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

How Did We Get Here: The Crisis in Flint

A reflection from Women’s Center staff member Daniel WilleyDaniel Profile Pic

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how disaster response and the concept of a snow day have social justice implications. This week, I am continuing the trend by looking at the disaster in Flint, Michigan. Many news outlets are examining the crisis from a “so how do we fix it” standpoint, but I want to look at this crisis through the lens of “how did we get here.” What structural imbalances led us to this point? What does this crisis say about the bigger picture? Before we get there, though, let’s look at what happened:

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(cnn.com)

In 2011, former acting mayor of Flint, Michigan Mike Brown was appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder as the city’s Emergency Financial Manager. The city was $15 million in debt, and it was the EFM’s job to cut the budget as much as possible to remedy the situation. As a major cost saving measure, Flint voted to stop buying water from Detroit, which pulls water from Lake Huron, and connect to Karegnondi Water Authority as a cheaper, more direct way of getting water from Lake Huron. This plan, voted on in 2013, would not be completed until 2016 and the city switched to water from the Flint River in the interim. Tests done on Flint River back in 2011 showed that the water from the river was corrosive and would need to be treated with phosphates before it could be used as a water source. This information was sent to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in 2013 when the decision was made to switch. It was the MDEQ’s job to address the corrosiveness of the water, which would cost about $100 per day. As a cost saving measure, they didn’t.

Fast forward to April 2014. Flint switches its water source. Residents report that the water is brown, smells, and has a bad taste. It was gross, but officials insisted it was fine. Continue reading

Women are Funny (too)

First, let’s start off with saying that the Women’s Center is stoked about Hannibal Buress making his way to campus this weekend for Homecoming. We very much enjoy his character, Lincoln, on Broad City. More importantly, he called out the rape allegations against Bill Cosby in his stand-up routine back when very few others were because it was “too hard” and “unbelievable” to simply just believe and support the victims coming forward.

But, we’d be remiss if we didn’t share something we’ve noticed when it comes to comedians coming to campus for the annual Homecoming event. They’re all dudes! Nick Offerman. B.J. Novak. Bo Burnham. Donald Glover. Lewis Black. And now, Hannibal.

Now, this just isn’t a UMBC thing. It’s kind of just a thing we call sexism. For example, check out the hosts of late night television:

From Vanity Fair's October 2015 issue on late-night television.

From Vanity Fair’s October 2015 issue on late-night television.

Then there’s this catalog that was delivered in the mail the other day that shared all the great comedians colleges can book and bring to campus:

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Really?! Just four women out of 24 on this list of options?

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So, with that in mind, some of the Women’s Center staff has compiled this short round-up of some of our favorite women comedians. In their own words, staff members write about why these women are funny (too). Continue reading

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”

So it goes.  Continue reading

On double standards and women. A guest post by a Women’s Center community member.

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It was nighttime when I pulled out my favorite dress to wear. There was no special occasion; it just made me feel gorgeous. Nevertheless, I was experiencing an all too familiar nagging feeling as I examined the material. The dress was cut so as to expose the back, and was short in length. Years of training myself to fight against rape culture and slut shaming, and my vivid remembrances of being sexually assaulted no matter what I wore did not stop me from putting the dress back and choosing something else to put on.

Let’s clarify for a moment here: clothes don’t cause rape; rapists do, and they search for vulnerability. I know this. However, the messages I, as well as I believe many other women are taught are the former message instead of the latter truth. At least for me, that conditioning stuck. Also, not only is the societal standard against women putting on certain types of clothes considered as revealing by some associated with rape culture, but it is also connected with other parts of women’s lives. The advice given to women by one law firm was an implication that their cleavage should not be shown due to their attire as this would lead to less significance being placed upon what they say. Even women who work in a place associated with prestige, then, find themselves combating a restriction that places more emphasis on what they wear rather than the job they do.

So, why is it that women choosing to cover their bodies find themselves facing consternation as well? Women who want to wear a burka find themselves unable to do so as this type of clothing has been banned in various regions.

Women are thereby taught that they should reveal their bodies, but only by a specific amount that is, at the same, not clearly defined. There is no way to fulfill such a contradictory and fluid expectation, so women become chastised no matter what they wear.

The double standards don’t end there. Women are told to put on makeup that makes them look more like what society considers as natural, such as a “nude” concealer that assumes that the humans are always white, or skin illuminators, which make people appear lighter. Nevertheless, if women wear green lipstick to actually express themselves, their makeup may be considered as odd. Also, bodily matters aside, women are advised not to speak in certain settings such as church, as seen in an depiction of Google searches. Then, women are critiqued for not raising their voices and letting their needs be heard in the workplace.

Clearly, this contradictory regulation towards women needs to change — the rules certainly aren’t helping women; they’re hindering them.

What double standards have you seen applied to women?

It’s that time of year again! Halloween Costumes! by Narges Fekri Ershad, Student Staff

2004_10202146841581348_1327051636_nIt is that time of the year again! Pumpkins are out in the fields and costumes are back in the stores! It is the time of the year that people can wear anything, be anyone or any object and they won’t be judged!

While searching the internet I came across many points about Halloween that just shocked me! Did you know how much money Americans spend during Halloween? Americans spend between $6.5-6.86 billion dollars on costumes, candy, and decorations!

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On the other hand pictures of costumes was another “wow” experience for me, like always. During Halloween you can see many different costumes, many of which are problematic costumes. They can be sexist, culturally appropriative, and have many more problems — but most people think there is nothing is wrong with them!

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For the past several weeks I have been looking online and in magazines for Halloween costumes. Many of them have made me stop and think. Try it yourself, think of ANY object or character… search for it on Google and you can probably find the sexy version of it! Be a sexy carrot, a sexy watermelon, and of course, a sexy nurse!

It seems like sexy and offensive costumes are now the norm in our society. Halloween is that one day a year that people can be anyone and anything, with an emphasis on women being a sexual object, and most people will be fine with it!

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Have you ever thought of this? Have you ever thought that something might be wrong here? That maybe we need to rethink this issue, talk and think about it a little more?!

Come to the Women’s Center this Wednesday, October 23rd, during free hour and let’s talk about Halloween Costumes!