The Shadow Pandemic

By Mia Lukic

November 30th was White Ribbon Day, a part of the United Nations ongoing 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence which runs from the 25th of November to the 10th of December. This was a day to show solidarity with those who have experienced gender-based violence through signing a white ribbon and sharing the message on social media. Gender based violence is defined as “harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. It is rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms” (UNHCR) and is considered “a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection issue” by the United Nations Refugee Agency.

While the COVID 19 pandemic changed the circumstances of the event, it also has had a detrimental impact on gender-based violence worldwide. Even before the pandemic, 1 in 3 women experienced physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner (UN Women). The numbers are only increasing due to a multitude of COVID caused changes. The factors include: security, health, and money worries, cramped living conditions, isolation with abusers, movement restrictions, and deserted public places (UN Women)

Statistically, less than 40% of women who experience violence seek help, and during the pandemic calls to helplines in certain countries increased by 5 times (UN Women). What does that mean about the number of cases?

The United Nations has deemed this the Shadow Pandemic. The Coronavirus is without question one of the most difficult things the world has experienced in past years, and the increase in violence against women seems to be a symptom left out of the fact sheets.

PPE or Personal Protective Equipment, takes on a whole new meaning. The CDC recommends wearing a mask and social distancing, but a mask cannot protect from violence, and distance from abusers can be impossible during stay at home orders. So how do we combat this Shadow Pandemic?

The UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said:

 

“I would like to call on your government to make visible at the highest level your commitment to addressing violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19 by issuing a short statement on social media, in the form of a video message or a short text at the highest possible level, ideally at the level of Head of State/Government, highlighting:

  • Tangible actions undertaken to address violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19;
  • Future planning policies and actions to implement in this context;
  • Your Government’s commitment to raise awareness on the issue at the national and international levels.” (UN Women)

UN Women stresses the importance of the following during this Shadow Pandemic.

FUND

  • Prioritize funding for a minimum package of essential services and include violence against women prevention in COVID-19 fiscal stimulus packages.
  • Make urgent and flexible funding available for women’s rights organizations working at the nexus of COVID-19 and addressing violence against women

PREVENT

  • Declare national zero tolerance policy for violence against women and girls with a concrete action plan in place
  • Launch a COVID-19 behavior change social mobilization campaign

RESPOND

  • Undertake explicit measures so that services for survivors of violence are maintained as essential
  • Ensure continuum of adequate criminal justice system response.

COLLECT

  • Collect data for improvement of services and programs” (UN Women)

Whether you are calling your representatives to demand they address the Shadow Pandemic, checking in on your loved ones, or fighting your own battle, know you are not alone. For hotline numbers and resources in our area check out the link below:

Domestic and Sexual Violence Resources

Think Positive

By Abbie Lewis

In the past few years, self-care has become a very hot topic. Positive affirmations are a genre of self-care that I’ve recently been curious about. I never really knew how I felt about them and if I’m being honest they really did seem silly at first to me. Why do I need to tell myself in my mind, or out loud, that I’m awesome, and worthy of happiness? Surely that’s not going to do anything for me. But then I did a little research and found that there is a lot of science and theory behind it all.

Women are nearly twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. For women especially, things like positive affirmations can really go a long way. Positive affirmations come from the self-affirmation theory, which basically states that everyone needs to establish a sort of self-identity that is positive and warm, and assures oneself that they are deserving of kind words. I can only speak for myself, but I know that I often have a very negative inner voice when it comes to myself. I don’t always think very highly of myself. This can be a dangerous journey toward depression and the very simple act of telling myself positive things can help steer me away from that. It may sound silly, but wouldn’t you rather feel a little silly sometimes than suffer from depression?

The fun thing about living in our world of technology and social media is that there are all kinds of different apps, or profiles on socials to help beginners. I know that I didn’t even know where to begin so these tools are very useful just to give examples of affirmations and get you started. A couple of easy examples are:

I love and approve of myself,

I choose to enjoy this moment,

I am smart,

I am brave,

They can be as easy as that or as long and in depth as you want to make them, as long as you are always speaking in a positive light. This is such an easy tool for a long and happy life.

Forced Sterilizations and Targeting Marginalized Communities

By Emma Gilham

Earlier this fall, whistleblower allegations at an ICE detention center in Georgia of forced sterilizations swept news headlines. Dawn Wooten, the whistleblower and former nurse at the center, claimed consent was not obtained for these procedures, the patients were not informed of what was happening, and those that objected were placed in solitary confinement. An investigation by the Department of Homeland Security has been opened into the misconduct at Irwin County Detention Center after significant urging from federal elected officials, as ethical questions such as obtaining informed consent and negligence have been raised. While the investigation is a start, it cannot be ignored that consistent complaints of misconduct have emerged from these detention centers and that the government has an unsavory history with forced sterilizations. The first eugenics law was passed in 1907 in Indiana, inspiring 31 other states to follow. In the CNN article, “In a horrifying history of forced sterilizations, some fear the US is beginning a new chapter”, “The laws, which led to officials ordering sterilizations of people they deemed ‘feeble-minded’ or ‘mentally defective,’” later became models for Nazi Germany.” Throughout the 20th century other government-backed forced sterilizations occurred, which unsurprisingly targeted BIPOC womxn. Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer had a non-consensual hysterectomy while she was having surgery for another health issue in 1961. She brought attention to the issue in her activism. Even into the 2000s, sterilizations were illegally funded by the state of California on incarcerated womxn. Time and time again vulnerable groups have been sterilized at increasing rates. To clarify, hysterectomies and tubal ligation are irreversible and valid forms of birth control. However, the aforementioned instances of forced sterilization often included preying on, coercing, or misinforming womxn into having these procedures. In the end, the investigation into the Irwin County Detention Center is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Stethoscope” by surroundsound5000 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

What is Feminist Psychotherapy?

“Sister, I believe you”

By Emma Gilham

Living in a violent, patriarchal world is taxing on the mind and body. How can womxn heal from trauma, build resilience, and understand societal factors that contribute to their struggles? One answer may be feminist psychotherapy. Psychology Today describes feminist therapy as, “…an integrative approach to psychotherapy that focuses on gender and the particular challenges and stressors that women face as a result of bias, stereotyping, oppression, discrimination, and other factors that threaten their mental health.” It is also described as establishing an equal relationship between provider and patient. Indeed, feminist psychotherapy should not only be for womxn. It has the potential to help those affected by toxic masculinity, rigid gender norms, and gender dysphoria.

The article “In Mexico, Therapy Rooted in Feminism Is a Healing Pathway for Many Women” by Chantal Flores, explains how many womxn in Mexico use feminist psychotherapy as a means to reclaim agency and understand gender-based violence from a political perspective. For context, Mexico has high rates of femicide and gender-based violence, with at least 11 women killed daily. Bianca Pérez, a psychologist interviewed for the article said, “From the feminist perspective, we’re reclaiming our body, which has been a territory colonized, raped, and long attacked by men” (Flores). Misogyny within healthcare, employment, and even other psychotherapies is also addressed. Flores writes that women experience mistreatment, judgement, coercion, and non-consensual treatments in the country’s healthcare system. These acts of violence could have long-lasting effects on the victims, in which therapy is necessary. By focusing on the premise of “the personal is political”, patients have the opportunity to learn how systemic patriarchy and societal norms have shaped their experiences.

Feminism has the power to heal, empower, and bring people together. It is a disservice to not utilize it in spaces of gender-based trauma. We deserve healthcare committed to and invested in destroying the patriarchy, and feminist psychotherapy is just the beginning.

 

Reading Through Winter

By Jordan Tunks

With winter only a month away, colder air is upon us. With colder weather it is harder to go outside and enjoy the outdoors, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy ourselves. This can be a great time to either get caught up on some reading, or begin reading the books you have kept an eye on throughout the year. Reading is a great self-care activity and allows you to get in touch with yourself and learn new things that you may not have known before. Books are also a great way to find encouragement and empowerment for women. In this blog I will cover a few books from a couple different categories. There are books from all different genres in the lists, you just need to find what you enjoy most.

The first category will be woman empowerment. Present over Perfect by Shauna Neiquist is a book about being present in the moment and living life how you want instead of trying to be perfect all the time. Trying to be perfect all the time can be mentally draining and is bad for your well-being. Living life how you want to live will be so much more rewarding than trying to be perfect. This is a good choice for women to read with all the responsibilities that fall on them. Sometimes it is hard to live in the moment and not think about the next big thing coming in life. It can be difficult to not be stressed over things in the future that cannot be controlled in the moment. This can be helpful in learning how to live in the present and let the future, stay in the future.

The second category will be self-love. A category than many women struggle with. The beauty myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf. This book expresses the beauty myth of women that there is an obsession of physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfil society’s impossible definition of the flawless beauty. Women have such high standards set for them and they have no control over it. They are always seeing social media posts that make them compare themselves to someone that is completely different from them. This is very unhealthy, and this book can help guide and teach women how to love their body the way it is.

The last category is defining self-worth. Own your everyday by Jordan Lee Dooley dives into how to deal with disappointment, remove labels and escape from expectations, remove excuses and unnecessary stress about the uncertain future, and stop thinking that there is an exact path you must follow. This book can help you overcome shame, practice gratitude, and redefine success to fit your life. Women tend to pay a lot of attention to expectations that lead to more stress and anxiety. This book can help tackle this issue and allow one to live her life without always trying to please others and live for herself.

Books can be a great way to find motivation and encouragement from other women. There are a ton of books in different categories that can fit everyone’s lifestyle. Finding what fits best for you will open up a whole new world you may not have known about in literature.

Winter Skin Care Tips for Women

By Jordan Tunks

Cold, dry air is becoming more prevalent as the winter months are approaching. Dry, itchy skin can lead to more serious issues such as eczema or rashes. The pressure is higher for women to maintain healthy soft skin during these damaging months than it is for men. Popular media, and big brands try to push skin care heavily on to women throughout the winter months, and because conditions such as rashes and eczema become more prevalent, women become more desperate to maintain their once glowing skin, and tend to buy into the propaganda surrounding skin care products. But your anxiety, or discomfort may be being exploited for a big company’s gain.

According to WebMD, female skincare products are on average $3.09 more per ounce than male skin care products. These products can be facial moisturizers, body lotions, or shaving creams. These products aren’t exactly necessity items, but when society is pressuring young women to maintain glowing, filtered skin during the cold dry months, the products in this list suddenly seem a lot more crucial to a lot of women. Knowing that the added societal pressure will push women to go out and buy these items is exactly why the prices are so skewed. Even if they are the same exact product, the ones marketed to women are priced higher than the ones marketed for men. Not only is the pressure placed on women by society’s standards unfair, but to make matters worse they make it more expensive to try and keep up with the standards. While it is important to iterate there is absolutely no need to conform to these standards, there are some tips and tricks to keep your skin as healthy as possible, while spending as little money as possible.

Such as, a societal norm set for women is to keep their legs shaved, and this can be more difficult in the winter months. Some women choose to shave in the shower and this can quickly dry up the skin if not taken care of properly. Making sure to use some sort of product while shaving such as shaving cream, conditioner, or coconut oil can help reduce irritation and cuts to the skin. When getting out of the shower it is also important to use a moisturizer that includes hyaluronic acid to help retain the moisture. Though it may be a first reaction to grab the best smelling lotion on the shelf, it is also important to avoide strongly scented lotions as these can dry out the skin faster. And even though this is a norm skewed towards women, make no hesitation when shopping for these products to check the products catered to men. These products typically are similar to or the exact same as the female brand but, at a cheaper price.

Another area to focus on is the face. Facial skin is typically more sensitive than other skin. Everyone has different skin types, so everyone will have a different routine for whatever works best for them. A few things that should be kept in mind are to make sure to still use a moisturizer with sunscreen even in the winter months. Having separate moisturizers for the day and night is also important so that when you go to bed you are not applying sunscreen that will clog your pores. When washing your face, applying your moisturizer soon after is important to keep skin moisturized. Although there are not a lot of facial products catered to men, comparing brands to each other can be financially beneficial. Big brands will usually dress up products in pretty packaging and use beautiful models to sell their item, but there is usually an off brand item that is just as good, or even better in quality, but cheaper than the name brands.

On your next trip to the store to buy any skin care products, check the men’s section, check the cheap racks, and make sure to look at the ingredients in the product while comparing. Weather you are shopping for shaving cream, body lotion, or facial moisturizer there may be a very similar product for cheaper than the name brand female product. Don’t let big brands fool you into spending more money for the same product only because it is catered to women

It’s Okay Not to be Okay Right Now.

By Mia Lukic

A global pandemic. Nationwide protests. An election. The everyday, mundane life annoyances. It is no surprise that most people are on edge and struggling right now. When will the pandemic end? When will we see our families and do the things we like again? Who will be the next president of the United States? Will we know immediately or will this take days, weeks, months? How will the choice impact my rights? The safety of our friends and families? The state of our environment?

A study conducted by CARAVAN and The Maple Counseling Center reported that 52% of people reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the 2020 presidential election. 64% when it comes to Gen Z and 57% when it comes to Millennials (healthline).

Not only that, but the Pandemic has been detrimental to mental health as well. A Total Brain survey announced today that 83% of women and 36% of men had experienced an increase in depressed moods. 53% of working women and 29% of men have experienced an increase in anxiety since February. The effects have been disastrous for everyone, including and especially women.

The CDC reports:

“Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.”

So what do we do when we feel like everything is awful and there’s little we can do?

Remember to put yourself first. Your mental health is important and self care is mandatory. Despite the world not pausing and deadlines and due dates persisting, find time to do what makes your heart happy. Go outside, draw, read, watch a show. Many websites suggest a social media cleanse or limiting news/politics.

Hopefully you can find time to pause and take care of yourself, and remember that you’re not alone in feeling this way. It is expected and okay to be frazzled, anxious, angry, or however else you are feeling. There are so many people that care and want to be with you through all of this. The UMKC Counseling Center has great resources and opportunities to speak with professionals, and know that 105 Haag Hall always has a listening ear and a helping hand.

 

SAD Winter Blues

By Abbie Lewis

It’s that time of year again where it’s dark all the time, or so it feels, and cold as all get out. Not my favorite of the weather options but we don’t get much of a choice living here in the Midwest, do we? I know that for a lot of us students, things are getting kind of stressful as well since we’re now over halfway done with the semester and things are piling up. People make a lot of jokes sometimes about the depression getting to them around this time, and about Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it is a very real disorder, and it’s never more important to monitor your mental health than in the cold months, especially for women.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is a type of depression related to season and weather changes. People don’t always realize it, but the sun and good weather really can play a huge part on our moods and emotions! Going without them for a long time when things are already stressful can be very hard. I know that I personally go through this kind of depressive slump throughout the winter. When we get a random sunny day with even a glimpse of the 40s, I get beyond excited and feel the need to do my make up, get all cute and make the most of it!

This is especially crucial information for women.  According to Mayo Clinic, women are nearly twice more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men are. It’s partly due to our biology and our hormones, but it’s also due to the immense amount of social stressors women experience. A lot of women work a job as well as carry most of the weight in their home life, making depression a much more prevalent thing for them. During the cold seasonal changes, when SAD can occur, it can be very hard for women, especially the many of us who already battle with chronic depression.

There are ways to combat SAD though, cool things like a lamp that mimics the sun and you can set it to be an alarm for you in the morning so it’s more like waking up to sunlight. As always, therapy can help tremendously too! I’m no expert by any means but I think that making sure you go easy on yourself during these times and staying as positive as you can, can help a lot. Hang in there and we will make it through this cold winter and come out on the other side!

 

My Secret Eating Disorder

By Abbie Lewis

I’ll never forget the day I stepped on to the scale and saw a number that horrified me, and made me want to change everything I knew about myself. I used to be a very overweight woman. I didn’t know or care a lot about healthy living, nutrition, or any of that stuff. What I did know was: that number I saw when I looked down made me feel disgusted with myself, and made me want to take drastic measure to make sure it decreased. Looking back now, I realize that that was my first mistake, not loving my body for what it was and not deciding to go a way that would benefit my health as well as celebrate who I was. Instead, I developed an eating disorder and went about things very wrong.

Eating disorders are common, and I’m sure if you really investigated, you would find that you know someone that has or had one at some point in their life. In fact, over 30 million Americans have experienced an eating disorder at some point. The most common eating disorder is anorexia nervosa, a disorder that implores people to starve themselves. The eating disorder that I developed was bulimia nervosa, where one either purges the food they intake via self-induced vomiting or using laxatives. I would eat what I considered pretty healthy but then take an obscene amount of laxatives to purge everything out of me so that I could lose weight rapidly. It worked to an extent and I dropped weight pretty fast but the pain it was causing me was unbearable. The stomach cramps and nausea was so intense that soon I saw what I was doing was wrong and changed my ways. I then did my research and learned how to be healthy and exercise to lose weight and ended up dropping over 50 lbs. and becoming very proud of my accomplishment.

I’m not telling you all of this to make you think that you have to be thin to be pretty or happy or feel accomplished. In fact, I’m trying to tell you the exact opposite. Going to insane lengths like bulimia to lose weight all because you’re so unhappy with yourself is not the way and chances are, there’s something going on inside that you probably need to deal with or you’ll never find inner peace. During my weight loss journey I also learned a lot about myself and what makes me happy and I truly believe that that is the reason I become so proud of myself. Being a woman or non-binary person in today’s beauty standards is really hard and I think we all need to be there for each other and lift each other up. We should share out stories and become one with them and only then can we learn how to overcome our hardships.

Fall into a New Hobby

By Jordan Tunks

With Fall only two weeks away, depression and anxiety will be on an increase in women. According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, from the time a girl reaches puberty until the age of 50, she is twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder as a man and anxiety disorders also occur earlier in women. This is important for younger women to know so they can be aware of the signs. Common signs are irritability, low motivation, increased heart and breathing rate, and trouble sleeping. Knowing these signs and can be critical in taking the proper steps to get the help needed.

With colder weather coming it is sometimes hard to find activities to help fight depression and anxiety. Some activities that can help alleviate these poor feelings are cleaning, cooking, finding a good book to read, or doing arts and crafts. Finding a hobby that can be done indoors is important for fighting and coping with these sometimes-negative feelings. This can be a time to find a new hobby as well. Learning more about yourself is important and finding activities that you enjoy is important in keeping calm and keeping your feeling positive.

Keeping in touch with family and friends can also help with depression and anxiety. If you have a close relationship with someone, simply talking to them can help ease the mind and bring you a calming feeling. Having normalcy can be comforting instead of having new conversations and experiences that could increase anxiety. Sometimes it is hard for people to venture out to new things or even have conversations with new people so keeping close friends and family can be beneficial.