Women are Funny, TOO or “Why do we have to keep writing these posts?”

A team effort by some of the Women’s Center staff!

So in 2015, UMBC brought Hannibal Buress to campus as our homecoming comedian. We rejoiced. We love him as Lincoln in Broad City, we appreciate his stalwart bend toward social justice, and he’s hella funny.

We were ALSO frustrated. For every UMBC Homecoming comedy event, we have invited men. Nick Offerman. B.J. Novak. Bo Burnham. Donald Glover. Lewis Black.  Hannibal Burress. All funny folk, but also male folk. And we’re not trying to pretend this is an issue isolated to UMBC. The general global representation of women in comedy is dismal. So at the time, we wrote it out and we compiled a list of awesome women in comedy with the hopes that someone at UMBC would say, “Oh wow. Sexism. It exists here, too. You know what would exemplify our campus values of inclusive excellence and commitment to diversity? A lady!”

Unfortunately, our naive hopes were dashed again this year. Trevor Noah is coming.

Don’t get us wrong, Trevor Noah is a cool dude. But he’s a cis male dude.

A dude who is critical of oppression and injustice, but also one who has a past that includes some disturbing episodes of sexism.

So again, the Women’s Center is dusting off its trusty soapbox and presents our dear readers with a humble compilation of awesome comedians who also just so happen to be women. ❤


Aparna Nancherla – Amelia’s Pick

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Maybe she’s born with it, maybe she’s born into a societal prison of impossible standards.

– Aparna Nancherla,  “Just Putting It Out There”

Aparna is a comic that has been all up in my social media feeds, podcasts, and Netflix-ing, so I decided to check her out—and now I love her and am a huge fan.

Aparna is a stand-up comedian. She recently released her debut album, “Just Putting It Out There” (the first release on Tig Notaro’s new comedy label Bentzen Ball Records), which I can’t recommend enough. Her subject matter is dry, observational stuff, but she’s also just goofy and off-kilter. She talks a lot about being a woman, a woman of color, a woman with anxiety and depression, and all of these things at once (that’s called intersectional humor, friends). At one point she describes her anxiety as a really bad, but enthusiastic improv group who keep taking suggestions from a sadistic audience—and that description is the closest anyone has ever come to defining what my anxiety is.

Aparna is a writer and performer on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, has done work on Master of None and Bojack Horseman, can be heard on a whole bunch of big popular podcasts, has features in really notable papers and magazines, and has opened for numerous big names like John Oliver, Tig Notaro, Maria Bamford, Kristen Schaal, and Hari Kondabolu (just to name some of my favorite folks).

Her Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are LI-HIT. She is very awesome, and I hope you also check out the video below.

Kristen Becker – Marie’s Pick

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In 2006, I had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with Kristen Becker while she was performing in Santa Fe, New Mexico on a Dykes of Hazard Tour.  She has been named “One of America’s Funniest Lesbians” by CURVE magazine, and has opened for national comedy acts, and even for Ani DiFranco.

Not only is Becker hilarious, she works extremely hard as an LGBTQ activist and supporter of social justice.  While touring with her current project “Loosen the Bible Belt,” she was able to successfully complete her first “Summer of Sam” endeavor in her hometown of Providence Rhode Island.  If you have a few minutes to check out her comedy…do it..it will be worth your time!

Samantha Bee – Hannah’s Pick

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The first version of this post pointed to a gender disparity in comedy on a level greater than UMBC—there were no female late-night talk show hosts. But even though we are still writing this article, progress is being made; Full Frontal with Samantha Bee broke that glass ceiling in February 2016 with Bee as the creator, writer, executive producer, and host. Before that, she was the longest tenured correspondent for The Daily Show, and was the only woman for five years before being joined by Kristen Schaal (who is another great woman in comedy you should definitely check out).

In addition to her humor, I love the fact that she uses her platform as a woman in a male-dominated field to do good for others. In hiring writers, she and the producers set up a blind process which hid the gender, race, and experience level of the applicants. As a result, the writing staff is about 50% female and 30% non-white. Additionally, proceeds from the show’s merchandise go to organizations like Planned Parenthood, the Karam Foundation, Distributing Dignity, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Hispanic Federation

Negin Farsad – Sydney’s Pick

negin20farsad20promo20photoI first came across Negin when researching many, many women for this post. I was instantly intrigued with the short clip I saw in which she made jokes about dating while being Muslim and her mother’s expectations of her as a Muslim woman. Negin considers herself a social justice comedian who uses her platform to discuss pressing issues in a way that makes them easier to talk about and get a dialogue started. She was named one of the Funniest Women of 2015 by the Huffington Post and one of the 10 Best Feminist Comedians by Paper Magazine. Due to her work in social justice through comedy she was also named a TEDFellow (watch her TED talk here), has written for major networks, published a book, and hosts a podcast. She also has a documentary, The Muslims are Coming, which follows comedians across America as they try to combat issues of Islamaphobia while facing backlash from both non-Muslims and Muslims throughout.

 

Leslie Knope (AKA Amy Poehler) – Jess’s Pick

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Okay, I know Leslie Knope isn’t a real person. Amy Poehler is the real person who makes Leslie Knope come alive on a regular basis in my living room via Parks and Rec. This show makes me laugh and rejuvenates my soul after a long work day. Leslie is also present in the Women’s Center, because she makes me giggle in my office when I’m looking for the perfect reaction gif (almost always from Parks and Rec) to send in an email.

Thank you, Leslie Knope/Amy Poehler.

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Ellen DeGeneres – Samiksha’s Pick

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I really struggled to think of female comedians when I was asked to write about them, my mind was blank. That is until I watched an episode of Ellen interviewing Michelle Obama, and it clicked. Ellen is definitely a female comedian, but sometimes we forget because she’s become so ingrained in our lives. She’s the funny best friend we’ve always wanted and the big sister that always makes us feel better when we’re down.

The Ellen show has been airing new episodes since September of 2003 and still going strong. That’s 14 years, and most of my life.  What’s great about her humor, in the words of Barack Obama, is that it “has a way of making you laugh about something, rather than at someone.” Ellen’s humor doesn’t need to put anyone down to get a laugh out of you, and trust me, she will have you laughing till you cry. After watching her show, I guarantee you will have a smile on your face as I always have.

On top of that, Ellen is a prominent humanitarian. Ellen has used her show as a major platform to do humanitarian work; she has given away more than $50 million dollars on her show to various causes. She has been involved with causes like fighting breast cancer, Hurricane Katrina disaster effort, St. Jude’s Children Hospital, and for families struggling economically. It’s hard not to find something to love about Ellen!

This is not an exhaustive list by any means! Who are the funny women you would add to the list? Let us know by commenting on our social media pages.

 

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To my feminist mentor, Megan Tagle Adams

A reflection by Amelia Meman on her feminist mentoring relationship with Assistant Director Megan Tagle Adams.

Megan and I in the NWSA photobooth.

Megan (right) and I in the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) photobooth.

With Megan’s departure from UMBC (today!), I feel the Women’s Center is saying goodbye to a real social justice champion on our campus. Someone who was constantly striving for excellence in our institution. More than this, though, I feel I am saying goodbye to someone who has taught me what feminist mentorship—in its best iteration—can be.

Traditional models of mentorship are often paternalistic and hierarchical. Relationships are based on a transactional relationship between a mentor–older, more experienced in a particular professional setting, more “successful”—and their mentee—a younger novice looking for their niche, to expand their professional network, and to build on their skills. Continue reading

“I’m a Water Dancer, Mom!”: On Bodies and Baltimore’s Premier Water Ballet

 

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That’s me! And my body.

 

A reflection on body acceptance and positivity while being a part of a water ballet by Special Projects Coordinator, Amelia Meman.

I tend to not write about my body much. It’s not that I don’t think about it. I’m preoccupied by it, actually. Rather, it’s that I don’t want to continue to bring attention to something that seems, to me, like a glaring error that folks can already pick apart.

It’s not just that I’m sort of fat. I am fat, and that’s something I’ve been able to tease out through years of BMI charts. There’s also everything else: I’m broad shouldered, hairy, weirdly proportioned, and I have a really large tongue. I have weird chubby baby cherub hands and my feet are callused because I use them to climb (read: fall out of) trees.

I could spend many more words on my weirdo body (as I’m sure many others could, too), but this summer I signed up to be in Fluid Movement’s annual water ballet, and now I am actually proud of what my body does. It’s a weird and foreign feeling for me–being proud of my body. After I have somersaulted and tread water for an hour and pin-wheeled and held people’s ankles while floating like perverse otters, I think I’m starting to really love this body.

Continue reading

Honoring our graduating UMBC moms, parents, and returning students

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With Mother’s Day still in the air and with UMBC’s 50th Commencement quickly approaching, the Women’s Center is reflecting with immense pride on all of the UMBC mothers and parents who have passed through our doors, used our services, and who have walked across the stage to receive their diplomas.

Our moms and parents, whether they are a part of the Returning Women Student Scholars Programs, use the lactation room, or just come in to the Center to hang out, exemplify the eponymous “grit” that is so integral to UMBC’s identity. UMBC moms balance an enormous amount of responsibilities as they work to advance their careers. From partners to full time jobs and from children to parents in need, moms returning to UMBC face unique challenges and require unique support.

Being a parent and being a university student are often identities that are invisible. As most traditional students create their schedules and hope to get into a class with their favorite professor, UMBC moms and parents are striving to create a schedule that enables them to balance family, school, work, and their own self-care. The Women’s Center is a place where we strive to honor the complexities of being a parent and a student through supportive and dynamic services. Our moms and parents have access to scholarships, professional development workshops, our lactation room, and 1-1 support services.

This Mother’s Day the Women’s Center is proud to recognize the mothers and parents who are a part of the UMBC community and who we are honored to serve everyday. As this year comes to a close, please consider making a donation to the Women’s Center in honor of our 25th Anniversary. Your gift goes on to support UMBC moms and make our services even better. 

Give today, and help us support our UMBC moms, parents, and returning students.

Check out the stories of two of our graduating Returning Women Scholars on UMBC News:

Erin Callahan and Natacha Ngea.

Supporting survivors past April

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This past April was our most powerful yet. In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Women’s Center coordinated the annual Take Back the Night event, which 265 UMBC community members attended (click here for a photo round-up). The Clothesline Project reached another 183 people, and 10 new shirts were created by survivors of interpersonal violence.

 

 

The Women’s Center’s mission to support survivors extends beyond April. This year, the Women’s Center has trained 103 students, faculty, and staff in our supporting survivors workshops. Jess and Megan have also devoted over 25 hours of 1-1 support meetings for survivors and those dedicated to supporting them.

As this school year ends, please help us continue cultivating a survivor-responsive campus. We are only $450 away from making our 25th Anniversary GiveCorps goal for the 2016-2017 school year!
Give today and help a survivor access the support they need. 

Writing as a woman: A conversation

In recognition of the other month-long celebration that is April’s National Poetry Month, Women’s Center Special Projects Coordinator Amelia Meman recorded a discussion on writing as a woman with her two best friends. Check out the video below, and join the conversation!

Writing as a woman.

It’s something I think about fairly often, because it brings up issues of worthiness, knowledge-making, developing identities, creating dialogues and rhetorical communities, and communicating experience. Writing is, in many ways, the convergence of the private becoming public–y’know, that old feminist maxim. Writing as an act and later as a product contains multitudes, especially in its intersections with identity.

That said, I was eager to talk with two of my best friends, Susie Hinz and Kerrin Smith, about their experiences as writers, as woman, and as women writers (or alternatively writerly women?). A video of our conversation is below. We talk about the intersections of identity and writing, getting over feelings of unworthiness, working through writer’s block, and many other writing-related things.

Susie is a UMBC alum who is working at Maryland Humanities and is also curating a fantastic blog (and possibly publishing a novel in the future). Kerrin is a poet in the Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA program, and you can catch updates on her published work (and her life) on her Twitter.

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This is how we generally feel about writing. (Thanks to Susie for this picture.)

A note: Our discussion is extremely limited in terms of “what it means to be a woman writer,” and we want to acknowledge this. We all have particular aspects of privilege and oppression that affect our identities (gender, creative, and otherwise), and this conversation stems from a particular place of privilege. It’s my hope that this discussion, though limited in terms of perspective, is still insightful and helpful to those watching.

The Rise in Human Trafficking in the State of Maryland

This post was written by Farhan Augustine, a UMBC senior studying Biochemistry. In addition to his work at UMBC, Farhan advocates for the rights of human trafficking survivors and is actively involved in local efforts to create legislation that would protect survivors. 

Human sex and labor trafficking is a hideous violation of human rights that has been quietly growing in our communities for many years. According to some of the statistics, human trafficking is now the second highest grossing criminal enterprise across the world.

Maryland Data TablesAlthough the awareness regarding human sex and labor trafficking appears to be growing, our state of Maryland remains a treasure-trove for human sex and labor trafficking. Maryland is a vital location because many of our highways, especially I-95, provide easy access to some of the most populated communities on the East Coast. Traffickers use many of our local highways to traverse between New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. In fact, National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) reports receiving 531 tips and registering 158 Human trafficking cases in Maryland in the year 2016. Further breakdown of the NHTH data indicates that 77% of the reported human trafficking cases involved sex trafficking, and 16% of the reported cases involved human labor trafficking. Moreover, Maryland’s Judiciary (Administrative Office of the Courts), the U.S. Department of Justice, and Department of Legislative Services advises that approximately 476 violations of Maryland’s Criminal Law, Article 11-303 (MD Criminal Law, Article 11- related to Human trafficking), were seen in District Courts and 256 violations were seen in the Circuit Courts.

Despite being so prevalent in Maryland, human trafficking remains hidden in plain sight. My main purpose in writing this article is to make you aware of human trafficking in Maryland in the hopes that you may become an active and informed member of our society.

Human Trafficking is More Than Sex Trafficking

Maryland Data Charts (1)Many people associate human trafficking with sexual exploitation; however, human trafficking has many different faces, and it plays a major role in dozens of businesses across Maryland. Labor exploitation is another facet of human trafficking. Maryland counts domestic labor, begging rings, traveling sales crews, agriculture and fish farming industries, health care industry, marriage and online dating, commercial brothels, hotel/motel brothels, and online escort services as hubs of human trafficking. As widespread as it is, human trafficking is often undetectable to the untrained eye. “Mail-order brides,” for example are illegal in Maryland under Criminal Law §11-303 and (HB#0276F) which describes “compelled marriage” as marriage in which a person knowingly takes money or uses fraud to compel the other person to marry another person. This crime is punishable with up to 25 years of imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $15,000. A person who knowingly aids, abets, or benefits financially from such ventures or activities is also in violation of the state’s human trafficking laws, and is subject to the same penalties. Thus, human trafficking is more widespread than many people realize and spreading awareness is of utmost importance.

Furthermore, many people are maladroit in distinguishing between smuggling and trafficking. This in part is because of the widespread neo-abolitionist discourses adopted by almost all anti-trafficking efforts, movies, TV shows, and political activities which sets up widespread misrepresentation of victims of trafficking only as young and innocent women who are deceived and forced into the sex industry. The reality is something of a complicated nature and is often perverse for policy and law making purposes. For example, it is true that many women that are trafficked for sex and labor are often forced into such acts. However, the unauthorized international migration, often initiated by women themselves to ameliorate their lives and families, positions them as isolated and distinct victims of emotional, physical, and sexual exploitation that is almost unprecedented and often under reported by victims due to fears of retaliation from the law enforcement agencies. Thus, a simple definition of a trafficking victim that suffers at the hands of individual men: traffickers, clients, and buyers, needs to be broadened to form holistic anti-trafficking policies and laws that do no assume or correlate trafficking with only sex work. The problem with the popular view of “human trafficking = sex work” is that it relies on the construction of human trafficking based on gender stereotypes and denies men and women’s agency by focusing exclusively on sexual exploitation of women that makes other types of labor exploitation almost invisible. Instead it reinforces the patriarchal discourse that all “sex workers” must necessarily be “passive victims” that need paternal protection, and it establishes a single framework for victimhood that most of the exploited undocumented migrant victims cannot meet in the court of law. Thus, it is important to be aware and create laws and policies to distinguish between people that intentional engage in sex work purely for their own economic gains, and separate those from the people who are forced and coerced into modern day sex-slavery.  

Maryland’s Legislation and Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts

Maryland, compared to some other states like Florida, New York, and California, does not have a comprehensive human trafficking legislation. To give you some background regarding the Human trafficking laws in Maryland, I have chosen to present you with information which (I believe) every responsible citizen of the State should be aware of. (Click the hyperlinks if you require further comprehension of Criminal Law Article-11). MD Code, Criminal Law, §11-303, as repealed and reenacted in October 2010, provided the following major provisions to the Criminal Law Article.

  1.  § 11-303(a)(1)(v) of the Criminal Law Article “A person may not knowingly: engage in a device, scheme, or continuing course of conduct intended to cause another to believe that if the other did not take part in a sexually explicit performance, the other or a third person would suffer physical restraint or serious physical harm.”  
  2. § 11-303(b)(2) of the Criminal Law Article A person may not knowingly take or detain another with the intent to use force, threat, coercion, or fraud to compel the other to marry the person or a third person or perform a sexual act, sexual contact, or vaginal intercourse.” Separate from Criminal Law, the MD Code- Transportation- §8-655, requires the rest area restrooms and businesses to post National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline information signs.
  3. §11-303(f), provide that a person charged with Human trafficking of a minor may not assert a defense by claiming to not have known the age of the victim.
  4. As of January 23, 2017, the Maryland General Assembly has passed House Bill #0276 which extends the statute of limitations to 10 years, applicable to civil actions related to Human trafficking.

Maryland’s Human trafficking Laws are slowly becoming more comprehensive, nonetheless, without more community involvement our State’s legislature will continue overlooking Human Rights Violations associated with human trafficking.

Community Safety and Involvement

As stated previously, much of our community is unaware of the expansive foothold that human trafficking is establishing in our communities. Maryland, in 2007, established the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force (MHTTF) under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General of Maryland, and the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City to investigate, prosecute, and serve the victims of human trafficking in our state. MHTTF has been subcategorized based on the region it serves. See the resource section for the list of local Task Forces. Since January 2013, the local task forces and federal law enforcement partners (FBI, Dept. of Homeland Security, etc..) have identified ≥ 200 victims of trafficking and have prosecuted 94 human traffickers. The men and women of MHTTF do great fieldwork and deserve our gratitude for making our communities safer.

However, the infrastructure to support MHTTF is still in the infancy stage. The state and federal funding to establish facilities that can provide crisis services to victims and survivors, and to serve as community outreach centers for training, research, and development is lacking significantly. It is paramount to provide training to first responders, public universities, school teachers, and to health care professionals that can confidentially screen potential victims of Human trafficking.

My principles spare me no excuse, for the same freedoms, which I enjoy so much, should also be accessible for every person regardless of their race, ethnicity, immigration status, or age. Most of my December and January months were spent studying Maryland’s Constitution and Criminal Law, Article-11. I was writing emails and making phone calls to anyone I though could help in making my voice heard at the state or the federal legislature. My singular voice in the ether of bureaucracy was praying for a change to occur. Thanks to the efforts of so many people who had the same conviction as me, the change has begun to happen. On January 23, 2017, the Human Trafficking – Civil Actions – Statue of Limitations (HB#0276) was first read and passed in the Maryland’s General Assembly. Its purpose was to extend the Statue of Limitations related to Human trafficking, effective October 1, 2017. Which means, if a plaintiff who were a minor at the time the statute of limitations began to accrue, he/she would now have 10 years to file a civil cause of action in Maryland. Furthermore, a new federal bill has been proposed in the House of Representatives in January, “Trafficking Survivors Relief Act of 2017.” This new bill is spearheading the efforts to decriminalize certain non-violent convictions and arrest records of Human trafficking victims. Many of our young adults and runaway foster-care children become victims of human trafficking. [They are pushed into a lifestyle that they did not choose and often violently exploited.] It is heartbreaking for me to acknowledge that instead of providing safety, protection, and guidance to people, our laws assign a criminal status to those who are victims of Human trafficking.

Thus, I implore you to partake in the process of bringing freedom, liberty, and happiness to victims of Human trafficking, and help to lessen their suffering. One of the easiest ways you can help is by holding your public officials accountable. Public pressures and public awareness is the key to getting our legislatures to recognize and change the laws which protect and safeguard our communities against Human traffickers. Together we can bring change in our communities. I am providing you with two links to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s petition forms. Please consider signing the petitions to protect the victims of Human trafficking, and please help them get their freedom back.

 

1). Petition for the reauthorization of Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act: http://act.polarisproject.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=23990

2). Trafficking Survivor’s Relief Act http://act.polarisproject.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=23688

 

Additional Resources:

Maryland’s Human Trafficking Task Forces: http://www.mdhumantrafficking.org/mhttf

 

 

NGOs and Other Local Agencies: http://www.mdhumantrafficking.org/partners