What You Need to Know About Take Back The Night & Craftivism

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its seventh consecutive Take Back The Night (TBTN) on Thursday, April 13th. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of questions about what Take Back the Night exactly is, why it looks the way it does, and how students can get involved. To help get those questions answered this year, we’ve doing a “What You Need to Know” series focused on TBTN so stay tuned for more posts over the next couple of weeks. This is the fifth post in the series and it focuses on the last part of Take Back the Night which is craftivism and community building.

Hearing and sharing survivors’ stories of sexual violence can be empowering, challenging, and emotional. We know that people process their feelings in different ways, and so following survivor speak out and march, the event continues with Craftivism on Main Street. This portion of the program is intended to provide space for reflection, creative expression, and community building.

When the marchers return to Main Street, there will be tables set up with art supplies for anyone wishing to contribute to one of the community craft projects we’ll have available: sachet bags to fill with scented dried flowers and herbs, the Clothesline Project, and the Dear Survivor scrapbook. We also encourage attendees to check out the resource tables to learn more about various campus and community organizations and services.

All are welcome to add a page to our Dear Survivor scrapbook, which features messages of hope, healing, and solidarity from survivors and allies who have attended TBTN in past years. The scrapbook can be found in the Women’s Center lounge.

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Materials for the Clothesline Project will be available for survivors who would like to give voice to their experience by decorating a shirt that will be displayed during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every April, these shirts are hung shoulder-to-shoulder on a clothesline on Main Street to give public testimony to the problems of sexual and gender-based violence. Please note that while allies are invited to participate in the Monument Quilt and Dear Survivor scrapbook, the Clothesline Project is intended for those who identify as survivors.

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For those who prefer a quieter space for reflection, there will be a self-care station set up in the commuter lounge available during the survivor speak out and the rest of the evening. There will be tissues, stress balls, coloring supplies, and other resources for self-care. The station also provides a more private space where attendees can speak with one of the counselors on call, if needed.

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For more information about UMBC’s TBTN (check out Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too by searching the hashtag #UMBCTBTN):

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What You Need To Need Know: Take Back The Night & the Survivor Speak-Out 2019

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its 7th consecutive Take Back the Night on Thursday, April 18th. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of questions about what Take Back the Night exactly is, why it looks the way it does, and how students can get involved. To help get those questions answered we started the “What You Need to Know” series focused on TBTN last year and are continuing on the tradition, so stay tuned for more posts over the next week. This is an updated post to last year’s information focusing on the survivor speak-out.

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The survivor speak-out is the heart of Take Back the Night. This is the point in the night where survivors are encouraged to come up and share their story with the crowd before the march throughout campus. As a survivor, sharing your story at TBTN allows you to publicly acknowledge your experience with a crowd that believes you and supports you.

Kayla Smith, UMBC Class of 2017, started the speak out in previous years and cherished that moment as a time where she could share her experience with people who she knew wouldn’t judge her. She could look out into a crowd of people who wouldn’t tell her its her fault, ask what she was wearing, ask if she was drinking, or tell her that she was responsible for her assault. “Speaking out about my assault empowers me to talk about my experience with confidence.”

This year we want to focus on dispelling the myth of the “perfect victim” that often times dominates sexual violence discourse. There are a variety of stories and experiences that are shared during the speak- out. Some may share stories or healing while others are still angry, sad, or scared. Many stories may come from women-identified folks and/but male survivors are also invited to share their stories at the speak-out. All of our stories and experiences are valid. And, no matter where you are at in your experience as a survivor (i.e. your assault happened 10 years ago or just last week) or what your identities may be, you’re welcomed to share your story.   

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If you’re thinking about speaking at Take Back the Night, feel free to reach out to Women’s Center staff ahead of time if you feel like it would be helpful to talk to someone ahead of time about your story and how you may want to share it. Of course, we know many survivors may not plan on speaking at TBTN and then feel called to do so once the speak-out begins and that’s okay! If you feel uncomfortable sharing during the speak-out, that’s also 100% okay! There will be a chance to be recognized during the March at the Survivor Circle (which will be a new part of this year’s march – stay tuned for our updated What You Need to Know about the March post for more details!) or discuss your experience in a more intimate setting at We Believe You’s survivor discussion group post march.

It’s also totally okay if don’t feel ready to share your story at Take Back the Night – there’s many other ways you can share your story in less public ways throughout Sexual Assault Awareness Month (like making a t-shirt for the Clothesline Project or the other ways at TBTN we mentioned in the above paragraph) and Take Back the Night (counselors will be available throughout the event and there will be the self-care station). Survivors or anyone impacted by sexual violence can also always schedule a time to talk to Women’s Center staff – we’re quasi-confidential resources on campus and can link you to additional support and resources.

Here’s some helpful information about the speak-out we think is helpful for everyone to know whether they’re speaking or listening:

  • Any one can be a survivor of sexual violence. Any survivor regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation is welcomed to share their story at the speak-out. At the beginning of TBTN’s creation the speak out was only for women, but we welcome men and all others who may have differing gender identities to speak out. We wish for the speak out to be an inclusive space of healing and representation of different identities can help dispel the dangerous “perfect victim” narrative.
  • The survivor speak-out is intended to center the voices and experience of survivors of sexual violence. The speak-out is for allies to listen and survivors to break their silence. Thank you in advanced for respecting this request. Allies are also encouraged to attend the Women’s Center workshop on Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence on 4/11. 
  • Since TBTN functions as a public forum, normal reporting procedures look a bit different. If you choose to share your story, and want to go no further in the reporting process, we encourage you not to disclose any names or other specific identifying information, such as locations or familial relationships, as those details may prompt staff to follow up with you for reporting matters. Staff are available at the event for those who do want additional resources and want to report their experience through UMBC’s Title IX reporting process or police.
  • We ask that you try to limit your story to about 3 minutes. We know it may be hard to do so but we want to make sure as many survivors as possible can speak during the allotted speak out time which is one hour long. If you’d like to continue sharing your story, you may want to go to the We Believe You discussion group after the Take Back the Night march.
  • Speakers will have the option to identify their story as confidential by placing a sign marked “confidential” on the microphone. Speaking from the “confidential” microphone prohibits anyone from taking pictures, quotes, or recording of any kind.
  • Counselors-On-Call will be available throughout the evening. Any one needing additional support or simply needs to take a break are invited to visit the self-care station that will be set up in the Commuter Lounge.

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For more information about UMBC’s TBTN (check out Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too by searching the hashtag #UMBCTBTN):

Stay tuned for the next installment of what you need to know about TBTN 2019! 

What You Need To Need Know: Take Back The Night & Why We March

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its 6th consecutive Take Back the Night on Thursday, April 18th. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of questions about what Take Back the Night exactly is, why it looks the way it does, and how students can get involved. To help get those questions answered we started the “What You Need to Know” series focused on TBTN last year and are continuing on the tradition, so stay tuned for more posts over the next couple of weeks. This blog focuses on the evening’s campus march against sexual violence.

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 5,6,7,8 NO MORE VIOLENCE! NO MORE HATE!

As a survivor of sexual assault, the Take Back The Night march reminds me that I’m not alone.

Mariana De Matos Medeiros, ’16, and former student staff member at the Women’s Center, said “To me, having the opportunity to speak and march at TBTN last year reminded me that I am not alone and that I can stand in my power to speak about my experience. It took me 3 years to finally speak about my assault and one of the very first times was at TBTN last year. Seeing so many gathered to support allowed me to speak and speaking has allowed me to heal.

It can be easy to blame yourself, isolate yourself, and feel like you’re the only person struggling with your healing; However, the march lets you connect with people who support you and believe you.

Sarah Lilly, a 2016 and 2017 Take Back The Night student leader says “Marching is us showing that solidarity is a verb, and it brings me great pride to feel so supported by my local UMBC community and to see the unconditional support for everyone else in our community.”

In an open letter in her school’s newspaper, survivor and student activist, Angie Epifano, recounted the aftermath of her sexual assault, namely her experience with institutional betrayal. She ended the letter with, “Silence has the rusty taste of shame.” Due to rape culture, victim blaming, a lack of support for survivors, and more, it is understandable that many survivors do not disclose their experience and sexual assault is rarely spoke of in public.

Much like the Baltimore-based Monument Quilt is creating and demanding public space for survivors to heal, Take Back the Night demands for space in which we will not be shamed into silence. Activists like Angie, the Monument Quilt creators, and YOU during the march are creating a new culture where survivors are publicly supported, rather than publicly shamed. 

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Here’s some helpful information about the campus march against sexual violence to those attending Take Back the Night at UMBC: 

  • The survivor speak-out is intended to center the voices and experience of survivors (of all identities) of sexual violence. The speak-out is for allies to listen and survivors to break their silence but the march is for EVERYONE to GET LOUD! 
  • We encourage individuals and groups to make rally signs ahead of time. Signs are a great way to show your solidarity and support while also representing your student orgs, res hall communities, and frats/sororities.
  • We’ll line everyone up in the march in waves. Survivors wanting to march up front with other survivors are invited to line up first along with other community members needed to take an accessible route march. Everyone else will then line up as survivors begin to march towards the south exit of The Commons.
  • As we march, walk slowly and stay together. Try to avoid large gaps in the line.
  • This year we’re bringing back the Survivor Circle. As we make out way through the route we will stop midway through the march and hold our Survivor Circle.
    • The Survivor Circle is a chance for survivors who may or may not have shared their story during the speak out to be recognized, come together, and be surrounded in support and healing by those attending the march. This is an opportunity for those who identify as survivors to come together without having to speak out or share their story if they do not wish to do so.

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  • The march will end back on Main Street where the space will be ready for the evening’s resource fair and craftivism. As you’re heading back into The Commons, come all the way into Main Street so everyone else behind you can get into the space as well.
  • There will be one more chance to share your experience as a survivor post-march at a survivor discussion group led by the student organization We Believe You in the Women’s Center. (This event will be private and for survivors only).
  • Counselors-On-Call will be available throughout the evening. Any one needing additional support or simply needs to take a break are invited to visit the self-care station that will be set up in the Commuter Lounge.

For more information about UMBC’s TBTN (check out Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too by searching the hashtag #UMBCTBTN):

Stay tuned for the next installment of what you need to know about TBTN 2019! 

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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Survivorship Looks Different in the Asian American Community

Samiksha

 

Samiksha Manjani is a Student Staff member at UMBC’s Women’s Center. She is a Political Science and Sociology double-major and is currently a co-facilitator of the Women’s Center’s discussion group, Women of Color Coalition.  

 

 

As a survivor of sexual violence, I have found myself re-traumatized by the recent events that have happened at UMBC. In the aftermath, I struggled to focus in my classes and could barely complete my work. Despite this, I somehow managed to get by with everyday going by in a blur. I went through the motions day-in and day-out. I was slowly sinking back into depression.

One of the most common emotional and psychological responses to sexual violence is depression (RAINN). Depression is a mood disorder which occurs when feelings of sadness and hopelessness persist for long periods of time and interrupt regular thought patterns. It affects a person’s behavior and can disrupt their relationships. Just like many other survivors, I also struggle with depression.

During this difficult time, I was shocked that no one in my life had asked me how I was doing. None of my friends had asked me how I was handling the news, despite knowing that I’m a survivor and that I also struggle with depression. They knew about the lawsuit against UMBC too. In fact, they knew so much about it that they talked to me about their opinions on the matter. Yet, they never asked me how I was processing the news or if I was doing okay.

At first, I thought, “wow, I have really shitty friends in my life.” But I realized that this was a drastic conclusion to make considering my friends were normally compassionate. Instead, I tried to put myself in their shoes. Why would my normally compassionate friends be so inconsiderate? Had my external behavior reflected my internal suffering?

I realized that, from an outsider’s perspective, I seemed completely okay because I went to my classes and work as usual. My behavior, communication, and demeanor had basically stayed the same so nothing seemed amiss. However, this was completely contrary to how I felt internally. Inside, I felt awful. Every step I took was harder, every assignment I completed took longer, and every smile was faker. I was falling apart on the inside, yet no one around me could see it.

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At first, I thought that this was just how I expressed trauma. But after some reflection, I realized that I knew so many other Asian women dealing with depression that were also still high-functioning. I was not the only person who exhibited depressive symptomology this way, and more importantly, it had seemed that this was especially common for other Asians.

My assumption was not wrong. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (2011) found that Asian-American teenage girls have the highest rate of depression compared to any other racial, ethnic or gender group. Furthermore, the suicide rates for 15-24 year old Asian American females are 30% higher than the rates for white females of the same age (Mental Health America). Yeung and Kam (2006) found that none of the Asian patients in their study considered depressed mood as their main problem. However, more than 90% of them indicated having a depressed mood when asked to rate their symptoms on a depression rating scale.

Despite these alarming statistics, 51% of Asian Americans have at least a Bachelor’s Degree, compared to 29% of all Americans (Mental Health America). Furthermore, 21% of Asians, ages 25 or older, have attained an advanced degree (e.g., Master’s, Ph.D., M.D. or J.D.), which is significantly higher than the national average of 12% (Baum and Steele, 2017; United States Census Bureau, 2016). Lastly, the median annual household income of Asian American households is $73,060, compared to $53,600 among all U.S. households (Pew Research Center, 2017). It is important to note, however, that there is variation in educational attainment and median annual income among the different ethnic groups which makeup “Asian Americans.”

These findings made me wonder, why do Asian women express depressive symptomology so differently than other ethnic groups?

One reason could be because of the immense pressure Asians deal with to live up to the model minority stereotype. The model minority stereotype characterizes Asians by hard work, laudable family values, economic self-sufficiency, non-contentious politics, academic achievement, and entrepreneurial success (Kang, 2010). There is a lot of American cultural pressure on Asians to fit into this “intelligent and self-reliant” stereotype. Such a stereotype has dire consequences; for-example, Asian students are pressured to rise to an academic bar that keeps rising. The mental health cost of reaching an unrealistic standard is demonstrated by the statistics mentioned above.

This pressure is worsened by the fact that many Asian immigrants experience downward economic mobility upon arrival to the U.S. Most Asian immigrants are highly educated and held middle-class status in their country of origin (Lopez, Bialik, & Radford,  2018). Because of this downward shift in class status, Asian immigrants have to work their way up from the bottom of the social and economic ladder in the U.S. This is a very daunting task given that many Asian immigrants not only have to support themselves and their families in the U.S., but also relatives back home (United Nations, 2017). This leads to an immense pressure to climb up the socioeconomic ladder and become financially stable.

Both the pressure of the model minority stereotype and pressure to support family members removes any possibility for Asians Americans to display characteristic forms of depression without severe consequences. There are high costs for Asian American immigrants if they do not complete their education, capitalize on job opportunities, and/or perform at their jobs. If they do not perform, they are risking not only their survival, but the survival of relatives back home. This does not mean that people who display traditional depressive symptomatology are somehow less “able” or “motivated” if they can’t complete these tasks. It is simply that the pressure to economically succeed robs Asian Americans the ability to address mental health concerns.

Another reason could be the large stigma within the Asian community surrounding mental health illnesses and treatment. Asian Americans are 3x less likely to seek mental health services than White Americans (Nishi). Furthermore, it is taboo within the Asian community to speak about having mental health illnesses (Chu & Sue, 2011). One large reason this stigma exists is because of the concept of familial shame within Asian communities.

There is immense pressure in the Asian community to preserve the family’s reputation and status at all costs. This is reflected in popular terms used within various Asian cultures which represent the process of shame or losing face: “Haji” among Japanese, “Hiya” among Filipinos, “Mianzi” among Chinese,”Chaemyun” among Koreans, and “Sharam” among Indians (Sue, 1994). If an Asian person has a mental health illness, it could be interpreted by the community as a result of their family’s failure to raise the person correctly. Therefore, Asian Americans are unlikely to acknowledge and seek mental health treatment in fear of “bringing shame” to their families.

I think in a lot of ways all of these factors have influenced the way that I have processed the trauma of my assault and the resulting depression. Like many other Asian American women, I don’t outwardly exhibit depression through conventional symptoms. However, this doesn’t mean that I experience depression less severely than other people. On the contrary, I struggle with depression so much sometimes that it’s hard to even do basic tasks (even if I end up somehow getting it done). Because of the fact that depression is one of the most common psycho-emotional responses to sexual violence and also that the Asian community presents unique depressive symptomology, it is logical to conclude that survivorship is likely to look different in the Asian community.  

Therefore, it is extremely important for friends, family members, and mental health professionals to recognize that survivorship manifests differently in various ethnic communities. As such, the type of support given must be individualized to meet the needs of survivors of different backgrounds. To best support survivors, the people within the survivor’s inner circle should adopt a lens of cultural humility.  

The Women’s Center uses this lens of cultural humility to best support survivors of different backgrounds. Cultural humility is a humble and respectful attitude towards individuals of other cultures that pushes one to challenge their own cultural biases. This departs from “cultural competency” in that it recognizes that a person cannot possibly know everything about other cultures. Instead, people should approach learning about other cultures as a lifelong goal and process.

I truly believe that if my friends had adopted a lens of cultural humility, they would have easily picked up on my struggles. If they had understood more about Asian culture and what it means to be an Asian immigrant, they probably would have been able to recognize my signals of distress. This is especially important for mental health professionals; they would be able to pick up more details from their clients if they held the mindset that “there’s always more to learn.” Using this lens, we can better support the survivors in our lives.

**Please note that not every Asian person experiences depression this way. The goal of this blog is to highlight a common phenomenon in the Asian community. If an Asian person does not process depression or trauma this way, it is not a reflection of their Asianness, intelligence, reliability, or any other characteristics.**

Come Check Out the Clothesline Project Display on 10/3!

The Clothesline Project display on  Wednesday, October 3, 2018 from 10 AM- 4 pm in Commons Main Street.  

The Clothesline Project is a program that started back in 1990 and has been established “to address the issue of violence against women. It is a vehicle for women affected byIMG_2185 violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt.” Here at UMBC we do this project twice a year – in October for Relationship Violence Awareness Month and in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Survivors of sexual violence are welcome to decorate a shirt with their feelings and message. Then the shirts are anonymously hanged on a clothesline display, shoulder to shoulder in Commons Main Street “to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against [anyone].”

For the past three years that I have been part of UMBC community I have seen this project and its strong impact on the community. This is a great chance for anyone who has experienced violence to share their stories in a safe setting, and also practice self-care. Making these shirts is an act of therapy in its own way. Last semester for the first time, I made my own shirt. I shared my story with many people without putting my name out there. I was able to take a story out of my chest and feel so much lighter immediately.

As a student staff member at the Women’s Center and a Resident Assistant, I had the privilege of being involved with this project more closely. Last semester with the help of the Women’s Center and some of my Resident Assistant co-workers, we were able to hold another t-shirt-making event in the residential area. This event has happened before in the residential halls, but seeing the work in person was such a powerful experience. Seeing people coming in, making shirts, and sharing their stories shows how they trust us, which challenges us to provide the best support we can as Resident Assistants and Women’s Center community members.

I personally believe having this project on campus is a great opportunity for our UMBC community members to express their feelings about their experiences with sexual and gender-based violence.

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Shirts and supplies will be available throughout the month of October for any survivors who wish to create a shirt that tells their own story. Shirt-making for the Clothesline Project is also available year-round in the Women’s Center.

Our Discussion Groups This Fall!

Identity-Based Discussion Groups

All groups meet beginning the week of September 11th. Groups are closed for the privacy and confidentiality of the attendees and take place inside the Women’s Center lounge. Check out a detailed description of all of our discussion groups down below!

Between Women: Biweekly, Mondays at 4 pm

Women of Color Coalition: Biweekly, Tuesdays at 4 pm

We Believe You: Weekly, Thursdays at 5:30 pm

Women in STEM: Monthly, Third Fridays at noon

 

Returning Women Students Scholars + Affiliates Program

This program is designed to support undergraduate women over the age of 25 returning to college later in life. Students receiving a returning women student scholarship are required to participate in this program designed to support their personal, academic, and career goals of adult learners at UMBC. ALL returning women students at UMBC are invited to attend the monthly meetings and workshops designed specifically to meet the needs of adult students. You can also request an invite to join the Returning Women Students Forum on Facebook for news, resources, and community building. The scholarship deadline for 2018–19 was Friday, March 30, 2018 – next year’s application will be available beginning January 2019.

 

Between Women

Between Women is a discussion-based program that centers the experiences of women students who identify on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. This structured, topic-based program discusses sexuality and sexual orientation with a focus on intersectionality and provides a safe space for women and feminine-identified students to share their feelings and experiences with other women. This program follows the Women’s Center Brave Space model in order to create a community environment that fosters learning and critical discussion. For safety and confidentiality reasons, this is a closed meeting for those in the LGBTQAI+ community and it is not appropriate for students to use the space for class research or interviews. Fall 2018: Between Women meets biweekly on Mondays at 4pm in the Women’s Center.

 

We Believe You

Hosted in collaboration with the Women’s Center and the student organization We Believe You, this discussion group creates space to center the experiences of survivors of sexual violence. This discussion-based program follows the Women’s Center Brave Space model to provide a welcoming environment and thoughtful community to engage in conversations focused on support and healing for survivors of sexual violence. For safety and confidentiality reasons, this is a closed meeting for those who identify as survivors and their allies. It is not appropriate for students to use the space for class research or interviews. Fall 2018: We Believe You discussion group meets weekly on Thursdays at 5:30pm in the Women’s Center. For more details, join the We Believe You myUMBC page (where you can also learn more about their general body meetings and activism efforts) or connect with a Women’s Center staff member.

 

Women of Color Coalition

WoCC LogoAll self-identified women of color students, staff, and faculty are welcome to share their stories and learn about others’ experiences at Women of Color Coalition. This discussion-based program follows the Women’s Center Brave Space model to provide a welcoming environment and thoughtful community to engage in conversations focused on the intersections of gender and race. For safety and confidentiality reasons, this is a closed meeting for those who identify as women of color and it is not appropriate for students to use the space for class research or interviews. Fall 2018: Women of Color Coalition meets biweekly on Tuesdays at 4pm in the Women’s Center. Subscribe to the WoC Coalition email list to learn more!

 

Women in STEM

A discussion group for UMBC’s women in STEM. Each discussion will take place monthly and will be hosted by a different woman faculty member from the STEM disciplines focusing on a different topic related to Women in STEM. This discussion-based program follows the Women’s Center Brave Space model to provide a welcoming environment and thoughtful community to engage in conversations focused on the experiences of women students studying in the STEM fields. Fall 2018: Women in STEM discussion group will take place on Friday, September 21st at noon and Friday, October 19th at noon. The November date is TBD.

 

Spectrum: Trans Programming and Resources Hub

Spectrum SpotlightSpectrum is a programming and resource hub for UMBC community members who identify as trans, genderqueer, gender fluid, outside of the gender binary, and/or those who are questioning their gender identity. Supported by the Women’s Center and the Mosaic Center, Spectrum has evolved from a discussion-based program to an umbrella of resources, discussions, and events. Currently, the Spectrum discussion group is not being offered so we can ensure support of groups like Trans Tuesdays hosted by the LGBTQ Student Union and the Trans Support group run through the Counseling Center. The Women’s Center and Mosaic Center offers trans-related events each month. For details, connect with a staff member or check out our events page. Additional resources can be shared through our offices and we encourage community members to connect with us.

 

For more information about each of these groups and their intentions, please visit womenscenter.umbc.edu/groups