecting on my semester here at the Women’s Center, another big highlight for me was that I took on some leadership roles this semester, which allowed me to gain skills and confidence in areas that I had not realized I embodied. For instance, this semester I oversaw office information such as managing our Women’s Center Library. Along with I decided to take on the role of organizing the end of the year celebration that we have at the end of each semester, which allows us to come together and reflect on the highlights of the semester.

In the end my semester here at UMKC’s Women’s Center has been nothing short of exciting, and fulfilling, being a work-study student here has really allowed me to get involved, experience new things, and embody roles that I would not have imagined of doing before becoming a part of such an empowering team like this one.

A Semester in Reflection from the Women’s Center’s Caitlin Easter

By Caitlin Easter

As the semester draws to a close, inevitably so does my time here at the Women’s Center. As sad as this is, it provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on what I have done and the things I have learned from working here.

While I have always had a passion for the helping the advancement of women, I never thought I would one day be lucky enough to work at a place devoted to advocating for the equity of women. Coming to Kansas City from a small town, I never realized the opportunities and experiences that would be afforded to me in college just because I was in a space with more people and ideas.

When I first saw the “hiring” poster last semester in Haag Hall, I expected all the positions to be filled at that point in the semester, and was incredibly surprised when there was room for me on staff. That interview was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’d ever done. What if they told me I wasn’t a good enough feminist? More than just being turned down for a job, the fear of being told that I wasn’t fitting the feminist side of myself as much as I had always believed was terrifying for me; the possibility of not being what I had always labeled myself as was such an odd thought. What if I didn’t fit into position and environment because I was a fake feminist? Being accepted for that position helped me to achieve some of the most defining moments of my life through this job.

Getting to wear so many hats in the Women’s Center was also very beneficial! I got to play different roles such as secretary, event organizer, and blog writer! Never being stuck doing the same thing every day was such a change from traditional jobs, and was a nice experience in multitasking for me.

My favorite experiences during my time at the Women’s Center were the Vagina Monologues production and the Healing Arts Corners. The Vagina Monologues was very similar in theme to a production I had done in high school, and was something I was very much looking forward to. Watching other women perform and display our experiences in an open and raw way really deeply touched me. The Healing Arts corners were something I took over near the beginning of this semester, and they have been such a satisfying thing to manage. Beyond just the satisfaction of getting to play with sculpey clay at work, it was also a incredible to see that impact that something so small could make on someone’s day and life.

This semester, I have learned that though my time at the Women’s Center may come to an end, my feminist spirit will never, and it is just about finding new ways to advocate and express this feminism. At the center I have learned about women who use their art to advance women, and if art can spur social change, what else could do the same?

One of the biggest things that inspired me was the culture around feminism in the center. Coming from a place where the title feminist was synonymous with “crazy liberal” to a place where people understood that wanting to be equal was NOT too much to ask, was such an important shift for me. It was nice to be in a healthy place where I could grow, away from people telling me that I was asking too much for wanting the same as everyone else.

The biggest think I will take with me, is that we all have a part to play in the advancement of women in our society, and that doubting how good I am of a feminist is not doing anything for me.

Celebrating Jedidah Isler, Ph.D.: A Woman in STEM

By Ann Varner

I stumbled upon an article titled “5 Powerful Women in STEM You Need to Know” (http://news.janegoodall.org/2018/03/08/5-powerful-women-stem-need-know/ ) and while reading it came across someone I found incredibly interesting and wanted to write about. Her name is Dr. Jedidah isler and she is the first African American woman to earn a PhD in Astrophysics from Yale.

According to jedidahislerphd.com, “Dr. Isler is an outspoken advocate of inclusion and empowerment in STEM fields and is the creator and host of “Vanguard: Conversations with Women of Color in STEM.”. Her non-profit organization, The STEM en Route to Change (SeRCH) Foundation, Inc., is dedicated to using STEM as a pathway for social justice and has developed a variety of initiatives including the #VanguardSTEM online platform and web series. Brief CV.”

In the STEM field women are vastly underrepresented, especially African American women. Women such as Dr. Isler are very much needed to advocate for inclusion and empowerment in the STEM field as well as represent themselves. Great work, Dr. Isler!

Photo credit: http://jedidahislerphd.com/about/

Time Magazines Top 100

By Caitlin Easter

Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people of the year came out recently, and it’s one of the most diverse and intersectional issues ever. The list also features the most women ever awarded, at almost half of the list being female. There are 48 women featured in this year’s list, which is up from the 45 who were featured last year. The list is made up of pioneers, artists, leaders, icons and titans, and women are representing in each category.

The list is selected every year from a list of candidates who made the largest impacts in the world, good or bad.  Nominated by list alumni and voted on by the public, the list embodies the changes that happened throughout the beginning of each year.

This year’s list is made up of strong, groundbreaking women from all walks of life: activists, chefs, athletes, authors, scientists, actresses, singers, models, painters, directors, designers, politicians, a first lady, survivors, journalists, business women, and architects. We see big names such as Sandra Oh, Taylor Swift, Michelle Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ariana Grande, but also have the pleasure to learn names that we’re not all familiar with such as Greta Thunberg, Vera Jourova, Jeanne Gang, and Jennifer Hyman.  Women are finally starting to be equally represented in different aspects of life, and we’re ready for it!

A full list of this year’s recipients can be viewed at: http://time.com/collection/100-most-influential-people-2019/.

 

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