“But What Were You Wearing?”

By: Sierra Voorhies

Trigger Warning: rape culture, victim blaming, and sexual assault. 

I’m not quite sure how to start this blog, but I think I will start with the phrase, “What were they wearing?” This is a common question that has been asked in cases of rape and sexual assault, and it perpetuates and supports rape culture. Rape culture is “the belief that victims have contributed to their own victimization and are responsible for what has happened to them” (University of New Hampshire SHARPP). The question “What were you wearing?” implies that someone’s outfit could consent for them to sexual acts, but no matter what someone is wearing, clothing – slutty, provocative, or skimpy – does not give consent for the wearer. Behind this question is the idea that there is some dress, jeans, or some outfit that could make the victim actually the one culpable for the crime against them because they are somehow “asking for it”.

By asking a victim of rape or sexual assault this question, one is placing the blame back on the victim for the crime perpetrated against them. Imagine asking someone, “Why were you wearing that watch? What were you doing in that suit?” This is an outrageous and illogical question,  because it’s obvious in this scenario that the victim does not hold any of the blame for the crime done against them. The same thought must be applied to victims of sexual assault.

In order to bring awareness and growth to the UMKC community, the Women’s Center is doing a display called “What Were They Wearing?” full of outfits that were worn by people when they were assaulted. This display will show how rape culture and victim blaming are part of the rape myth. You can join us on Wednesday April 27 from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. on the second floor of the Student Union, as well as Thursday, April 28 to see the display and get connected with more information. 

Thank you for supporting our programming during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Two Months of Change

by Ann Varner

Two months ago, I started working at the UMKC Women’s Center. I had no idea how much I was going to learn in such a short period of time. I knew that I supported feminism and I wanted to do more than support. I wanted to become educated and to use that education in my everyday life.

UMKC Women’s Center staff members Ann Varner (left) and Zaquoya Rogers (right). 

One of the first things I learned was to embrace my body and stop being so hard on myself. For the first time in a long time, my confidence slowly built up. When that happened, I started to look forward to getting up in the morning and putting together my outfits, jewelry, and makeup. With positive reinforcement from my friends and coworkers, my confidence continued to climb. I learned I enjoy participating in healing arts projects, even though I consider myself artistically challenged.  During sexual assault awareness month (April), I learned about Denim Day, as well as the documentary Audrie and Daisy. I had heard of rape culture before, but now not only am I educated about it, it’s something I’m passionate to fight against. Most importantly, I am finding myself thinking feminist thoughts and have been surrounding myself with sources to continue to learn. Looking back, these two months have taught me so much and already have started to change me for the better. I can’t wait to find out what will happen in the next semester.


Reflecting on Rape Culture

by Matiara Huff

Last week, we celebrated Denim Day by raising awareness about rape culture at UMKC, complete with a denim display and information about rape culture. But if this topic is new to you or you just don’t know how to talk about it

March Against Rape Culture and Gender Inequality – 2

yet, here is a video by Kat Blaque explaining what rape culture is. #StayWoke

When I first learned about rape culture, I was so overwhelmed. Though I knew that sexual violence was a very important aspect of feminism, I didn’t quite realize the severity of this situation until I learned about rape culture. At first, I kind of felt like it was all just a waste of time. That rape culture was too deeply embedded into the global society, that there was no way to change it. But there is. It’s as simple as educating yourself. Because the discussion about sexual violence is changing, people are realizing how often offenders are getting away with their crimes, and that begins with educating ourselves. Rape Culture is not a necessary part of our society. We can and we will change it.

Audrie and Daisy: Let’s talk about rape and the pursuit of justice

By Ann Varner


Audrie and Daisy is a documentary that aired on Netflix. The film examines the ripple effects on families, friends, schools and communities when two underage women find that sexual assault crimes against them have been caught on camera.  Both Audrie and Daisy tried to get justice. Both of them were slut shamed and had backlash so badly that one of the girls, Audrie, committed suicide. Daisy went to the police, and the rapist was arrested and charged.

Suddenly, he was set free. The prosecutor decided that there just “wasn’t enough evidence”. Daisy and her family suffered severe backlash because of it, to the point that they had to move after members of the town burned their house down. When Audrie was sexually assaulted, the boys took a picture of her. That picture was sent around the school and posted on social media. Instead of her peers noticing that something was wrong with the picture, she was called many slut-related names as she tried to find out who had taken the picture. The bullying was so bad she committed suicide only a week later.

Rapes are underreported crimes due to this rape culture and slut shaming. Victims of rape are so scared of the retaliation that could happen that they would rather not seek justice so they don’t end up like Audrie or Daisy. The biggest misconception is the notion that women are raped because of something they did, like wearing jeans too tight, getting drunk at a party, and so on. I wrote about this in my last blog about our upcoming denim day.

Daisy will be coming to UMKC for a discussion panel on Thursday, April 27th at 6:00pm in the Student Union Theater. I encourage anyone and everyone to come and hear her speak and ask questions. The only way to end this cycle of rape culture and shaming is to talk about these issues.


What Normalizes Violence in our Culture?

by Thea Voutiritsas

In the U.S., April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Though sexual assault seems like a clear no-no, our culture

SAAM 2017

enforces social norms that condone violence and negative power relations. Sexual assault is more than a person jumping out of the bushes; its any type of unwanted sexual contact, ranging from sexist attitudes and actions to rape and murder.

Rape and sexual assault are a consequence of the power differential between men and women. Rape doesn’t happen just because one person chooses to rape another. Rape happens because there are attitudes and norms that allow it to happen. We live in a society that normalizes violence, using power over others, traditional constructs of masculinity, the subjugation of women, and silence about violence and abuse. These normalized behaviors are part of rape culture.

Rape culture is about the way we collectively think about rape as a society. Evidence of rape culture can be found in popular music, where “blurred lines” are just part of courtship, and no doesn’t really mean no. It is seen when a woman is blamed for getting drunk, or when a woman is asked “What were you wearing?” We see rape culture when women are told to prevent themselves from being raped, but men are not told not to rape. We see it in jokes that equate raping to winning video games or competitions. We see it when men are told to “wear the pants” in a relationship. We see it when men with multiple partners are “Casanovas,” yet women with multiple partners are “sluts.” We see it in entire categories of porn dedicated to harming or defeating women.

SAAM in April is an opportunity for us to check our thinking patterns. Ask yourself: What do I do, say, allow, or ignore that may contribute to rape culture? And what can I do to change that?

What Happens to Women Matters to Men, Too!

This man proclaims why he is a feminist as part of the "Who Needs Feminism?" Campaign last semester.

This man proclaims why he is a feminist as part of the “Who Needs Feminism?” Campaign last semester.

By Morgan Paul

“Women are part of men’s lives, and what happens to us matters to men too.”

In welcoming everybody back to class and back to the Women’s Center after a long cold break we begin to get the same questions we get at the beginning of every semester: “Can men come to the Women’s Center?” “What do you do for men?” “So feminists are man haters, right?”

NO! This couldn’t be further from the truth! The patriarchy hurts EVERYONE! To prove this point I found an article that talks about both the direct and indirect effects of the patriarchy. It’s a great read for men, women, and non-binary persons alike.

Click here to check it out!

The Prevalence of “Rape Culture” in Today’s Society

By Amber Charleville

After the recent events of Maryville, a story so close to home (Maryville is an hour and a half north of Kansas City), I thought it might be a good idea to refresh old readers and introduce new readers to what the phrase “rape culture” means.

Here is a definition from the Marshal University Women’s Center’s website: “Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.”

I don’t want to get into a detailed response to the circumstances of Maryville other than to wish for justice to prevail for all involved, but I think it’s important to reflect on the way rape culture impacts and influences our lives when we’re presented with these sorts of horrible, harsh examples. Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted (RAINN.org), and with those sort of sobering statistics in our faces, we can’t deny that something is seriously wrong with our culture.

From songs like “Blame it on the Alcohol” and “Blurred Lines” to advertisements, entertainment, and news sources that perpetuate the commodification and objectification of women’s bodies, everywhere we turn we are exposed to this culture of rape that encourages men to rape and women to stay silent when they are attacked.

I encourage you all to take a moment to reflect on these things and think of ways you can work for change in your daily lives. Even something as simple as telling a friend that a “rape joke” is not okay can make a difference. I want to leave you with the below video to help you think about and recognize rape culture in action: