Making Space for Faith in Feminism

michael-headshot A reflection by Michael Jalloh-Jamboria, Women’s Center student staff member

Saturday, February 12th was the 59th Grammy awards show. The show featured many musical performances and winners, most notably,Beyoncé. At the time of her performance, not only was she pregnant, but she delivered a kickass performance, defied gravity, all the while channeling some major West African, Latin American, and Christian spiritual imagery during her performance. 

In both Santeria and West African spirituality, the Goddess Oshun is the goddess of sweet waters–the embodiment of love, fertility, and sensuality. Her love and guidance were instrumental to the creation of the world, so much so that other Orisha (gods and goddesses) were unable to complete their work on earth without Oshun.  After Beyonce’s amazing performance, Twitter was going wild with the comparisons between Beyoncé and the goddess Oshun.

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Beyoncé’s performance, her golden outfit, the fact that she was very pregnant, and the influx of Twitter comparisons reminded me of an earlier blog post I had written about my journey of religion and its intersections with my identities. Growing up, my parents loved to tell me stories of the Orisha, or gods and goddesses, and how they created the earth. While I was raised Muslim, my parents never separated our West African spirituality from our Muslim religion. Beyoncé’s performance got me thinking about how different my religion is from my spirituality. While it can be a strange balance, both my religion and my spirituality are important aspects of my identity. But I realized, within the social spaces I occupy, I don’t really talk about those parts of my identity. From there, I began to think about whether or not religion has a place in feminism. 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

Revisiting Male Privilege

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A Women’s Center Blog post and reflection by student staff member Daniel

On September 22, 2014, I published my first Women’s Center blog post, titled “Male Privilege in Women’s Spaces.”  In it I shared my anxieties about joining the Women’s Center staff and reflected on my male privilege. I thought about what my role or place might be and how I could manage my privilege in a healthy and productive way.

I want to begin my last year at the Women’s Center the same way I began my first year here. I want to think about and complicate my male privilege and how I show up in the Women’s Center and other women-centric spaces.

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Fall 2014 Women’s Center Staff

A lot of things have changed in the two years since I published that first post. After serving my terms in student org leadership, I’m now much less involved; I’ve watched freshmen and sophomores step forward and take positions I once held and do a better job than I or my predecessors did. My trans identity has evolved and my understanding of my relationship to the world has changed. My perspective on privilege is different now and I’ve learned that reflecting on my privilege makes me a better leader. I’m a third-year staff member and I often find myself in leadership and mentor roles, meaning this self-reflection is even more important than it was when I first started.
Continue reading

Queering Your Queue

Shira Devorah A short reflection by student staff member Shira Devorah ( She/Her or They/Them) 

I really love queer media. I’ve probably watched most of the movies in the “Gay and Lesbian” category on Netflix, as long as they didn’t look too dull or exploitative. There are some really fantastic and challenging shows and movies available at the click of a button. Why am I so drawn to television shows with women kissing, to movies with actual trans actresses playing trans women? I know I’m not the only queer woman who revels in the opportunity to see a new lesbian drama. Why is this?

Well, it all boils down to one thing: The need for representation. The queer community is constantly portrayed by the media through stereotypes and tropes that are incredibly harmful and inconsistent with the realities of our queer lives. This article from the queer- woman’s website Autostraddle recently went viral – because it listed all 162 (and counting) dead lesbian and bisexual women killed on television and how they died.

The post circulated widely using the hashtag “bury your gays,” which was created after a beloved lesbian character from The 100 was killed off as a cheap plot device – a trope all too common in any media that portrays queer women. While I never really watched The 100, I understand what it feels like when a fan favorite lesbian meets an early demise. Continue reading

Why is the impeachment of Brazil’s president a feminist issue?

A blog reflection by Women’s Center intern Mariana de Matos Medeiros Mariana De Matos Medeiros

On October 5th, 2014, I was finally able to cast my first vote for a Presidential election since moving to America. It was an incredible experience to head over into the Brazilian consulate event in Washington, DC, bright-eyed and ready to make a difference for my home country. As an immigrant who has not yet attained citizen status, I am not able to vote in America so voting to make a difference for my family and friends at home was empowering. As a feminist, I felt most thrilled about having the ability to vote for a leftist woman who had already done much to carry out social welfare programs. I voted for Dilma Rousseff based on how she had run her administration in her previous term: focusing on women and marginalized communities and continuing to carry out social welfare programs to address the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor.

During the past months Brazil’s political drama has reached its all-time high. With the most recent Olympic games being hosted in Rio, the entire world was watching as Brazil’s first woman-identified, leftist president was pushed out of office pending an investigation on alleged corrupt behavior.

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Dilma Rousseff // image credit: Wikipedia

Rousseff ran for president under the left-winged Worker’s Party of Brazil, yet she did not always bring solidarity among feminists, as some may assume. In fact, the Brazilian feminist movements were often split between those who supported her public policies and those who rejected her administration, demanding advances in issues of reproductive justice and education. However, Brazilian feminists tend to agree that Rousseff’s impeachment was a blatant act of sexism and discrimination.   Continue reading

Reading Redefining Realness

Shira

 

A short book reflection by Shira Devorah 

Just a few moments ago I finished Janet Mock’s memoir, Redefining Realness, My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. I’m still stunned. I’m not much of a memoir reader, but I’m pretty sure this book has changed that.

Thanks to a generous donation from UMBC’s LGBTQ Faculty & Staff Association, I was able to snatch up this book from the Women’s Center’s very own lending library! Over the past couple of days, I have been relishing every moment of Janet Mock and her story. Mock, a trans woman of color, takes her readers through her life from early childhood until now. In a whirlwind of wit and poignancy, she shares herself with us.

I am not ashamed to admit that I cried a whole bunch throughout this book. Mock fought tooth and nail to become the woman she is today, and though she has been through a lot of pain and oppression, she never falters in her stance as an activist. Every personal recollection comes with a lesson Mock has for her readers. She challenges us to be better people, to see others more complexly, to  be critical of systems of inequality and injustice that exist all around us. Mock allows her readers to peak into incredibly sensitive parts of her, and trusts us to learn from the barriers she faced in her girlhood and adolescence.

I think this memoir is a wonderful introduction to intersectional identities and social justice. Any person who picks up this book will be gently introduced to many concepts that they might not have been privy to beforehand.  While I feel like I know a bit about many issues touched upon in this book, I have been changed  by her discussions. Continue reading

A Call to Prayer: My Return to the Muslim Community

MJ Profile PicA reflection written by Women’s Center staff member, MJ Jalloh Jamboria

The following is a little of my experience as a queer Muslim person. I recognize that my experience is not reflective of Islam, nor of the community of people I met at the Interfaith Center.

For the first time since last Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holy holiday, I went to Jumu’ah (congregational Friday prayer). I met a person on campus who extended a warm hand and invited me to prayer which took place at the Interfaith Center. I was both excited and terrified for a plethora of reasons. I was excited to sit amongst my sisters, to rejoin the community I had left behind me as I entered college, and to listen to the guest Sheik that was invited to give the khutbah, the congregational sermon.

In the days leading up to the Friday prayer, all I could talk about was how excited I was that I finally had a friend to go to Jumu’ah with. I quickly realized, I had no idea how to be practicing Muslim anymore. I was once a Sunday school teacher and was really quite good at incorporating Islamic teachings into my life. However, since the start of college, I hadn’t really thought about being religious. I am not hijabi, a woman who wears hijab full-time. I’m not even a woman! I sometimes eat gelatin (oops!) and I don’t think I own a single piece of ‘modest’ clothing. I am a fat, queer, shorts and T-shirt wearing, ‘you kiss your mother with that mouth?’ swearing, mess of a person! Muslim people can be all of these things, but in prayer there are certain rules we must submit to. The expectation for women is to stand in a section separate from men, covered in appropriate prayer attire and hair and neck wrapped in a veil. The thought of completing some of these actions made me nervous.  Continue reading