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. Continue reading

Graduation: A Decade-Long Journey

Carrie Profile PicA final reflection from Carrie Cleveland as a undergraduate and Women’s Center staff member

In the fall of 1996, I started my college journey at Douglass College at Rutgers University.  I spent a brief three semesters at Rutgers, mostly floundering around and hating my choice of major (pre-business).  In December of 1997, I left college and began working at Starbucks.  I managed to support myself, but barely.  I spent a few years at Starbucks, but knew that this was not what I wanted to do with my life.

When I decided to leave the retail/restaurant world, I had a hard time finding another job that would pay me a living wage.  I was told that my lack of college degree made me “highly unemployable” in the words of one recruiter.   It was then that I tried to get back to school.  I could never figure out how to pay for it and cover my living expenses.  I had no idea what I was doing in terms of financial aid and loans.  I never asked for help. I just kept on working low paying jobs that had no professional opportunities for growth and thought I would go back to school later.

Time passed. I got married and had a baby.  We then picked up and moved from New Jersey to Maryland.  In my new home, I felt isolated with a husband who worked A LOT, a newborn baby to care for, and no nearby family or friends.  I convinced my husband that it would be a good idea for me to go back to school, even if it was just to have some social interaction with people who could form complete sentences.

In the fall of 2007, I re-started my college journey at Anne Arundel Community College.  I still had no idea what I wanted to be when I *grew up* (mind you, I was almost 30 at the time), but I walked through the door thinking I would get my general education credits done and figure it out from there.  In the meantime, I  would go on to have another baby, find my calling (social work), graduate from AACC, and have ANOTHER baby.

While my story is uniquely me, it isn’t necessarily a unique story. Continue reading

A Call to Prayer: My Return to the Muslim Community

MJ Profile PicA reflection written by Women’s Center staff member, MJ Jalloh Jamboria

The following is a little of my experience as a queer Muslim person. I recognize that my experience is not reflective of Islam, nor of the community of people I met at the Interfaith Center.

For the first time since last Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holy holiday, I went to Jumu’ah (congregational Friday prayer). I met a person on campus who extended a warm hand and invited me to prayer which took place at the Interfaith Center. I was both excited and terrified for a plethora of reasons. I was excited to sit amongst my sisters, to rejoin the community I had left behind me as I entered college, and to listen to the guest Sheik that was invited to give the khutbah, the congregational sermon.

In the days leading up to the Friday prayer, all I could talk about was how excited I was that I finally had a friend to go to Jumu’ah with. I quickly realized, I had no idea how to be practicing Muslim anymore. I was once a Sunday school teacher and was really quite good at incorporating Islamic teachings into my life. However, since the start of college, I hadn’t really thought about being religious. I am not hijabi, a woman who wears hijab full-time. I’m not even a woman! I sometimes eat gelatin (oops!) and I don’t think I own a single piece of ‘modest’ clothing. I am a fat, queer, shorts and T-shirt wearing, ‘you kiss your mother with that mouth?’ swearing, mess of a person! Muslim people can be all of these things, but in prayer there are certain rules we must submit to. The expectation for women is to stand in a section separate from men, covered in appropriate prayer attire and hair and neck wrapped in a veil. The thought of completing some of these actions made me nervous.  Continue reading

“Twice as Good” On Being a Woman of Color and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and Perfectionism

Meagé Profile Pic

Meagé Clements

A blog reflection written by Women’s Center student staff member Meagé Clements 

Growing up, my mother would always remind my sister and I that we had to work twice as hard as everyone else because not only were we women, but we were Black women. Living in a society that has always had low expectations of us, a society where we are confined to various stereotypes and generalizations, it has always been important for us to excel above and beyond the expectations of others. We applied her advice, made the honor roll and the dean’s list numerous times, pursued membership in honors programs and honor societies, yet we continued to question if any of these things would even matter in the long run. Would we still be subjected to the glass ceiling and other barriers that would prevent us from reaching the top because of our gender and race?

As I approach my final weeks of being an undergraduate and I’m frantically trying to plan every detail of my adult life after grad school, I find myself returning to this question more and more. At a recent Women of Color Coalition meeting, I learned that this constant questioning and self-doubt is called “Imposter Syndrome.”

Despite earning the grades and being just as qualified, if not more qualified than many of my peers, I doubted myself and whether I truly belonged and I continued to try and find ways to prove that to myself and others. During the meeting, I found that I was not alone in this sentiment, and that this was something that nearly everyone experienced; however, this persistent self-doubt impacts women of color differently for a number of reasons.  Continue reading