A Reflection on Women’s Representation in the Arts

A blog reflection written by Women’s Center intern Julia Gottlieb. 

After reading the Baltimore City Paper’s recent daily Power Rankings, I got to thinking a lot about white women and women of color’s status in the arts. Three weeks ago, UMBC’s Theatre department held their annual New Playwrights Festival, featuring student playwrights.

I attended one night of the Festival, and got to see Elizabeth Ung’s play, a story that on the surface is about a sister and brother surviving in a post-apocalyptic world, but underneath it poses deeper questions of morality and emotional survival. Ung, who is a student of color here at UMBC, explains that she was inspired to write plays after taking a play-writing class through the theater department last semester, saying “[Playwriting] was something that I felt like I always wanted to do, to tell stories. It’s something that I want to do to get my voice out there.” Additionally, her characters are inspired by her everyday experiences and interactions with those around her: “I definitely get a lot from my own experiences, because that’s really the only reliable resource that I can definitely count on. You know, the littlest conversations can inspire dialogue and conflict within the plot.” This is especially important given the severe lack of representation of women of color and their experiences within theater and the arts as a whole.

Here is a helpful infograph to visually show the state of women’s representation in the arts. Even here an intersectional view on this issue is missing, and women of color’s experiences are not represented.

We know that white women have significantly less representation than men in play-writing and in theater overall. Meanwhile, women of color’s voices and experiences are even more underrepresented. Along with this disparity, there is a lack of comprehensive studies that specifically track the numbers of women of color playwrights and directors within theater in both specific cities and across the country. One study finds that of the plays being produced in Washington DC this season, “80% of playwrights are white, 7% are African American, 6% are Latino, 2% are Asian American and 2% are multi-ethnic.” This study gives a sense of the vast disparities that already exist within DC’s theatrical productions. The study’s lack of attention to intersectionality is illustrative of the fundamental problem of representation–the voices of white men and white women have more representation than the voices of women of color. And as long as women of color’s voices are not represented, a vast number of important experiences and viewpoints go ignored and invalidated.

In his piece, Unpacking ‘Diversity’ in Musical Theatre, Michael R. Jackson explains that rather than focusing on fulfilling a diversity quota, theater’s ultimate goal should be “to hold the mirror up to humanity and reflect it back (or distort it) in order to share, person-to-person, what it means to exist in joy and suffering in the world.” Representation matters to me because it affects what stories are being told and who gets to have a place in the world. I want the mirror to reflect an honest view of humanity and its diverse voices.

For example, as someone who identifies as fat (or plus-size if you prefer), the character Rae from the British TV show My Mad Fat Diary was very important to me because I had never seen a larger girl as the main character of a TV show. Seeing someone who looks like me on TV–having the mirror held up to reflect my life and my experiences was so affirming for me and I want everyone to be able to have that experience.

Representation is how we find characters to relate to, take comfort in, and hold up the mirror to and for ourselves. The arts are at a crucial time to make that a reality for more women of color and other underrepresented people. 

“Just do it!” – The Women’s Center Motivational Images Roundup

“I’m pretty much just a corpse at this point.”

I cannot fully express how many times I’ve said those words in the past few weeks, or how many times the response has been:


Every time someone says “How’s it goin?” the collective response has been:

“Terrible. Everything is awful. Midterms suck. This is the worst.” (Or at least something to that effect.)

It seems like as a student body we’ve officially gone past the “I’m fine. Just tired.” lie and have moved into complete honesty. A large percentage of us are stressed out, malnourished, sleep deprived, and drowning in homework.

But never fear! Shia LaBeouf is here!

With midterms season coming to a close we’re bringing you the Women’s Center Motivational Roundup to help get you back into the swing of things between now and finals. Here is a collection of pictures, videos, and memes that motivate us for a variety of reasons. These might not motivate you as much as they motivate us, but it’s worth a try.

-MJ Jalloh-Jamboria

“He makes me feel like I can do absolutely anything. I’m never more motivated to push through a project than I am after watching this video.”

-Kayla Smith

Parks and Rec gifset!

-Megan Tagle Adams

“They make me feel warm and fuzzy inside and remind me that I am a round, fuzzy ball of cute and I can TOTALLY DO THIS.” – Dan Willey

Growing up, I didn't have many role models, other than my mother. I would find myself constantly comparing myself to the girls in my classes. I always wanted to be as smart, as pretty, etc. as some other girl. Needless to say, this ruined my self-confidence and resulted in me being very unhappy because all of my actions were based on being as ________ as someone else. I was too wrapped up in impressing others and failed to acknowledge my own negative perception of myself. While scrolling through Tumblr one day, I came across this quote and it has resonated with me ever since. Not only did it incorporate my love of flowers, but it made me realize that comparing myself to others was pointless and a recipe for unhappiness. I am capable of experiencing growth and doing great things, regardless of anyone else.

“Growing up, I didn’t have many role models, other than my mother. I would find myself constantly comparing myself to the girls in my classes. I always wanted to be as smart, as pretty, etc. as some other girl. Needless to say, this ruined my self-confidence and resulted in me being very unhappy because all of my actions were based on being as ________ as someone else. I was too wrapped up in impressing others and failed to acknowledge my own negative perception of myself. While scrolling through Tumblr one day, I came across this quote and it has resonated with me ever since. Not only did it incorporate my love of flowers, but it made me realize that comparing myself to others was pointless and a recipe for unhappiness. I am capable of experiencing growth and doing great things, regardless of anyone else.” – Meage Clements 

Biblical motivation (if you're into that kind of thing)

“Biblical motivation (if you’re into that kind of thing) This is my favorite piece of scripture and it immediately calms me down.” – Kayla Smith

“I was afraid to go back to school. I thought that if I tired again and had similar results to last time, it would just prove that I was not smart, or capable. I had to get over my fear and here I am! Almost finished!!!” – Carrie Cleveland

“It calms me down and reminds me that I’m okay where I am and I don’t need to freak out. It helps me breathe and stay calm so I can get more work done.” Julia Gottlieb

What could possibly be more motivational than Leslie Knope?

“Oh Leslie. She just looks like she’s really goin at it – and it looks like something I would do and totally have done!” – Jess Myers

“I have been in school for 10 years and I need to remember that I am SO close to the end and SO far away from the beginning.” – Carrie Cleveland

If you’re looking for some more tangible ways to deal with stress UMBC is definitely a good place to find resources. The Counseling Center on campus located across from Erickson Hall has individual counseling and workshops on stress management. They also have The Mind Spa which offers aroma therapy, biofeedback video games, and light therapy, among other services.

As always, self-care should be high on your list of priorities and the Women’s Center can serve as a place to kick back and relax or just take a break from the library. We also have a meditation room and a quiet study space outside of the lounge.

Take care of yourself this semester. We know it’s hard right now, but just do your best.

As a wise man once said:

Sometimes in life you’re gonna start slow. That’s okay.” – Apollos Hester

But a wiser woman also said:

“If you think taking care of yourself is selfish, change your mind. If you don’t, you’re simply ducking your responsibilities.” – Ann Richards

Am I Disabled?

A blog reflection written by Women’s Center Staff Member Daniel Willey

I recommend Unruly Bodies (GWST 345, taught by Dr. Kate) to anybody who asks. And to people who didn’t ask. But, whatever okay y’all it’s a good class! I took it two whole semesters ago and I still think about it every day. I’ve been thinking about it even more lately as I ponder the question: am I disabled? I’m 20 years old and I’ve never asked myself this question before. Nobody told me I was disabled, so I just figured I wasn’t. But as I read about disability studies in Unruly Bodies, I came to understand myself as I operate in society very differently.

In a really awesome video in which gender theorist Judith Butler takes a walk with disability activist Sunaura Taylor (link tw: some of Sunaura’s art contains nudity and images of caged and/or dead animals), they talk about what disabled means. Sunaura Taylor has congenital arthrogryposis and uses an electric wheelchair (she’s also a theorist, artist, abolitionist vegan, and disability activist). In the video, Taylor and Butler see an abandoned shoe and Taylor wonders if that person can walk without it. Butler says in response,

I’m just thinking that no one takes a walk without there being a technique of walking.  Nobody goes for a walk without there being something that supports that walk outside of ourselves.  Maybe we have a false idea that the able bodied person is somehow radically self sufficient.”

Wow, okay. So to break it down, what Butler and Taylor are saying is that people have their own ways of moving and doing but that some ways of moving and doing are more normal than others. Our world is built for people who can walk, or walk frequently and easily, and aids like shoes work quite well in this world. Sunaura points out that there is a difference between “disability” and “impairment.” She says her arthrogyposis and how it affects her ability to walk is an impairment, but that the disability comes from the fact that the world is not built for someone like her whose way of moving and doing is NOT walking, but on wheels.

But what does this have to do with you, Dan??

2700brI’m getting there, I promise.

Let’s talk about desks. you know the ones. If you’ve ever had class in Sondheim Hall you know what I’m talking about.

Last year I started having trouble with my back. I have two semi-herniated discs in my lower back which cause me significant pain throughout my day. I have difficulty sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time, but I do it because I’m a student and that’s what we do. But sitting, especially in these desks, all day cause me pain and make it difficult to do my work. I would like to stand at a standing desk in the back of the classroom, but I’ve never had the courage to do it because I feel embarrassed– embarrassed for not being able to fit into the classroom norm and because it doesn’t feel like a “good enough” reason for a special accommodation.

This is really what I’m trying to get at: the combination of body/social norms and stigmatization of disability and accommodations affects my ability to learn and do well in school. I and my fellow fat students run into a similar situation with these specific desks because they’re way too small. The classroom is literally not built for fat students or students with disabilities, and it affects our ability to learn and participate.

There are systems set in place to accommodate students. Student Support Services at UMBC can help you get what you need and they help make it possible for more students to access education. You generally need medical documentation in order to get support from SSS, but that can be difficult if you’re unable to afford an evaluation for a learning disability (which are rarely covered by insurance and can cost over a thousand dollars) or access to healthcare in general.

If you have an invisible illness like Crohn’s Disease or Fibromyalgia it can be difficult to gain access to these services because you might not “look” like you have a disability. Even when you have specific documentation from the institution, individuals within that institution don’t always have the same attitudes towards you and how they see (or don’t see) your disability. This is especially true for women with chronic or invisible disabilities because of the way we think of women’s bodies and how we don’t take women’s health needs seriously.

I’m not just talking about UMBC here people! This is a problem everywhere.

Which brings me back to my question: am I disabled? Am I hesitant to use the term because of what I have learned “disabled” looks like? Is it because I don’t have any official diagnoses that label me as disabled?

As a white, middle class dude with good insurance, I definitely have not experienced the same types of oppression and stigmatization that many disabled people face. In 2013, 28.2% of disabled Americans lived below the poverty line. Over 40% of homeless adults are disabled in comparison to 17.7% of the general population. Being a disabled woman comes with a whole set of different challenges. According to WCSAP, disabled women are disproportionately at risk for abuse and sexual violence. 37.3% of disabled women experience domestic violence compared to 20.6% of non-disabled women. 83% of disabled women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime.

I’m not saying anyone is less disabled because of other privileges. I just mean that in my specific circumstances, I hesitate to include myself in a group that experiences oppression and marginalization because my other identities allow me to navigate “disability” differently.

In the end, I still don’t know the answer. Oh well.

There is so much I could write about this. I haven’t even touched on being a college student with learning disabilities and mental illnesses. Luckily for you all, there are lots of people who have written about all of these things and more already! The fields of Disability Studies and Disability Activism are rich and growing. There’s so much to learn! Check out this really cool disabled blogger’s videos to get you started! There are also some really cool disabled women doing really cool things! Sunaura Taylor and Erin (blogger linked to above) are not the only disabled women you should know. Maysoon Zayid is an Arab-American comedian, actress, and writer who did this great TED Talk about being a funny woman with cerebral palsy.

Remember, when you’re learning more about disability and disability studies:

  1. Google it first. Disabled people on the internet are not info banks for you to tap into.
  2. Don’t ask personal or unsolicited questions about a person and their disability. Some people are excited to share their knowledge and experiences with you. Some people are tired and just trying to live their lives.
  3. Do self-work. Don’t be afraid to learn something. Apply what you learn to your everyday life.

Feminism 101 Podcast: The Nicki Minaj/T-Swift/Miley Cyrus Debacle

In the first ever Women’s Center Podcast, Julia Gottlieb and I, Mj Jalloh-Jamboria, talked MJ Profile Picabout the happenings of the 2015 VMA’s and prior happenings between Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, and Miley Cyrus. Our conversation reached interesting topics but mostly, after a brief recap of events, we dissected the reasons as to why Taylor and Miley felt entitled to their viewpoints, and how mainstream feminism and black feminism fit into the equation. We also briefly touched on respectability politics and the policing of black people. Enjoy the podcast and stay tuned for more!

Julia’s Reflection

Julia Profile PicAfter our conversation, and especially after The Women’s Center’s Roundtable on Critical Whiteness and White Womanhood, I’m thinking a lot about owning my white privilege. Many times in this podcast I referred to white women as “they.” I said, “they don’t see this, don’t know that, etc.” when I am part of that group as well. White women, as a group–we often miss the complexities of race entirely. And while I am committed to seeing and owning my race and privilege, in many ways I sometimes miss how race and class create different lives. What resonates with me from my conversation with MJ is that a man did not take Nicki’s spot, as Taylor Swift would say. A white woman took her spot. And if white women–if we ignore that, then we will continue to miss how Nicki Minaj’s life and place in the music industry is uniquely shaped by both her race and her gender.

A full transcript of the podcast is below.

Continue reading

Women are Funny (too)

First, let’s start off with saying that the Women’s Center is stoked about Hannibal Buress making his way to campus this weekend for Homecoming. We very much enjoy his character, Lincoln, on Broad City. More importantly, he called out the rape allegations against Bill Cosby in his stand-up routine back when very few others were because it was “too hard” and “unbelievable” to simply just believe and support the victims coming forward.

But, we’d be remiss if we didn’t share something we’ve noticed when it comes to comedians coming to campus for the annual Homecoming event. They’re all dudes! Nick Offerman. B.J. Novak. Bo Burnham. Donald Glover. Lewis Black. And now, Hannibal.

Now, this just isn’t a UMBC thing. It’s kind of just a thing we call sexism. For example, check out the hosts of late night television:

From Vanity Fair's October 2015 issue on late-night television.

From Vanity Fair’s October 2015 issue on late-night television.

Then there’s this catalog that was delivered in the mail the other day that shared all the great comedians colleges can book and bring to campus:

photo 1photo 2
Really?! Just four women out of 24 on this list of options?


So, with that in mind, some of the Women’s Center staff has compiled this short round-up of some of our favorite women comedians. In their own words, staff members write about why these women are funny (too).

Tig Notaro – Kayla’s Pick

hotListTigNotaroxCR_0Tig’s comedy varies from silly, heartfelt, personal, to goofy. She’s made me cry from laughing and actually just made me cry. She’s got a joke where she just moves a stool around the stage for awhile and it might not sound like it but its HILARIOUS.
What you should know: Tig went through C-DIFF (an intestinal infection that can kill people), her mother’s death, a huge breakup, and then got breast cancer. ALL IN ONE YEAR. She is literally one of the strongest people in the world and is definitely one of my heroes (“sheroe” is definitely more apt). Oh and she’s a lesbian which is always a fun and awesome thing to know.
Fun Fact: Tig briefly performed topless in her 2015 HBO special Boyish Girl Interrupted to show her doubles mastectomy scars.

Mindy KalingJulia’s Pick

Mindy Kaling is probably my favorite comedian right now. She started acting and eventually became a writer for The Office, and now she has her own show: “The Mindy Project.” It’s clever, hilarious, and heartfelt. Something interesting about her is that she recognizes her responsibility to young women for representation, but she also points out that she often talks about diversity and representations while other white male writers actually get to talk about their shows. She says:

“There are little Indian girls out there who look up to me, and I never want to belittle the honor of being an inspiration to them. But while I’m talking about why I’m so different, white male show runners get to talk about their art.”

Maya RudolphMeagé’s Pick image

My favorite comedian is Maya Rudolph. She is best known for her time on Saturday Night Live and Bridesmaids. More recently, she has done hilarious impressions of Rachel Dolezal. For a short time she has a self-titled show where she often brought other women of color on to promote solidarity and visibility of women of color in the media.

Janeane Garofalo – Carrie’s Pick

In 1990 there was this funny sketch comedy show on MTV called The Ben Stiller Show.  It is where I first met Janeane Garofalo and fell in love.  She has this amazingly dry sense of humor which I totally latched on to.  After her stint on MTV, she was popping up in movies, usually playing the best friend.  This is what happens to comediennes and actresses who are not considered conventionally attractive by Hollywood standards.  Still, I was lucky enough to make her a coffee one day while I was working at Starbucks and she was in town doing a show and it took all I had not to gush and profess my love for all that she is.  Not only was she kind and funny during our brief interaction, but she was also polite.  A staunch feminist, politically active, this smart woman gets my vote. Now I think I am going to curl up on the couch and watch Reality Bites.

Sasheer Zamata and Leslie Jones – MJ’s Pick 

Both of these women are currently on Saturday Night Live (SNL). I believe this is the first time in 40 years that SNL has had two black women on the show at the same time!!! (Seriously, SNL!?!?) But they are incredibly funny, while tackling racial stereotypes in their skits. They’re amazing!

Leslie Jones

Leslie Jones


Sasheer Zamata

Elahe Izadi – Jess’ Pick

So, I totally had Leslie Knope as my top pick until last night when I went to Creative Alliance to see W. Kamau Bell perform. Elahe opened up the show for him and she was hilarious! She was wonderfully pro-woman and feminist with each and every joke to the point that after every punch line my friends would literally punch me and say “You’re loving this aren’t you?! You love her don’t you?!” I did a little research on her when I got home and this DC-based comedian also writes for The Washington Post, covered Congress for National Journal, and speaks Spanish and Farsi. Funny AND smart! While Leslie will always and forever have my heart (and yes, I know Lesile isn’t a real person), I wanted to give Elahe a shout-out considering she’s right down the road making her shows and jokes very accessible to the UMBC community.

Not an exhaustive list by any means! Who are the funny women you would add to the list? 

photo 2 (1)

Go Dawgs! Stop by the Women’s Center during Homecoming week to check out all the funny women cheering on the home team!

UMBC Women Who Rock: The Women Behind the Staff of Color Network

UMBC Women Who Rock is a blog series I’ve been writing since last year and it has become one of my favorite things to think and write about for the Women’s Center blog. In my role as Women’s Center director, I have some of the best opportunities to become acquainted with some of UMBC’s best and brightest women on campus. I admire the ways they live authentic lives unapologetically that challenge the stereotypes and assumptions that are often assigned to women. By debunking these stereotypes and forcing us to check our assumptions, they allow us to expand our notion of what a woman is and can be.

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UMBC Women Who Rock!
The Staff of Color Network Co-Chairs

“In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful, white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.”
That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something, the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.”
– Viola Davis, Emmy Award Speech on September 20, 2015

The Staff of Color Network co-chairs. Women who ROCK! L-R: Lisa Gray, Donna-Lee Mahabeer. Mickey Irizarry, & Alexis Melville

The Staff of Color Network co-chairs =Women who ROCK!
L-R: Lisa Gray, Donna-Lee Mahabeer. Mickey Irizarry, & Alexis Melville

What a powerful counternarrative. How unapologetic and courageous. As I’ve watched Viola Davis’ acceptance speech several times this week and seen the gif-ed articles on all the ways Black women were each other’s biggest fans at the Emmy’s, the women behind of the Staff of Color Network (SCN) at UMBC keep coming to my mind. Donna-Lee, Lisa, Mickey, and Alexis are women of color on campus who are challenging that line and finding ways to create opportunities for themselves and others on campus as people of color. While Davis calls for more roles to be written for Women of Color in Hollywood, these UMBC women are creating safe and validating spaces for themselves and other people of color on campus. They’re asking important questions about lack of visibility, calling out (and in) racial microaggressions, and being each other’s allies and advocates. This has taken raw courage and bravery as they challenge the institutional and systemic white narrative and experience. Indeed, they are UMBC Women Who Rock.

In this UMBC Women Who Rock post, I veer from the reflective narrative I tend to write in and opted for a Q&A format instead. I hope to feature all of these badass women in their own UMBC Women Who Rock post one day, so stay tuned!

What is the Staff of Color Network (SCN)?

Donna-Lee: “The Staff of Color Network is a group for staff and graduate assistants that self-identify as persons of color within the Division of Student Affairs. It is our goal to uplift, support and cultivate the staff of color community through the efforts of our network.”

Why was SCN created? What is the networks goals? Can you share a little bit more of the creation story?

Donna-Lee, The Commons Program & Services Coordinator, tells her story.

Donna-Lee, The Commons Program & Services Coordinator, tells her story during the Women’s Center’s Telling Our Stories Project.

Donna-Lee: “SCN was created because there was a need not being met on campus. UMBC not only has less representation when it comes to staff of color, but it the perception of many that we seem to do a poor job recruiting and retaining staff of color. The culture among the persons of color I interacted with came across as discontented, stifled and invisible. In creating the Staff of Color Network, our goal is to alleviate those feelings of inadequacy. We are to be more than visible. We are to be seen wholly in our racial identities and acknowledged as such. My goal for SCN is to create a feeling of community among professionals of color at UMBC so that no one feels alone and ostracized when they show up as their authentic selves on campus. In building this community, people hopefully will feel a greater sense of safety and belonging, which in turn hopefully leads to retention and recruitment for both faculty and staff of color.”

How did each of you decide to be in (or get called into) a leadership role for SCN?

Mickey: “… A couple of years ago I was a part of the Division’s Brave Spaces group – we were a mixed group of Student Affairs staff that met once a month and talked about race, privilege, and inequalities. And, even though I enjoyed my time in the group and learned a lot, I still felt like there was something missing – a safe space where persons of color could talk freely among each other and not feel judged, or a space where we would be able to share stories find commonalities between one another in many areas of life – personal and professional. I spoke with Donna-Lee about the Brave Spaces group and she told me about how at some other universities they have coalitions and university-wide and university-recognized groups for staff and/or faculty of color and that it would be really great to have one at UMBC too. From there the formation of the SCN began and I’m so happy to see the energy, support and acceptance behind it so far.”

Alexis: “I feel that it is important to have spaces where staff of color can be free to self-express when triggered at work. I was fortunate to find Donna-Lee, Mickey, and Lisa as well as people in my own department who I would go to so that I could process certain feelings and perceptions that I may have. As my tenure at UMBC continued, I noticed that not a lot of staff of color had that opportunity or safe space to process. Given the importance self-expression and self-care and how tied it is to mental health and work performance, I felt that partnering with other individuals to help provide a space where people can feel supported is paramount to a healthy work environment.”

The UMBC Women Who Rock series aims to tell the stories of women on campus living their authentic lives apologetically. What ways do you feel you live an authentic life at UMBC? What do you need from the UMBC community to more readily live an authentic life as a Woman of Color at UMBC?

Lisa: “I live an authentic life at UMBC in several ways that include showing up with the intention of supporting others and letting other people see the different sides of myself. I’m a mom, single but partnered. I love salsa dancing. It’s important for me to share my off-campus life with others while I’m on campus. With that being said, what I need to live an even more authentic life as a woman of color at UMBC is more visible signs that we matter. I want to see more work of women of color highlighted so we don’t feel as invisible to ourselves and others. I would also like to see an expanded narrative of who women of color are – we are not just Black women. We need to open up and move beyond a black and white dichotomy.”

Mickey, UHS's Health Education Coordinator, shares her I'm Not as part of the Telling Our Stories Project

Mickey, UHS’s  Assistant Director of Health Education, shares her I’m Not as part of the Telling Our Stories Project

Mickey: “…Life is stressful enough as it is to constantly be thinking about how I should act today or what image I should project for a specific group/location. I live my authentic self by valuing keeping an open mind in all situations and standing up/speaking out for what I believe in. But I also make sure to be aware of checking my privileges as a multi-ethnic, passing woman with the educational and professional background that I have, and to understand that not everyone has the ability to be able to live authentically all of the time, which is extremely disheartening to me and something that I hope will shift in the future.”

The UMBC Women Who Rock series also addresses stereotypes and assumptions that are often assigned to women. What role do you see SCN playing at UMBC in debunking stereotypes about Women of Color or encouraging white community members to check their assumptions?

Mickey: “I hope that as a result of SCN, the campus will more readily recognize women of color as leaders on our campus and that they keep that in mind when they are thinking about hiring, promoting or re-classing staff and faculty. I would like UMBC to be much more intentional about getting our staff to reflect the diversity in our student body so that we can truly say UMBC is a diverse school without being misleading.”

Donna-Lee: “SCN has already charged ahead in taking the initiative to meet with those in positional power at UMBC in order to provide them with an understanding of what our cause is about and how they can help. SCN is working to eliminate the preconceived notion of the “angry” person of color. We are simply looking for equity and equality and we plan on doing it in a direct way as opposed to taking a more passive direction.”

How do you practice self-care?

Alexis: “I practice self-care through watching movies, mediation, and spending time with friends. I find spaces where I can be my authentic self which includes spaces where I can be a mix of peaceful, goofy, and intellectual all at the same time. I think self-care is integral in how I keep myself grounded.”

Lisa, Assistant Director of Student Life, Cultural and Spiritual Diversity, let's campus know who she isn't in the Telling Our Stories project.

Lisa, Assistant Director of Student Life, Cultural and Spiritual Diversity, let’s campus know who she isn’t in the Telling Our Stories project.

Lisa: “Four things I do to practice self-care. Deep breathing. Doing something I love that has nothing to do with work (dancing!). Prayer and silent reflection. Venting with people I love and who love me.”

Any words of wisdom you’d like to share to other Women of Color on campus?

Alexis: “Find spaces where you can express yourself fully. The media, society, friend, family, etc. have a way of trying to dictate who women of color ought to be, how we should look, and how we should act. There are times in which we might get caught up in their views of us and we forget to define ourselves for ourselves. Be sure to take time out of your many roles, demands, and pressures to find your authentic voice. To echo the great Audre Lourde:

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”

Mickey: “Don’t be afraid to meet new people and find allies/advocates. Building a support system of people you can talk to openly and trust on campus is so important.”

Lisa: “No title or accomplishment is worth losing yourself for or being asked to be someone you’re not.”

Donna-Lee: “Please don’t ever feel like you have to apologize for who you are and how you show up. Be willing to educate, but also be more than willing to advocate if not for yourself, then for those who will surely come after you.”

Who are the UMBC women in your life that inspire you to think outside your expectations and assumptions? What are the counter narrative stories they’re sharing with us allowing UMBC and our greater community to be more of exactly who we want to be? Comment below and maybe you’ll just find them featured in a future UMBC Women Who Rock post.

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  • For more information on the Staff of Color Network, contact anyone of these fabulous co-chairs via their UMBC email address.
  • To celebrate and support the achievements and ambitions of women of color in the UMBC community, join the Women’s of Color Coalition’s 3rd Annual Women of Color Reception on Tuesday, September 29th from 5-7pm.
  • To learn more about the Women’s Center and Women of Color Coalition’s Telling Our Stories project, visit our website.

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Check out other UMBC Women Who Rock:

Amanda Knapp (featured August 2014)
Susan Dumont (featured October 2014)
Jahia Knobloch (featured January 2015)
A Reflection on Encouragement and Accountability (February 2015)
Amelia Meman (March 2015)
Ashley Sweet (May 2015)
Rehana Shafi (August 2015)

“You Don’t Look Like a Sorority Girl” – On Greek Life and Being a Woman of Color in a Predominantly White Subculture

A blog reflection written by Women’s Center Staff Member Meagé Clements


“You’re in a sorority? You dMeagé Clementson’t look like a sorority girl!”

Since becoming a member of Zeta Sigma Chi Multicultural Sorority Inc., this has become something I’ve grown quite used
to hearing. Intrinsically, I politely answer with, “Yes, I am in a sorority” and disregard the latter
microaggressive statement, while thinking to myself what does a sorority girl look like?

With such encounters occurring more frequently as I approach my one-year anniversary of being in a sorority, I’ve begun to think more about “what a sorority girl looks like.” Specifically, I’ve begun to think about what it means to be a woman of color in what seems to be a predominantly white subculture.

A lot of TV shows and movies portray only one side of Greek life and I suppose this is where a lot of these stereotypes are perpetuated; of course, it also doesn’t help that 99% of the images found on a Google image search of for “sorority girl”
are white blondes and brunettes “sorority-squatting” behind their letters. Oh, and don’t get me started on that viral
“recruitment” video a sorority at the University of Alabama thought it was a good idea to share.

Students join Greek life for many different reasons but in my experience most people don’t bother to ask about our motivations for joining a Greek organization and instead just make assumptions. We often see people’s experiences in Greek life being boiled down to only negative media attention rather than also seeing their service projects or community involvement. Needless to say, this limited representation does not reflect the true of the diversity of sorority women, and it especially is not representative of the number of women of color who also happen to have gone Greek.

As a member of a multicultural sorority, I can’t help but notice that the increasing diversity in Greek life is not being reflected in the media. There are countless articles online about less-than-inclusive Greek organizations discriminating against people of color, but little coverage regarding the successes of organizations that embrace women of color and diversity.  And because there are so few representations of women of color in sororities in particular, this stereotyping can be even more detrimental.

Being a member of Zeta Sigma Chi Multicultural Sorority Inc. means acceptance and knowing that although my sisters come from different backgrounds, they are accepting of me and all women. A large part of what drew me to this sorority were the vlaues of service and social justice, the diversity of the organization, and the fact that ALL women were accepted regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Although this may sound cliché, my sorority sisters motivate me to be a better me and I’m proud to be part of this community — that’s why I want everyone else to have a chance to see the side of Greek life that I see.  

While I’m not here to convince everyone to go Greek, I’d like people to acknowledge and embrace the diversity of Greek organizations and more of the positive aspects of Greek life.

I am a Black woman, an introvert, a self-proclaimed “awkward Black girl,” and a member of Zeta Sigma Chi Multicultural Sorority Inc., and this is what a sorority girl looks like.