Women’s Center 25 Then vs. Now: The Clothesline Project

WC 25 Logo - PurpleThe Women’s Center at UMBC turns 25 this year! We’re excited to share our important milestone with UMBC’s 50th Anniversary and will be celebrating throughout the year with the rest of campus! We were inspired by Special Collections archival project Archives Gold: 50 Objects for UMBC’s 50th and decided to do our own digging into the Women’s Center archives. Over the course of the year, we’ll be sharing 25 “Then vs Now” archives to celebrate the origin and evolution of the Women’s Center at UMBC.

This week we’re featuring the history of The Clothesline Project at UMBC. 

The Clothesline project is still fresh in our minds with April, which is Sexual Assualt Awareness Month, not being in the too distant past. The Women’s Center had a calendar full of events, including a full-day display of The Clothesline Project

image3 (1).JPG

Assistant Director Megan Tagle Adams at this year’s Clothesline Project.

So what has the Clothesline Project looked like in past years?

IMG_2184.JPG

The Clothesline Project in 2013

Scan-7.BMP

The Clothesline Project during V-day in  2001.

 

image1 (2)

Editorial in the Retriever Weekly, fall of 2000

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Clothesline Project at UMBC gives voices to the experiences of survivors, victims, family, and friends who have been affected by violence. Through the years, The Women’s Center has provided materials for those who identify as survivors to decorate t-shirts that are then added to the project display. This is a national campaign created to address the stories of survivors and the violence that exists all around us, metaphorically ‘airing dirty laundry’. The clothesline is also a historical means through which women discussed domestic violence with other women, signaling the need for help with specific codes on the laundry lines. Traditionally there are specific colors indicating different kinds of survivor’s stories, but The Women’s Center has given space for survivors to use any colors available to add to the project.

What are the memories you have of the Women’s Center over the years that are meaningful to you? What does the Women’s Center mean to you today? Share your memories and pictures with us in the comment section below!

Stay up-to-date with our 25th anniversary on social media using #UMBCWC25. Share your Women’s Center experiences and memories with the UMBC community using #UMBCWC25 AND #UMBC50!

Women’s Center 25 Then vs. Now: Our Anniversary Celebrations!

WC 25 Logo - PurpleThe Women’s Center at UMBC turns 25 this year! We’re excited to share our important milestone with UMBC’s 50th Anniversary and will be celebrating throughout the year with the rest of campus! We were inspired by Special Collections archival project Archives Gold: 50 Objects for UMBC’s 50th and decided to do our own digging into the Women’s Center archives. Over the course of the year, we’ll be sharing 25 “Then vs Now” archives to celebrate the origin and evolution of the Women’s Center at UMBC.

 

This week we’re featuring the history of Women’s Center anniversary celebrations! 

Student Staff at The Women’s Center’s 25th anniversary photo booth

The Women’s Center has always had something to celebrate. We often talk about how women-centered spaces and activists spaces by their very nature are radical and bold and well, we find that worth celebrating. As you already know, this year the Women’s Center is celebrating our 25th anniversary. We kicked off the year with a birthday party where some of our founding members and critical people in our history spoke about the importance of Women’s Centers and the way they had seen the Women’s Center grow over the years. We had cupcakes, enjoyed a feminist- inspired photo- booth, and had a wonderful time. Throughout the year, we continued to document and celebrate our history at events such as Critical Social Justice and welcoming Provost Rous to the Women’s Center to meet with current students, staff, and faculty. We also reached out to alum and former staff members over the year and created a 25 Friends of the Women’s Center to honor those who have given of their time and resources to support our work.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and indoor

Simmona Simmons, a founder of The Women’s Center, speaks for the 25th anniversary celebration

WC 25

But how have we celebrated past anniversaries?

During our 10th year of operation, the Women’s Center hosted a chair making event in which student organizations and departments connected to the Center, decorated a chair to represent themselves in the space. For many years, these chairs lined the walls of the Women’s Center as both decoration and useful places to sit. While the chairs are not out in our space on a daily basis anymore, you’ll see them make an appearance during roundtable events or other gatherings that require additional seating.


For our 20th anniversary, the Women’s Center Advisory Board and professional staff were committed to hosting large anniversary celebrations over the course of the year. Key events included our opening and closing picnic, a collection of women photographers featured in the Library gallery, and a service project at a local women’s shelter. UMBC student, Stefanie Mavronis, ’12 , interviewed many UMBC students, staff, and faculty for a digital story telling project to capture the theme of the anniversary: 100,000 Stories – Which One is Yours.  In the spirit of the chair decorating that happened in our 10th year, we created a quilt featuring student organizations and departments that continue to be important to who we are as a Center.

534790_310068539071961_231141532_n.jpg

Unveiling the 20th anniversary quilt lovingly crafted by student staff member, Lizzy Wunsch, Class of 2015. 

What are the memories you have of the Women’s Center over the years that are meaningful to you? What does the Women’s Center mean to you today? Share your memories and pictures with us in the comment section below!

Stay up-to-date with our 25th anniversary on social media using #UMBCWC25. Share your Women’s Center experiences and memories with the UMBC community using #UMBCWC25 AND #UMBC50!

Co-Opting the Message: How Companies Are Not Our Friends

shira-spring-headshotA reflection by student staff member Shira Devorah 

 

By now, many of us have heard of that Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner appropriating the Black Lives Matter movement.

Immediately after the ad debuted, the internet blew up in opposition to it. Activists were not complacent with the whitewashed, safe, and commercialized rip-off of Black Lives Matter. Pepsi eventually issued a half-baked apology to the public (but mostly to Kendall Jenner).

kendal jenner pepsi

I’m writing specifically about this advertisement as a sort of jumping-off point. I want to acknowledge, before moving forward into a broader discussion, the racism embedded in this ad. Kendall Jenner, a white woman, used black men (and the movement demanding justice for their lives) as props to support her image as an activist who could quell police brutality with a Pepsi. This is an example of overt racism in advertising.

 

baltimore

A real- life example from the Baltimore Uprising in April 2015. 

Racism in advertisements is not new.  Soda companies have had a lot to do with this brand of racism. While this blog post is not entirely about racism, I think it is important to point out its presence before discussing other issues I have with this kind of ad.

What issues, you ask?

Co-existing with the obvious racism we can see in this advertisement,  I want to talk about  a different problem that this ad also brings up. I’m sick of seeing the way companies twist activist and feminist messages to sell products.  

Companies appropriate feminist-ish narratives to make them seem like friendly, trustworthy, and progressive institutions.

Take the example of Dove’s body positivity campaign. Dove, the popular soap company, launched the “Campaign for Real Beauty” in 2004. This campaign has portrayed models for Dove products as more “realistic” depictions of women, as opposed to over- photoshopped, thin white models.

On the surface, this campaign looks pretty awesome. A company that’s not buying into sexist beauty standards? It absolutely sounds like a step in the right direction.

Yet there is a certain cognitive dissonance that accompanies the message Dove is presenting. On one hand, they’re telling me, “I’m beautiful just the way I am.”  

On the other hand, I am being sold a beauty product specifically designed to make my body conform more to the beauty standards.

If Dove tells me I’m beautiful with my stretch marks while simultaneously selling me a skin-firming lotion, what message am I really supposed to be taking away from these advertisements?

Additionally, Dove is a company under the corporation Unilever- the same conglomerate that owns Axe.

Axe is another soap product, but it is marketed in the completely opposite direction. Axe’s body sprays and hair gels are aimed towards teenage boys, and tend to use women as hyper- sexualized props to sell their products.

axe

Screen capture from a recent Axe marketing campaign. 

How can one company that espouses the empowerment of women be so closely tied to a another that uses sexist tactics to sell their product?

At the end of the day, major corporations like Dove, Axe, and their parent company, Unilever, aren’t people. They aren’t your friend, and they aren’t a magical way to get girls to like you. They are marketing teams targeting your passions and weaknesses in order to get you to buy their products.

At least with (many) small businesses, the stances that they take are likely the real positions that the founders have.

Take, for example, feminist owned bookstores in Baltimore, like Ivy Bookshop on Falls Road and Red Emma’s on North Avenue. These are small, independent businesses that are locally owned and operated. They actively employ Baltimore-based activists and provide space for discussion and performance.

When I go to Red Emma’s, I feel like I can have a legitimate conversation about body positivity with an employee and not be sold an answer. These are actually my fellow community members making a living in a broken system, selling an item with an actual meaning attached. Are they perfect? Absolutely not. But I feel more comfortable buying from them, knowing that they aren’t faking their commitment to a cause I care about.

This, of course, comes with another layer of complication. Buying from businesses who aren’t faking the activist narrative isn’t always possible (we learned that from the recent issues happening over at Thinx). There is a certain privilege that comes along with purchasing power. I wish I had the money to buy all of my books at Red Emma’s or soap from small businesses, but the companies that can afford to make/sell cheaper products are usually the ones I can afford.

So what am I getting at with this?

More than anything, I just want to bring awareness to the ways we are being used as consumers. If we realize how much power we have in our wallets, we can begin to be more aware of how our money is being spent.

Companies will always pander to us, but we can work to change the culture that companies are trying to appropriate. Maybe if we work to build a world that doesn’t rely on racist imagery or women’s bodies to sell products, we’ll be sold to in a way that is more on our terms as consumers. At the very least, being woke to capitalist agendas running our lives may help us maneuver the ways that we are sold to into a more positive light.

Want to learn more?

The Representation Project: Using film and media as catalysts for cultural transformation, The Representation Project inspires individuals and communities to challenge and overcome limiting stereotypes so that everyone – regardless of gender, race, class, age, religion, sexual orientation, ability, or circumstance – can fulfill their human potential.

Check out some documentaries exploring women in the media & advertising. Some recommendations include Miss Representation and Killing Me Softly (both available at the AOK Library!).   

Here is a list of Black-owned businesses in Maryland.

Here’s how you can use SNAP at the Baltimore Farmer’s Market and Bazaar.

Women in Activism: a Roundtable Round-Up

The Women’s Center ended our spring roundtable series on a high note last Thursday with Women in Activism. If you weren’t able to join us for our lively discussion, here’s a short round-up of what you missed!

This semester’s roundtable series focused on the ways that women are made invisible and silenced within certain spaces. For this discussion on activism, we began with a short visual presentation that illustrates how women often go unseen within the very movements they’ve worked to create.

Our three panelists shared their insights on the topic to help launch our discussion: Dr. Beverly Bickel from Language, Literacy and Culture (LLC); Iman Said, a junior Psychology major and Baltimore-based activist; and Jacki Stone, Community Health and Safety Specialist and a graduate student in LLC.

Activism Roundtable Panelists

from left to right: Panelists Jackie Stone, Beverly Bickel, and Iman Said

Important points of discussion are as follows:  Continue reading

Balancing School, Anxiety and Activism in Tumultuous Times

 

shira-spring-headshot a short reflection by Shira Devorah, Women’s Center student staff member

This semester has only just begun, and I’m already feeling pretty anxious. Granted, I’m usually pretty anxious – but this feels different.

If you’ve been following the news recently, you may understand. For many marginalized groups, it’s hard to feel stable right now. While I’m privileged in many ways, integral parts of my identity are under attack right now.  I’m proud of being a queer Jewish woman, but these parts of who I am feel very vulnerable and exposed at the moment. My uncertainty is manifesting as physical sensations. There’s a constant tightness in the pit of my stomach, and it’s hard to focus on things outside of the instability surrounding me. This is a difficult moment in time, and I want to be doing something about it, but my mental illness flare-ups make me question my ability to do so. I want to help, but  I also have to take care of my anxiety.

Amidst the current chaos, it is also my last semester at UMBC. If I know myself at all, this means I may be more susceptible to anxiety attacks during this life change. School work is a balancing act for me, and while I’ve had a few shaky semesters, I care a lot about my education. Most of my anxiety is tied up in how well I do, and this is my last chance to (literally) make the grade. UMBC students are held to a high standard of excellence, and I want my last semester to reflect this. To meet my personal achievement goals, I have to put a lot of energy into my studies. This can be draining and difficult to juggle with clinical anxiety.

I’m sure I’m not alone – Many people, especially women, deal with anxiety.  I’ve talked to a bunch of friends who live with similar anxiety conditions. We’re all struggling to figure out how to contribute, how to be present for people and speak up. It can be really, really difficult- but I know it isn’t impossible. Continue reading

Am I Sex Positive?

Shira Devorah A blog reflection by Women’s Center student staff member Shira Devorah

So I really love to talk about sex. It’s probably my favorite topic ever. I used to work for peer health education and with the sexual health committee at UHS here on campus. I’m considering becoming a therapist focusing on sex and relationships within the LGBTQ community.

I’ve always considered myself to be sex positive. But now I’m worried that identifying as such can be problematic.

Sex positivity, in a really bare-bones sense, is a movement that unpacks our taboo notions of sexuality and embraces and promotes human sexuality and personal exploration. There is a huge emphasis on safer sex and informed consent, encouraging respect for people’s personal preferences and boundaries.

I’m definitely here for all of this.

But what are the limitations of this movement?

At surface level, sex positivity is a really cool thing. I feel confident discussing birth control options and my needs with friends and partners. Sex positivity has really allowed me to open myself up as a person and not deny my interest and care about this subject. The fact that this movement exists means that I can one day work in a field devoted to improving sex lives for LGBTQ people.

But sometimes I wonder if I really want to call myself sex positive anymore. Is being sex positive actually accessible to other people?  Continue reading

Queer (De)Coded, a Roundtable Roundup

The Women’s Center’s Roundtable series is underway! On October 20th, we hosted the second of our three-part roundtable “Our Bodies, Ourselves” series. Queer (De)Coded focused on women and queer coding, deconstructing how women and femme individuals utilize and present their bodies in order to appear more or less queer. Queer coding is when individuals hint with their bodies and mannerisms their identity without explicitly stating their sexuality or gender identity.

queer-decoded-flyer

For this discussion, we invited staff member Elle Trusz, UMBC alum Juliette Seymour, and community member Melissa Smith to begin the roundtable dialogue with their own thoughts and perspectives related to queer coding. Elle opened up the conversation, discussing what it is like to be in relationships that are read as straight but are actually queer. She explained that walking down the street with her “husbutch”- or female spouse- could sometimes be seen by others as a straight couple based upon how both individuals present themselves.

Juliette also had interesting input into what it is like being a queer person who appears straight and cisgendered within their own life. Juliette discussed how their appearance sometimes made it more possible to be in spaces that may or may not be LGBTQIA+ friendly, yet it also felt like taking a step back into the closet. Melissa brought up the different ways her queer embodiment shows up in her workplace and the critical ways she is being present in all of her identities in order to make more space for others like her. Continue reading