UMBC’s Take Back the Night 2016 Roundup

UMBC’s Take Back The Night took place this past Thursday, April 14th. It was a very powerful evening, featuring a survivor speak-out, a march against sexual violence, and recuperating  with craftivism and community resources!

Couldn’t make it? Check out this recap from the evening!

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The night began with an introduction by the emmcees and march leaders, Kayla  and Sarah.

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A bird’s eye view captured from The Commons second floor. 

The floor was then opened to survivors to come forward and share their stories. Women’s Center student staff member, MJ poignantly pointed out the moments of silence between stories.

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After a few minutes of silent reflection,  many people came forward to share. Every person who came up to the mic showed incredible bravery and helped empassion the audience to break the silence around sexual violence.

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A huge crowd gathered to support survivors

its okay to not be okay

A major takeaway from the night

Next came the march around campus! At this point in the night, the everyone gathered together to directly disrupt rape culture and call out sexual violence. We began the march from the Main Street, walked towards True Grits, through Academic Row, and back towards The Commons through The Quad.

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The march Passes the Physics building

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A beautiful shot of the march in front of the Library

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1,2,3,4 WE WON’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

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Headed towards Academic Row

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The night concluded in a craftivism session. People sat down to create Monument Quilt squares, “Dear Survivor” scrapbook pages, and survivors created t-Shirts for the Clothesline Project. People came together to create while listening to some empowering tunes and snacking on cookies.

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Reflection and Action. 

Take Back The Night 2016 was a huge success! Thank you to all of the volunteers and UMBC staff members who helped make this event run smoothly and thank you to all who came out to support survivors and fight against sexual violence!

To all UMBC survivors of sexual violence –
We see you. We believe you. It is not your fault. You are not alone. 

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The Women’s center staff thanks everyone for TBTN 2016!

 

Just a reminder for those who might not have been able to attend, there are many resources available to you, both on and off campus.

Voices Against Violence

Women’s Center at UMBC

UMBC Counseling Center

Title IX and UMBC’s Interim Policy on Prohibited Sexual Misconduct and Other Related Misconduct 

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More Than a Band-Aid: LGBTQ Health Inequity

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A reflection by Shira Devorah, Women’s Center Student Staff 

Going to the doctor is never fun; most people dread pesky checkups getting in the way of their day. While medical appointments can feel like a nuisance to some, for many people in the LGBTQ community, just seeing a doctor can be dangerous.

Saying that structural health inequity in the U.S. is a problem is an understatement, as many people face huge barriers when it comes to receiving adequate care. Women, people of color, people with lower socioeconomic statuses, fat people, elderly people — the list goes on and people continue to suffer. While I’m specifically highlighting a few of the issues surrounding queer care, it’s important for people to know that this is just one flawed aspect of a flawed system. To fight for justice, we must demand competent care for all people.

So before we all go kicking down the doors of the nearest hospital, let’s discuss what the issues actually are. Why is it so difficult for queer people to get the medical help that all people deserve? Continue reading

A Feminist, Who Knew?

Carrie Profile PicA post written by Women’s Center student staff member, Carrie Cleveland

I have never been one to label myself a feminist. I think it is because what comes into my mind when I think of feminism is the 1960s – 1970s pop culture version where women were marching in the street and burning their bras (come to find out that this idea in my head is actually a myth). I never really identified with those women, so I pushed the topic to the side. THEN….. I started working here in the Women’s Center.

As a staff member, we are all encouraged to actively learn and one of the ways that I’m doing that is by reading. My background on all things feminism is much more  grounded in pop culture than it is theory. I’ve never taken a Gender and Women’s Studies class, like so many of my Women’s Center peers. Sometimes I struggle with the language and the theory so we thought this would be a good way for me to start my learning. Jess suggested that I dip my toe into the feminist blogosphere and start with some more approachable topics and accessible authors. As I’m reading and clicking and getting lost in all things women, I came across this blog written by Jamie Kennedy titled 10 Things Feminist Moms Do Differently Than Any Other Parents.

As I was scrolling, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. One of the first ideas the author presents is about disrupting gender norms. Now I have three girls and a VERY handy husband. He’s always building or fixing something so we did not hesitate to get my kids a tool set when they were little. When my husband was beginning a project, my daughter would run down and grab her hammer so she could help her dad with something. Perhaps these experiences are why she sees being a scientist and an astronaut as career options. I never thought of that as feminist idea, more so that she wanted to hang out with her dad. Look at that! I did not even know I was challenging gender norms. Go me!  Continue reading

You Are Valid: Women Students with Mental Illness

Shira by Shira Devorah, student staff at the Women’s Center (she/her) 

Every student has their personal struggles that make being in college difficult – responsibilities and personal needs to attend to while also working towards a degree. Like many other students, I also face mental illness on top of every other responsibility.

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This is probably one of the more pleasant stock photos I found when searching for “mental illness.” Get on that, photo people….

I struggle with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and ADHD. These diagnoses do not define me, but they do tend to get in the way of my school day. Sometimes classes have to be skipped, assignments need to be pushed back and plans must be cancelled, all in the name of mental health.

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Beyonce from her music video “Flawless,” which inspired the hashtag #wokeuplikethis (screen capture)

As a woman with depression, I can’t always look happy for the sake of making someone else feel good, as stereotypical female empathy demands of me. I will not seem ‘flawless’ because sometimes I can’t remember to eat, let alone put on lipstick. I cannot be around people for an extended period of time without being exhausted. I am no less woman than someone without depression, but I have to work harder to be accepted by a sexist world as worthy of the title “woman.” This pressure is made more difficult when you factor in the fact that I am a full time student. I am expected as a student to do my best and succeed while also fitting into the tiny box of “womanness.”

Society presents a very limited definition for what a woman is “supposed” to be and look like and these strict gender roles rarely fit the dynamic and complex individuals we are, but they are even more inadequate for people of color, LGBTQIA-identified people, and people with mental illness and/or disabilities. Women students who navigate life with a mental illness have to deal with often unachievable standards, including the expectation of “effortless perfection.”  Continue reading

Speak: Knowing a Survivor Without Knowing Their Story

A post written by Women’s Center Director,  Jess Myers

*Content Note: Sexual Violence*

And knowing these statistics and being someone who works on a continual basis with and for survivors of sexual violence, I was shocked and disappointed in myself that it still took me more than half of a novel to realize Melinda, the main character of Speak, was a survivor of sexual assault.
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I picked up Speak on a whim after seeing a picture of its front cover on the online Enoch Pratt library catalog. It was a librarian’s recommendation and it was one of the last books I needed to get through from my pile of winter break readings. Reading the vague synopsis on the inside flap of the book, I began reading what I assumed would be any other young adult novel. What I knew –  Malinda was a 9th grader. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Everyone hated her because of that. Consequently, high school was a disaster for her. She had no friends. She stopped doing her homework and cut class. She didn’t have a good relationship with her parents. And, one day, she finally just stopped talking.

I get it. High school can really suck. Being an outsider is awful. Being 13 is awkward and painful and hard to navigate. Been there. Done that. So, with each turn of the page, I became more frustrated with Melinda. She was annoying me. I almost stopped reading the book.

Get it over it, Melinda.

But, for some reason, I kept reading. Melinda left me little clues throughout that led me to understand that she wasn’t sharing her full story. Something was going on with her. Continue reading

I Loved You Once – Reflections from NCCWSL on Authenticity and Leadership

The following post are reflections from rising-sophomore Nitya Kumaran who represented UMBC at this years National Conference for College Women Leaders (NCCWSL). When Nitya found herself in my office after attending the conference in May she was full of energy, passion, complex thoughts, and challenges for herself. I asked her to write some of what she was thinking and feeling down so others who didnt attend the conference could also learn from her leadership journey. Nitya took up this challenge by sharing her thoughts in a conscious-raising way that presents itself as raw and authentic reflection of her journey and growth as a feminist leader. 

-Jess

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I Loved You Once

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Nitya with Elizabeth Acevedo at the Women of Distinction Awards

At the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders’ Women of Distinction awards, the last award winner was National Slam Poetry Champion — and a woman comfortable with her natural skin and hair — Ms. Elizabeth Acevedo! This Dominican woman had unabashed curls springing from her head like fresh beans from the soil, like flowers in the sun. She had coffee skin and a smile that charmed me to the floor. There were cheers all around and they took on a new volume at the mention of that last phrase. A few black women around me cheered particularly loud and I cheered with them.

Try Fair and Lovely for radiant skin!

The skin-whitening creams, my own dark skin, hate from another place and time struck my mind.  I couldn’t fathom the weight of that last accomplishment.

Easily and graciously, Ms. Acevedo’s whole face smiled and thanked us.

“I was a nina de la casa. A girl of the house. That’s all I was expected to be. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that if you want to do that, but I think everyone should have the choice.”

Her own difficult journey to become “her own woman” was shared with us with both hands. We weren’t supposed to become her, we were supposed to become our own women, find our own destiny.  Continue reading

On The Anniversary of the Campus Childcare Closing

I’m writing and posting this reflection on the first year “anniversary” of the closing of childcare center on UMBC’s campus. That was a painful and stressful time on campus for many families and their children. Thankfully, UMBC is committed to being a family-friendly campus not only in name but in actions and renovations to restore the childcare center back to working condition will take place this year with a slated re-opening date of fall 2015.

But the issue of childcare extends beyond UMBC. Here’s some startling facts about the state of childcare in the United States.

In many states, the cost of childcare is more expensive than college tuition.

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This high price of childcare is particularly important you take into consideration the following statistics found in a National Women’s Law Center analysis of state and national data that addresses the concerns related to low-wage jobs and the intersection of childcare:

  • Over 1.2 million mothers with very young children (children ages three and under) are in low-wage occupations (those that typically pay $10.10 or less per hour)
  • In every state, working mothers of very young children are disproportionately represented in low-wage occupations.

Moreover, low-wage jobs often entail unstable, unpredictable, or inflexible schedules and lack any paid sick or family leave which can make it difficult to arrange child care. For more information, you can read the full report here.

Getting your college degree and being a parent also isn’t easy. Check out a previous post from our former intern, Emily that specifically focuses the childcare issues faced by college student parents.

There’s also this report from AAUW that specifically addresses childcare issues on a community college level.

And the issue extends beyond access to childcare. These are just two personal stories I’ve heard recently from moms in my life…

A dear friend of mine just had her baby. Leading up to her due date, we spoke about her struggle to understand the ins and outs of her maternity leave (because newsflash: out of 178 nations, the US is one of three that still does not require paid maternity leave benefits). With only weeks to go until her due date, she realized she had been told the wrong information about her leave policies and now had significantly less time to take off during maternity leave than she originally thought. In the moment she wasn’t feeling well and was contemplating starting her leave early before the baby came. She shared with me feeling torn about taking the time off now before the baby was here so she could take care of herself or to save the time for later so she could spend it with the baby once he or she arrived. She asked: “how can I take care of my baby, if I can’t take care of me now?”

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*Recent update… there’s a new push underway at the U.S. Labor Department for paid maternity leave. You can read the 9/24/14 article here.

 

Upon coming back from maternity leave, my sister-in-law, J, inquired with her HR department about a private space she could pump. She was referred to a single-use bathroom that was generally known around the office… and this is her exact quote… “as the place the guys went to take a dump.” J questioned that location as the only solution and asked if she could use a conference room when it wasn’t in use. She was told that using a conference room wasn’t sanitary for other people who use it… you know in case breast milk got all over the place.  Needless to say, she left the meeting crying and feeling pretty hopeless. Thank goodness, HR went back and did their homework and changed their statement when it became apparent that state law made it illegal for workplaces to designate public restrooms as lactation rooms. The next day they turned an empty office into a “wellness center.”

They were probably worried this would happen….

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But all joking aside, for UMBC folks, please know the University System of Maryland has a lactation facilities policy and the Women’s Center is the official lactation room for campus. Moreover, on all college campuses that receive federal funding, pregnant and parenting students can find protection under Title IX  which prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities.

During the various conversations I engaged in last year when the campus childcare center closed, it was important for me to emphasize that access to childcare wasn’t just a women’s issue. It was a parent issue. A student success issue. A retention and graduation issue. A work-place satisfaction issue. And, while all of that is true, access to childcare and family-friendly work policies are still also women’s issues that impact pay-equity issues, tenure and promotion issues, work-life balance issues and more. As a society, we need to do a better job at supporting our moms and families. It’s time for a culture shift and we all need to be a part of the solution.

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The Women’s Center has several resources that may be of interest to our UMBC moms and parents:

Mother’s Group list-serv: This list-serv allows members to connect with other moms and parents on campus. Looking for a suggestion for a babysitter, pediatrician, or childcare provider? Email the list! If you’d like to be added provide your contact information to womens.center@umbc.edu

myUMBC Moms and Parents Group: This is clearinghouse of sorts that the Women’s Center created to put all the parenting and childcare resources we know of in one place. Examples of links and documents include the childcare resource guide, employment protections, Grad’s School maternity leave policies, information about Title IX. This can also be a place for parents to post their own discussions or questions.

Childcare Resource Guide: Before the childcare on campus closed, the Women’s Center with the support of the President’s Commission for Women put together a guide to help parents find alternatives to childcare on campus, especially for kiddos between the ages of zero and two. Since the center closed on campus, we’ve added to the guide and continue to update it on a semester by semester basis.

Women’s Center Lactation Room: In addition to the private space, there is also a hospital grade breast pump and a mini-fridge to store your milk (away from everyone’s lunches and dinners).

Mother’s Group Meetings: This is a time for mothers on campus to get together and connect. We’re in the process of re-envisioning what these meetings can look like and how we can make it the best use of time for our busy moms. Stay tuned for updates on when the next meeting will be by following the myUMBC moms and parents page or joining the mother’s group list-serv.