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

*Favorite Things* List from the United State of Women

IMG_9874.JPGA top 10 favorite things list about the United State of Women Summit complied by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers.

Maybe you heard about this little thing that happened in Washington, D.C. this week called the United State of Women Summit. If not, just to fill you in, it wasn’t little at all – it was a Pretty Big Deal. The Summit which was developed out of the White House Council on Women and Girls was the first of its kind with a charge to rally women and their allies together to celebrate what women have achieved and create solutions to help keep moving women’s issues and gender equity forward. I had the privilege of being one of the 5000 people in attendance as a representative of ACPA’s Coalition for Women’s Identities. In their opening remarks, Valerie Jarrett and Tina Tchen compared a meeting such as the USOW to the Seneca Falls Convention. And while, I’m not quite sure the Summit will have the same lasting historical event, it was nonetheless an important day for women and one which I’ll never forget.
I thought about my UMBC and Women’s Center families throughout the entire day and wanted to give you a little taste of the experience – some of my favorite things, you might say (wink wink, Oprah). Please note, this is not a critical analysis of the day’s events and speakers (you can google search for the think pieces later). Continue reading

UMBC Women Who Rock: The Women Behind the Staff of Color Network

UMBC Women Who Rock is a blog series I’ve been writing since last year and it has become one of my favorite things to think and write about for the Women’s Center blog. In my role as Women’s Center director, I have some of the best opportunities to become acquainted with some of UMBC’s best and brightest women on campus. I admire the ways they live authentic lives unapologetically that challenge the stereotypes and assumptions that are often assigned to women. By debunking these stereotypes and forcing us to check our assumptions, they allow us to expand our notion of what a woman is and can be.

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UMBC Women Who Rock!
The Staff of Color Network Co-Chairs

“In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful, white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.”
That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something, the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.”
– Viola Davis, Emmy Award Speech on September 20, 2015

The Staff of Color Network co-chairs. Women who ROCK! L-R: Lisa Gray, Donna-Lee Mahabeer. Mickey Irizarry, & Alexis Melville

The Staff of Color Network co-chairs =Women who ROCK!
L-R: Lisa Gray, Donna-Lee Mahabeer. Mickey Irizarry, & Alexis Melville

What a powerful counternarrative. How unapologetic and courageous. As I’ve watched Viola Davis’ acceptance speech several times this week and seen the gif-ed articles on all the ways Black women were each other’s biggest fans at the Emmy’s, the women behind of the Staff of Color Network (SCN) at UMBC keep coming to my mind. Donna-Lee, Lisa, Mickey, and Alexis are women of color on campus who are challenging that line and finding ways to create opportunities for themselves and others on campus as people of color. While Davis calls for more roles to be written for Women of Color in Hollywood, these UMBC women are creating safe and validating spaces for themselves and other people of color on campus. They’re asking important questions about lack of visibility, calling out (and in) racial microaggressions, and being each other’s allies and advocates. This has taken raw courage and bravery as they challenge the institutional and systemic white narrative and experience. Indeed, they are UMBC Women Who Rock. Continue reading

UMBC Women Who Rock: Rehana Shafi

UMBC Women Who Rock is a blog series I’m working on throughout the 2014-15 academic year (and now perhaps beyond). In my role as Women’s Center director, I have some of the best opportunities to become acquainted with some of UMBC’s best and brightest women on campus. I admire the ways they live authentic lives unapologetically that challenge the stereotypes and assumptions that are often assigned to women. By debunking these stereotypes and forcing us to check our assumptions, they allow us to expand our notion of what a woman is and can be.

-Jess

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UMBC Women Who Rock!
Rehana Shafi, Director of the Sherman STEM Teacher Scholars Program

In the few UMBC Women Who Rock blog posts I’ve written over the past year, I end with the same paragraph every time. I ask my readers about which UMBC women inspire them and how the counter narratives they’re sharing with us allow UMBC and our greater community to be more of exactly who we want to be. I absolutely love the power of counternarratives and their ability to expose assumptions and reveal complexities and depth. And, while it’s so important to emphasize the counternarratives, after connecting with Rehana Shafi earlier this summer, I was reminded of the importance of also simply knowing the narrative of someone’s life.

Rehana speaking at the dedication of the naming of Sherman Hall.

Rehana speaking at the dedication of the naming of Sherman Hall.

Rehana and I are both a part of the Undergraduate Academic Affairs (UAA) Division and for the past four years have shared time together at leadership team meetings. During these meetings, I have looked to Rehana as a role model as I design my own concept of women’s leadership. I appreciate the time I have to sit with her around the UAA leadership table. She asks important questions, provides important context to discussions, inserts moments of humor and light-heartedness, and exemplifies confidence. I have learned a great deal from Rehana by simply being at the same table with her. And, despite having spent this time with Rehana, I recently was reflecting on the fact that I knew very little about her and who she is. This realization inspired me to set up a time to meet with her under the guise of a UMBC Women Who Rocks interview.

So, I asked her “Who are you?”

But, let me take a step back. This actually wasn’t the first question I asked 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

Telling Our Stories at NCCWSL

On May 27th-30th, I went to University of Maryland, College Park for the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) to present the semester long Campus Action Project (CAP) Women of Color Coalition’s Telling Our Stories in a Workshop dedicated to combating women of color stereotypes. I, one of CAP team members, along with Megan, the advisor of the CAP, had fifteen minutes to talk about the semester long project and how our project addressed the stereotypes women of color are associated with and just importantly how they can reject it in favor for more nuanced stories and counter-narratives.Before I get to the presentation, I would like to talk about overall conference and its inner workings. These include the workshops, the keynote speakers, and the feminist camaraderie.  Continue reading