Male Privilege in Women’s Spaces

When I was asked if I would be interested in joining the Women’s Center staff, my first reaction was, “HELL YES.” The Women’s Center had very quickly become my favorite place on campus, and I was excited to jump on the opportunity to be a part of something that had been such a positive addition to my life. Last spring was a great time for me. I got more involved. I joined the Queer Leadership Council and the LGBT Campus Climate Workgroup. I was elected Outreach Coordinator for Freedom Alliance and Director of Public Affairs for GWST COMM. Recommendations, internship opportunities, and leadership roles were flying at me and it was great to feel like my skills were desirable.

How might male privilege show up in women-focused spaces?

How might male privilege show up in women-focused spaces?

But the more I thought about it, the more suspicious I became. How much of this have I actually earned? Aren’t there other people who are much more qualified than me for these jobs? How must my classmates feel about a freshman showing up and taking over? Am I taking over? How does privilege play into this? Do I even belong in these spaces? I have been thinking about these questions for months and I want to take this opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a male-identified staff member at a women’s center and the complicated combination of male identity and queer identity.

I think a lot of trans guys and people of trans male identities forget that even though some of us may have once identified as women or are sometimes read as women, we still have male privilege. Despite our queerness and the bureaucratic level problems we face with documentation or health care, there is still a place for us on the glass escalator. Now, this is not true for all of us– trans men of color, gender nonconforming trans men, or those who do not easily or readily “pass” (when one fits the standards of what a man or woman looks like well enough to not have their gender questioned) have a much more difficult time with this. For the sake of this post, when I say “trans men” I specifically mean trans men like me: white, medically transitioning, “passing” men.

My biggest struggle has been figuring out a way to see how my privilege has given me advantages in my life while also remembering that I actually did earn some of it. It’s a balance between knowing when to be proud of myself because I’ve earned something and knowing when I’ve been given something. I’m still trying to figure out how to contribute and participate in feminist and women’s movements without riding the glass escalator to the forefront. I’m learning to listen more than I speak and to support the efforts of others to liberate themselves rather than leading their liberation.

As for the Women’s Center, I think I will always be questioning and changing how I fit into my role here, just as women’s centers have changed since their first appearances in the 1970s. Women’s centers are still women-focused spaces but have branched out to include women of color and LGBTQIA women and people. Many women’s centers (including ours) have even started looking at toxic forms of hegemonic masculinity and how it affects women and men alike.

I belong here for now. My roles and responsibilities will change as the needs of my communities and the communities I support change, and I am still learning. I welcome feedback and criticism from community members– after all, you are why I’m here.

On The Anniversary of the Campus Childcare Closing

I’m writing and posting this reflection on the first year “anniversary” of the closing of childcare center on UMBC’s campus. That was a painful and stressful time on campus for many families and their children. Thankfully, UMBC is committed to being a family-friendly campus not only in name but in actions and renovations to restore the childcare center back to working condition will take place this year with a slated re-opening date of fall 2015.

But the issue of childcare extends beyond UMBC. Here’s some startling facts about the state of childcare in the United States.

In many states, the cost of childcare is more expensive than college tuition.



This high price of childcare is particularly important you take into consideration the following statistics found in a National Women’s Law Center analysis of state and national data that addresses the concerns related to low-wage jobs and the intersection of childcare:

  • Over 1.2 million mothers with very young children (children ages three and under) are in low-wage occupations (those that typically pay $10.10 or less per hour)
  • In every state, working mothers of very young children are disproportionately represented in low-wage occupations.

Moreover, low-wage jobs often entail unstable, unpredictable, or inflexible schedules and lack any paid sick or family leave which can make it difficult to arrange child care. For more information, you can read the full report here.

Getting your college degree and being a parent also isn’t easy. Check out a previous post from our former intern, Emily that specifically focuses the childcare issues faced by college student parents.

There’s also this report from AAUW that specifically addresses childcare issues on a community college level.

And the issue extends beyond access to childcare. These are just two personal stories I’ve heard recently from moms in my life…

A dear friend of mine just had her baby. Leading up to her due date, we spoke about her struggle to understand the ins and outs of her maternity leave (because newsflash: out of 178 nations, the US is one of three that still does not require paid maternity leave benefits). With only weeks to go until her due date, she realized she had been told the wrong information about her leave policies and now had significantly less time to take off during maternity leave than she originally thought. In the moment she wasn’t feeling well and was contemplating starting her leave early before the baby came. She shared with me feeling torn about taking the time off now before the baby was here so she could take care of herself or to save the time for later so she could spend it with the baby once he or she arrived. She asked: “how can I take care of my baby, if I can’t take care of me now?”



*Recent update… there’s a new push underway at the U.S. Labor Department for paid maternity leave. You can read the 9/24/14 article here.


Upon coming back from maternity leave, my sister-in-law, J, inquired with her HR department about a private space she could pump. She was referred to a single-use bathroom that was generally known around the office… and this is her exact quote… “as the place the guys went to take a dump.” J questioned that location as the only solution and asked if she could use a conference room when it wasn’t in use. She was told that using a conference room wasn’t sanitary for other people who use it… you know in case breast milk got all over the place.  Needless to say, she left the meeting crying and feeling pretty hopeless. Thank goodness, HR went back and did their homework and changed their statement when it became apparent that state law made it illegal for workplaces to designate public restrooms as lactation rooms. The next day they turned an empty office into a “wellness center.”

They were probably worried this would happen….

breastfeeding meme


But all joking aside, for UMBC folks, please know the University System of Maryland has a lactation facilities policy and the Women’s Center is the official lactation room for campus. Moreover, on all college campuses that receive federal funding, pregnant and parenting students can find protection under Title IX  which prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities.

During the various conversations I engaged in last year when the campus childcare center closed, it was important for me to emphasize that access to childcare wasn’t just a women’s issue. It was a parent issue. A student success issue. A retention and graduation issue. A work-place satisfaction issue. And, while all of that is true, access to childcare and family-friendly work policies are still also women’s issues that impact pay-equity issues, tenure and promotion issues, work-life balance issues and more. As a society, we need to do a better job at supporting our moms and families. It’s time for a culture shift and we all need to be a part of the solution.

* * * * * * * * * 

The Women’s Center has several resources that may be of interest to our UMBC moms and parents:

Mother’s Group list-serv: This list-serv allows members to connect with other moms and parents on campus. Looking for a suggestion for a babysitter, pediatrician, or childcare provider? Email the list! If you’d like to be added provide your contact information to

myUMBC Moms and Parents Group: This is clearinghouse of sorts that the Women’s Center created to put all the parenting and childcare resources we know of in one place. Examples of links and documents include the childcare resource guide, employment protections, Grad’s School maternity leave policies, information about Title IX. This can also be a place for parents to post their own discussions or questions.

Childcare Resource Guide: Before the childcare on campus closed, the Women’s Center with the support of the President’s Commission for Women put together a guide to help parents find alternatives to childcare on campus, especially for kiddos between the ages of zero and two. Since the center closed on campus, we’ve added to the guide and continue to update it on a semester by semester basis.

Women’s Center Lactation Room: In addition to the private space, there is also a hospital grade breast pump and a mini-fridge to store your milk (away from everyone’s lunches and dinners).

Mother’s Group Meetings: This is a time for mothers on campus to get together and connect. We’re in the process of re-envisioning what these meetings can look like and how we can make it the best use of time for our busy moms. Stay tuned for updates on when the next meeting will be by following the myUMBC moms and parents page or joining the mother’s group list-serv.

How do we even talk to abusers?

Hi everyone, it’s me, Yoo-Jin!  This week I’d like to reflect on my TED Talk, Ray Rice, and abusers/ perpetrators of relationship violence. First of all, I couldn’t have done this talk without the help of our coordinator, Megan, who brought her incredible insight and wit to help structure my talk. As I was preparing for my TEDx Talk, which was about reframing the way we think and talk about relationship violence (and as a result acted or didn’t act when faced with it), I found that with the media outcry of Ray Rice’s video of him punching his then fiancee, Janay Palmer, my talk became relevant in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. As I went through my talk this past Saturday, I talked to the audience about three steps we can take to prevent and recognize relationship violence:

  1. Think 
  2. Speak
  3. Act

I addressed the ways we often think of relationship violence in our society- in the most extreme cases, often involving celebrities and catastrophes (physical abuse, death, viral videos). This also affects the way we talk about relationship violence, zooming in, how we talk about both perpetrators (as people who are distant from us) and victims (as people we blame, to distance from us because we wouldn’t make the same choices they did). Through my discussion, I went through the hidden, pervasive, and invisible forms of violence that happen everyday, and I will tell you, I saw some uncomfortable audience members in the crowd. Yes, violence is a difficult and possibly uncomfortable conversation for anyone.

However, this issue was brought home to me in a different way. I found myself struggling with this issue specifically, now with a person on the other end: an abuser. How do I handle this? How do I talk to someone who does exhibit concerning behaviors? How do I talk to this person, who I’ve known and loved for years? As I searched through resources, I found an incredible lack of tools and realized how both sides of this issue are important. Of course, victims and survivors of abuse are important and deserve support and resources but how do we even begin to talk to abusers? Abusers who could be our friends, our classmates, our coworkers? Just like victims can be anyone…so can abusers. Abusers are not demons who are always entirely bad, psychotic people- their behaviors are unacceptable, but does that make them less valuable as a human being? This odd dissonance and guilt is associated with so many different factors- it’s interesting how this dynamic can flip: determining who gets the empathy and who gets the blame? It is clear to me, that the person who must take responsibility for their actions is the person who abuses other people, because at the end of the day, violence is never okay and is never acceptable. I did want to acknowledge this challenge that I faced and will continue to face in engaging in productive and appropriately empathetic dialogues with the abusers who might need help or seek change.

Meet the 2014-15 Women’s Center Staff!

Amelia Meman and Daniel Willey already introduced themselves, so now it’s time to meet the rest of the 2014-15 Women’s Center staff!

Amelia M

Amelia Meman


Bria Hamlet

Bria Hamlet
Bria! 21. African-American. Ciswoman. Feminist. Blogger. Advocate. College Student. Spirit Animal: Elephant. WoCC Prez. YWOCLC Member. Peer Health Educator. Sexpert. 100% Pro-Choice. Makeup Fanatic. Coffee Drinker. Cat Lover. Just a Lover in General.

Madison Miller:
Hello! My name is Madison, and I am currently a senior studying Psychology and Elementary Education. I first began working at the Women’s Center in the fall of 2012, and since then I have come to deeply appreciate everything the Center offers to students at UMBC. My involvement with the Women’s Center has provided me with many enriching opportunities that have enabled me to use my privileges to help others and to further develop my unique leadership style. In addition to working at the center, I am also employed within Residential Life as a Resident Assistant (RA) in the apartments and a Summer Conference Manager. This semester I will also be student teaching at Halethorpe Elementary in Baltimore County. After graduating from UMBC, I hope to begin teaching in a high needs elementary school or enroll in a graduate program to study school psychology. I am excited to return to the Women’s Center as a student staff member this semester, and I can’t wait to start working with several of the programs that we will be hosting this semester. If you find yourself in the Center on Tuesday or Wednesday mornings, feel free to say hi to me!


Madison Miller


Kelly Martin Broderick

Kelly Martin Broderick:
Hey! I am Kelly and I am a senior studying Gender & Women’s Studies. This is my third year working at the Women’s Center and my last semester at UMBC. I also work part-time as a Sex Educator at Sugar in Hampden. This year, I’m excited to continue our discussions on sex positive topics, so keep an eye out for those! The first one will be in October and we will be talking about relationship alternatives to monogamy. Hope to see you there!

Ty Philip:
I’m Ty, and I am a new student staff member at the Women’s Center. I am interning at the Center through the GWST department, and am already in love with the job. I have a passion for critical thought and social action, and I know that the Center will give me a space to engage in both outside of my academics. Currently, I am a super senior GWST major with a writing minor, President of Freedom Alliance, and am also employed by the Graduate School office on campus. It may sound like a lot, and I know that it is, but I’m excited to push myself this semester and see just what I can do. I spend almost all of my free time reading books, watching tv and movies, and hanging out with my friends. I also love food. A lot. To the point that I spend a majority of my extra money on it. I eat a lot of unhealthy things because they’re cheap, easy, and I have no self-control, but I actually really love fresh, healthy, organic food and try to incorporate as much of it into my diet as I can. My favorite things to cook are breakfast food, dessert, and lasagna, but I will eat almost anything that looks or sounds good to me. I really don’t like chocolate but I like chocolate bars (with things in them), I hate loose corn but enjoy corn on the cob, and I think that ketchup is the most boring condiment ever but I use it all the time. Apparently, I also spend a lot of time thinking and writing about food, too. If you see me, come say hi and let’s talk about food (but probably actually social justice).


Yoo-Jin Kang

Yoo-Jin Kang:
Hi! My name is Yoo-Jin Kang and I am a senior studying Language and Cultural Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies, focusing on the psychosocial and cultural perspectives on violence. After graduating I hope to find a career where I am able as a voice for underrepresented and minority groups in hopes of assisting to have their voices heard in our national dialogue and in our daily lives. On campus you might see me through various groups like the Relationship violence prevention advocates group, the Peer Health Educators, and Phi Mu Fraternity for Women. In my spare time I love to read, vegan bake, practice yoga, and write. I’m super excited for this year and am looking forward to all of the amazing events and initiatives that the center will be holding! Feel free to reach out, I love a good conversation and an opportunity to learn.

That’s me… post squishy face.

That’s me… post squishy face.

Jess Myers, M.S., Women’s Center Director: 
In her college admissions essay, my best friend started her opening paragraph with, “I came into this world tap dancing and laughing.” That line has always stuck with me. The image of a newborn tap dancing and laughing as her first action in this world amuses me and I also believe it’s an image that uniquely captures the spirit and energy of my best friend. In fact, I guess you might say I’m a bit jealous. In looking at pictures of my first day here on earth, I usually just think, “I came into this world unsure and with a squishy face.” Fortunately, I didn’t let my first interaction with the world set the tone for the rest of my life…

My best friend and me at college graduation.

My best friend and me at college graduation.

I’m lucky to have been born to a fiercely independent woman who has spent her years as my mother reminding me that being a woman should never be a deficit – even if the rest of the world tells you so. I attended an all-girls high school that shaped by concept of leadership and provided me with a voice I was allowed to use. In college, I always questioned why I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to take women’s studies courses, and in fact, took the only 1-credit course that was ever offered in my department on women’s issues where I had the chance to finally get my hands on bell hooksFeminism is for Everybody. And, in the meantime, I supplemented my learning with hours of listening to Ani Difranco, Melissa Ferrick, Dar Williams, Indigo Girls, and more. As an RA during move-in day, I questioned why the two wimpiest guys were asked to move a heavy table when I, someone who worked out every day and could kick some butt, was rendered invisible. I was labeled as a feminist from that point on and that was certainly fine by me. I attended my first city-sponsored Take Back the Night in college where it rained the whole time, matching how my heart felt in that moment. I spent a year living in Jamaica and have been unpacking my white privilege ever since. I’ve been a hall director at an all-female college and finally had a chance to be a part of my first women’s studies 101 in grad school as a TA. Leslie Knope has made me consider running for elected-office one day and I cried on the night Heather Mizuer lost her bid to become Maryland’s first female and openly gay governor. My bed-side table always has at least a few books from the Women’s Center’s lending library on it – there’s never enough time to keep reading all the books I never knew about even while growing up feminist especially while I also nourish my not-so-secret-obsession for young adult novels featuring strong female leads.

Best of all, I have my dream job as the director of the Women’s Center at UMBC and I love coming to work every day…

Truly… the best job ever.

Truly… the best job ever.

Megan Tagle Adams, M.A., Women’s Center Coordinator

Megan on the phone

Jess included a throwback photo, so why not?

I can hardly believe that it was a year ago that I was first introducing myself to the Women’s Center community as the new coordinator for the Center. This past year has been both challenging and rewarding and I’m incredibly proud to have been involved in developing and expanding our intersectional feminist programming. Forming the Women of Color Coalition and launching the Critical Social Justice initiative are two projects that I think are particularly salient as reflections of my own feminist politics and as indications of the Women’s Center’s commitment to advocacy, education, and support.

Bringing feminist rants to UMBC since July 2013.

Despite having a bitchy resting face (or so I’ve been told…repeatedly), I really enjoy getting to know our Women’s Center community members and having engaging conversations about various feminist issues. I’m excited to see what this year will bring as I grow alongside the Center in learning new ways to facilitate social justice work within the UMBC community.

Oh, Leslie.

Oh, Leslie.

My feelings on our all-star Women’s Center staff.

Purple Pride: Where NFL Fandom & Domestic Violence Collide

We bond over our black and purple; we reflect in pride over our 2013 Super Bowl win. We wait eagerly for football season to arrive and to celebrate our amazing athletes. We love our Ravens – and we should hold them accountable for both the good and bad that they do in our community.

This past February, our local star Ray Rice physically assaulted his wife in an elevator. After waiting for the elevator doors to close, he hit her multiple times and managed to knock her unconscious. Afterward, he dragged her out of the elevator. This event was captured on video surveillance at the hotel where the incident occurred and the video was later released. A horrible act of domestic violence was committed, and few disputed this. Out of respect for his wife, Janay Palmer, I will not be adding the violent content to this blog post.

Hardly anything was done upon the original release of this content, which only showed the aftermath of his attack. After a pretrial intervention in May, Rice became exempt from prosecution, and his charges will be expunged from his record within a year. Recently, a two-game suspension was issued. Seven months after the tape first surfaced, a second one was released that showed the attack in its entirety. It was only at this point that Ray Rice’s contract was terminated by the Ravens, and soon after the NFL banned the athlete indefinitely. Upon immediate release of this information, my social media feeds were flooded with remarks like:

“There should be a separation between the personal and the public.”

“His wife stayed with him; if she’s okay with this, then the Ravens should be too.”

“I just don’t think a man’s career should be ruined over one mistake.”

“No one knows what she said to provoke him… He was just being a man.”

Seriously, people?

This act of violence goes well beyond a superstar making a very, very poor decision. This is about power dynamics. This is about accountability. This is about black men and black women. This is about domestic violence, and how major corporations handle offenders. Domestic violence is a crime. It occurs within all racial, age, and religious groups. It happens regardless of your soci0-economic status and level of education. No one is exempt, and everyone should be held accountable. Ray Rice was not subjected to the typical consequences of his actions (jail-time, specifically). He was protected by his status, and consequently his wife was not. Add this to his being a representation of the NFL, the Ravens, and Black America, and we have a huge problem.

When a black man in power hurts a black woman, he sends a message to the community. It is up to us to decide how he is received from there. When the footage was brushed under the rug initially, we said “it’s okay to hurt your wife if you’re a millionaire, just say you’re sorry and your career will not be in jeopardy.” To young black men everywhere, the message was “you can hit your partner and get away with it, as long as you’re exceptionally talented.” To black women everywhere, the message was “your body, your life, and your safety are not priorities if your partner is an asset to our society and our industry.” I can’t help but think how this scenario would’ve played out differently if Ray Rice critically injured, or even killed, his wife during this incident. Is that what it takes to penalize assailants?

As a Ravens fan and an advocate against domestic violence, I have struggled with this news. However delayed, I am glad that both the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL did the correct thing in removing Ray Rice from their community. This football season, I will be expressing my purple pride in solidarity with domestic violence victims, and I hope that many of you will do the same.