Activist/Feminist Inspiration for the Weeks Ahead

IMG_3638 A brief reminder to take care of yourself, find your way to stay motivated, and shine on by student staff member Prachi Kochar. 

As we approach the end of the semester, it can be difficult to stay motivated and take care of ourselves while still prioritizing pursuing what is important to us. It has been a very difficult semester for me on multiple fronts, but reading the writings of feminist activists that I look up to has become something that helps me bolster my motivation and passion, even in hard times. While everyone’s goals, motivations, and needs look different, I hope that the following quotes will serve as inspiration for the dark times or as an extra push forward when it is needed. Feel free to save and share as much as you would like! 

Be sure to check out the following resources related to self-care, and remember, we’re all in this together. You can do it!

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Who Gets to be a Superhero? Representation and Comic Books

Blog Post 1 picture.pngWomen’s Center student staff member Prachi reflects on her lifelong hobby of reading comic books and how inclusive comic books as well as how inclusive their industry has been for women, particularly women of color. 

I have been a superhero comic book fan, on and off, for about 13 years – beginning with checking out Spider-Man and Fantastic Four comics from the public library in elementary. At that young age, it didn’t occur to me in explicit terms that comic books, their industry, and their fans often excluded or mistreated women, people of color, and LGBT people. Instead, I felt a sense of shame and guilt whenever someone commented on my comic book reading, feeling like something was not “right” with me for being a young girl that loved comic book superheroes.

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What Does Self-Care Really Look Like?

Prachi Kochar

A reflection of what self-care really looks like for each of us, especially during finals, by Women’s Center student staff member Prachi Kochar.

It’s a common refrain that we’ve all heard, especially around this time of year. “Don’t forget to take care of yourself during finals week!”, “Remember that self-care is important!”, and so on. But what does taking care of yourself look like? Does it look like buying yourself your favorite drink at Starbucks? Does it look like going to the gym for a hard session on the treadmill? Does it look like sleeping in an extra hour? Does it look like going to the movies with your friends? Simply put, there is no easy “yes” or “no” answer to these questions. Self-care looks like what is right for you at this point in time. And self-care does not always fit into a neat little box of “Do this and you’ll feel great!” Self-care can be an ongoing process, a process that is sometimes painful and sometimes exhilarating. And it is something that everyone has their own interpretation of, which can be incredibly overwhelming – googling “what does self-care look like” yields over 29 million results!

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Besides these yummy cupcakes, what does treating yourself look like?

For me, self-care can take the form of sleeping in a few hours and giving my body and mind the time to rest and recover from stresses. It can also take the form of waking up early and going to the gym for a 7 AM yoga class or going for a run. Sometimes self-care means showing up for all of my commitments, even when I am tired, and sometimes it means saying “no” or “I can’t do it.” Sometimes self-care means pushing myself to finish all of my assignments when I am not feeling my best so that I will not be thrown into crisis mode later when all of my commitments pile up. What is most important is that I take stock of how I am feeling, mentally and physically, and do not become upset at myself for not being able to do everything, but also recognize that sometimes it is necessary for me to push myself to take care of myself. In other words, self-care sometimes involves doing the hard things and showing up for yourself. Continue reading

Why do Disability Issues Matter?

Prachi KocharWomen’s Center intern Prachi Kochar discusses the importance of disability in relation to many important issues that are going on today, such as police brutality and the 2016 presidential election. Rather than have disability be an afterthought, it should be brought to the forefront of our discussions about social justice issues. 

In conversations about social activism and social change, we must remember who is not being talked about. Who is being left out of these conversations and why? In particular, I have noticed a significant amount of ignorance about issues related to people with disabilities throughout my college experience, and relating to several different issues, ranging from accessibility at UMBC to the rights (and respect) of people with disabilities in 2016’s presidential race to how people with disabilities, especially those who are people of color — and especially Black people — are treated by police. People with disabilities are also often left out of conversations about social justice. Think about the last time you heard about a protest, discussion about a social justice issue, or rally. Was there any mention of wheelchair accessible-seating or sign language interpreters? This is particularly striking because 19% of the U.S. population, or 56.7 million people, have some kind of disability.

The word “disabled” and its meanings are often not critically considered, but it is important to remember that just like other identities, such as gender, race, and class, it is socially constructed. This perspective of disability emphasizes that it is society that disables people by rendering some services and institutions inaccessible to people as well as stigmatizing those who are considered to have disabilities. For example, deafness is not considered a disability by the Deaf community because within the Deaf community, there are no barriers to communication — everyone is able to use sign language and communicate clearly. It is also important to recognize that all people with disabilities cannot be lumped together. Even people who seem to have the same “type” of disability may have different needs. This is why it is especially important to listen to diverse groups of people with disabilities and center their voices and experiences, rather than non-disabled people.  

Even though I am deaf, as someone who does not have any mobility issues, I initially did not realize how inaccessible UMBC’s campus is to people with mobility issues, especially wheelchair users. For example, getting to the Performing Arts and Humanities Building only seems like a minor annoyance to me, one that just requires giving myself an extra five minutes to walk up all those stairs. However, for someone in a wheelchair, chronic pain, or with crutches, it is necessary to navigate a labyrinth of ramps, building entrances, and elevators to make it to class. Furthermore, most classroom doors, and even some building entrances, do not have buttons that allow them to open automatically, meaning that they must be pushed or pulled to allow access. The same is also true for many bathroom entrances, even bathrooms that have wheelchair accessible stalls. In this way, UMBC creates more barriers for people with mobility issues. Accessibility issues at UMBC do not exist in a vacuum; they reflect how people with disabilities are viewed and treated in American society, intersecting with other dimensions of identity, such as gender, race, and class.

Police brutality against people with disabilities, especially those who are people of color, is an issue rarely spoken about, but it is a very major one. As found in a report that analyzed incidents of police brutality between 2013-2015, up to half of people killed by the police have a disability. Police officers are typically the first respondents to mental health crisis 911 calls, but they are often not trained to deal with various mental health issues as well as physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities. Furthermore, racism and anti-blackness as well as biases against people with disabilities – where they are perceived as “dangerous” and “non-compliant” greatly contribute to police brutality.

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Our Critical Social Justice keynote speaker Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarsinha spoke about issues related to disability justice. You can watch the video of her lecture here!  (photo credit: Mike Mower)

Another major area in which disability issues are rarely discussed (except when something particularly shocking or offensive has been said) is the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections. Yes, I can already hear your groans, but we need to talk about how people with disabilities could potentially be affected by this election, especially because many people with disabilities are women, LGBTQ+, or people of color who already face discrimination on those fronts. You’ve probably heard about Donald Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter and him calling Marlee Matlin an ableist slur, but very little media attention has been given to the actual policy positions of both Trump and Clinton with regard to disability issues. However, these policies can actually be life or death for some people with disabilities.

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A major issue affecting people with disabilities is employment and salary equity. (credit: AIR.org)

Donald Trump has said little about people with disabilities with regard to official policy positions. Although he has praised himself for making the buildings on his properties accessible to people with disabilities (building wheelchair ramps, for example), this is mandated under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Multiple cases have also come up in which lawsuits were filed because his properties did not comply with ADA guidelines.

Hillary Clinton has been much more vocal on the topic of disability rights, using the failings of Donald Trump to emphasize how she will support people with disabilities. However, while Clinton is miles ahead of Trump on disability issues, that does not mean she is perfect. Her campaign has been criticized for portraying disability rights from the perspective of those without disabilities, rather than amplifying the voices of people with disabilities. Furthermore, despite her stated support of people with disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Clinton has not given much information on exactly how she will support people with disabilities and what specific issues she will address, creating doubt as to how effective she will be on disability-related policies. While it is important to recognize that Clinton is much better than Trump, it is also important to be critical of her policies and ask for better.

The Democratic Party has also shown their support of disability rights, by focusing on disability issues at the Democratic National Convention and having multiple speakers with disabilities as well as accommodations for all. Even though we have a long way to go with increasing accessibility for people with disability as well as awareness of the issues that people with disabilities face, it is possible for us, both people with disabilities and people without disabilities, to begin making a positive difference and to support disability justice. One of the major ways that we can do that is voting — so make sure you go out and vote if you are able to do so! Together, we can make a positive change and advocate for disability justice. 

Resource Round-Up 

Across Worlds and Identities: The Spaces in Between


Prachi KocharA reflection by Women’s Center staff member Prachi Kochar on identity and “fitting in”. How do we navigate identities that can fit into multiple categories of nationality, ability, race, etc. at once? Or identities that do not perfectly fit into these categories, spilling out and crashing into each other? 

This summer, I went to India for my cousin’s wedding, and it was a long trip both physically (twenty-four hours of traveling, with a layover!) and mentally. Even though it has technically been over for months, it continues to affect the way that I think and view the world. It has deepened my understanding of how I navigate the world, both in terms of my physical location and in terms of social situations and relationships.

Before this trip, I had assumed that India was nothing more or less than a second home to my parents, that it was their equivalent of me coming home from school for winter or summer vacation. However, after an interaction with some distant relatives, my mother turned to me and shook her head, saying “They act like we’re not even Indian!” Continue reading