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. 

Writing as a woman: A conversation

In recognition of the other month-long celebration that is April’s National Poetry Month, Women’s Center Special Projects Coordinator Amelia Meman recorded a discussion on writing as a woman with her two best friends. Check out the video below, and join the conversation!

Writing as a woman.

It’s something I think about fairly often, because it brings up issues of worthiness, knowledge-making, developing identities, creating dialogues and rhetorical communities, and communicating experience. Writing is, in many ways, the convergence of the private becoming public–y’know, that old feminist maxim. Writing as an act and later as a product contains multitudes, especially in its intersections with identity.

That said, I was eager to talk with two of my best friends, Susie Hinz and Kerrin Smith, about their experiences as writers, as woman, and as women writers (or alternatively writerly women?). A video of our conversation is below. We talk about the intersections of identity and writing, getting over feelings of unworthiness, working through writer’s block, and many other writing-related things.

Susie is a UMBC alum who is working at Maryland Humanities and is also curating a fantastic blog (and possibly publishing a novel in the future). Kerrin is a poet in the Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA program, and you can catch updates on her published work (and her life) on her Twitter.

BMO - I hope Im good at this

This is how we generally feel about writing. (Thanks to Susie for this picture.)

A note: Our discussion is extremely limited in terms of “what it means to be a woman writer,” and we want to acknowledge this. We all have particular aspects of privilege and oppression that affect our identities (gender, creative, and otherwise), and this conversation stems from a particular place of privilege. It’s my hope that this discussion, though limited in terms of perspective, is still insightful and helpful to those watching.

Women in Politics Roundtable Round-Up

16665235_1240042186074587_3406555264375312519_oThe Women’s Center’s Spring Roundtable series has begun! On February 14th, we hosted the first of our three-part roundtable “Underrepresentation of Women in…” series. This roundtable was on “Women in Politics” and focused on the lack of women in the political sphere and the establishment.

For this discussion, our panelists were Political Science professor Lisa Vetter, Language Literacy and Culture student Colonel Ingrid Parker, and student staff member Kayla Smith.

The discussion opened with a question about gendered communication and how to express femininity in a workspace that’s male dominated. Kayla and Colonel Parker both agreed that being a “chameleon,” or being fluid in how they present themselves based on their audience, has worked for them in the past. 

The conversation then turned to Hillary Clinton’s presidential loss. The suggestion was made that the glass ceiling was now higher than it had previously been as a result of someone as qualified as Clinton losing to someone as seemingly unqualified as President Trump. People in politics may be more scared to back women running for office because women don’t seem to get the votes to take office. Therefore the goal of making a woman president is even more elusive. Furthermore, after learning that some women need to be asked more than five times to run for office, there was some concern that Clinton’s loss would discourage more women from entering the political sphere for fear of disappointment; however, Colonel Parker reminded everyone that the next step should be to stay hopeful and push forward no matter what happens. 

When Jess Myers asked about the silencing of Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor during the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Kayla pointed out that the silencing of Elizabeth Warren was really the silencing of Coretta Scott King. Kayla went on to explain that, because her feminism is intrinsically connected to her race, it’s impossible for her to ignore the ramifications she faces in the establishment due to being a black woman. 

When the discussion was opened up to the audience, a student asked a question about coping with the effects of mental health when looking at barriers to women in politics. Colonel Parker spoke about the benefits of finding coping mechanisms like eating well, spending time with family, and working out. Kayla suggested finding supportive groups of women to help and uplift you in the face of adversity. Women’s Center Assistant Director Megan Tagle Adams added that it isn’t always enough for their to be more women in a space but that they should also be supportive of women excelling instead of engaging in “mean girl” tactics.

Another audience member asked Kayla what her opinion was on changing the establishment to include women and people of color to which she responded, “It’s important for people to be educated. They need to learn that our government and political system is built on white supremacy, racism, and sexism. Nothing will change until people understand where we started and that those things still play a major role in our system.”

Overall, the subject of women’s underrepresentation in politics is vast and complicated and while we barely scratched the surface in this hour long discussion, we did our best to open the dialogue and get people talking and thinking.

Want more information? Below are some links further discussing women, the establishment, and politics.

So has this discussion fired you up? Are you interested in running for office (public, school, or otherwise)? Have you heard about Elect Her? Elect Her is a leadership program that encourages and trains college women to run for student government and future political office

There is an an Elect Her workshop on March 11th from 10:30-3:30 in Fine Arts 011. You will learn how to figure out what your message and platform is, how to craft a communication strategy that works, and you’ll hear from campus and community leaders about what it takes to win. It is going to be a great day!

If you have questions or want to RSVP, contact Dr. Kate. (drabinsk@umbc.edu.)

 

A Time to Resist + A Time to Take Care

amelia-meman-headshotA reflection written by Women’s Center Special Projects Coordinator, Amelia Meman

So here we are. Another day in this brave new world.

Are you exhausted yet? Emotionally, physically, psychologically?

If you’re not–congratulations! That’s really good and you are a sweet glowing angel.

If you are, though, you’re not alone and you are also a sweet glowing angel.

deadI’m tired, too. For all of us feminists, social justice warriors, and snowflakes, this is a tough time. The stream of executive actions and questionable cabinet appointments have rocked our communities and have malignantly affected some of the most vulnerable groups in the U.S. The fights we’ve been engaging in throughout every administration have been exacerbated and fear is alive more than ever. 

Seeing the reaction from social justice activists has been heartening for me in many ways. The women’s march was awesome and huge (though not without its fair share of criticism from Black women, the trans community, and many others). Other demonstrations against the refugee ban and the massive uptick in people contacting their elected representatives to demand accountability has shown us that massive swathes of the public have been activated to resist in a great variety of ways.

This work is both vital and neverending. Making an impact is difficult, exhausting work. It involves massive amounts of human energy. What I’m ultimately getting to is this: are you taking care of yourself right now? 
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Where My Inclusive Dawgs At? — A reflection on American sports culture.

A blog reflection written by Women’s Center staff member Kayla Smith. Kayla Profile Pic

Society tells us that women are too sensitive. We’re crazy emotional creatures who are fragile and people need to tiptoe around us and our sensitive flower petal feelings. Because of this stereotype, I spend a lot of time unpacking my issues with certain comments, blog posts, statements and phrases. Is something truly offensive or am I just being a baby? Is something harmful or am I overreacting?

Recently, I attended the first soccer game of the season here at UMBC. I’m not typically a big sports person but I really like sporting events because of the sense of community, which is especially important at UMBC since we’re often seen as lacking in the school spirit department.

I tend to forget how often sports fans rely on sexism and homophobia in their heckling. While I’m framing my experience in the context of UMBC, no sports game is absent of these things. Unfortunately, it seems to be a part of the culture as a whole because every time without fail every time I go to any type of game I end up having this conversation with a stranger:

Expressive gentleman sitting behind me: “HEY [insert number of player here] YOU SUCK AND YOUR MOTHER IS A WHORE.”

Me (startled): “That’s so mean geez why would you say that?”

Man (with feeling): “It’s a sporting event. Get used to it”

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My Role Model, Senator Barbara Mikulski or “Finding the Worth in Your [Almost Always] Problematic Fave*”

So after the longest run of any woman in the history of the United States Congress, Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland is retiring after this 114th Congress in 2017. And for some reason, I am feeling some sort of way about it.

I have been incensed to write this ever since Senator Mikulski’s retirement announcement, not because she is my policy-making idol or someone who defines what feminism looks like for me. To be quite honest, I have not followed her every vote, nor her every speech. But there’s something to Senator Mikulski that I have always looked up to. She is a symbol to me—a symbol of a woman who is not afraid to take up space. A symbol I have always needed.

On the right, Barbara Mikulski in 1994.

Senator Mikulski has always been known to me as a woman who has stomped forward and demanded her due. Who attested to being “one of those emotional women” on the Senate floor while arguing for pay equity; who, early in her career, was the only other percentage point of women in the U.S. Senate. Women I know, admire, and who inspire me daily—my mother being one of them—have always touted her as their own “shero.” Why? Because, Senator Mikulski did not try to maintain a new sense of subtlety or feminine gentleness when she got to the Senate—no, she made her bombastic nature her signature. Something that just was her essence. She was fiery and passionate about issues, and that’s where her political energy came from.

And it’s not only her personality, but it’s the fact that Barbara Mikulski is also no waif. And I mean no disrespect to the Senator at all—rather, I mean only respect. This woman is small and sturdy. She is not the Claire Underwood or Olivia Pope on our television, but the 4’11” juggernaut who wears pants on the Senate floor when she goddamn feels like it. Senator Mikulski’s visage, like her personality, is unapologetic.

And as a woman who can’t stop muttering “I’m sorrys” to every person who accidentally(?) pushes me on the sidewalk, I need that symbol of unabashed space taking up-ness that Senator Mikulski has always been for me. As a woman who does have wide-set shoulders, wide-set hips, and a loud, wide way of talking about what thing is making her angriest, I need to know that I can succeed with that. As a woman who has always had her fire for social justice doused by naysayers or “realists,” I need someone who is bent on raising hell till her and her loved ones get the rights they deserve. And finally, as a woman who has struggled with body, intelligence, and political insecurity in a patriarchal world, Senator Mikulski has always been somebody who I would look to when I was down, and realize, “I can take up this space, because I deserve it and I am more than worthy.”  

I hope that anybody reading this who faces similar or maybe even more complex insecurities than I do, can hopefully treat this post as a push towards finding that someone—be they a celebrity, a politician, or a peer in class—who makes you realize you are worthy of the skin you’re in and the space you inhabit. Maybe they do it through their ferocity (like my Senator Barb), their creativity, their stoicism, but either way, they help you to be you to the fullest, and they awaken the opportunity to celebrate yourself and the uniqueness that makes you you. Because sometimes, in our weakest moments, all we need is to feel inspired to know that we are worthy.

*And here is my disclaimer on “problematic faves”: I am often one of the first to recognize the problematic nature of anything that exists in the world. It’s not that I am trying to be a dark shadow, a pox upon the happiness of all the smiling people in the room. No, rather, it is simply a personal habit of mine to critically analyze something until its not fun any more (I’ll do it to the Oscars, I’ll do it to your fave, and I’ll keep doing it, I tell you). However, I wanted to add this disclaimer, because I know that Senator Barbara Mikulski has done and said what are probably problematic things to many. I’m certain I could find hurt in what she’s said if I read enough, but I also am not going to let that ruin this moment. I am going to bask in that Senator Barbara Mikulski Sun that always makes me feel like I can carpe all the diems, and I am going to feel positive about it. So, please, allow me the indulgence of stoking the fangirling fire a little longer, oh fellow killjoys, because all of our faves are problematic, and sometimes that’s just gotta be okay.

“We still do that?”: Shackling Pregnant Prisoners in Maryland

When you talk to most college students about shackling incarcerated pregnant people before, after, and while they are labor, most are surprised.  Many look at me incredulously and ask, “We still do that?”

Yes, we still do that. We still shackle pregnant people for all of their medical appointments, as they give birth, and as they are leaving the hospital even though it has been deemed dangerous, dehumanizing, and unnecessary by national organizations like American Medical Association (AMA), American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and American Public Health Association (APHA). Federal courts have ruled that shackling those in labor is a violation of the Eighth Amendment (that one about “cruel and unusual punishment”). The United Nations has also prohibited the shackling of pregnant prisoners and considers the practice a form of torture (though the U.S. would not want to ruin their streak of neglecting to ratify most conventions on human rights that the UN creates).

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