How Wedding Culture Almost Ruined My Wedding

By Elise Wantling

My now-fiancé and I began discussing the possibility of getting engaged in early January of this year, and that was when the problem started. Dreaming of my wedding day was never really my thing until I realized a wedding was in my near future. In an attempt to catch up, I started consuming any wedding-related material I could get my hands on. I created a board on Pinterest, I picked up copies of the national and regional variants of The Knot Magazine, I bought a wedding planning book recommended by my cousin…. And then the trouble started.

My fiancé and his family are very simple, no-nonsense people. Though I tend to be a little more flashy, I’m a pretty humble person myself, this is part of why my fiancé and I get along so well. About a month after our Valentine’s Day engagement my fiancé and I sat down with our parents and drafted a budget. We settled on a modest budget, significantly less than the national average cost of $32,641 (as reported by The Knot). I was perfectly happy with this, and so was my fiancé. We discussed getting married on his family’s property, or at a small lodge on the military base in Fort Leavenworth. We envisioned a simple wedding, perhaps in the early fall, with a rustic theme, and sunflowers as the main motif. It sounded perfect for us!

Everything was fine until wedding fever set in. The more I read wedding magazines, scrolled through Pinterest, or talked to my other engaged friends, the more insecure I became. While looking at Facebook marketplace and wedding dress resale websites, David’s Bridal was emailing me almost daily encouraging me to look at their newly released lines or check out their sales. Wedding magazines were advertising “how to wedding plan on a budget” with suggestions that were nearly double what we had designated for each area. The Knot was emailing me weekly countdowns to our tentative date, with suggestions of vendors they recommended to check items off my “to-plan list”. It all quickly became overwhelming. While I had started the process with a clear vision of what my fiancé and I wanted (something affordable and simple), suddenly my thoughts were inundated with all these new ideas, themes, and standards of what was a must-have or a must-do.

The wedding I was mentally planning started to become bigger and bigger. I got my fiancé to agree to change our wedding from a $300 venue to a $1,500 venue, then I started working on convincing him we needed to look into an all-inclusive venue that had decorations and catering arrangements as part of the package instead of trying to plan everything ourselves. We started making plans to tour country clubs and mansions, and he tried to figure out how he could save up over the next few months in order to contribute more to our wedding and increase our budget. I was stressed, he was stressed, and still I felt like I needed to keep thinking bigger. After all, your wedding is supposed to be the best day of your life, right?

Then one night, everything came crashing down. I started discussing wedding details with my fiancé, then suddenly broke down crying. I couldn’t handle the stress of it anymore. I didn’t know what I was planning, because it didn’t really feel like my wedding anymore, it felt like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I expressed all this to my fiancé and he listened patiently, then gently suggested maybe I needed to scrap everything and start over, but this time without the help of the magazines, the Internet, and my friends. This time I just needed to sit down with him and figure out what we wanted, instead of everyone else.

We went back to square one, and now we are planning our wedding, not a wedding built on unrealistic expectations. Looking back, I realize I got too caught up in the standards of the wedding industry. I became invested in the culture of the wedding and focused on that, instead of the reason for the occasion. Sometimes, as a young person growing up in the age of social media, it becomes so easy to listen to the voices on the Internet, or focus on the pictures in the magazines, that they drown out our own thoughts and feelings. Wedding culture encourages us to think large, go grand… but sometimes that’s not what is needed. We have to remember magazines like The Knot or places like Pinterest aren’t actually our friend, they’re just tools used by businesses to sell their products.

I’m looking forward to my wedding now, and I feel like a lot of the pressure is off. We are doing a low cost event with our families and closest friends, and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s going to be casual and fun, just like us, and I look forward to having the wedding of my dreams and not one built on expectations. I feel like I learned an important lesson applicable to all areas of my life which is this: Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by the expectations of others. Always stay true to you.

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 Black Female Rapper Is Changing The Narrative

By Skye VanLanduyt

During my last semester at Baker, I discovered Lizzo’s single, “Good As Hell” off her EP, Coconut Oil. I found it catchy, empowering, and fun to listen to during my 7 a.m. workouts. Between studying for exams, writing papers, and enjoying my remaining days as a college student I did not know the song released earlier in 2016, nor did I know her third studio album, Cuz I Love You would release on April 19, 2019.

After graduating from college, a friend asked “have you heard of Lizzo?” I shook my head not realizing she was the mastermind behind “Good As Hell.” It didn’t take long before I found myself falling in love with her spunky vibrato. Lizzo’s songs on her newest album, “Cuz I Love You” do more than promote single-woman hood. Her songs celebrate sexuality, black female power, and body image. In an interview with NPR, she says her intentions for writing this album come from wanting to be “body positive” and “help people find a positive place within themselves.”

I started listening to Lizzo because I liked how catchy and uplifting her lyrics were but now I appreciate her in a different way. Lizzo isn’t just a female rapper who encourages self-love and body-love through her music. On social media, she encourages her fans and followers to be intune with their mental well-being. A lot of young artists, especially in the music industry struggle with opening up to fans about their mental health. I love that Lizzo isn’t afraid to sit down and be emotionally honest. In June, she opened up about her struggle with depression and encouraged fans to start a conversation about coping strategies. This was inspiring, given so many Americans struggle with a mental health disorder. By being honest and willing to have tough conversations, Lizzo is creating a dialogue for men and women of all different backgrounds to unite in pursuit of self-love.

A couple of days ago, she posted a video on Instagram asking her fans, “not to be like her” but to” be like themselves.” I think it is refreshing to see an artist preach what they sing, especially when the message is so positive. I wish more people, including myself discovered Lizzo when her first EP came out in 2016.  I am thankful she is making her voice known in 2019 but it concerns me that it has taken her this long. Sure, we have other artists such as,  Cardi B, Beyoncé,  Camila Cabello, and Rihanna.  All have grown to be successful women in the music industry but there is something different about Lizzo.  She is consciously aware of the struggles she is up against as a black woman and she is not afraid to tear them down.  Her lyric, “I am a queen but I need no crown” is repeated countless times in her albums.  She is ready to break down the medium and encourage women they can love themselves and their bodies no matter what. I hope Lizzo and her music continues to inspire change in the music industry.

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.

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

 

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Dorothy Cotton

By Caitlin Easter

“I’m tired of people saying, “And now we present her, who marched with Martin Luther King.”
Well, a lot of folk flew down there one weekend and marched, but I worked.”- Dorothy Cotton

Dorothy Cotton was very similar to other women in the fact that she never got the recognition
she deserved. Even today, the name Dorothy Cotton doesn’t ring a bell in the average American’s
imagination, because beyond the fact that she was black, she was also a women. Despite this, she was a
major champion of the civil rights movement and never allowed her gender to stop her from doing what
she wanted to do. She believed in the power of speech, and encouraged others to speak the truth with
her organizations. She was a major advocate for human rights education and leadership. She spoke at
workshops and with her Institute helped people to understand and shape themselves as leaders to
advance human rights. The Dorothy Cotton Institute was founded in 2007, and works to secure human
rights for everybody through education, interactive exhibits, and movements and campaigns. The
Institute works to develop Human Rights leaders, build a community for these leaders, and promote
practices that lead to justice and healing.

According to The Dorothy Cotton Institute, Ms. Dorothy Cotton was the Education Director at
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the director of The Citizenship Education Program, the
Vice President for Field Operations for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolence Social Change,
the Southeastern Regional Director of ACTION under the Carter Administration, the director of Student
Activities at Cornell University, a 2010 National Freedom Award Recipient, and the founder and
namesake of the Dorothy Cotton Institute. Ms. Cotton is now being recognized as a 2019 Honoree in the
National Women’s History Alliance following the theme of: “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace &
Nonviolence.”

Before her death on June 10, 2018, she was a strong and influential advocate for violence
reduction and humanitarian issues. She was a speaker, a teacher, a facilitator, a peaceful resister, and a
woman. Her name will always be tied to Dr. Martin Luther’s because of their strong bond and joint work,
but her impact will forever be so much more than that.

More information about Ms. Cotton and her institute can be found at:

https://www.dorothycottoninstitute.org/

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!

Becoming Barbie

By: Caitlin Easter

From a very young age we are exposed to Barbie. From this early age we learn—and in turn internalize— the values and lessons of “health” as displayed by what we are exposed to. Barbie is the epitome of what children, especially little girls, are taught to want to be—thin yet disproportionately curvy, with blonde hair and a consistently perfect life. And even once we are grown, the ideologies instilled in us via Barbie never quite fade.  The society we live in is heavily influenced by consumer culture, and we are taught that we can also achieve what Barbie has if we are willing to spend the money to get there. If we don’t like our face shape we can invest in plastic surgery or even contouring products in order to change our face shape, if we have a problem with our bodies, we have millions of options of plans and regimes we can buy into in order to achieve the ideal Barbie physique.

However, Barbie’s shape has its own issues.. The South Shore Eating Disorders Collaborative affirms the unrealistic body expectations put forth by Barbie, stating that “if Barbie was an actual woman, she would be 5’9” tall and would weigh “110 lbs.” Due to this, “Barbie would have a BMI of 16.24 and fit the criteria for anorexia.” They also assert that due to her extremely unhealthy figure, she would “likely not menstruate” and that “she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions.” We are, however, never told that Barbie’s shape is unrealistic and unachievable, we just go our whole lives wondering why we can’t reach this idealized standard.

Past the inherently subliminal messages that were passed on through Barbie, in 1963 a group of Barbie dolls—including most famously, Slumber Party Barbie—came with a scale permanently set to 110 pounds along with a book named How To Lose Weight that included a single page with the words “DON’T EAT!” displayed in capital letters. How did Mattel, the toy company that manufactures Barbie, think that this was a good message to feed to their young audience? With such a platform comes a social obligation to do good, or more simply, to not destroy the body image of young children all across the world. Barbie was literally teaching little girls that starving themselves was the proper way to reach their goal weight, and we wonder why most members of society have such deeply-rooted issues with their body’s appearance.

As long as we live in a culture where it is okay not to address these issues, they will never be fixed.  As of late we have seen the appearance of bigger Barbies, but the fact that they need to be advertised as being “bigger Barbies” instead of just “Barbies” highlights the fact that there is something inherently better about being unachievably skinny. There is nothing inherently healthy about Barbie and her lifestyle, and if we let our children continue to play with these toys without at least teaching them positive body image first, we will never see an end to these issues.

Yes, Barbie has a reputable image, but when Barbie is teaching children not to eat in order to maintain her “ideal” figure, is she really the role model we want to give our extremely malleable children?

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Blog Posts …

By Chris Howard-Williams

So, I’m going to ask you to indulge me a bit this week.  Normally, I write blog posts that deal with being a male feminist and what I can do as an ally to best support the cause of feminism.  I’m going to take a break from that this week to talk about cartoons.  Well, I want to talk about one cartoon in particular, a small offering from the Cartoon Network called Steven Universe.

During the July 4th week, Steven Universe became the first children’s animated series to showcase both a same-sex proposal and marriage. Responding to questions about this decision, Rebecca Sugar, the show’s creator, said that we must absolutely tell LGBTQ+ children that they belong in this world and deserve to be loved.  “We cannot wait until a child grows up to tell them they deserve to exist and that their story matters,” she went on to say.  “I am overwhelmed with emotion thinking of the years of tireless work from all of us on the crew leading up to this moment.”

While this alone is pretty phenomenal, it’s just one more thing on the checklist of amazing firsts and highlights that Rebecca Sugar has woven into the show.  Here are some other groundbreaking facts about Steven Universe:

  • It’s the first animated show on Cartoon Network to be fully created by a woman.
  • It has a diverse voice cast featuring many women of color. Deedee Magno, Michaela Dietz, and Estelle voice the three main female protagonists (Pearl, Amethyst, and Garnet, respectively).
  • It seeks to fight against gender norms, offering us a male main character who is empathetic and regularly shows his emotions, many strong female characters, and even an androgynous character who is openly admired by both male and female characters in the show.
  • It has characters who represent many different kinds of sexuality, including straight, gay, and bisexual characters. There is even a character that Rebecca Sugar has confirmed represents a polyamorous relationship.
  • Finally, it presents all of this as normal within the contexts of the world it has built, allowing us to see a world that could exist if we keep fighting for gender and sexuality rights and equality.

So, why does it matter?  Quite simply, representation matters!  As one article put it, when underrepresented populations don’t see people like themselves in media, they get the message that they are invisible, that they don’t count.  In short, they start to feel that there’s something wrong with them.  Even more important is a genuine representation of themselves in media and not a “one-dimensional” characterization of themselves.  And this is exactly the kind of portrayal that Rebecca Sugar is striving for with Steven Universe.

And she has achieved it.  How do I know?  Because the representation has mattered to me personally.  As a gay man watching with my partner as the first ever children’s show featured a same-sex marriage, I cannot express how validated we felt as the union was treated with respect, with dignity, and with love.  I will admit a few tears were shed as we grabbed each other and commented about how beautiful it was to see our personal lives represented in some form on the small screen.  I can only imagine how others have felt watching the show over the years … the girls being shown that they can be strong warriors, the boys being shown that they can be empathetic and find peaceful solutions to conflict, and the many LGBTQIA+ people being shown that our love is just as valid, just as worthy of respect. We can all be Crystal Gems, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about there, I have a show that you need to watch!