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.

 

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.

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.

Oprah Winfrey Shares a Message of Hope and Unity in Her Inspiring and Historical 2018 Golden Globes Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech

By Korrien Hopkins

This past Golden Globes weekend, Oprah Winfrey received a lifetime achievement award and gave a very moving speech. The actress, producer, and philanthropist presented a message of hope, unity, and optimism in her speech.

She opened with a story reflecting on her childhood when she was a little girl in 1964, watching the Oscars from the linoleum floor of her mother’s house in Milwaukee. She explained how hearing five words that changed history: “The winner is Sidney Poitier,” inspired her to be the person she is today.

“I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that,” she said. “I’ve tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door, bone-tired from cleaning other people’s houses,” she said.

In addition to being the first black man to win Best Actor at the Oscars, he also was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1982. The same award that Oprah was receiving. She also spoke of Recy Taylor, a young black woman who in 1944 had the courage to speak out against her white male rapists. Taylor was of great inspiration to Rosa Parks and many others.

After hearing Oprah Winfrey’s speech, I realized how important it is that we live in our truth as she said. When we follow our heart, despite opposition and fear, we are in turn paving a way for others and inspiring others. We are shaping the future for us all because, when it comes down to it, we are one.  Winfrey’s inclusiveness of men and women in the fight against sexual harassment on all levels was strong and very inspiring. Her speech proclaimed the strength and sisterhood of the women in Hollywood who suffered and spoke out against harassment along with women all around the nation.

“But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue… Recy’s truth is here with every woman who chooses to say, ‘Me too,’ and every man who chooses to listen,” she said including male allies.

Perhaps her speech was never meant to be anything more than that, but it became a moment where many like myself, saw her presidential potential. People took to social media to express their #Oprah2020 dreams. I’m definitely not opposed to this at all. I think it takes someone who understands life and human connection in a special way to be President. This is what Oprah has shown us throughout her career. She is authentic and relatable, despite her lack of political experience which clearly is needed in today’s world. I think her life experience and amazing wisdom outshines many by far. This is what I believe could evoke a positive change and unity for all of humanity. I think that’s why her Globes speech transcended to the American people far beyond the fancy occasion. She met people in their living room sharing her truth to encourage us to share ours. We also can’t forget her extremely generous nature. Could you imagine her giving out free college tuition and student loan forgiveness in the same way she once gave free things to her audiences on the Oprah Winfrey Show?

 

“You get free college…. and You get free college….”

“You get loan forgiveness…. and You get loan forgiveness.”

I mean, a girl can only hope and dream. Right?

Oprah’s speech opened my eyes to a brighter future. Whether she runs for president, or just continues to contribute her thoughts of inclusion or shares her story, I’m happy. She continues to inspire me to overcome the many obstacles I face because of my gender and the color of my skin. She shows me that although it’s not easy, it’s possible. And the more we create change for ourselves, we are creating change for others because we are one. So that one day, hopefully sooner than later, young women like myself won’t have these same problems.

“For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men — but their time is up. Their time is up!” –Oprah Winfrey

Missed the speech? Watch it here:

Tick, Tock Time’s up for Sexual Violence

By Zaquoya Rogers

Last night at the Golden Globe Awards, Hollywood elite strolled the red carpet in their finest black attire. It was no coincidence that everyone chose to wear black. The choice was very conscious as a show of solidarity and support for the Time’s Up Campaign against sexual harassment.  I first became aware of the campaign from a video on social media about a legal defense fund for sexual assault cases. Interested, I researched more. And what I found, I really loved.

Over 300 actresses, directors and writers including Shonda Rimes and America Ferrera, have launched a campaign to help fight sexual harassment. The Time’s up Campaign raises money to fund legal support for men and women victims of sexual harassment and violence. This in itself is amazing, but what really made me get excited for this campaign was that the target audience for this support is working class men and women. The founders described the effort as “unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere.”

Many cases of sexual violence happen amongst regular working class people who do not have the financial resources to take action against their abuser. Taylor Swift stated in her sexual assault case “I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, society and my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this.”

Time’s Up has raised $13 million out of their $15 million goal. I absolutely support this because I believe that celebrities have a duty to help advocate for issues that many people are fighting for. They have the resources, the power and the following to actually make progress towards positive change.

“Me too”: What’s the real message?

By Kara Lewis

You’ve probably seen a lot of “me too” posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels this week.

In case you missed it, actress Alyssa Milano popularized the movement Sunday night online, tweeting, “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”  However, it’s important to note that Tarana Burke, a black activist and feminist, actually founded this crusade two years ago (Whew… this could be a whole separate blog post, honestly).

However, despite confusion over the idea’s origins, it quickly caught on: “Me too” trended on nearly every social platform, and The New York Times  and CNN both covered the phenomenon. Milano’s tweet amassed 47,000 comments.

Yet I can’t help but feel conflicted about the message. As powerful as it was to see “me too” flood my Facebook feed, I and many others won’t be joining in posting these words.

Simply put, women shouldn’t have to relive their experiences with assault and harassment to “raise awareness.” We live in a country where the one in five statistic, sometimes upped to one in four—representing how many women will be raped in their lifetimes—is widely known. “Me too” attempted to reveal a huge problem, but let’s be real: This issue hasn’t been hidden. Rather, like the recently exposed sexual assault and harassment perpetuated by Harvey Weinstein, it’s long been an open secret.

In fact, the “me too” cry seems to echo the reasoning of men who say they became more enraged about sexual assault after having a daughter. Yes, it can be shocking and emotional to find out your best friend, family member, former colleague or other Facebook connection survived sexual violence—but that shouldn’t be what it takes to fuel anger and disappointment.

Furthermore, posting “me too” can put the burden on survivors to answer uncomfortable questions, respond to doubts, and mediate family or friends’ devastated reactions.

Though on a small scale, the “me too” trend represents how much of our own energy and emotional labor women put in to combat sexual assault. Who’s supporting and working with us? This time, a like, share, or emoji isn’t enough.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes : Take a step toward preventing sexual violence

By Kara Lewis

Our staff is fueled by feminism… and this week, a little more coffee than usual. We’ve been busy putting up fliers, plugging our Facebook event, and organizing crates of high heels.

Our biggest fall event and fundraiser, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, is this Thursday at 5:30 in the University Playhouse. Schools and other organizations across the world participate in different Walk a Mile in Her Shoes events each year. When men register for the march and strap on heels to stand in solidarity with women, they become part of the international movement to end rape and gender violence.

That sounds big, right? Yes, the issue is monumental— according to statistics from RAINN, one in six American women has survived completed or attempted sexual assault. The problem gains prevalence on campus: Women in college stand three times more likely to face this terrifying, inexcusable crime.

Our event Thursday offers an opportunity to start advocating by taking one step, then another, around the University Playhouse. Take this step with the dozens of others who have already registered. Take this step with people who are both long-term feminists and those who are new to the cause.

Take this step for a reason that’s important to you.

I choose to cheer at the event, design posters and write this blog because I believe we are all responsible in building a campus culture that pushes back against sexual violence.

Join me and register for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Bonus: Reward yourself with pizza after the walk— 15 percent of your bill at Pizza 51 will benefit the Women’s Center.

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.

 

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?

Join Us for Denim Day on April 26!

By Ann Varner

Do you have any old denim that you’re ready to get rid of, or that you want to put to a good cause? Because today is the last day to donate! Items can be brought to the Violence Prevention and Response Office in 108B Haag Hall, or to the Oak Street or Hospital Hilly Residence Hall Lobbies. The denim donated will be used to make art for Denim Day, April 26th, 2017. You may be asking yourself what denim day and why it is important. April is sexual violence awareness month, and Denim Day is a campaign about sexual violence prevention and education.

In Rome in 1992, a woman was raped by her driving instructor. The man was convicted and sentenced. However, the Italian Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1998 because the victim wore tight jeans. In their minds, because her jeans were so tight, clearly she had to have helped the man remove them, which means she must have consented. Visit the Denim Day website for more information on the case, and the activism surrounding it.

This ruling sparked outrage across the world, as it should.  Now, on April 26th, women are encouraged to wear jeans of all kinds to say “Yes, we are wearing jeans. No, that doesn’t mean you can rape me”. There are many misconceptions about rape.

click to enlarge

One of the biggest misconceptions being that a woman is “asking for it” because of the clothes she’s wearing. In the end, NO means NO. It doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing; it doesn’t matter if she’s been flirting with a man all night; it doesn’t matter if she went to a man’s house. If she says no, it means no.

Stand with us on denim day and show that as women, we can wear whatever we please.