A reflection by Women’s center staff member, Kayla Smith.
Full disclosure: I’m a Beyonce stan. I support pretty much everything she does. There are very few things Beyonce can do that I wouldn’t damn near worship. Needless to say when she released pictures from her maternity shoot I was ready to bow down.
Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement on Instagram
I scrolled through her website looking at all the maternity pictures in awe. The symbolism of a black woman evoking the Virgin Mary and the goddess Venus was not lost on me as I looked through the pictures feeling overjoyed for her and hopeful for my own future. She looked regal and glowed with pride. This pregnancy announcement was radically different from her first, and was shrouded in much less mystery. I was reminded that in 2015 Beyonce suffered a miscarriage and I was so happy that she could announce another pregnancy with confidence. I even lamented to my boyfriend hoping that I would be as beautiful as Beyonce whenever I decide to have kids.
Beyonce as the Goddess Venus, pictured with a bust of Nefertiti.
To my surprise, outside of the BeyHive bubble, not everyone responded to the maternity shoot in the same way I did. Comment threads are filled with comments that call the maternity shoot “tacky,” “extra,” and “self absorbed.” Articles were written criticizing not just the image, but Beyonce and the announcement itself. Continue reading
A reflection by Women’s Center staff member Prachi Kochar on identity and “fitting in”. How do we navigate identities that can fit into multiple categories of nationality, ability, race, etc. at once? Or identities that do not perfectly fit into these categories, spilling out and crashing into each other?
This summer, I went to India for my cousin’s wedding, and it was a long trip both physically (twenty-four hours of traveling, with a layover!) and mentally. Even though it has technically been over for months, it continues to affect the way that I think and view the world. It has deepened my understanding of how I navigate the world, both in terms of my physical location and in terms of social situations and relationships.
Before this trip, I had assumed that India was nothing more or less than a second home to my parents, that it was their equivalent of me coming home from school for winter or summer vacation. However, after an interaction with some distant relatives, my mother turned to me and shook her head, saying “They act like we’re not even Indian!” Continue reading
A short reflection by Shira Devorah, Women’s Center student staff.
I bought my own copy of Dirty River (even though the Women’s Center has a copy you can loan now thanks to the UMBC’s LGBTQ Faculty & Staff Association recent donation), and I’m really glad that I did. I got to underline the poetry and the words that really resonated with me. I carefully applied sticky notes to the parts I loved, the difficult areas I wanted to come back to, the short mix of music I have to check out.
Dirty River, A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, is a memoir, but it is also so much more. It is a story of escape, of survival, of scraping by and fighting to exist. This book is more poetry than prose. It is incredibly difficult, dealing with (trigger warning!) incest, abuse and intimate partner violence. It is also difficult because there is so so much. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha feels everything so much. She discovers herself and pulls you in through all the twists and turns. Continue reading
A blog reflection written by Women’s Center student staff member Meagé Clements
Growing up, my mother would always remind my sister and I that we had to work twice as hard as everyone else because not only were we women, but we were Black women. Living in a society that has always had low expectations of us, a society where we are confined to various stereotypes and generalizations, it has always been important for us to excel above and beyond the expectations of others. We applied her advice, made the honor roll and the dean’s list numerous times, pursued membership in honors programs and honor societies, yet we continued to question if any of these things would even matter in the long run. Would we still be subjected to the glass ceiling and other barriers that would prevent us from reaching the top because of our gender and race?
As I approach my final weeks of being an undergraduate and I’m frantically trying to plan every detail of my adult life after grad school, I find myself returning to this question more and more. At a recent Women of Color Coalition meeting, I learned that this constant questioning and self-doubt is called “Imposter Syndrome.”
Despite earning the grades and being just as qualified, if not more qualified than many of my peers, I doubted myself and whether I truly belonged and I continued to try and find ways to prove that to myself and others. During the meeting, I found that I was not alone in this sentiment, and that this was something that nearly everyone experienced; however, this persistent self-doubt impacts women of color differently for a number of reasons. Continue reading
A blog reflection written by Women’s Center student staff member Meagé Clements. This post is an expansion of her statement in the UMBC Women’s Center and Women of Color Coalition’s “I’m Not” anti-stereotype campaign for the Telling Our Stories project, which we posted about here.
It’s been over a year since I first read recent UMBC alumna and former Women’s Center student staff member Bria Hamlet’s blog post Blackish: Telling My Story and her words continue to resonate with me. She described how she often felt that her blackness was invalidated by others because she didn’t fit the “stereotypical Black mold.” Her blog post made me recall my own experiences with microaggressions and respectability politics, even before I had words to describe what I was facing.
Upon thinking about my “favorite” microaggressions to include on my anti-stereotype poster for the Telling Our Stories Project, a million ideas popped in my head; several about my name, a few about my natural hair, but most were about me being — or not being — “Black enough,” and how other people often take it upon themselves to decide when I am capable of being associated with my blackness.
Growing up, I attended predominantly white schools, but I had always surrounded myself with a small yet diverse group of friends. I remember several times when my Black and non-Black friends alike would joke about how my “Black card should be revoked” or how I was “barely Black” for any number of reasons.
Most often, it came down to the fact that by being an introvert, I couldn’t possibly be Black. Because I wasn’t the stereotypical “loud Black woman,” I wasn’t Black enough. Because I grew up in a two-parent household, I couldn’t be Black. Because I “spoke like a white girl,” I wasn’t deemed Black enough.
Since when did each of these things become associated with Blackness and why were they the determinants? What exactly did it mean to be “Black enough?” Continue reading
Since becoming a co-host on the renowned talk show The View, Raven-Symoné has made her fair share of offensive comments, resulting in her receiving a lot of backlash on social media. From her comments about race to her jokes about not hiring “Watermelondrea,” let’s just say Raven has put her foot in her mouth far too many times.
While Raven-Symoné’s comments about “Watermelondrea” may have been for laughs and giggles, there is an unfortunate truth about names and racial biases.This is something that Black people with “Black-sounding” or “ethnic-sounding” names experience every day. According to Marianne Bertrand’s study, “Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?”, applicants with “white-sounding” names were 50% more likely to be called back for an interview than applicants with “Black-sounding” names. Therefore, not only are Black people discriminated against in person, but we also face discrimination on paper.
This notion of racialized names and name discrimination is not only a form of internalized racism, but it has further perpetuated respectability politics. What Raven-Symoné and many others fail to realize is that these “ghetto” names are embedded with meanings and, most importantly, they are an essential part of one’s identity. Continue reading
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
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