Oh My Gosh, What a Slut…

OH MY GOD BECKY, LOOK AT HER BUTT. You’ve probably heard it before, the “S” word. Some women get offended by it, others wear it as a badge of pride, sometimes men get called it, sometimes it’s a joke, many times it’s not. People have many different views of the word “slut” and the way it’s used in our culture.  Continue reading

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Akata Prevention Unit

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There is a word that has been created and now it has been passed through generations that’s is used to reference African Americans or anyone who is black and does not behave “African” enough. That word is Akátá. It is a derogatory term used by Africans and African immigrants living in the United States. Akátá is loosely translated into “bush dog” or wild animal. Our activist project was to sanction the word using social media and public “soapboxing”.

The project has had a lot of success through the help of Katie Watson from the Academic Center for Student Athletes, we were able to print and photocopy and over 200 copies in which we distributed at some of the African Student organizations through different centers in Baltimore. We distributed the flyers at the Morgan States International Students Association, University of Baltimore’s African Student Union, , CCBC’s African Student Association and Towson University. The distribution of this flyer led to the hosting of an open discussion by the Black Student Union and the African Student Union at the University of Baltimore titled Bridging the Gap: Do you consider yourself African-American, African or Black. This was exciting for our cause. We’ve provoked thought and action that’ll hopefully spread from school to home. Our activism project has been very successful. 

The only regret that we had throughout this project is that we were not able to completely follow through to all the colleges that we spread word to. We simply could not attend all of the meeting. Nevertheless others took our cause and propagated it. Our group to the better half of two worlds. One with Online Advocacy and the other with personal communication. That really helped use spread the word.

Over the summer at the African festival we still have to voice our cause and announce our site. We plan on handing out flyers and name dropping our tumblr link. We will ally with “Rise Africa” as well and because they are a huge name in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area so our cause is will spread further. 

Our project is not complete yet, Fest-Africa 2014 will be hosted in July and with my partner and I officially out of school. We will hopefully be able to attend and make efforts to advocate our cause. If we can change the ethnocentric mentality around us then it is bound to spread. Our final goal is to promote a healthier cognitive process when addressing people who are not from Africa. With the word, Akata, the chance of equality, generalized niceness, and “treating other how you want to be treated” will be spread. 

CHECK OUT OUR BLOG AT: http://akatapreventionunit.tumblr.com/ 

Council of Clubs.

Targeted Problem: UMBC student organizations do not communicate effectively between each other and administration   

Open communication among organizations and administration would promote…

  • diverse opinions, which can lead to more refined answers
  • a more united campus life
  • a space for critical conversations
  • more aware administration
  • more effective use of university money
  • the empowerment of younger student organizations
  • the revitalization of dormant student organizations
  • the teaching of diversity, privilege and respect
  • healthy competition
  • more creative solutions to common problems
  • bigger and better events
  • a more refined student organization system

With this in mind, I hoped to create a council of clubs. In this council, there would be representatives from vastly diverse groups of student organizations. The council would provide a space for the student organizations to speak together in person and collaborate.

However, after much deliberate effort, the project came to a stall.

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Despite the failure to launch the project, there was definite success.

Personal Accomplishments:

  • Greater understanding of SGA processes and student life on campus
  • Important connections to campus leaders and staff
    • For example, I got to work closely with Virginia Bryne, the director of student leadership on campus.
  • Able to observe others leadership techniques and refine my own strategies (ex- working backwards to create deadlines for a calendar schedule, making sure everyone is aware of the clear game plan at the conclusion of the meeting)
  • Investigated highly important questions
    • how do you sell an idea? create buy-in?

Community Accomplishments:

  • There are student leaders who are aware of the concept and hope to pick it up for the future
    • The fact that students are interested in this makes it more likely to take off as a success.
  • Tested the reception of the council of clubs concept
    • Student body was interested

Colorism Within The African American Community

Colorism is an issue that I think has been prevalent in the black community for generations.The roots of colorist can be traced back to colonization and slavery.  The residual impact of these ruthless forms of oppression are still around today. Colorism is a large part of society and not many people are as aware as they think because it has been apart of our community for so long that people have gotten so used to it being apart of their everyday life. Overtime in media  a lot of people use a particular type of woman and as a people we have internalized these images of what the media wants us to believe is the standard for beauty. Being a darkskin woman in the African American community, in recent times I have noticed colorism more and more in my day to day life and that is why I choose to take a look at how people in and around the University of Maryland Baltimore County feel about the issue. I also decided to make this film in an attempt to also bringing awareness to something I believe is a problem in not only within the African American community but is also face within other communities of people of color.

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Modesty

This semester, I chose to work on a project about modesty. It started out dealing with modesty in veiled cultures, but as I continued to learn, I realized more and more similarities between modesty in those cultures, and modesty in our own.

The ultimate result of this project was to be able to participate in a talk-back panel about veiled cultures and the concept of modesty after the UMBC theatre department production of Gum by Karen Hartman (synopsis found here). This play tells the story of a woman growing up in a fictional country in which modesty and cleanliness are a women’s most favorable attributes. It is also a country that practices female circumcision. Interestingly, the panel was composed not to talk about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), but to talk about modesty in veiled cultures. Here at UMBC, we do not have any experts in the field of FGM or the reasons it is practiced, so we gathered experts on Middle-Eastern cultures, Islam, Judaism, and various other fields in feminism, along with several students. When the discussion started though, it was clear that there would be no way for the panel to stay on topic. The audience had just seen a play in which a young woman dies a horrible bloody death from FGM and were thoroughly unsatisfied with talking about modesty. Despite the panel’s insistence that we did not research FGM or its practicing, the audience discussed the universal opinion that FGM was a horrible practice that needs to be stopped. This discussion was, in fact useful in the end, i think, because several people in the audience were convinced that it is the USA’s job to go into these cultures and stop them from circumcising their girls. And while we can all agree that FGM is a horrible practice that should not be condoned, the panel illuminated the implications of a third party going into a culture and taking away what many believe to be a rite of passage. Though the panel was unsuccessful in convincing a few members of the audience, the discussion was interesting and brought up some material that I personally had never thought of before.

(Left: Alex Reaves, Right: Hana Grothe)

Though this discussion did not go as planned, I believe that my activist project overall was a personal success. Going into this endeavor, I had never before had a great deal of interest in the concept of modesty because it didn’t directly apply to me. I never really considered the implications of pushing modesty on girls from a young age. In examining it, however, I realized that telling girls things like “modest is hottest” and telling them to cover up their bodies is drastically more dangerous that I originally thought. When someone tells a girl to be modest, essentially, they are telling that girl to hide her body. If you think about the fact that a girl has grown up her whole life being told that modesty is a “virtue”, you realize that in actuality, this girl has been told that her body is something shameful, sinful, and unwanted for her entire life. This causes low self-esteem and teaches girls that they should hide other aspects of themselves such as their intelligence or opinion. If one asks the reason of why modesty is practiced, one is told that a women’s body distracts the boys, is unprofessional, is attention-seeking, etc… This idea, though widely accepted, is the driving force behind victim blaming and rape culture. This idea teaches that men cannot control themselves around scantily-clad women and therefore it is a woman’s responsibility to keep men focused by covering up. Thus if a woman is raped, this idea teaches that she wasn’t being modest enough, so the man couldn’t control himself. This concept is universally offensive in that it suggests the victim is the cause of rape, men are incapable of self-control, all women want the attention of men, and all men are attracted to women. It is interesting that men are not held to a similar standard of modesty, because there are men who are attracted to other men. A man is allowed to walk along the beach wearing only a pair of shorts, leaving gay men no protection from the horrible temptation that is the human body. In all my research, countless more reasons have come up about the problematic implications of modesty, yet it is still accepted by the majority of the world in one way or another. I consider my project a success because if I educated no one else, at least I educated myself. This has allowed me to bring up this topic in many conversations with friends, and has allowed me to be able to spot and confront problematic ideas having to do with modesty in daily life.

Though the talk-back panel did not really discuss what it set out to, I think it was an interesting and important discussion. Next time, however, I would not conduct a talk-back on modesty after a play with so much emotional ties against a topic like FGM. The audience was so wound up about the ending of the play, they were unable to recognize modesty as a problem that needed to be discussed. Overall, I think this has been an enriching experience for me and I am excited to conduct more activist projects and even random acts of feminism in my daily life.

-Benjamin Nabinger

Women’s Representation in Comic Books

Taylor Moore and I were very excited when we came up with the idea for this project. A final project about something we actually cared about? That’s amazing! We couldn’t wait to share our ideas of how to better women’s representation in the comic book and graphic novel formats. As avid comic book readers, we wanted to feel like we were welcome in the community, and we agree that the objectification of women in comic books only turns female readers away and makes them feel unimportant and unwanted.

During the early stages, while Taylor was sketching and I was researching, we began promoting our project to anyone and everyone we could: friends, classmates, convention goers, Tumblr followers. This project is still a work in progress; we’ve finished two redesigns with the hopes of doing one or two more over the summer. While we would have loved to have done an actual book for this project like we have been planning, we made the decision to cut the project down to pamphlets due to costs and time. Although we’re worried that there will be pushback and/or a  lack of interest in this project, we hope that those who do enjoy it spread the word about our project.

Taylor and I will  be posting the rest of our project here periodically over the summer, but anyone who’s particularly interested in the artwork can follow Taylor’s art blog here. For other information about the project, feel free to contact myself (Lauren Woehrer) at my blog here. In the meantime, the work we have done can be found under the cut. We hope you enjoy them!

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Slade:

UMBC definitely needed an eating disorder support group. But when I was thinking over potential activist projects for GWST 200, I found myself resisting the idea of starting one. It’s too personal, I thought. Too close to home. I’d have to disclose (at least by proxy) to a lot of people about my eating disorder. But the longer I thought about it, the more I realized that inaction was simply not worth it. I needed a support group, and I knew that the students of UMBC needed one too.

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