Breaking News! A Girl Likes Sports

Shrijana

 

Shrijana is a Student Staff Member at the Women’s Center. She is a co-facilitator of Women of Color Coalition and leading the Telling Our Stories Project. 

 

 

Growing up in a family who used to stay up until 4 AM watching football (soccer), I can say with true honesty that passion for this sport has run through my blood from a very young age. My dad grew up as an F.C. Barcelona (Futbol Club Barcelona) fan and a football fan in general from watching the World Cup to other league games such as La Liga, the English Premier League, and the Bundesliga.

Watching football was the first activity that opened up and strengthened my bond with my dad.

As an only child in a brown family household, I often felt the need to be both the son and daughter to my parents. I became my dad’s best friend through football, my mom used to call us “Barcelona saathiharu” in Nepali which translates to “Barcelona friends” in English. My love for F.C. Barcelona inspired me to pursue learning Spanish in high school and college. The greatest attribute of this bond with my dad was that my gender never played a role in this situation. I never felt less in situations while watching games with him. He taught me a lot and listened to my opinions and rants as well. We shared victories, defeats, along with emotions of sadness, pride, and happiness. Gender never posed as a question between me and my dad.

I did not need to be his son to be his football buddy.

Luckily, this notion continued throughout my life. Even in middle school and high school, I would talk to my male friends with equal respect for football. They would listen to my points and believe me when I stated I was a football fan and F.C. Barcelona was my favorite team. However, this experience was short lived when I arrived at college.

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“Are you a true soccer fan?”

“Name one player on the team besides Messi.”

“Who is the striker for Barcelona?”

These were questions that were asked of me by a male friend while I was wearing my F.C. Barcelona cap. I felt hurt that I was asked these series of questions because I was not believed to be a loyal sports fan. If I was a man, I would not be quizzed for my passion for football or any other sport. Why do I have to answer to a male to be validated for my interests? Although I do not blame my friend for asking these questions, it made me realize how women are delegitimized not just in sporting competitions but as audiences of sports as well.

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Just like this meme expresses the sentiment I experienced, girls all over are not believed for watching sports. Yes, there might be fake fans among the mix just like fake fans among men; however, asking a girl question after question to find a fault in her passion does not take away her right of liking sports. And yes, it is also possible for a girl to know more about sports than a guy.

As I researched more about this topic on the internet (because where else would I found solidarity and angry rants) and talked to my friends, I found out that my feelings were not alone. There were multiple blogs and articles published about how I felt. Reading more on this topic made me revisit something else that someone had also previously said to me. I was once accused of being a sports fan to impress boys or get them to like me. News flash, the world does not revolve around men. Women are not doing anything for the approval of men whether to impress them or win them over. I started watching football before I even talked to a boy. Again, people assigning the need for validation from men to women here continues.

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There are still men out there in all age groups that believe a woman is incapable of having a passionate in-depth conversation about sports, football in my case. I may be seen as an “irrational feminist” especially for those men (or even my male friends reading this). Conversely, several girls and women would agree that they have felt discriminated against because they do not feel respected when discussing or watching sports.

My encounters will not stop me from voicing my opinions on football or my passion for it. I will be loud, I will root for my team, and I will debate those fans who think F.C. Barcelona is not the best team. This blog is not to discount the boys and men who respect women’s opinions on sports like my dad or other male friends who I have shared my passion with. I hope those boys and men out there who were unaware of this issue or have realized they are at fault for acting in this ignorant way serve as better allies for us female sports fans.

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Lastly, to those boys who feel pressured to watch sports to fit in, you do not need the approval of society or others. Do not watch it if you are not into it. Being a sports fan should not be gendered. It is about who you are and what you like.

Similar articles regarding this issue:

 

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No, I Don’t Want Michelle Obama to be President

MorganMorgan is a senior here at UMBC pursuing a BA in Media and Communications major with minors in English and Cinematic Arts. If she’s not working at the Women’s Center you can find her watching Ghost Shark (2013) with her friends. 

My title is a lie.

If only because I actually want Michelle Obama and her magnificent arms to rule this country as a monarch and Sasha and Malia to be next in line for the throne. However, it does hold some truth to me and Coco Connors from the Netflix series, Dear White People puts it best:

“I don’t want to wake up every day and see how much this country despises [Black women].”

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President Obama was vilified in the press for each and every decision he made. Along the way his legitimacy was questioned, his family was picked apart, and he was criticized for everything from his ears to his birth certificate. There were death threats, racist comics, and he was called a monkey and the n-word with a hard -er. As a Black woman, it hurt to know how much this country hates people who look like me for four years.

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But then I think about Michelle Obama and her toned arms, larger than life personality, law degree, and unwavering dedication to this country and its people. And I think how she sits at the same intersection of blackness and femininity that I do. And I can see the news headlines. I can hear the news reports. I know what this country would think of her presidency. I know how she would be picked apart for every little thing she does in the same way people who look like her always are. Even if Michelle Obama were to become the president of this country, she cannot escape the continual dismantling of blackness and femininity that we face.

Take, for instance, the recent controversy surrounding what was perceived as aggressive behavior from Serena Williams during the US Open competition. After being accused of cheating during her match, she became increasingly frustrated and ultimately broke her racket on the court. Her behavior was broadcasted and criticized over and over again on social media and news networks. She was even drawn as a Jim Crowl like caricature by comic artist, Mark Knight.

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Click here for an example of a Jim Crow comic in comparison.

Never mind that white men have been cursing at referees, breaking their rackets, and displaying the same, if not worse behavior for many years.

Serena Williams has always been a role model to me and many other young black women for as long as I can remember. In watching Serena become vilified over and over again, my heart is broken for her each time. However, there is a different kind of hurt and pain that comes with watching Serena Williams. This feeling I hold every time black women in the public eye are picked apart in the media is a personal one. I have never been surprised though. In Netflix series Dear White People, Coco Connors, a black, female character is faced with a seemingly simple and what one would think is a joy-inducing question for any black woman.

Blackness and femininity garner a very unique type of criticism from the world. In being black, your shoulders can often be weighed down with centuries of institutionalized racism, the modern day bombarding of negative images of black people, and just day to day fear and anxiety. However, black and femme folks also deal with sexism, a patriarchy stacked against us, and the continual violence inflicted on women. While we face outside criticism, there’s pressure from the black community itself to put your race above your gender identity.

As if the two can exist separately in the first place.

“Do you want Michelle Obama to become president?”

The question still rings with me. It was only a split second, an inconsequential scene that they moved on from. It stuck with me.  Michelle Obama, an absolute, undeniably black force, she sits at the suffocating intersection of being black and being a woman. She would never be safe again.

Resources

The Racist, Sexist History of Tennis

Jim Crowe comic

Dear White People, Season 2 Epsiode 8

US Open 2018: Serena Williams fined over outbursts during final

 

To the Food Police in My Life

Samiksha

 

Samiksha Manjani is a Student Staff member at UMBC’s Women’s Center. She is a Political Science and Sociology double-major graduating in May 2019.  

 

 

Eating around other people has become the bane of my existence. I don’t remember the last time I’ve eaten in peace without the “food police” (family, friends, strangers, etc) hitting me with a microaggression about my food choices. Receiving these microaggressions day in and day out has made the simple task of eating daunting and anxiety-ridden.

Here are just SOME of the scenarios that I have been in:

Whenever I order a salad: “What, are you on a diet?”

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Family members when they see me eating only a salad.

Whenever I order anything other than a salad: “Do you really need that?”

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What these situations demonstrate is that it doesn’t actually matter what I’m eating when I get these microaggressions. In fact, it demonstrates that food policing has nothing to do with the food itself. Food policing is really about policing women’s bodies, sizeism, and buying into the economics of diet culture.

Policing Women’s Bodies: The Feminine Ideal

Our patriarchal society begins policing women’s bodies in early childhood. Women are taught from an early age that our appearances define our sense of worth in society, and that thinness directly correlates to value. Furthermore, because we live in a heterosexist world, we’re taught that the judges of our appearances are essentially men. Thus, we’re indoctrinated early on to strive towards a beauty standard that is both largely rooted in the male gaze and is entirely unattainable. This message is constantly reinforced by the institutions in our lives: from schools, the media, and even from our own families sometimes. We’re constantly told that we should pay attention to our appearances and maintain the right body size. But what exactly encompasses this beauty standard regarding body size?

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Historically, the American beauty standard favored plumper bodiesPrior to the mid-20th century, robust bodies were considered to be the feminine ideal. Larger body size was considered indicative of fertility and wealth. Famous beauty icons even into the 20th century, like Marilyn Monroe, were heavy set. Advertisements at the time sold products meant to help women gain weight, not lose weight (seems almost impossible to imagine, I know). Full stomachs, thick thighs, and fat (in the “right” places) were considered healthy & desirable.

Since the mid-20th century, we’ve seen a shift in the beauty ideal from larger bodies to thinner bodies. By the 1960s, the feminine ideal was slender and wispy. In just 10 years, the ideal body size shifted immensely from women with bodies like Marilyn Monroe to bodies like Twiggy. This trend of willowy and thin bodies (like that of Kate Moss) continued to be the feminine ideal throughout the 90s.

Today, the ideal body size still favors thin bodies. American society idealizes an hourglass figure with measurements of about 36-26-36 inch measurements (bust-waist-hips). As you can see, the waist measurement is significantly smaller than the chest and hip measurements.

The current beauty standard presents American women with a conundrum (in the way unrealistic beauty standards always do). As the measurements listed above and current beauty icons such as the Kardashians demonstrate, the ideal body is simultaneously curvy and thin at the same time. While heavy-set busts and hips are considered ideal, so are small waists, thin arms and slender legs. The ideal weight for American women is around 128 pounds, yet the average weight for American women aged 20+ is 168.5 pounds.

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The Kardashians

Sizeism

This beauty standard has real-life consequences for American women. This is because we have associated body size with women’s sense of worth in American society; such that those who are closer to the beauty standard, have higher social value in our society. Therefore, women who have or are close to this ideal body size are considered more worthy. We associate positive values with women who meet the ideal body size.

This phenomenon is called thin privilege. Thin privilege means that individuals who move through the world in a thin body are granted certain advantages and immunities over people who are not thin. What’s important to remember is that it doesn’t matter whether you actually “feel thin” or not to have thin privilege. If other people perceive you as thin, then you maintain an advantage.

On the other hand, women who do not meet this ideal body size and are larger often deal with sizeism. Sizeism is the prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s size (aka: “body shaming,” “fat shaming”). Sizeism is rooted in fatphobia, which is the fear and dislike of obese people and/or obesity.

Sizeism can have severe consequences: one consequence is fat discrimination such as verbal and physical aggression, increased scrutiny of eating habits and extreme pressure to go on dangerous diets, increased health insurance premiums, being provided inferior medical care or being denied certain medical procedures, and/or being judged as “lazy,” “stupid,” and/or “weak.”

Fundamental to our sizeist culture is the notion that being overweight or obese is the result of diminished morality; being heavy is seen as the embodiment of gluttony, sloth, etc. Additionally, because of the deep-rooted belief in self-reliance in American culture, body size is regarded as completely under the control of the individual. Therefore, being heavy or obese is considered to be caused by destructive individual behavior. Ironically, however, we often engage in destructive individual behavior because of the constant and toxic societal pressure to be unattainably thin (e.g. skipping meals). 

Here is an advertisement that a shampoo company ran which I think perfectly exemplifies the attainability of the ideal body:

Your breasts may be too big, too saggy, too pert, too flat, too full, too far apart, too close together, too A cup, too lopsided, too jiggly, too pale, too padded, too pointy, too pendulous or just two mosquito bites. But with Dep styling products, at least you can have your hair the way you want it. Make the most of what you’ve got.”

As this ad demonstrates, no matter how you look, even if you’re the closest to the ideal body size, it’s still not enough. Despite this, we still strive incredibly as a society to meet a body size that for many of us is simply not possible. Why?

Diet Culture

pasted image 0 (12)One of the main driving forces of this unrealistic female body ideal is the diet industry. The diet industry is worth $66.3 billion; selling everything and anything from diet pills to meal plans to member-based fitness clubs.

The diet industry’s primary target? Women. The diet industry, for all the good it may or may not do, profits off of women feeling insecure about their bodies.

Many of the products being peddled can contain harmful ingredients. These products are often advertised by famous artists and celebrity influencers. For-example, many celebrities have endorsed the newest trend in diet products: diet teas. Many diet teas contain senna, which has been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration as a laxative. Although senna can be helpful to combat occasional constipation, the FDA has warned that prolonged use (like in a diet tea) could cause liver, kidney, and colon problems. Despite this, many celebrity influencers still promote diet teas. 

The pervasiveness of diet culture makes it nearly impossible to “just ignore it.” As a result, eradicating it is bound to be a long and difficult process. Truthfully, it would probably require an overhaul of the entire system, but through certain steps, we can begin to diminish its effects.

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pasted image 0 (13)One way is to actively support and be a proponent of body diversity. The body diversity or body positive movement is the acceptance of all human body types. It is rooted in the belief that all human beings should have a positive body image, and be accepting of their own bodies as well as the bodies of others. It also understands that body size is not the same thing as health.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “bikini bodies.” You may have also at some point fretted over the idea of wearing a bathing suit to the pool or beach (lord knows I have).  The diet industry would have you believe that, in order to have a good bikini body, you must go on a diet in order to be the right size in the right areas. With a body positivity lens, we would say that ALL bodies are bikini bodies if there’s a bikini on your body!

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Continuing to raise awareness and celebrate body diversity is essential to disrupting the diet industry. There are so many people already doing this amazing work:  

  • Sonalee Rashatwar, a social worker and an activist sex therapist based in Philadelphia, works with clients to raise self-esteem regarding body image.
  • Tess Holiday is a plus-sized model who continues to challenge the fashion industry on body size.
  • Jessamyn Stanley is a yoga instructor based in Durham, North Carolina who uses yoga to encourage body positivity in her students.
  • Last, but not least, Imogen Fox gives us a very raw, often vulnerable, and eye-opening glimpse of what it means to be body positive as a disabled person, challenging our perceptions of disabilities.

Not only should individuals adopt a body positivity outlook, companies should also do so through cause marketing. Cause marketing refers to marketing strategies that promote a social cause instead of a product. This can be especially potent when the cause is relevant for the brand and has meaning for the brand’s customers. Perfect examples of cause marketing include Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign or American Eagle’s Inclusive Aerie Real lingerie line. When cause marketing is successful, companies are able to expand their customer-base and increase sales. Since American Eagle adopted its Aerie Real campaign, it has continuously reported growths in their profits.

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In fact, we can see how refusing to adopt a body positivity lens can hurt a company. Victoria’s Secret is an extremely famous lingerie brand and has been known for its famous Victoria’s Secret Fashion show. However, it is also known for its severely limited sizing range. The company has overtly declined to be inclusive; most recently, its execs declared that they aren’t willing to hire Trans or Plus-Size Models in their VS Fashion Show because, in their own words, “the show is a fantasy. ” (*rolls eyes*).

In the last few years, Victoria’s Secret has consistently reported that its sales have been in decline. Understandably so, considering that new brands supporting body diversity are popping up: lingerie brands like Savage X Fenty, Torrid, Universal Standard, and more. Additionally, when beauty conglomerates like Dove openly adopt a body diversity message and increase their already high sales, there really is no way for Victoria’s Secret to keep up. As these companies demonstrate, adopting a body positivity campaign can only help increase profits and visibility.

Adopting a body diversity outlook could only help us, not hurt us. If my food popo adopted a body positive mindset, they’d understand that I know what’s best for me, my body, and my health. They’d also understand that my body size is not the same as my health. Ultimately, sizeism and unattainable beauty standards only exist to point out the obvious: we are all unique, different people; beautiful in our own ways.

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Pointe-ing Towards Change: Inclusive Practices in Ballet

 

alexia-e1535562782603.jpg   Alexia Petasis is a student staff member at the Women’s Center. Alexia is pursuing an individualized studies degree with a concentration on social justice and dance. She is a co-facilitator for Pop-Culture Pop-Ups.

This past year, I went to see the San Francisco Ballet at the Kennedy Center for the premiere of new works from various choreographers in the nation. The show consisted of around eight separate dances; some solos, duets, and quartets. The dancers held my attention throughout the lengthy, three-program show as they moved with strength and elegance.

However, I quickly noticed the lack of racial/ethnic diversity on the stage. Under-representation is not a recent problem in the realm of classical or even contemporary ballet. This issue dates back to the 17th century when ballet first became popularized in the courts of European nobility and was, as one can imagine, plagued with discrimination and racism. Unfortunately, the whiteness that engulfed ballet back in those days still exists today, around 400 years later.

Admittedly, I can only speak about this issue from a privileged perspective. I always loved the style of ballet, but I question if my love for it is also correlated in part because I saw others who looked like me doing it. Even from the beginning of my dance training when I was 7 years old, I never believed ballet was an unattainable style of dance for me. The standard attire that is worn for ballet class are pink tights and pink ballet slippers; and though no one has “pink” skin, it is meant to represent closely the skin of white folks, once again perpetuating the notion that people of color are not even considered within this art form. (Significantly, while writing this blog, the New York Times released an article stating that Freed of London released new pointe shoes for black, Asian, and mixed raced dancers.)

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Misty Copeland garnered the attention of the media and the dance community by being the first African-American woman to become a principal dancer (one who dances at the highest rank) for the American Ballet Theatre. Yet, the fact that she is still the only African-American woman in the nation to hold a principal role sheds light on the issue of the overwhelmingly large number of white ballet dancers and how they are given priority within this community. Nonetheless, Copeland is setting the stage and creating a path for other dancers of color to feel as though they, too, can do ballet.

In addition to the groundbreaking leadership of Misty Copeland, I wanted to uplift some companies and programs that are prioritizing racial and ethnic representation into the world of ballet.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) was founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell, who had previously been the first black male dancer in the New York City ballet. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. he realized that there was still work to be done in America in making a difference for black individuals. Mitchell created DTH to, “present a ballet company of African-American and other racially diverse artists who perform the most demanding repertory at the highest level of quality.” The Dance Theatre of Harlem is trying to bring down barriers between Harlem and the world of ballet and extend the art to communities that have been predominantly ignored within the field. Doing this requires that opportunities reach out to individuals who are also of different social classes to make ballet classes available and affordable. To do this, DTH started the initiative of Dancing Through Barriers to bring people of all ages from the community to learn about the arts through an inclusive and equitable arts education program.

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Another example is Project Plié an initiative started by the American Ballet Theatre to create a community within the world of ballet where the talent of people of color could be nurtured. The company, “grant[s] merit-based training scholarships to talented children of color; provides teacher training scholarships to teachers of color [and] grants intern scholarships to young arts administrators of color.” American Ballet Theatre’s CEO, Rachel Moore emphasizes the importance of diversity both on stage and behind the scenes.

With both these initiatives working to bring more black dancers to the stages, there remains still the need to share the history and the stories of black dancers in America. MoBBallet makes it their mission to “preserve, present, and promote the contributions and stories of Black artists in the field of ballet, reinstating a legacy that has been muted.” Their website features a timeline of the various schools, performances, and companies that have provided opportunities for black dancers as well as access to an e-zine, or electronic magazine, to preserve the history and progress made thus far. Organizations such as these are integral to the preserving and showcasing the strides of black individuals in an accessible way.

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As a Women’s Center intern, I see many parallels between the work that is being done at the Women’s Center toward advancing gender equity and the work that is being done by these companies and programs to advance racial and ethnic representation in the ballet community. Their approach is similar to that of the Women’s Center, as they acknowledge that to enact change, we need to prioritize and center the voices of those who have been marginalized to create an inclusive campus climate. At the Women’s Center, we see and acknowledge the harm that is done to the communities of people that are underrepresented and whose voices are repeatedly silenced. Many other articles written about this issue speak on the economic inequalities, racial prejudice, and racism that are foundations for the discrimination in ballet. (see links below)

In writing this blog, I urge my dance friends to look around their classroom the next time they are in ballet class and see where the privilege still lies. I hope that we continue to work on expanding the number of people of color in the classroom, both as teachers and students, to nurture a more inclusive generation of ballet artists. We should prioritize representation of individuals on stage and continue to work towards creating an inclusive ballet community off-stage as well, as ballet educators and choreographers.

We will only begin to see ballet transform when we acknowledge that this lack of representation is still so pervasive in Western society and encourage the next generation of choreographers to cast more diverse dancers. Everyone should have equal opportunities and equal access to be a part of this art form. As an aspiring choreographer and teacher, I will do my part in seeing that change through.

Additional Readings:

https://www.pointemagazine.com/behind-ballets-diversity-problem-2412811909.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/15/opinion/black-dancers-white-ballets.html

https://www.abt.org/community/diversity-inclusion/project-plie/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/arthur-mitchell-who-broke-barriers-black-ballet-dancers-has-died-84-180970357/

https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/21/us/misty-copeland-ballet-race-boss-files/index.html

 

B-I-N-G-O spells SCOUT…with the Women’s Center

Last semester we launched everybody’s fave, the Women’s Center Scouts! And it was really, really popular.

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Like really popular and if you missed out you’re probably feeling a little sad right now. Well, don’t be because we’re rolling out the Women’s Center Scouts Spring Challenge!

BINGO!!!!

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We still have the Women’s Center Scouts, but this semester it’ll be a little different. If you haven’t already, start by joining the Women’s Center myUMBC page and following at least one of our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram). If you’re already a member and following one of our pages, great! You’re one step closer.

Now, instead of completing three different Women’s Center events throughout the semester, you’ll be racing to get a Connect 5 on our brand new bingo board (aka Punch the Patriarchy Card)!

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  • Attend any one Women’s Center event
  • Bring a friend to the lounge and give them a tour
  • Donate paper towels, tissues, or food to the Women’s Center
  • Attend one program before Spring Break Attend one Women’s Center workshop
  • Color a coloring page in the Women’s Center
  • Bring a friend to a Women’s Center event or group
  • Fill out the question of the week on the whiteboard
  • Attend one Knowledge Exchange
  • Make a ~new~ friend in the Women’s Center!
  • Read a Women’s Center blog on womenscenteratumbc.wordpress.com and ask the author a question
  • Introduce yourself to a Women’s Center student staff member and learn about their astrological sign
  • Free Space (Because We Love You)
  • Share a Women’s Center post or event on your social media and tag or mention us!
  • Follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter Instagram) and comment on one of our posts!
  • Attend a Women’s Center Pop Culture Pop-Up (look out for when they’re announced but they’ll always fall on Wednesdays at noon)
  • Attend one discussion group (i.e. Between Women, Women of Color Coalition, Returning Women Students, or We Believe You. Not sure if the discussion group is for you? Check out our website to learn more about each group’s purpose and community).
  • Attend one Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) event (calendar coming later this semester. All SAAM events will take place in April)
  • Celebrate Galentine’s Day with the Women’s Center on 2/13/19
  • Donate coffee or tea!
  • Check out a book from the Women’s Center Library
  • Bring back a book from the Women’s Center library
  • Make a Take Back the Night rally sign
  • Go to the Clothesline Project Display on 4/8/19 on Main Street
  • Attend Trans Day of Visibility film screening on 3/27/19

A few rules! It is completely up to you to track your progress. The Punch the Patriarchy Cards are already printed and ready for you to claim in the Women’s Center. Each person’s card will stay with us at the Women’s Center front desk, but you’re welcome to take a picture to help map your moves and keep track of your progress. When you complete a square, it’s up to you to “punch” it with a pen or marker of your choice. Don’t forget to date the square when it is completed. And finally, we’ll trust you to keep a scouts honor and mark challenges you ~actually~ did complete.

Any UMBC community member who completes the challenge by May 1st gets a Women’s Center T-shirt! If you already have one, you’ll get a shout-out on our social media pages for being a stellar scout (or maybe, just maybe you might be able to get one of our awesome Take Back the Night t-shirts).

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All UMBC students, faculty, and staff are welcome to participate!

IT’S BINGO TIME WOMEN’S CENTER STYLE!

For questions, stop by the Women’s Center or email us at womenscenter@umbc.edu.