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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The Socialization of Women in Math: Who’s aware?

Sydney PhillipsStudent staff member Sydney has had a rocky relationship with math throughout her life. As a graduate student in the Applied Sociology program at UMBC she began to rethink her relationship with math through her statistics courses and with the support of her (Women!) professor and TA.

On Thursday September 14, the Women’s Center hosted their first fall roundtable on the topic of Women in Tech. I was there to listen and also write the roundup for the Women’s Center.

Women in Tech Flyer - printAlthough I am not a woman in the STEM field, a lot of what was shared really resonated with me and led to a reflection about my relationship with math. Let me start by saying it’s not a positive relationship. I’ve always struggled with math, I feel like it takes me longer than others, my professors (read: male professors) have always seen me as a burden, and now just thinking about it gives me anxiety. I’m talking “I don’t understand anything on this page, I’m going to fail this test, I’m going to fail this class, and I’m never going to get a job and my life is over” types of anxiety.

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I used to say I hated math because I thought I was bad at it, but the roundtable really made me reflect on if this is true or if I’ve just been socialized to believe this. I never thought I was a person who was bad at math; I thought I was bad at math because I was a woman.

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Comic from XKCD

Even as a graduate student who passed all of her undergraduate math classes and received an A in graduate level statistics (make note, I had women professors), I still think I’m inherently bad at math, which makes NO sense. This problem exists outside of my experiences as well and is reflected in the disparities between men and women in the STEM fields. For example, although more women are awarded bachelor’s degrees than men, only 17% of computer science graduates are women.

My reflection made me want to reach out to other women to see what their experiences with math were and if this socialization process affected their relationship with math at all. Like many other quests into knowledge, this one did not go quite as planned, but still I received a lot of feedback that included some key themes I think are important.

The first theme is that those who struggled with math or felt as if they were being told they were bad at math, began to feel this way from a VERY early age (most respondents reported between first grade and early middle school). Young girls who were working out math problems were told that if they didn’t understand it right away that they never would and they should basically give up.

The other theme was that most of these comments (or in some cases just dirty looks) came from male teachers. Not only were women being socialized through verbal interactions to believe they were bad at match, they were also aware of the nonverbal interactions between themselves and their male teachers that added to this thought. The patriarchy is alive and well in the classroom y’all.

Here are some responses:

I was talking with a classmate trying to figure out what a problem meant when the teacher came up to us, yelled at us for distracting our classmates, and that if we didn’t understand it – we wouldn’t ever get it. – Rachel (22).

2nd grade, the teacher said I just wasn’t up to it -Jamie (24)

A college professor told me before the class even started that I was either going to fail or drop out of the class, I ended up passing the class with a high B just to prove him wrong -Jill (23)

Most of the women who wrote about these negative experiences also expressed that their negative relationship with math has continue throughout their lives. In terms of their current feelings, they expressed feelings of doubt and anxiety when doing math, or even a complete avoidance of math in life altogether.

I hate it. I’m super intimidated by it. The thought of having to help my daughters with their math homework in the future, terrifies me! -Marie (38)

Some of the women who had negative experiences early on did end up having a good relationship with math later on. Some women have always had good experiences with math. The one common denominator between these positive math women was: a support system, and most of the time this support system was made up of other women (women teachers, Mom’s who worked in the field, etc.).

I had a teacher, Ms. Raden… I don’t know if it was her approach or the fact that she was a woman that made me more comfortable.  I took more advanced classes and eventually got a degree where match and equations are big.- Darcy (31).

My algebra 1 teacher went out her way to encourage girls. -Debbie (55)

I think the support I’ve had from my parents encouraging me to pursue math and science in my career has helped me to not feel inadequate in my mathematical abilities. -Caitlin (25).

Most of the responses I gleaned seemed to be aware of the stereotype of women being bad at math and science. Thus, while I expected emotional answers, I was not prepared for the amount of angry responses I received… which were directed at the survey itself and me. A lot of women took offense that I would “assume” they were bad at math or that their experiences were negative. They had never encountered the problem I was bringing up and therefore didn’t think it was an issue on a larger scale either. I have pretty thick skin, but to be honest, shifting through 30 responses with a large amount being very passionate about why I was wrong hit me hard. I immediately wanted to defend myself but also didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know how to move forward with the blog or get out the message I was originally trying to convey. At first I just wanted to ignore these responses and focus on my original goal, but after reflecting (again) and getting input from coworkers and an amazing supervisor (Thanks Amelia!) I decided I needed to face what was making me uncomfortable head on.

I think it is important to note that women have a variety of experiences, and all of them are valid. While a lot of women have great experiences with math it is also a fact that there are large disparities in the gender makeup of people in STEM fields and that many women have had negative experiences. I want to foster a space as well as a society where all women’s voices are heard but also not at the expense of women with differing stories. Some experiences are good and some are bad but the consequences of a society that largely labels women at a disadvantage are very real. Although women’s involvement is on the rise, there are still barriers that need to be addressed in order for a more equitable field (and society) to emerge.

To the women in STEM fighting against these barriers, I thank you! To the women who feel comfortable in their own skin around math, I envy you! To the women who avoid math at all costs, I understand you! And to the women who can feel their blood pressure rising just when the word is uttered, I am with you!

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On Campus Resources:

UMBC Center for Women in Technology

More about the issue:

Women and Math: The Gender Gap Bridged

Women in Math, Science, & Medicine: Still Work to be Done

The Truth About Gender and Math

Women’s Center Student Staff 2017-2018

We are excited to introduce the new Women’s Center 2017-18 team! In no particular order . . .

Hannah Wilcove

Hannah Wilcovestudent staff/Honors College Intern (she/her)

Hi! My name is Hannah Wilcove and I’m currently a junior with a double major in Gender and Women’s Studies and Sociology and a minor in Statistics. This is my first year working here at the Women’s Center and I’m super excited to become even more involved with all of the great work being done. While I love studying any and all issues pertaining to feminism and social justice, I’m most passionate about reproductive justice, representation, and increasing political participation.

When I’m not at the Women’s Center, you can probably find me doing work for various student theater groups on campus, be it in rehearsal or as an executive board member of both TheatreCOM and AF Theatre Company. If that’s not the case, then I’m probably in my bed watching Parks and Recreation and wondering how I can become Leslie Knope.

Marie Pessagno

Marie Pessagno, student staff (she/her)

Hi everyone!!  My name is Marie and I am really excited to begin my final year at UMBC and my first year as a new staff member in the Women’s Center! I am a Social Work and Women and Gender Studies double major, and hope to continue on to grad school next year at UMB School of Social Work.  I really feel like combining these particular majors will be a tremendous advantage to my professional success in the future!  I am currently a second year Returning Woman’s Scholar, a member of the Phi Alpha Honors Society, and a first year Title IV-E student.

When I am not at UMBC, I am a (happily) single mother of two little girls that are two and one.  Between taking care of them and juggling my school work and personal life, saying that I stay busy is an extreme understatement.  However, it is because of my girls that I am able to be as committed to my education as I am.  I am psyched to have more of a presence in the Women’s Center this year, and hope to be able to showcase my passion for feminism, social justice, and the LGBTQ community.

Samiksha Manjani

Samiksha Manjani, student staff (she/her)

Hi! My name is Samiksha Manjani and I am a junior here at UMBC. This is my first year 
as a Women’s Center Staff member, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic to be a par
t of the community! I’m a double-major in Political Science  and Sociology, and am currently on the pre-law track. I hope to one day use my law degree to combat violence against women and children. During my time at the Women’s Center, I hope to create a diverse, empowering and safe environment for everyone.
On a side note, I love learning about people’s backgrounds, cultures, histories, and politics. I love fitness, soccer, and yoga. I’m all about self-care (i.e. art, journaling, meditation) and being positive! I love baking and cooking. I’m a crime show nut (i.e. Law & Order, Criminal Minds), and I try to keep up with the news. Feel free to stop by for a chat or to say “Hi!” to me if you see me around campus! 

Sheila Suarez

Sheila Suarez, student staff/GWST Intern (she/her)
Hey! I am Sheila! I am double majoring in Social Work and Gender and Women’s Studies with a minor in Critical Sexuality Studies, hoping to make a career out of sexual health and LGBTQ+ advocacy, with a focus on counseling. This will be my second year at UMBC but my first year at the Women’s Center as an intern, and I am super excited to be part of this great space.

I am always running around campus, I am a member of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority Incorporated, as well as the president of the Multicultural Greek Council. I also work at the new UMBC Arena and Event Center.

I love talking about politics, eating anything that has raspberries, and having conversations that are filled with witty sarcastic humor. I am loud, opinionated, and like talking about feminism and sexuality in crowded spaces… and not even remotely sorry about it. If you ever see me around campus, feel free to stop me just to chat.

Sydney Phillips

Sydney Phillips, student staff (she/her)
Hi everyone! My name is Sydney and I am currently a graduate student in the Applied Sociology program here at UMBC. My research surrounds social inequality and social justice based on intersectional identities such as race, class, and gender. I am also a teaching assistant on campus for Sociology 101 and love working with students! After graduating with my Master’s, I hope to become an adjunct professor in the Sociology department and become more involved in activism and advocacy, both on campus and in local non-profits. I hope to help foster a more open and accepting community for sexual assault survivors by working on the Supporting Survivors Workshop offered through the Women’s Center. I’m excited for my skills and knowledge to grow while working on issues that I am passionate about on campus! I cannot wait to work more closely with students, faculty, and staff so don’t be afraid to come say hi!


Chloe Thomas, SUCCESS Intern (she/her)

What I am doing at the SUCCESS Program:

  • I am a 4 year student (senior!) and I go to classes everyday
  • I love coming to school and seeing my friends

What I am doing at the Women’s Center:

  • Helping out the community members
  • Helping out my coworkers

And I’m NOT a stereotype! I’m not a “dumb blonde.” I’m smart and kind!

In 2007 I was on Good Morning America for Special Olympics cheerleading.

We got a call at our gym asking us to come on and they paid for our hotel and we got fancy buses to travel to New York and we got to be on TV in front of millions of people and afterwards when we were in New York people would come up to me and ask me for my autograph.

When I played basketball, my team got 2nd and 3rd place in Special Olympics and in the awards ceremony I got the sportsmanship award for being a good captain. We got to use our high school basketball uniforms. We did really well! We played against the best teams in the championship. We kept getting 3rd not 2nd but I’m not complaining.     

I went to the Montgomery County Fair’s Got Talent and I got 5th place in it. The song I did was, “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston. Everyone liked the song and I got lots of people saying good job.

Amelia Meman, Special Projects Coordinator (she/her)

Hello, folks! I’ve been at the Women’s Center in some capacity since I was an intern in 2013 and now I’m here as a professional staff member–dreams do come true! I love the Women’s Center because it takes all of the cool, abstract, out there ideas in feminist theory and puts them into action, whether that’s in creating workshops for our community members or offering 1-1 support to people who need it. I graduated from UMBC in 2015 with my B.A. in Gender and Women’s Studies and a minor in Writing, and have been eager to go full throttle into social justice and feminist work ever since. I’m currently pursuing my Masters of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

On a more personal note, I am the funniest feminist killjoy you’ll ever meet! I’m really proud to identify as a queer woman of color and I am eager to continue really testing the ways we can think about activism and pedagogy through a critical social justice lens. I love art and design, music, pop culture, and comics. My love language is gift-giving, and I’m a ~pisces~. Looking forward to meeting y’all in the Women’s Center!

Melissa Smith, Coordinator (she/her)

Hey hey hey! I am a new Coordinator at the Women’s Center. I am a UMBC graduate student pursuing a masters in Instructional Systems Development. I hope to use my degree to consult with schools and provide innovative social justice and arts integration curriculum. Over the past few years, I have worked with the UMBC Women’s Center in a number of ways, facilitating Between Women discussions, working alongside other speakers for the Telling Our Stories workshops, and as a performer at B’More Proud. For me, brave spaces like the women’s center help to create opportunities where our differences can be celebrated and communicated. Working here will make me an even better educator!

When I am not studying or in the Women’s Center, I enjoy cooking, walking around Baltimore neighborhoods, traveling, and performing my music. I use my music to give visibility to stories for folks like me; queer, black, weird, and everything in between.  I am so excited to work with the awesome WC staff and to meet the students that come in to hangout.


jessJess Myers, Director (she/her)

If you’ve gotten to me on this blog post and you’ve read all the cool bios above, you must be thinking, “Jess has the coolest job ever” – and I do! I’ve been working at UMBC in the Women’s Center since January 2011 and I couldn’t be more happier to work every day in what has always, and still is, a dream job for me. I love being able to live out my personal values centered in feminism, anti-racism, and social justice through my job as director in the Women’s Center. I approach my work from my collegiate background in social work and identify as a student affairs professional, and as an introvert (INFJ!!), I thrive on building personal and authentic relationships with students and colleagues. I love being silly. I relish in the opportunity to use Leslie Knope gifs as a mode of communication. I recommit to social justice and feminist values each day and deserve medals for my fierceness in spin class (I’m also secretly, not so secretly, pretty competitive). I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Kingston, Jamaica, and Fort Collins, Colorado and Baltimore is my hometown and my forever home. I’m looking forward to another great year in the Women’s Center and can’t wait to co-create it with you!

 

 

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

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. 

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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