Join Us for Walk A Mile In Her Shoes®

By Skye VanLanduyt

In 2001, Psychologist Frank Baird founded Walk A Mile In Her Shoes® to encourage men to think about how gender violence affects women. At the event, men are asked to walk a mile in women’s shoes to bring awareness and understanding to women’s experiences, improve gender relationships, and decrease the potential for violence. To learn more about Walk A Mile In Her Shoes®, and its mission go to https://www.walkamileinhershoes.org/index.html#.XXqtUy2ZPfs

The Women Center’s website states since 2007, over 1,000 people at UMKC have participated in the event. This participation has increased awareness of rape, sexual assault, gender violence, and funds for the UMKC Women’s Center and UMKC Violence Prevention and Response Program.

UMKC Librarian, Scott Curtis is a previous participant and longtime supporter of Walk A Mile In Her Shoes®. He says, “walking in high heels allowed him time to think about the discomfort women feel due to social conventions based on sexism.” As the school year starts, Curtis believes participating in Walk A Mile In Her Shoes® is important because it will give students and staff the opportunity to “come together and, through a little fun and a lot of reflection, work toward making UMKC a better place.”

This year, UMKC’s new athletic director, Dr. Brandon Martin will be providing the opening remarks. As director, he says “I believe it’s my job to be a leader for the athletic department but I also believe in being a leader for a larger part of the campus.” His involvement hits close to home, “as a parent of two daughters” he says, “it is important to take a stronger stance against sexual violence.” Martin hopes Walk A Mile In Her Shoes® will continue gaining momentum for UMKC’s fight to decrease gender violence.

Our Student Body President, Justice Horn will be co-leading the event with Martin as the MC. Horn says he feels “it is our duty, in positions of influence, and positions of power to be allies toward the fight for equality for women.” Much like Martin, Horn says Walk A Mile In Her Shoes® is personal. “My mom makes the money in our family and is usually the only woman in the room.” Horn hopes those in attendance this year “understand that everyone needs to be in this fight towards equality.”

We hope you will join us this Thursday! All are welcome.

When: Thursday, September 19, 2019 at 5:30. A kick-off will take place before the march, which will start at 6pm.

Where: UMKC University Playhouse, 51st & Holmes St., Kansas City, MO 64110

Admission: Free!

A limited supply of shoes will be provided by the UMKC Women’s Center, so we encourage you to bring your own shoes!

Participants are asked to wear heels to the walk but are not required to.

If there is inclement weather, the event will be held at Jazzman’s, Student Union, 5100 Cherry St., Kansas City, MO 64110.

Catcalling is not a Compliment, it’s Harassment

By Brittany Soto

Since our center has been promoting the “Meet us on The Street” event all throughout this week, focusing on the issues of gender-based street harassment, I wanted to turn my attention to one of my biggest pet peeves; catcalling. Catcalling is when an individual whistles, shouts, or makes sexual comments toward another individual as they are walking by. Women are often the ones faced with having to deal with this ridiculous issue. The fact that I get a little nervous when I decide to get dressed up because I don’t feel like getting harassed, is a problem. Women shouldn’t have to feel self-conscious or nervous every time they get dressed to head out the door or every time they pass by men on the street.

The most common defense that men have against this issue is that catcalls are their way of “complimenting” a woman’s looks. Going up to a woman and telling her she’s beautiful is one thing, but shouting “damn!” “hey sexy!” or whistling and honking the car horn as a woman walks by is a different story. Catcalling can even get to the point of being dangerous if women decide defend themselves or ignore the cat-callers, because often they will get offended causing them to act in an aggressive or intimidating manner by name calling or going as far as assaulting women. THIS is harassment.

What men need to understand is that catcalling is not cute, funny, or complimenting. It’s degrading, demeaning, and disgusting. It lets women know they are being objectified and looked at as nothing more than a piece of meat. It makes women feel as though they have no rights or values. Women are not dogs to be whistled at and they are not sexual objects. Women are more than their looks. Women have the right to be treated with as much respect and dignity when walking down the street as any man. Women deserve to feel safe.

For additional information on how women are fighting cat-calling visit: http://www.womensmediacenter.com/fbomb/how-i-took-a-stand-against-catcalling

What exactly is “Wifey Material”?

By Brittany Soto

The term “wifey” is a fad used to describe what a “real woman” is, you know, one that cooks, cleans, and provides for her husband, making sure he’s always happy. A “wifey” is expected to do all of these things while maintaining her appearance, never looking sloppy, and never complaining. A “wifey” never goes out and parties with her friends, because that wouldn’t be “lady-like” or most importantly “wifey material.”

Our society has come a long way when it comes to the sexist expectations of how women behave and present themselves, however, this terminology has brought to light the mindset that women belong in domesticated roles, nowhere else. I see it everywhere now, especially on social media. There have been misogynistic memes saying things like “if all she does it work, cook, and handle business, she’s wifey material” or “wifey material doesn’t get drunk and go out every Friday.” If a woman doesn’t embody any of the things that a “wifey material” should embody, then they are immediately slut shamed or seen as un-worthy of a man’s heart. My question is, where are the expectations for men?

Women deserve to be respected regardless of their looks or their ability to play housemaid. Women are not dolls. We are human beings that deserve to be treated as such. This “wifey” mentality that promotes unrealistic expectations of how “real women” should conduct themselves, needs to be left in the past along with the sexist and outdated expectations of women.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Martha Coffin Pelham Wright

By Ann Varner

Martha Coffin Pelham Wright was one of five women who planned the first women’s right convention and presided over numerous women’s rights and anti-slavery conventions (womenshistory.org). She is known for her contributions to humanities and was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007. Wright was born in 1806 to a large family with “a strong female role model in her mother, Anna Folger Coffin, and the Quaker tenets of individualism, pacifism, equality of the sexes, and opposition to slavery, young Martha was well prepared for her future role as an abolitionist and suffragist” (womenofthehall.org).

On July 19th and 20th of 1848, she and five other women held the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Following that historic event, Wright went on to continuing activism in women’s rights and the abolishment of slavery. She worked with the American Anti-Slavery Society and was the president of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Wright passed away in 1875 but was able to witness the abolishment of slavery. There is a Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls which has a life size statue to commemorate her. The statue shows her as pregnant because when she held the women’s rights convention she was six months pregnant with her seventh child.

Picture from womenofthehall.org

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Deborah Tucker

By Brittany Soto

Deborah D. Tucker is best known for her efforts in taking steps to end violence against women. Her determination to advocate against violence began when she volunteered at the first rape crisis center in Texas in 1974. Since then, she has helped to create shelters, battered intervention programs and other services that aid women who are victims of domestic abuse. She went on to promote laws and policies in order to improve how law enforcement responds to these cases and became one of the co-founders of The National Center of Domestic and Sexual Violence. She has dedicated her life to advocating and speaking out against gender based violence and went on to receive many awards for her leadership and contribution to this issue. Among these awards, were the Domestic Violence Peace Prize, Standing in The Light of Justice, The Sunshine Lady Award, Outstanding Achievement Award, and her very own Deborah D. Tucker Staff Achievement Award.

Domestic violence is a serious issue that many women face and it’s people like Deborah D. Tucker who ensure this issue is never swept under the rug or forgotten about, It’s people like Deborah who act as a voice for the many women who are victims of domestic violence, and it’s people like Deborah who inspire me to want to help others and make a positive impact in the lives of others such as she has. In honor of Women’s History Month, I am proud to give a shout out to this amazingly compassionate woman.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Medea Benjamin

By: Christina Terrell

Medea Benjamin is an American activist who has advocated for human rights for over twenty
years. Benjamin has traveled to many different countries learning and advocating, writing eight books that are about her experiences abroad along the way. In 2002 Benjamin’s activism took a change of color and tone when she became the co-founder of the women’s organization CODEPINK. A woman led organization that is “working to end
U.S. wars and militarism, but supports human rights and initiatives, so that we can redirect our
tax dollars into healthcare, education, green-jobs and other life affirming programs.” Benjamin
and other prominent CODEPINK founder’s make it their duty to partner with lots of local
organizations who are sure of imposing joy and humor with tactics such as street theatre, creative
visuals, civil resistance and always challenging powerful decision makers in the government and
major corporations. While doing all this, Medea and her Code Pink crew never forget to support
their cause by wearing the lovely color pink!

In the years that Medea Benjamin has been active as an American activist she has had many successes. For example, in 2006, Code Pink put out their first book as an organization that was titled “Stop the next war Now; Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism”, which was a book that contained a collection essays contributed from very prominent woman involved with activism. Benjamin was then nominated alongside other influential women for the “1000 Women for The Nobel Peace Prize”, which was a collective nomination for women representing women who work for peace and human rights everywhere. Then again, in 2012, Medea Benjamin was awarded the US Peace Memorial Foundation’s Peace Prize to recognize her creative leadership on the front lines of the anti-war movement. Medea Benjamin has been advocating for twenty plus years and she does not seem to be slowing
down anytime soon!

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Rosa Parks

By: Brittany Soto

In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to focus my attention on Rosa Parks. Most people are familiar with who Rosa Parks is but to those who aren’t, she was a civil rights activist who was best known for courageously refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person during a time when segregation was legal. She was thrown in jail as a result of this incident, sparking the infamous Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott. Her vital role in this movement helped bring attention to the mistreatment of colored people and fought against racism and segregation. Her courage and leadership served, not only as an inspiration to people of color, but to ALL women. She was dubbed the second most popular historical figure to be talked about in schools according to a survey by American
students. (Wineburg, 2008).

Rosa Park’s courage and determination to challenge racism and segregation did not start with the bus incident. This is something that has been instilled in her since childhood. She was never afraid to speak up against the mistreatment of colored individuals by standing up against white children who
would try to harass or bully her. She was also the secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and continuously pushed to end segregation in schools and in public places. Despite the challenges she faced as being a fearless colored woman who was determined to fight for what was right, going as far as receiving daily death threats to her and her family, this never stopped her from fighting for peace and the rightful treatment of colored individuals. This just goes to show that doing what’s right isn’t always easy, but is necessary. Rosa Parks is now a legend and an
inspiration to women worldwide.

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.

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.