Feminist Friendships

Program coordinator Amelia Meman reminisces about her feminist friendships and analyzes how these relationships foster empowerment and powerful networks.

This Women’s History Month, the Women’s Center was inspired by feminism’s legacy of collective action. While feminism is very much based in the personal and individual, it is also a movement built through the camaraderie, collective consciousness, compassion, and connections between people. That’s why, this March, the Women’s Center is celebrating feminist friendships. That’s also why I’m writing this blog post.

Every time I come to think about this theme, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside, because I immediately think of the bonds I made at UMBC that have continued on. More on this later, but I’ll tell you this much: nothing brings you together, like the hot crucible of simultaneous existential crises via The Patriarchy. Our angst-ridden mental toil aside, describing a friendship as “feminist” might feel weird to some people, but I wonder what it means to those it resonates with.

For me, it’s not about the friends who encourage me to burn my bra and always validate my decision to not shave–although they also do that. It’s also the friends who affirm me and remind me that I am a person with power who deserves good things in the world. My feminist friends go to rallies with me and talk Butler with me, but they also are the first to watch Neighbors 2 and they’re the best at recommending sci-fi and fantasy novels.

The personal is political… and the political is personal

I think that all of my relationships are political. This is probably by virtue of being a feminist and a philosophical thinker, but it’s also because my friends are my political allies. We are constantly thinking about the political power that comes with being women, being queer (AF), being trauma survivors, being white and/or people of color, being (dis)abled, etc. and being radically together. We’re friends who empower each other to live when so many other things in this world act to kill us. We’re constantly navigating privilege and oppression, and we get a lot of things wrong. We teach other, call each other in. We are committed to the process of constantly learning how to be better humans to one another and all of the people we interact with.

Does anything scream friendship more than this group shot of the Great British Baking Show judges?

So when I say that the personal is political, I mean that things we like to keep in private (i.e. whether or not we’re having sex, what kind of sex we’re having, birth control, abortions, survivor status, etc.) are personal experiences that are also–with feminism–political. Rather than continue to make the prudish world of vanilla, purely procreative sex comfortable, feminists talk reproductive justice, use the words “vagina,” “penis,” “vulva,” “anus,” etc. Those things that people would rather sweep under the rug? We dig those out and we burn the rug.

Just so, the political is personal. This, for me, is feminist friendship. My unity and belonging with other feminists is tied, not just to our affinity for one another as funny weirdos, but also to our political mindset. As we dance, we move toward liberation. As we laugh, we banish the silence pressed into us as women and femmes. As we eat together, we feed each other the love and power we deserve.

The political is personal, because my liberation is tied to theirs, and we both know that as we watch the latest season of The Great British Baking Show.

Shine theory

So as we move throughout Women’s History Month and think about all of our herstorical sheroes who give us life (often literally), think about those friends that are around you who make you shine brighter. Whether that’s your mom, your professor, Oprah, think about the women who inspire you.

Take a breath, and think about your best memory with that person. How did you become friends? What do you all do best together? How do you feel when you’re around each other?

Seriously take like 15 seconds to meditate on that.

Alright, now you can come back to me.

Didn’t that make you feel shiny?

In the Women’s Center, we like to talk about shine theory. Jess is the one who introduced me to this concept a while ago (see her awesome UMBC Women Who Rock series), but basically, shine theory is a lens through which we can think about friendship. Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow (of Call Your Girlfriend) coined the term “shine theory” in an article on powerful women as best friends. Friedman wrote: “when you meet a woman who is intimidatingly witty, stylish, beautiful, and professionally accomplished, befriend her. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.”

Friedman and Sow add that in its simplest form, shine theory is this: “I don’t shine, if you don’t shine.”

Feminist friends, to me, push you and support you so that you can shine as bright, if not brighter, than them and we all get a little better for it.

GWST-ers 4 Life

I would be remiss to not note that the thing that brought some of my best, most steady feminist friends together was our journey through the UMBC Gender and Women’s Studies Department. We were knit together through a shared affinity for feminist politics, and I know I was able to find myself through them. Not because they showed me a self I wanted to be, but because they allowed me to actually BE the person I always wanted to be.

It wasn’t all hearts and rainbows and radical self-care quotes from Audre Lorde. It was a lot of shit. We went through heartbreak together, we grieved together, we powered through classes like beleaguered Weather-people in a hurricane. In queer theory, we read Michel Foucault’s interview, “Friendship as a Way of Life,” in which he lays out this idea of queer community:

The notion of mode of life seems important to me. Will it require the introduction of a diversification different from the ones due to social class, differences in profession and culture, a diversification that would also be a form of relationship and would be a “way of life”? A way of life can be shared among individuals of different age, status, and social activity. It can yield intense relations not resembling those that are institutionalized. It seems to me that way of life can yield a culture and an ethics. To be “gay,” I think, is not to identify with the psychological traits and the bisible masks of the homosexual but to try to define and develop a way of life. (p. 137-138)

Being “gay” or “queer” or, in our case, “feminists,” is not about defining who we are, but about creating a way of life that suits our needs and that is, potentially, radical. When the institution is so often your oppressor, molding new culture and ethics through friendship becomes a way of also creating new futures and pathways that the institution did not initially have open to you. For example, I don’t know where my self-confidence would be without my therapist and the power of my friends, but I know that the impacts of sexism, racism, ableism, etc. were limiting my self-confidence, and when I learned about myself as someone who was strong and capable of loosing that sort of weight, I was able to achieve more and better. I have a job, I’m pursuing my (very high) educational goals, I’m publishing this blogpost; this is all enabled through this alternative way of life that teaches me that I have power, I am power, and that my friends and I disrupt oppression.

Feminist friendship, shine theory, all that glorious glowing goodness that brought us together–it created power.

So the next time you think about your friends, your shiny people, your feminist sheroes, think about the power you all cultivate and bring forth by being your badass selves together. Think about how that power can grow with you and the friendships you share. Think about what your perfect world would look like for you and your feminist friends–and then make it. 

More resources, if you’re interested:

Michel Foucault, “Friendship as a Way of Life”

Dan Willey, “Gay Hair”

Gaby Dunn, “It’s A War Out There: How Queer Female Friendships Can Save Us All”

Cori Wong, “Feminist Friendship” TEDxCSU

Make feminist friends and build up your network at our Women’s History Month celebration on March 28th from 6 pm to 8 pm in the Skylight Room! RSVP via myUMBC!

 

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Women’s Center 25 Then vs. Now: Women’s History Month Calendars

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 History Month Calendars and Programming!

This year, with added support and funding from the Provost’s office, the Women’s Center was able to celebrate International Women’s Working Day and A Day Without a Woman with a keynote addresses delivered by Loretta Ross, a human and women’s right’s activist. Her keynote lecture was entitled Human Right’s as Women’s Rights.

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Women’s Center Staff and community members with Activist Loretta Ross on March 8th. We’re wearing red in solidarity with A Day Without a Woman

This year was indeed a special celebration of Women’s History Month, but regardless of whether we hosted a keynote event or not, the Women’s Center has been marking the celebration of Women’s History Month over our 25 years of existence. Below are some calendars from Women’s History Months passed.

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Women’s History Month 2001

Women’s History Month 2011

 

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!

Slaying on the Weekly: Affirmative consent + TBTN Re-cap

A weekly round-up curated by Women’s Center staff member, Michael Jalloh Jamboria

In the spirit of my friend, who gave us the glorious name ‘Slaying on the Weekly’, every week I will be bringing you some interesting, funny or thought-provoking content from the internet! Be sure to join us next week for more and continue to slay!

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  “Every 107 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted. Approximately 4/5 of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.  Survivors of sexual assault are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.”  The Women’s Center is dedicated to programming centered around sexual assault awareness. Be sure to check out the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Calendar. 

Take Back the Night was Thursday April 13th. If you came and shared your story, we are so proud of you. If you didn’t, we are still proud of you. Your story is valid. We believe you. The Women’s Center is dedicated to programming and events that center the voices of survivors. There are still events where you can share your story. Stay tuned for a photo re-cap of the TBTN event.

Check out this awesome comic on affirmative consent!

 

Want to stay informed on things that are happening with the presidential administration. Be sure to check out What the F**k Just Happened Today? This is a website that has specifics on the happenings of the Trump administration. Stay up to date!

What’s happening in Syria? Check out this BBC article on the happenings of Syria.

Al-Jazeera has the up to date news on the latest humanitarian crisis’ happening. Check them out, and let’s see what we can do to make the world a better place!

Are there any resources you want to see on next week’s slaying on the weekly? Drop a comment!

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Women’s Center staff members being goofy at the 2017 TBTN! 

Who ever you are, what ever your story, we are here to listen. We see you. You are home. You belong. You matter. See you next week!

 

Slaying on the Weekly: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Here’s What you Need to Know!!

A weekly round-up curated by Women’s Center staff member, Michael Jalloh Jamboria

In the spirit of my friend, who gave us the glorious name ‘Slaying on the Weekly’, every week I will be bringing you some interesting, funny or thought-provoking content from the internet! Be sure to join us next week for more and continue to slay!

Thank you for joining us this past Women’s History Month! March may be over but the celebration never stops in the Women’s Center. Join us in celebrating women, their lives, their stories and their resistance.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  “Every 107 seconds, someone in America is sexually assaulted. Approximately 4/5 of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.  Survivors of sexual assault are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.”  The Women’s Center is dedicated to programming centered around sexual assault awareness. Be sure to check out the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Calendar. 

Take Back the Night is coming up! Here’s what you need to know about Take Back the Night!!

There has been a lot of Twitter buzz about black and brown girls missing from DC and Baltimore. What’s that about? Learn more by checking out The Rise in Human Trafficking in the State of Maryland.

Wait!! Did you hear that 2020 US census won’t have questions related to sexual orientation nor gender identity? I did. Read more on this Huffington Post article.

What the Heck is the Clothesline Project?? Find out on Thursday April 6th from 10-4pm on Mainstreet. Can’t wait until then, be sure to check out the official Clothesline Project Website.  Starting Monday April 3rd, through April 6th, the Women’s Center will have Clothesline Project t-shirts available for survivors of sexual assault to participate in the Project. Just in case you needed the reminder, the Women’s Center will always serve as a home away from home for those who need a safe space to exist. We’ve got your back!

This month can be particularly triggering for survivors of sexual assault or violence. Stop by the Women’s Center if you need to chat and be sure to check out some of these resources related to self-care during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

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Who ever you are, what ever your story, we are here to listen. We see you. You are home. You belong. You matter. See you next week!

Slaying on the Weekly: Spring Break is HERE!!

A weekly round-up curated by Women’s Center staff member, Michael Jalloh Jamboria

In the spirit of my friend, who gave us the glorious name ‘Slaying on the Weekly’, every week I will be bringing you some interesting, funny or thought-provoking content from the internet! Be sure to join us next week for more and continue to slay!

Happy Women’s History Month! Join us in celebrating women, their lives, their stories and their resistance.

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Provost Philip Rous and Vice Provost Simon Stacy came to the Women’s Center to pay us a visit!

 

Enjoy your Spring Break! See you in two weeks! Same place, same time! Stay safe and continue to slay! Happy Women’s History Month!

Slaying on the Weekly:

A weekly round-up curated by Women’s Center staff member, Michael Jalloh Jamboria

In the spirit of my friend, who gave us the glorious name ‘Slaying on the Weekly’, every week I will be bringing you some interesting, funny or thought-provoking content from the internet! Be sure to join us next week for more and continue to slay!

Happy Women’s History Month! Join us in celebrating women, their lives, their stories and their resistance.

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The Women’s Center staff members, Loretta Ross and friends on International Women’s Day.

 

See you here, next week! Same place, same time! Stay safe and continue to slay! Happy Women’s History Month!

Our Mothers

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Today we mourn the loss of our trans siblings to violence and celebrate their lives, bravery, and accomplishments. Today we honor our elders and those who paved the way before us. Today we use our mouths to speak the voices that have been silenced.

Below is a collection of art created by Amelia Meman for Women’s History Month 2015. These women, some alive and some not, are some examples of the amazing abilities, resistance, and resilience found in our community. This art has been compiled in zine format, available in print at the Women’s Center and in PDF form here.

Dedicated to Viv. We miss you.

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cece mcdonald was arrested on june 5, 2011 for the death of dean shmitz after shmitz’s girlfriend threw a glass in her face. shmitz and a group of friends harassed mcdonald and her friends outside a bar, shouting transphobic and racist slurs and comments at the group. when cece confronted the group, shmitz’s girlfriend threw the glass and a fight ensued. cece was charged with second degree murder and plead guilty to a charge of second degree manslaughter on june 4 of 2012. she was released on jan 13, 2014 after 19 months in men’s prison. activists raised a cry against anti-trans violence with shouts of “free cece” during her trial and prison sentence. since her release, cece has become an activist herself, working and speaking against the prison system and anti-trans violence and she has received the bayard rustin civil rights award from the harvey milk lgbt democratic club. a documentary titled free cece, directed by laverne cox and jac gares, is expected to be released in 2016

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