Year of the Unapologetic Woman

By Nina Cherry

As we are now over a month into 2019, I finally found a theme and a personal goal for myself for this
year (a bit late, per usual). The theme? Unapologetic womanhood.

Now, being an unapologetic woman does not mean that you never apologize. It means you apologize
when an apology is actually appropriate. All too often, women (myself included) find themselves
apologizing for a wide range of unnecessary things, which is exactly what we have been conditioned to
do!

I do not have time to apologize for my womanhood. I do not have time to apologize for the
inconveniences and traumas brought about by my gender. I do not have time to apologize for being
“unladylike”, and ladies, neither do you. We apologize for some of the most natural things – especially
for displaying emotion, which is often conceived as being “dramatic”.
It is time we stop apologizing for our presence – whether that be for talking “too much” (which usually means a woman is talking the same amount as a man), crying, not shaving or wearing makeup, not looking “pulled together” enough. Let’s stop being polite because we feel like we have to be. Doing the polite or “ladylike” thing does not equate to doing the nice thing. In addition, politeness does not equate to honesty. We need to do what’s best for us, and stop apologizing for our existence.

I encourage you to follow in this manifesto – be unashamed and proud! Do it for yourself. Do it for other women. So watch out, because 2019 is the year of the unapologetic woman.

Here is a great list of the things we need to stop apologizing for in 2019:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bustle/23-things-women-apologize-for-all-the-time_b_5915414.html

The 2019 Vagina Monologues

By Mackinzie Aulgur

“…find freedom, aliveness, and power not from what contains, locates, or protects us, but from what dissolves, reveals, and expands us.”- Eve Ensler

We all deserve to be ourselves, stand up for what we believe in, and voice our opinions; each and everyone one of us. This Thursday and Friday, February 21st-22nd, UMKC will be presenting the Vagina Monologues! Doors open at 7pm and performances will take place at 7:30pm. This year the monologues will have 18 presenters, all of which play vital parts. The Vagina Monologues are personal monologues read by a diverse group of women in our community. Their stories will touch on subjects such as sex, sex work, body image, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, and various names for the vagina. The main theme in the play is redefining the vagina to be seen as a symbol of female empowerment and the embodiment of our individuality (Mission, 2019).

In collaboration with V-Day, we will be selling our famous vagina pops (milk and dark chocolate), t-shirts, feminist mugs, Trailblazers’ blend coffee, and a variety unique of buttons before and after the performances. For those who may not know, V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. In fact, according to the United Nations, one of every three women on the planet will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime (Mission, 2019). While we cannot change the past, we have the opportunity to come together as a community, to show support and raise awareness for a better future. Please join us at this years Vagina Monologues as we all reflect on what unifies us in our fight for this goal.

Mission. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vday.org/mission.html

Thursday, February 21. UMKC Student Union Theater, 5100 Cherry St. 

  • Advance tickets: $10 for students, $25 for non-students, $5 each for groups of 5 or more students
  • At the door: $15 for students, $30 for non-students

Friday, February 22. UMKC Spencer Theater, James C. Olson Performing Arts Center, 4949 Cherry St. 

  • Advance tickets: $10 for students, $35 for non-students, $5 each for groups of 5 or more students
  • At the door: $15 for students, $40 for non-students

Tickets may be purchased through Central Ticket Office. Proceeds from all activities benefit the UMKC’s Women’s Center, Violence Prevention and Response Program and V-Day’s 2019 spotlight campaign.

 

To Bra, or Not to Bra: That is My Choice

By Ann Varner

About a year ago, I was sunburned so badly I had second degree burns on my back. The burns were so bad that I had to wrap my back in gauze to cover the open wounds from the blisters, and could not wear a bra due to the area where the burns were. At first, I was horrified that I would have to go without a bra. I still had to work and not wearing a bra made me terribly self-conscious. The entire time I was working, I was crossing my arms trying to cover up my unsupported chest. But after a few weeks of freedom from my bra, I found I was infinitely more comfortable without a bra. I really started to love being braless and couldn’t care less about what people were thinking.

Thanks to that sunburn, I have been liberated from my bra and the pressure to always wear one.  I have made the choice to go braless or at least only wear a simple bralette with no underwire and no padding. It’s enough to hold up the girls when I need the extra support, but that’s it. It’s comfortable, it’s what works for me, and it’s my choice.

Some women prefer bras for various reasons. And that’s okay. For instance, if you have a large chest, wearing a bra can help relieve back pain. Wearing a bra can also hold things in place while exercising. Those are fine reasons for wearing a bra. Those are also choices that a woman can make herself and that’s why I’m writing this blog. I think wearing a bra should be a choice, not a necessity.

Over the years I’ve heard comments from both men and women directed towards women that they notice who are not wearing bras. These comments are mostly critical about braless women being too “lazy” to put one on. I’ve heard people say, “She was so lazy she wouldn’t even put a bra on” and “I can’t believe she couldn’t take two seconds to put on a bra. That’s lazy.” I’ve even had my own friends direct similar comments toward me and my choice to go braless. For the record, friends: I am not too lazy to put on a bra. I am making a choice!

Being braless does not equal laziness. Choosing to wear a bra or not is a woman’s choice to make, and women should not feel ashamed or embarrassed if they make that choice. But why do people still think that they are entitled to have an opinion about a woman’s choice to wear a bra or not?

According to the online women’s health magazine, the bra wasn’t even invented until the 1900’s. Women went centuries without binding their chests in spandex and polyester. A woman named Mary Phelps Jacob came up with the first idea for a bra, which consisted of two handkerchiefs and a pink ribbon. However, it was a man named Frederick Mellinger (a.k.a. Fredericks of Hollywood) who created the first padded and push-up bra in 1947. He soon built a business of highly sexualized bras and undergarments. Mellinger’s bras helped bring focus to women’s breasts as objects covered in satin and fancy lace and coyly hiding one of the woman’s most titillating body parts – the nipple. Social rules of modesty have demanded that women must cover up their nipples, yet men have always been free to display theirs in any public setting without scrutiny. (The #freethenipple campaign is working to bring equity to the issue.) So because women’s breasts (and nipples) are seen as objects of sexual desire, the bra has become a tool to control that desire and a woman’s ability to control her own sexuality. A braless woman with her free wielding breasts and nipples sends the message that she is in control of her body and sexual desires, and that can make some people – especially men – uncomfortable.

I wholeheartedly believe that women should always be in control of their own bodies and I encourage you to make your choice to wear a bra or not based on what’s comfortable for you. After all, you were not put on this earth to make other people comfortable.

How Listening Led to Speaking Up

By Chris Howard-Williams

In my last blog, I started exploring the lessons I need to remember as I learn what it is to be a male feminist. My first lesson was a reminder to avoid mansplaining. In an effort to practice that by keeping quiet and choosing to listen, I decided to ask my female Facebook friends for their opinions. I wanted to know what they felt were the important things that men need to know or learn in order to support and promote feminism. Interestingly enough, the one answer that caught my attention the most was a simple bit of advice from my good friend and “adopted” sister – speak up!

We live in the age of the #MeToo movement. I’m sure there are blogs on this website that explain it more eloquently than I could, but in case you need a refresher, here is the Wikipedia article about that movement. In response to the women who raised their voices under that movement, Benjamin Law, a Sydney-based writer, started his own movement – #HowIWillChange  “Guys, it’s our turn,” he tweeted out to his followers. “After yesterday’s endless #MeToo stories of women being abused, assaulted and harassed, today we say #HowIWillChange.” What followed were personal commitments to the changes he would make in order to step up and speak against all forms of sexual assault and harassment he personally encountered as well as a charge for other men to follow suit.

So, what can we do?  According to Michael S. Kimmel in an article for the Harvard Business Review, many men engage in sexual harassment and assault simply because they feel they can get away with it. He argues that this presumed support, especially tacit support in the form of not calling other men out, is a reason the problem persists. “When men remain silent, it can be taken as a sign that we agree with the harasser, that we think the behavior is OK, and that we won’t intervene,” Kimmel says. “Men are complicit in a culture that enables sexual harassment, so it is up to us to actively, volubly speak up and let the perpetrators know that we are not OK with what they do.”

So, right after learning that I need to keep quiet and stop “mansplaining”, I’ve learned that raising my voice at the right time is just as necessary. As another online article puts it, I need to speak up swiftly against any man who practices sexual harassment/assault as well as against anyone who tries to retaliate or victim-blame when a woman reports it. It is not enough to ignore it any longer, and calling it out needs to happen at the earliest signs of harassment as well. Lewd comments about and derogatory comments against women will not be tolerated anymore. I am going to speak up, and that’s #HowIWillChange.

Sexism in Colors – Why is Pink for Girls and Blue for Boys?

By Maleigha Michael

When I was younger, I learned the colors of the rainbow through the mnemonic, ROY-G-BIV (red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet). It was a color rule that has stayed with me since and helped me understand the relationship of colors. As I was growing up, I also learned another color “rule”: Pink is for girls and blue is for boys.  This is something we all heard growing up. Why though? Who got to decide this? What impact does this have on society? And how come so many of us abide by this rule so strictly?

I did a lot of reading on the history of these two colors, and it turns out there’s a lot of history behind them. It all started in the 19th century when pastel colors started becoming popularized for babies. The two colors were first chosen because of how they complimented hair and eye colors. Blue was meant to go with blue eyes and/or blonde hair, and pink for brown eyes and/or brown hair. Then, blue was actually the color that was assigned to girls, because it was seen as a dainty color, and pink was seen as a stronger color, so it was assigned to boys.

Okay, that actually sort of makes sense. But how then did pink become a color for girls and blue for boys? In my further reading, I found that girls were reassigned with pink because it was close to red, a romantic color, and women were seen as more emotional. But by the 1960’s during the women’s liberation movement, women challenged this social norm and threw gendered colors out the window. However, this did not last long once prenatal testing came out, which led to parents pre-planning for their babies and retailers realizing that they could capitalize on selling specific content tailored for each gender. So we’re back to square one.

Lately, the advent of “Gender Reveal Parties” has reinforced the “pink is for girls, blue is for boys” rule. Although parents have been getting more and more creative with their reveals, pink and blue have remained the two dominant colors that people use to show the sex of their babies.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Who cares? So what if pink is for girls and blue is for boys? What’s the big deal?” Well the answer I have for you also happens to wrap up what the point of this whole thing is about: Feminism.

Assigning colors to babies enforces a role that they are supposed to grow and fit into. There are only two colors, also enforcing that there are only two genders you’re allowed to claim. If you’re a girl, you have to like pink, and that also means you’re girly. If you’re a boy, you have to have blue, and you CANNOT like pink, or else you aren’t manly enough. If you’re a girl and you like blue, you’re a tomboy, and you aren’t seen as a strong female, but instead as a girl who doesn’t know how to be a proper girl.

Obviously, this is all completely invalid and shouldn’t have ever been applied to our society back then, and shouldn’t be applied now. I know that not everyone sticks to this rule. There are plenty of parents, more recently than ever before, that refuse to stand by this ridiculous code, and some who even take a few progressive steps further as to let their kids dress themselves however they want, such as a allowing their sons to wear dresses.

In summary, gendered colors are totally outdated, and we should stop pushing colors on children if we want a world with less stereotypes, less sexism, and overall less prejudice. As I learned when I was young, there are seven colors in the rainbow, so let’s not neglect the OYGIV of ROY-G-BIV!

Book or TV Series: The Handmaid’s Tale is some scary sh*t

By Ann Varner

Last week, the UMKC Women’s Center bought the book The Handmaid’s Tale and less than a week later I finished reading it. My interest, like many others, first sparked when Hulu premiered The Handmaid’s Tale series last year. The second season recently premiered on April 25 which coincided with Denim Day, a national campaign that raises awareness of the misconceptions of sexual assault and rape – a very fitting coincidence. Only a few episodes in, and I already think that this season is more terrifying than the first. Despite the TV series doing a very good job of following the storyline of the book, I did notice a few differences in the TV series that may have been added to appeal to today’s TV audiences.

Many of the differences between the book and the TV series center on the characters. For instance, one of the biggest differences is that in the book, Serena Joy, the Commander’s wife, and the Commander himself are actually a much older couple than portrayed in the Hulu series. In the series, they are a young, beautiful couple. The biggest plot difference is that Janine (or OfWarren) does not give birth to a healthy baby. In the book, the baby dies after a few days; whereas, in the show, the baby is healthy but Janine cannot give it up and attempts suicide and threatens to kill the baby. In the show, this causes Aunt Lydia to try to force the Handmaid’s to stone Janine to death. At the end of the first season, June (or OfFred) refuses to stone Janine and the other Handmaid’s follow. This is the first sign of revolt and the Handmaid’s refusing to follow orders.

Although the first season of the series was a complete retelling of the book, the producers have used the second season to explore the details of June’s character more deeply. For example, the second season addresses June’s affair with her husband who was married when they met. We also learn more about her relationship with her extremely feminist mom who ends up in the colonies. These glimpses into June’s past help to define the choices she makes to survive her current situation.

After reading the book, I am pleased to say that the writers of The Handmaid’s Tale series have done a great job sticking with the story line in the book, but are also using some creative license to expand the plot (with author Margaret Atwood’s involvement). The show is a horror story that I can’t stop watching, but it’s also a grim reminder of why we must continue to fight for women’s rights.

Women Need Pockets

By Ann Varner

I like to buy men’s clothes, especially coats and shirts. Why? Because they have pockets. And not the pockets that can barely fit your pinky finger, I’m talking about real pockets that can actually hold essential items. Unless I’m wearing jeans (which is never because I don’t like them), I am wearing some sort of sweat pant, yoga pant, or legging. But these items rarely have pockets, and when they do they can only fit one small item.

This isn’t news to women. We become excited when a piece of women’s clothing has nice, big pockets for us to stash our stuff in. In fact, throughout history women’s clothing has never had the equivalent amount of pockets to men’s clothing. Why? Because pockets are “bulky” and don’t align well with the stitching that pulls our waists in. Personally, if you gave me the chance to choose between hauling a purse around all day or having leggings with pockets, I would absolutely choose the latter.

The pocket was introduced to men’s clothing in the 18th century. However, women were only given a small slit in their dress where they could hide their purse. It is theorized that part of the reason why women’s clothing hasn’t had “real” pockets is due to idea that the less women can carry without a purse, the less freedom they have. In the late 1800’s there was a brief period after the war when women’s clothing had pockets. During that time, it stood for independence but was quickly taken away. Now, as women we have grown so accustomed to not having pockets we haven’t stopped to ask why we don’t have them. Why don’t we have breast pockets in our coats to put our most valuable items? Men’s coats have them. Why are we expected to carry our items in a purse instead of having free hands like men do?

I’ve come to the realization that men’s clothes are not only cheaper, but they have more pockets and are better quality for the price. My closet is filled with men’s tops and jackets that I love. Sure, the tag may say “M” but that is the last thing I’m worried about when it’s sub-zero temperatures and my keys, gloves, phone, and hat can all fit in my deep, manly pockets.

Back to school, back in time: When old books and modern ideas clash

By Kara Lewis

Who’s already overwhelmed by their semester reading list? *Raises hand* While making a dent in one of my 10-pound textbooks this week, I came across a slightly less obvious question.

I’m an English major, so I’ve read a lot of classics. From Jane Austen to Edgar Allen Poe and Charlies Dickens, I’ve been entertained, horrified and sometimes flat-out bored by these texts. This week, however, I was offended.

My Shakespeare class read and analyzed The Taming of the Shrew. Its modern adaption, 10 Things I Hate About You, is one of my favorite movies. The original, however, is filled with sexist jokes, and revolves around forcing the main female character into an arranged marriage.

Of course, I angrily thought about consent and gender equality, preparing to unleash my rage in my weekly Blackboard discussion post. Then, I stopped. I considered the same question that arose when I read Jane Eyre, which has been widely interpreted as racist, and The Catcher in the Rye, which many readers call misogynist: Can modern values be applied to classic texts?

I posed this same question on Blackboard. While many of my classmates ranted back, one argued that texts like The Taming of the Shrew show us how far feminism has come.

The contrast between the original play and 10 Things I Hate About You reinforces this viewpoint. Where Shakespeare’s lead, Kate, abandons her convictions and submits to her husband, 10 Things treats Kat’s fiery attitude and ambition as strengths. The film’s modernized message rings clear: Women don’t need to be tamed at all.

The Dress Code

By Caroline Turner

As kids, some of us dealt with school uniforms. Luckily for me, I did not. I would have hated the idea of being restricted to wear only two pairs of pants and two different colored shirts. In fact I remember writing school papers passionately siding on why kids should be able to express themselves, make their own decisions, and wear what they want without uniforms. In an institution that requires strict dress codes or uniforms, you know what you’re signing up for. But in the real world once we graduate from those institutions do we still have dress codes telling us what we can and cannot wear as grown-ups, specifically as women?

When men go shopping there are many options to choose from. Wear a bow tie, wear a tie, or no tie. Get a tight tee shirt or a loose tank top. Wear baggy pants or tight pants. Wear sneakers or dress shoes. All of these choices are ok and express one’s freedom of choice and personal style preference. Once the clothes are purchased and taken home, the man would probably not have a second thought when getting dressed in his new clothes later on.

When women go shopping, very similarly, there are also many options to choose from. Wear a bra, wear a push up bra, or no bra. Get short shorts or jeans. Wear a crop top or wear a tank top. Wear sneakers or heels. Again, all of these choices are ok and express one’s freedom of choice and personal style preferences. During the process of shopping, once the clothes are bought, or maybe both times, there is a thought that creeps into women’s minds when getting dressed. And it’s not about how the clothing will feel, or if the clothes will last a while.  It’s a thought about how others will treat her based on what she’s wearing. “Is there too much skin showing? Will people be looking at me unwantedly? Will they think of me as promiscuous, easy? Will they interpret this clothing as me wanting to make a sexual advance? Will I be respected or taken seriously?”

Sexualizing women unwantedly has largely become socially acceptable. The media and our culture works to pin-point styles and behaviors as being sexual, even if there is nothing inherently sexual about them.

The in depth report on the sexualization of girls by the American Psychological Association explains that girls can then self-objectify themselves by “(internalizing) an observer’s perspective on their physical selves and learn to treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated for their appearance.” There is no clear dress code on what women can and cannot wear, but based on societal standards we monitor ourselves. For example, we may not wear shorts because they might be too revealing.

For women it seems there is a dress code, albeit one that is more clearly read between the lines. Some of us may be more aware of it than others, but it is one that is created by us, our sisters and brothers. This dress code is based on sexualizing women and teaching us how to monitor ourselves in the process. I never was a fan of dress codes, and this woman’s code is an especially sneaky one that has got to go.

Woman with the Pencil, Not the Pencil Skirt

By: Caroline Turner

Why do we notice women in the news for what they are wearing, and men in the news for what they are doing? Why are we more inclined to point out what a women has on than we are a man?

Source: Wiki-images

On Snapchat, pretty much daily, you will see story lines about what various female celebrities are wearing. Do women just dominate the fashion world? No. But why then is what they are wearing what makes them newsworthy? Men are rarely seen in Snapchat stories and media for what they are wearing. Rather, they are mostly mentioned for who they are with or what they are doing. So why is it that we are so focused on capturing, celebrating, and criticizing women for what they wear?

I did a Google search of “media’s focus on female fashion,” and many articles came up that illustrate why focusing on what a woman wears above all else, creates problems in the way they are perceived. The whole first page was full of articles about media coverage on female politicians and scientists. Attention for these women should focus on what they are doing in leadership and research, not on their fashion choices.  But that’s often where the attention goes and what makes the headline or story. The media never treats men this way. Part of the reason there are fewer women than men in these fields is because of this constant focus on what women are wearing, rather than what they are doing. This sends the wrong message to young girls and may discourage them from considering those careers. Focusing on a woman’s appearance devalues her professionally, and can , often to no avail.

When I changed “female” to “male,” in my Google search, what I found confirmed that this was largely a female issue. However, my searches did find that the media pays disproportionate attention to men with regard to sports and their athletic physique, which creates body image issues among young boys.  So maybe men are not being portrayed fairly in the media either; however, the specific focus that the media places on how women look and what they are wearing can be damaging to them professionally and can affect to how they see themselves and assess their own .

So why does the media focus so much on what women are wearing? How did this come to be?

The male gaze, coined by feminist film critic Laura Mulvey in 1975 describes the way in which the visual arts and literature depict the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure. An object does not do anything, it is to be looked at. An object is something that we do things to or do things with, but it does not act on its own. Perhaps media outlets have become like Mulvey’s man behind camera. The male gaze through the lens of the media can objectify women and distort how we value them, and this can have dangerous effects.

As media evolves and grows, pictures become stories and videos become GIFs. These narratives that we create in order to understand ourselves and others are becoming more and more embedded into our everyday lives. As media becomes more connected to us through social media, it is important to  become vigilant in recognizing the male gaze in the media so we can rise above its influence and decide for ourselves what is truly newsworthy.