Happy 25th Birthday Women’s Center at UMBC!

WC 25 Logo - Purple


UMBC isn’t the only one with a big anniversary milestone this year (#UMBC50 #UMBCproud)!  The Women’s Center is also in the spirit of celebration because this year we turn 25 years old! That’s right – the Women’s Center is half as young as UMBC itself! 


The Women’s Center opened in 1991. The same year Anita Hill’s testimony allowed so many other women to be brave in sharing their stories of sexual harassment. Thelma and Louise took to the big screen. The internet was also opened up to commercial use for the first time ever (which of course would become a hugely important space for feminist activism in years to come). Great social change for women, LGBTQ folks, and other underrepresented populations has happened over the past 25 years across the globe, in our nation, and on our very own campus. The Women’s Center is proud to be a part of the social change in advancing gender equity and social justice. We still have a long way to go and the work is never done, but in this special year, we’ll take a pause to look back on our achievements.

Over the next year, we’ll be celebrating both UMBC and the Women’s Center’s special milestones. As a lead up to UMBC’s 50th Anniversary Weekend events, the Women’s Center will be hosting a 25th Birthday Party on September 13th from 4-6pm. Please join us!

25th Birthday Party Invitation

We’ll  be active on social media to help tell the story and importance of the Women’s Center over the past 25 years. We’ll also be working on two special blog feature to include a Then vs. Now series and Where Are They Now? series following former Women’s Center staff. Be sure to follow us on all of our social media platforms and join in on the fun by using #UMBCWC25 to share your own memories, stories, and photos of your time being a part of the Women’s Center at UMBC community.


What pictures do you have of your time in the Women’s Center? Post them on social media using #UMBCWC25 #UMBC50

Reading Redefining Realness



A short book reflection by Shira Devorah 

Just a few moments ago I finished Janet Mock’s memoir, Redefining Realness, My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. I’m still stunned. I’m not much of a memoir reader, but I’m pretty sure this book has changed that.

Thanks to a generous donation from UMBC’s LGBTQ Faculty & Staff Association, I was able to snatch up this book from the Women’s Center’s very own lending library! Over the past couple of days, I have been relishing every moment of Janet Mock and her story. Mock, a trans woman of color, takes her readers through her life from early childhood until now. In a whirlwind of wit and poignancy, she shares herself with us.

I am not ashamed to admit that I cried a whole bunch throughout this book. Mock fought tooth and nail to become the woman she is today, and though she has been through a lot of pain and oppression, she never falters in her stance as an activist. Every personal recollection comes with a lesson Mock has for her readers. She challenges us to be better people, to see others more complexly, to  be critical of systems of inequality and injustice that exist all around us. Mock allows her readers to peak into incredibly sensitive parts of her, and trusts us to learn from the barriers she faced in her girlhood and adolescence.

I think this memoir is a wonderful introduction to intersectional identities and social justice. Any person who picks up this book will be gently introduced to many concepts that they might not have been privy to beforehand.  While I feel like I know a bit about many issues touched upon in this book, I have been changed  by her discussions. Mock pushes readers to confront poverty, trans issues, multiculturalism, drug use, sexual abuse and sex work. White, middle-class people like me  are made to confront our privilege and come out of this book with a better understanding of other’s lives. I am so lucky to get a chance to grow with Janet through the pages of her self discovery.

I highly suggest this book to anyone and everyone. As a trigger warning, Mock discusses her personal experiences of sexual abuse and sex work, so please practice self care if you plan to borrow this book from the Women’s Center after I return it.

If you’ve already read Redefining Realness and need more Janet Mock in your life, check out her awesome blog!

If you want more  info about the book itself, here’s a quick interview she did with Slate back in 2014.

I first learned about Janet Mock through Her Story, an awesome web-series  written by and starring trans women, so you should totally check that out.  Here’s an Interview with Janet and Jen Richards, co-creator of HerStory.

So go out there and read, friends! I’ll be updating periodically on the rest of my summer reading books from my summer reading challenge. Happy Reading!

*Favorite Things* List from the United State of Women

IMG_9874.JPGA top 10 favorite things list about the United State of Women Summit complied by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers.

Maybe you heard about this little thing that happened in Washington, D.C. this week called the United State of Women Summit. If not, just to fill you in, it wasn’t little at all – it was a Pretty Big Deal. The Summit which was developed out of the White House Council on Women and Girls was the first of its kind with a charge to rally women and their allies together to celebrate what women have achieved and create solutions to help keep moving women’s issues and gender equity forward. I had the privilege of being one of the 5000 people in attendance as a representative of ACPA’s Coalition for Women’s Identities. In their opening remarks, Valerie Jarrett and Tina Tchen compared a meeting such as the USOW to the Seneca Falls Convention. And while, I’m not quite sure the Summit will have the same lasting historical event, it was nonetheless an important day for women and one which I’ll never forget.
I thought about my UMBC and Women’s Center families throughout the entire day and wanted to give you a little taste of the experience – some of my favorite things, you might say (wink wink, Oprah). Please note, this is not a critical analysis of the day’s events and speakers (you can google search for the think pieces later).

Joe Biden’s Call to End Rape Culture
Vice President Biden’s appearance at the Summit served as the kick-off to the big day. I’ve always felt conflicted in my feelings about good old Joe and his time at USOW proved no different. It certainly was a yes/and experience. Yes! Thank you, Vice President for your deeply held passion in speaking out on behalf of survivors of sexual assault. Yes! Thank you for calling men and bystanders away from complacency and into action. And, you took up a lot of space, Joe. You went over your allotted time by quite a bit and each minute you extended your time was another minute reduced or shifted for all the women following you throughout the rest of the day AT A SUMMIT FOR AND ABOUT WOMEN. It truly was the embodiment of white male privilege and I couldn’t help to feel frustrated even though I kept nodding and agreeing with his passionate and declarative call to support survivors. Yes, we need to create more space for rape culture to be discussed AND there’s a way it can be done without silencing the voices of survivors and women. But don’t let me discourage you from hearing what he has to say, he really was fired up… Listen to Vice President Biden’s speech here.

A Platform for Naming and Calling Out Rape Culture
Joe wasn’t the only one fired up about rape culture. There were a ton of other women throughout the day who did speak to their experiences and survivors and advocates for survivors. Mariksa Hargitay spoke to the importance of ending the backlog on rape kits by saying that the testing of rape kits sends a crucial and fundamental message to survivors that they matter. It’s On Us Activist, Jess Davidson, declared that we “We can change the world by getting mad” and sexual assault has made her mad enough to commit to a lifelong goal of fighting to end rape. Others such as Jaha Dukureh, founder of Safe Hands for Girls, spoke to the global epidemic of violence against women to include the fight to end child marriages and female genital mutilation. While Planned Parenthood president, Cecile Richards, wasn’t speaking directly to rape culture when she said “You only get what you fight for,” it was clearly palpable throughout the entire day that this summit of women and allies were ready to fight to end rape culture.

The Powerhouse of Young Girls!
Y’all, what were you doing when you were 11 years old? Probably not introducing the President of the United States, like Mikaila Ulmer, am I right? You probably also weren’t like Marley Dias collecting 7000+ books about black girls and working to create a culture of inclusion in children books. Yeah, me either. The awesome thing, though, is that there are real life 11 year olds doing just that and they are my newest role models! My takeaway, you don’t have to wait to grow up to do important things and be a change agent. Like Mikaila said, “BE(e) fearless. BE(e)lieve in the impossible. And dream like a kid.” To watch Mikaila intro scoll to 6:42:29 of the live stream feed and to watch Marley, scroll to 10:2230.


Can you imagine being 11 years old and introducing the President of the United States?! When asked if she was nervous, Mikaila responded, nah, “I spoke to 11,000 people last week.” This is the future, my friends!

Podcast IRL Alert!
So, I couldn’t get a selfie with Amy Poehler (who am I kidding, I mean, Leslie Knope) but I did get the chance to meet Cristen Conger, one of the ladies from my favorite podcast, Stuff Mom Never Told You. As someone who constantly cites this podcast as a source of much of my cool lady and gender knowledge, this was a pretty big deal. So of course I walked over and introduced myself, offered up a podcast topic suggestion (a history on campus-based women’s centers, of course) and got me a selfie. Listening to SMNTY will never feel the same again. Magical.


IRL for sure… I spotted Cristen (right) when she was speaking to Emily from BossedUp.Org who was featured on the SMNTY podcast earlier this year. I think I actually used the line “oh my gosh, it’s a podcast come to life!” as my awkward intro.

The Barbie Commercial
Okay okay… I know. Barbie is problematic and I know this commercial did everything it was supposed to do to my heartstrings in the name of capitalism AND in this moment, I don’t care. I played with Barbies growing up until an age that I’m too embarrassed to name. My Barbies scooped ice cream, went to the hair salon, and rode in a convertible because that’s the narrative of Barbie and what womanhood was about that was given to me as a young child. It wasn’t my imagination playing at all. Capitalistic or not, I’m just happy that perhaps some girls when playing with their Barbies will feel embolden to tell a different story. And, if you can’t go with me on this, that’s okay… if you only watch it for the line that references unicorns, my job here is done.

Nancy Pelosi and Women in Congress
The past two weeks have been hard. I’m mad that a convicted rapist only received a 6 month jail sentence. I’m heartbroken about the horrific acts of hate and violence that were enacted against the Orlando LGBTQ community. I’m also thinking about (some of) the solutions and it keeps going back to voting. We must support people who will hold up and push forward our values to run for office and then we must vote for them. As Nancy Pelosi said in her speech, “I promise you, I assure you and guarantee you this: if we increase the level of civility and reduce the role of money in politics, we will elect more women, more people of color, more LGBT and more young people – and America will be the better because of it.” I believe it too. She then invited her fellow Congresswomen to join the stage with her and it was just pretty darn rad. But I also agree with you, Nancy, I want more women! You can read her speech here.

USOW Congress Women

Photo credit shoutout to Twitter!

President Obama: “This is what a Feminist Looks Like.”
The last time I “saw” Barack Obama was in October 2008 when he was campaigning to become President of the United States of America. I saw a tiny fleck of his collar from time to time in between the yellow falls leaves on the oval of Colorado State University’s campus. It was a dream come true to finally see him in person again almost 8 years later as my president and hear him speak to me and my identity as a woman living in the US. He made me laugh. He made me cry. He made me proud. As he’s said so many times in the past, I do believe, he has my back. I read through his speech too many times to find a good pull quote and I can’t pick just one… so find what speaks to you. Watch President Obama’s speech here. You can also read the full transcript here.


I know. I know. I got a little excited and POTUS is like “whoa whoa whoa, calm down.” But I couldn’t help myself when he’s name dropping women like Shirley Chisholm, Audre Lorde, Alice Paul, Paulie Murray, RBG, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

“Working Women” and the Representation of the Labor Movement
Growing up in a Teamster family and surrounding myself with friends committed to the labor movement, it’s fair to say, I love me some union workers (who doesn’t love their 8-hour workdays and weekends?!?!)! In a summit that featured many privileged and wealthy women, it would have been easy enough to only talk about “having it all” and the joys of flexible paid leave and substantial benefits of the corporate and tech worlds. I’m glad that wasn’t the only story that was told and we got to hear from women like tradeswoman, Kevin Burton who is student-debt free because she has access to a living wage to work her way not only through her undergrad career but also through law school. To watch the conversation on working families economic policies, scroll to 7:25:50 in the live stream.

The First Lady Michelle and Oprah Love Fest
The moment we had all been waiting for all day finally arrived and IT. WAS. EVERYTHING. As a white woman, I know #BlackGirlMagic isn’t for me, but I love what it means to and for black women. It was an honor to witness the magic of love, support, and friendship between these two women. It was privilege to hear Michelle speak to the power of knowing one’s self-value and self-worth, how she practices self-care, and what she is most proud of during her time as First Lady. Oprah, as always served as the perfect midwife is helping the stories come into being and into our hearts. My takeaway… Be Better. You just must watch it for yourself. You can also get a brief summary of some of the gems of the conversation here.


I wasn’t lying that it was the perfect and most beautiful love and affirmation fest! Shine theory galore!

5000 Women!
Oprah ended the armchair discussion between her and the First Lady with more love for Michelle by quoting a line from a Maya Angelou book, “You make me proud to spell my name. W-O-M-A-N.” Yes. Yes! Yes!! From spending time with one of my favorite mentors, Mollie, to living out my Leslie Knope girl crush to its fullest, to meeting badass women I had never heard of until that day, there was an undeniable satisfying power of being in a room with 5000 women. 5000 trailblazers. Watch out world, here we come… we’re only just getting started.

Indeed, You make me proud to spell my name. W-O-M-A-N.


5000 women strong! Here’s some women from the ACPA Coalition for Women’s Identities to include my mentor and former Women’s Center director, Mollie Monahan-Kreishman.


For more on the Summit, check out all the social medias using #StateOfWomen #USOW or visit the website

A Summer Reading List Challenge

Shira A list by student staff member, Shira Devorah 

Summer is here, which means I finally have time to do some leisure reading!  While I’ve been known to indulge in guilty pleasure novels, I know that there are a lot of amazing feminist books out there that I haven’t taken the time to read yet.

This summer,  I plan on undertaking a feminist book club challenge! I encourage anyone reading this to come along and read with me. There aren’t any real rules to this challenge – the challenge I’m proposing to myself is to read at least 10 books that contribute to my knowledge on feminism, activism and social justice. The list of possibilities is truly extensive, so I’m going to choose just a handful of books that I think i’ll enjoy reading. Each picture will be linked to a purchasable copy on Amazon, just in case you would like to read long with me (or even better, shop local)!

* This list isn’t in any particular order, and I’m not sure which book I’m going to read first ( or simultaneously). They’re just numbered for convenience sake.* 

1.) The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley 


Image from Amazon.com

I was given this book as a present once, but I never got around to reading it, and eventually my father accidentally gave it away. Fortunately, I’ve recently acquired a new copy. This is a novel that centers on the stories of the female characters in Arthurian legend, focusing on the antagonist of King Arthur, Morgan le Fay. Instead of being portrayed as a one-dimensional evil woman, her story is fleshed out and given substance.

2.) How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez 


I’ve heard of this book before, but I’ve never sat down to actually read it. This novel follows the lives of four Dominican sisters in reverse chronological order. I’m really excited to delve into the themes of acculturation, immigration and identity that the Garcia sisters face in this novel.

3.) Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde 

Audre Lorde is a feminist hero, and I think it is massively important to read her, especially if I’m going to call myself an intersectional feminist. In this collection of 15 essays and speeches, Lorde covers a broad range of important topics, including race, classism, sexism, ageism and homophobia. I’ve read an essay or two, but I’m ready to experience Lorde’s full power.

4.) The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

I can’t believe that I’ve never read this book. I’ve picked it up a few times and read the back, but I’ve never actually sat down and read it. It’s a classic that focuses on mental illness and identity, and I cannot wait to finally take the time to read it.

5.) Redefining Realness, Janet Mock 

This is a memoir by the fantastic Janet Mock, discussing her identity as a trans woman of color. I’ve really enjoyed “Her Story“, and the creators mentioned the immense  influence of Janet Mock during a talkback at UMBC.  I haven’t read too many memoirs, but this New York Times bestseller is about to change that.

6.) Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay 

I often feel like a feminist killjoy. I know that once you begin to see the world through an intersectional feminist lens, all of your faves become problematic. This book of essays will hopefully help teach me how to enjoy things in life while continuing to be critical.

7.) Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, Joyce Carol Oates 

When I was a senior in High School, my english teacher suggested that I read this book. I distinctly remember going to the library and finding it, but putting it back on the shelf because I thought that it looked too boring. I don’t know how a thriller about a girl gang in the 1950s seemed boring to 17-year-old me, but I think now is a good time to revisit this novel.

8.) Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples 

I’m a sucker for a good graphic novel,  yet I haven’t gotten my paws on this one just yet. Saga is a series about two lovers from different worlds trying to raise their daughter in a war-torn society. It’s beautiful, full of fantasy and sci-fi, and apparently has amazing representations of  ethnicity, gender and sexuality during a fictional war. It’s also illustrated by Fiona Staples,  a woman of color who is regarded as the  #1 female comic book artist of all-time by readers of Comic Book Resources in 2015. I can’t wait to finally read this installment (as well as the rest of the story).

9.) Gender Trouble, Judith Butler 

I’ve read (and watched) a bit of Judith Butler in class, and I’m super interested in Queer Theory. This book came out in 1990, but is still important as a fundamental reading for queer theorists, so I’m going to attempt to make it through some dense vocabulary and learn a bit. I plan for mass amounts of annotation, that’s how I tend to get through theory-heavy books.

10.) Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha


I have recently fallen for the poetry and all-together awesomeness of Piepzna-Samarasinha. While I’ve watched a bunch of her spoken word, I haven’t really gotten to know her outside of that. Remember how I said earlier that I haven’t read too many memoirs, and now there are two on my list? Wild, right? I’m just happy that Piepzna- Samarasinha has shared this journey of hers, I can’t wait to learn more about her.

So that’s my list!  Feel free to join in on this challenge and read these books during the summer, too! I’ll be back in a few months to tell you all how this little reading adventure went. If you want more than what’s listed here, check out this goodreads list of feminist books. Happy reading!

Fun Fact! Did you know the Women’s Center at UMBC has a lending library where you can check out some of these books for free?! Stop by this summer and stock up on your favorite feminists reads this summer. 



We Hosted an Event About Masculinity and Sexual Assault and Nobody Came

Daniel Profile Pic A blog post and reflection by staff member Daniel Willey

The following post contains mentions of rape and sexual assault. Hyperlinks marked with * indicate that the article contains detailed accounts of assault in some form.

This past April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Women’s Center hosted an program called “What About the Men?” The event was held on during Monday free hour, and it was billed as “a multimedia discussion on masculinity, sexual assault, and male survivors.*”

I wanted to talk about how societal ideas about masculinity (like sexual prowess, social dominance, financial stability, risk-taking, and the “Man Card”) create an environment that encourages — or is at least passively complicit in — sexual violence against women, and isolates and invalidates male survivors of sexual violence.

And nobody came.

Okay, not nobody. Jess and Megan and Shira were there, and four community members stopped in to see what was happening. We actually had a really great discussion and I’m glad those people were there to have that important conversation. But I want to talk about the people that weren’t there. I want to talk about showing up and speaking out for male survivors. I want to talk about accountability, masculinity, and how sexual assault is everyone’s problem.

So, let’s go back a bit and talk about masculinity.

The Man Box is an activity we do in Rebuilding Manhood to get everyone thinking about hegemonic masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity is basically society’s idea of what a man ‘should’ be and do. It’s an idea we all agree to and go along with, whether we agree with it or completely conform to it or not. Inside the Man Box, participants write words or phrases that fit within this dominant idea of masculinity, including: trucks, steak, beer, sports, outdoors, strong, confident, protector, power, leader, man up, boys don’t cry, don’t show emotion, wears the pants, provide for your family, sex with women, good at sex, and good at math and science.

IMG_9581 (2)

Mito and Dan go over the Man Box

On the outside of the box are words and phrases used for men who step outside the limitations of the Man Box. When we do this activity, everyone is hesitant to write the words on the outside. Once a brave soul (or sometimes the facilitator) writes the first swear word, we see “bitch” “pussy” “gay” “fag” “pansy” “whipped” appear around the outside of the Man Box. The words outside the Man Box keep men trapped within the box. They are the consequences of not living up to the expectations set forth by all of us.

I talk about the Man Box because when it comes to conversations about men’s violence against women, the most common response is, “Not all men are like that.” To quote Tony Porter*, “There’s not a lot of men [perpetrating violence], but there is a lot of violence. So what is it that allows these men to do what they do in the presence of all these good men?” The answer is the Man Box.

It’s up to men to help other men get out of the man box and to discourage violent behavior. To not speak up and actively work to support women and a healthier concept of masculinity is to be complicit in the violence. It can be hard because laughing at rape joke or giving your friend the thumbs up and a condom as he guides a drunk person upstairs is part of the fee for staying in the man box. But if you’re not willing to pay the price of losing your man card to prevent rape or assault, you are part of the problem. When you say “Not All Men,” you’re giving all men a pass to say “that’s not my problem.” It is your problem.

When very few people showed interest in the What About The Men event, not only did it show how many people think sexual violence is not their problem, but it also became an example of a problem I hoped to address in the event: People don’t support male survivors in the same way as other survivors because we have a false image who and what a survivor is.

Now, let’s be real and admit survivors aren’t really supported at all. Even the “perfect victim” (i.e. a straight woman who wasn’t drunk, was dressed conservatively, didn’t know the person, didn’t consent to something else, etc etc) won’t get the support they deserve. But to society, a sexual assault survivor represents vulnerability and violation — something hegemonic masculinity just isn’t — and therefore it is totally unfathomable that a man could be survivor. At most, we can maybe comprehend boys being victimized at a young age, but not adult men. When I was doing research for the event, I found that most of the resources (like support groups and even interviews with psychologists specializing in the field) were targeted for male survivors of childhood sexual assault. None of them addressed sexual assault as an adult, and often they focused on the young age at which the assault occurred in to reassure survivors that they could still be men.


So, what? Men who experience sexual assault as an adult are no longer men? Were they never men to begin with? Are they gay now? Does sexual assault just not happen to men? No, of course not. But because we see men as always wanting sex, as powerful and strong and dominant, we can’t imagine men as survivors unless it was during childhood. We also can’t imagine that sexual assault can be perpetrated by women, but in a recent study 46% of male survivors reported a female perpetrator. Maybe we can wrap our heads around a male perpetrator, but a woman*? No way. He’s supposed to like it*.

Toxic ideas like this leave male survivors feeling isolated. Many feel like they can’t talk about it. Many don’t know they can claim words like “assault” “victim” “survivor” or “rape” to describe their experience. And if men can’t talk about rape, male survivors have nobody to speak up and say “Hey. It happened to me, too.”

We called this event “What About The Men” (if you click on just one link from this whole blog, it should be this one) because every time we or anyone else does anything about sexual assault, someone goes “Hey, men get raped too!” They’re totally right, but usually these people are using male survivors as a way to derail conversations about men as perpetrators. They’re not focusing on how toxic masculinity ignores and reprimands male survivors. They just want to absolve toxic masculinity of its responsibility for sexual violence against all genders. I wanted to use that time and space to really address that question: What About the Men?

We all need to show up more for male survivors. As much as I am upset with our community for not stepping up to be accountable for sexual assault and support male survivors, we at the Women’s Center need to be accountable too. This is the first event we’ve hosted with the focus of male survivors in the last five years, and possibly the only one ever. This is a feminist issue because the power structures of patriarchy and rape culture will continue to put men in positions of power and dominance, whether they use it against others or have it used against them. We all need to do better.

If you’re interested in more issues related to masculinity or are in search of a safe space to talk about masculinity, keep an eye out for Rebuilding Manhood and other Women’s Center programming. If you need to talk one-on-one with someone who can provide a safe and affirming environment, schedule a meeting with Jess or Megan or stop by the Women’s Center, or contact the Voices Against Violence coordinator. 

More online resources:

For Gay or Bisexual Men

Commonly Asked Questions