A Colleague, Not A Conquest

I was asked to write a blog post about the sexism and harassment I’ve experienced at UMass Dartmouth. I’ve been unable to figure out what to write, because how am I supposed to summarize it? How do I talk about something I hate, but have come to expect? The problem isn’t people respectfully asking me out or paying me compliments; I can appreciate the bravery that takes. The problem is despite being at the top of my major and going out of my way to be professional and taken seriously, more often than not I’m made to feel like a conquest and not a colleague. Over time, I’ve learned to keep myself more distant, give emails and not phone numbers, keep topics strictly to class. And yet it continues. It’s exhausting and it’s distracting. So instead of writing about how it’s demeaning, how it happens to almost all women I know, or how unfair it is that my male counterparts can focus on their education without these distractions, I’m just going to list a few of my actual experiences

  1. I’m 18. I’m new to a major, so someone who’s more familiar with it is trying to show me the ropes. We get along well, talking about a shared interest in our major. I express no interest beyond being friends, I tell him I have a boyfriend. A few weeks later, I’m at an event sponsored by our program with another guy friend from class. After that event, someone tells me the first guy is yelling and throwing things outside because the person I was with was “taking his girl!” He “claimed me.” I confront him, explain that he doesn’t own me, and dread my classes with him.
  2. I’m 19. I’m walking to the Dells with some friends to go to another friend’s party. Boys up ahead of me are calling women sluts. I confront them and call them pigs. They direct all their attention on me, calling me a slut, a cunt, yelling and getting in my face. I’m not afraid, I’m pissed off. After, my then-boyfriend tells me I should have stayed out of it and I really embarrassed him.
  3. I’m 20. I’m still healing from a sexual assault six months prior. I hear through the grapevine that I should really read my ex’s paper for a creative writing class. It’s about a woman getting sexually assaulted and how the protagonist watches, enjoys it, and is glad it happened because she rejected him. The details are vividly written and eerily familiar. He passes the class. I laugh at how his writing didn’t get the grade, my lived experience did. I wonder why his professor doesn’t follow up with his disturbing essay.
  4. I’m 20. I organize a protest on campus. People disagree with me. I try to discuss with people what it is I’m protesting. Instead, I am threatened with death and rape, I am yelled at on campus, I have things thrown at me. A radio station asks to interview me. They ask me about whether I think I’ll still be “popular with boys” after this. I tell them I don’t care. They misquote and misrepresent me.
  5. I’m 21. I work and go to class from 9am to 9pm every day. In between two of my classes, I have the only ten minutes to myself that I’ll get all day. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for a month, the same man comes and tries to hit on me. I tell him I’m disinterested. I ignore him. I find a new place to sit. He persists. I accept that I don’t get to have 10 minutes to myself anymore and start heading straight to class.
  6. I’m 21. All I want to do is finish this project with my class partner. All he wants to do is ask about my boyfriend and say how he’s better than him. I suggest ideas, he tells the professor they’re his. He tells me his kinks. I want to vomit. I’m grateful when the semester is over.
  7. I’m 22. A boy asks me questions about my major. I answer. He then mansplains to me, which is –condescends to me and corrects me, with wrong information. He knows all this because he took a 100-level course two years ago. I laugh it off because this happens so often, it’s hilarious now.
  8.  I’m 22. A friend from class occasionally texts me to ask about assignments or readings. He asks about my boyfriend and I have a bad feeling. Within a month, he’s snapchatting me saying he’s horny. I leave him on read. He scowls at me the next class. I can’t have an interaction with a male classmate where they don’t end up trying to sleep with me. I can’t talk about how frustrating that is without being considered conceited. I can’t reject them without being called a bitch. So, I wear the title bitch.

I could bring up a million other examples of sexism and harassment that I’ve experienced, both on and off campus. But so could every woman; they’re not uncommon or specific to me. My girlfriends and I have practically made it a pastime to laugh about the stupid sexism we encounter on a daily basis. Not because it’s particularly funny, but because we have to- we’d go insane if we didn’t.

We didn’t come to UMass in hopes of being hit on, we came for ourselves and ourselves alone. We are intelligent, hard-working, ambitious. We work ourselves ragged with running student orgs, receiving high marks, volunteering, working multiple jobs, building resumes that we can be proud of. But our classmates, our coworkers, our bosses, sometimes even our professors, friends, and partners, don’t give us that respect. I’m tired of all the ways, small and large, we need to rearrange our days to navigate a sexist climate. We have worked too long for too hard. Don’t hit on me, don’t condescend to me, don’t insult me. Stop expecting me to cater to your ego, to pretend to be interested, or to giggle at your advances.

I am your equal. Treat me like it.

When Love Hurts

Ahoy Corsairs, shortly before spring, a number of organizations came together to host the When Love Hurts event. Having arrived early with one of the speakers, I got to see first-hand all the work and organization that goes into these events. A lot of energy goes into each event and it is always great to see a large turnout. So as always, thank you to those who came, and for those who could not, here’s the recap:


Hosted in the Woodland Commons, off the main hall, you walk into a spacious room where a projector displayed a simple PowerPoint colored in hues of red and pink. A panel of staff and officials were seated just below. The audience was made up of chairs, each covered by a packet of follow-along notes and even an emotion wheel. Additionally the chairs held a lip balm, index card and interactive pamphlet about dating violence that held links and phone numbers for further assistance. The first item addressed by the moderator was the index card, put there as a means of discreetly submitting any question you might have at the end of the panel


The moderator who would introduce each one of the speakers by name and title, before surrendering the stand to the first speaker. Ltn. John Sousa, an eighteen year veteran of the campus police force gave a legal definition of abuse as well as a bit about police procedures in such cases that it is reported.


Next up was Rebecca Arruda, a staff member at the local women’s center and part of the outreach program. She addressed the cycle of violence and another definition of an abusive relationship. She was then followed by Johonna Hobin, the Coordinator of Residential Community Standards on campus, covered protective and possessive natures. A powerful video was played to provide a visual and graphic display of relationship violence.


Resident director and PhD student, Latoya Peterson, spoke next about loyalty and the difference between cooperative relationships and coercive, ending with a small joke about online dating and the oddities that sometimes ensue with it. Playing onto that same joke with a sly introduction was on-campus counselor Dr. Chris Frazer, who provided an important definition, that of a healthy relationship. Being a counselor he was able to give genuine advice as well as the fundamentals to creating a healthy relationship by asking us to picture an ideal relationship than ask where the ideology comes from. He went on to also offer other bits of great advice no one should be without such as how to actively listen by repeating back in your own words what your partner has said, or in the case of withholding a topic of discussion for a later time to say “Later at …” not just “Later”. He commented on the prior topics as well with a simple analogy that trust does not equal to knowing.


After Dr. Frazer was our own Dr. Juli Parker who covered bystander intervention and how to help someone else who is in an abusive relationship by recognizing the signs and responding by listening, validating, and assuring the victim is in no way to blame. Offering tactics like “direct,” “distract,” and “delegate” Juli kept it short and to the point before passing the floor to Ashley Bendiksen, who told her own story of abuse.  She stated that anyone can become a victim of abuse. Her story was impactful and showed all the signs spoken of by the other panelists.


When the last speaker ended, the floor was opened to questions, receiving any writing on the index card allowing the audience to speak individually to any of the speakers.


This was actually one of the better events I had attended as far as educational value, the high point being Dr. Fraser’s examples on relationship communication as they are applicable to most situations.


Many of the panelists worked off one another, tying it all together quite well rather than just waiting to state their own portion disjointedly. The low point was the center portion where the moderator took the stand as it was rather long and difficult to pay attention to due to a lack of disparity and fluctuation in tone. Overall it was a highly educational event with many good and even powerful points made.

Getting Wordy, Talking Dirty

Ahoy corsairs! Last week we held the “Getting Wordy, Talking Dirty seminar, with a guest speaker from the Center for Sexual Health and Pleasure. Thanks to our small but engaged audience.  The event was a lot of fun and in the case you missed it, here’s the scoop!

Walking in, on their table was an assortment of  high quality toys, condoms and lubricants. Sheets anonymous of papers lined every chair with short and fun questions about interests and desires. As I was finishing the question, I looked up to see the friendly and well humored speaker doing a funny little dance. She was eager to engage one-on-one and hear audience thoughts and opinions while softly providing the topic in a professional and entertaining manner.

After every statement, she’d engage with the listeners asking questions and offering prizes from the tables. The topics of the conversation range from when and how to talk to your partner about trying new things as well as exploring your own sexuality and interests. The papers resurfaced for another fun event involving balling them up and tossing them around like a pseudo-snowball fight. The last paper in your hand was yours to keep and read, a way to see that all people are into different things. There is nothing strange about what you’re like, or what anyone else does.

Keep an eye out for upcoming events such as Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism being held on March 7th at 12 noon in the Grand Reading Room.


Ahoy, Corsairs. Hope you enjoyed Sexfest in the General Reading Room yesterday but in case you missed it here’s the scoop! Walking in, I noticed the lively and vibrant atmosphere immediately; sex positive videos playing on the projector and decorations galore. Taking my first few steps I found tables covered in free condoms, lubricants, informational pamphlets and, of course, attendants who were more than happy to answer any questions.


There were a number of hosts offering information and demonstrations of new innovations in prophylactic equipment as well as surveys and fun key chains! I had the pleasure of talking to the people at one table who introduced me to a newer design of prophylactic that, rather than rolling on, is folded in a design not unlike a collapsed accordion. It came in both internal and external forms and was designed to eliminate the need for the infamous, constricting, elastic band signature to the roll-on condom.


They explained the design of another alternative to roll-on condoms which uses the internal design formerly known as the “female condom”. It features a wide mouth and basin with a removable ring and can be worn like a regular condom. The loose design is less constrictive, better lubricated and even softer than the typical roll-on condom; no doubt making it more pleasurable for both partners.


Another table had a wide displays of toys and gels that do everything from lubricate, rejuvenate and even numb. The same table had a little workshop that let you build your own vulva, an educational experience that teaches participants the different parts and layers of the female sex organs. A raffle was also hosted for a chance to win a few of the toys.


All in all it was a lovely event; educational, fun, with a great atmosphere and I would recommend anyone to attend if they get the chance. So keep your eye out for more upcoming events from the Office of Health Education, Promotion & Wellness and the Center of Women, Gender, and Sexuality!


Speaking of upcoming events…. “Getting Wordy, Talking Dirty” a presentation tonight at 6 pm in Woodland Commons is about sexual communication, consent and fun phrases to spice up your sexicon. Join us and learn how to figure out what type of sex you want!


And a SafeZone training session will be hosted on the 24th (that’s tomorrow) at 3 pm. Contact k.tomase@umassd.edu to register.

Gender Dysphoria

“Every morning I awaken to the buzz of the alarm clock and for a moment forget what I am. Than comes the scent of cheap cologne and the sticky weight of the air, thick with testosterone. From down the hall comes voices heard above the echo of aggressive music pridefully boasting of the prior night’s misdeeds. Lifting myself to rise from the comfort of my mindless sleep I am forced to see myself in the mirror as I shave. To remember and accept that I am not what I feel I am within. It curdles my chest with a flurry of flutters and dread but throughout the day the feelings subside only to be reborn as I come to an empty bed failing to speak a single honest word in the days wake.”


This is but one account of what it is like to live life as a gender dysphoric college aged male. Of all the issues we face in the LGBTQ+ community, gender dysphoria manages to slip by unnoticed in even the most heated of debates. Gender dysphoria is often the precursor to becoming transgender but many fail to ever act upon it, often living their entire lives without ever once breathing a word of the distraught they face in the mundane of day to day life. Inviting a conversation of just what it means to be gender dysphoric and exactly how it feels would allow the general masses to better understand transgender issues and would ideally tear down the notion that somehow sexuality, orientation, and gender have any relativity to one another.


“I could tell you exactly when and where I learned I was gender dysphoric. I was about four years old and I was sitting in my living room in front of the coffee table, my mother was on the sofa behind me and my father was away at work. On the television in front of us a commercial commentated about a product and it’s effects on males versus females. I enjoyed the way the word female sounded, it was elegant and light, where male had a weight of violence and anger, desperation even. Having heard the terms male and female before I asked my mother, ‘What does male and female mean?’ She told me that it simply meant boy and girl and when I asked her what one I am, male, I could feel my heart sink as if something fundamentally wrong was stated. A sensation of disappointment, that was the first time I was ever told I was male.”


It is often around the age of four or five years old that people learn they are gender dysphoric. This is well before the development of sexual curiosity, puberty, or libito. It is likely that one’s discovery of gender dysphoria comes at this age, primarily as it is around this age that long term memory begins to be consolidated.  Furthermore, as one develops a great enough understanding of language and their sociological environment, they become able to process that they do not fit the presented gender norms when it comes to gender expression.


“One of the hardest things about being gender dysphoric, I find, is that it isolates you from both the sexes. You often can’t express yourself fully in front of your male friends or acquaintances, and find yourself in uncomfortable situations when other men approach you with objectifying remarks and ideas toward women expecting you to agree or laugh only to find it uphauling and simply incorrect. I think I have only ever had one male friend because of this. I can probably even count the number of friends I’ve had in my life on my fingers because the people I would get along with, women, tend to be cautious of my intent when I approach because there is no way to just look at me and tell I’m gender dysphoric and female expressive.”


Gender dysphoria can be a challenge to live with for many reasons silently effecting and debilitating things as fundamental as having the ability to make friends. In the simplest of terms gender dysphoria is what the name suggests. It is being in a state of distress toward the gender society expects you to express. Unfortunately gender dysphoria is not something that can be aided through the passing of laws, as it is the product of an oppressive community and society as a whole.


At the Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality, students and staff work to help others understand this issue, advocate for societal policy change, and make UMass Dartmouth a place where all forms of gender expression are welcome and appreciated.

-Jesse A. Johnson

Robin Williams: Boulevard

On August 11th, 2014 we lost one of the most iconic comedians of our era, Robin Williams. Robin Williams was well known for his humor and kind spirit. He constantly went out of his way to make the world a better place either by refusing to work on a movie unless they hired a number of homeless people or simply brightning a families day with a spurashoius joke at a diner. It would seem fitting that his final dramatic role was one facing the controversial topic of homosexuality.

In the drama Boulevard Robin Williams plays a sixty year old man who at last decides to come out as openly gay. It was released almost a year after his death going all but unnoticed by the media and general masses. Grossing a total of $32,000 with an opening weekend of $27,000. Shocking numbers for a film starring an A-list celebrity, especially one that had recently and tragically died. While it is possible that the low numbers could be due to poor advertising and coverage it is hard to believe that is the only cause. What do you think, are the low numbers and lack of coverage due to an ingrained air of homophobia among the media, social and other wise? Have you heard of this movie, or seen it? If so what did you think?


Ahoy, Corsairs! The Center of Women, Gender, and Sexuality is excited to say that our blog has returned from Davy Jones’ Locker and brought with it a new blogger who’ll be actively engaging with our online community replying to any comments or questions on the article scheduled to be posted on thursdays at six. We have a lot of good topics to cover and would love to hear from you, the readers, what topics you’re interested in reading about for Wumbo Wednesdays! So please, leave comments, get involved, and don’t forget to like and follow our social media below to keep up to date with all our events and articles.





Keeping Women in Their Place


Keeping Women “In Their Place”

            Women everywhere face restrictions on their public presence, appearance, and their private and public behavior. Mobility and dress restrictions, which are enforced in a number of countries, are rooted in standard patriarchal assumptions about men’s right to control women, in combination with fundamentalist religious interpretations.

Here are some of the surprisingly common restrictions that are placed on women in countries all around the world:

* In Egypt, only males may confer citizenship and children born to women with foreign husbands are not conferred the benefits of citizenship.

* In Syria, a husband may file a request to prohibit his wife’s departure from the country.

* In Qatar, women need male permission to obtain a driver’s license.

* In Kyrgyzstan, family law prohibits divorce during pregnancy and while the child is younger that one-year-old.

* In Yemen, by law a wife must obey her husband; she must live with him at the place stipulated by him, consummate the marriage, and not leave home without his consent.

* In Uganda, in some ethnic groups, men inherit their brothers’s widowed wives; and some men of the Karamojong ethnic group in the northeastern section of the country continue their cultural practice of claiming unmarried women as wives by raping them.

* In, Swaziland, married women are legal minors.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, women need their husbands permission for most routine legal transactions, including accepting a job, and opening a bank account.

* In Venezuela, a provision in the penal code provides that an adult man guilty of raping an adult woman can avoid punishment, if before sentencing, he marries her.

* In America, state legislatures enacted anti-abortion measures between 1995 and 2001; and now 87% of all U.S. Countries are not served by an abortion clinic.

            As we can see from the statistics Women’s rights are threatened by pressure from religious fundamentalism in many countries, like Nigeria, where increasing fundamentalist pressure from Shari’a courts imposes severe sentences(including flogging and death by stoning) on women for sexual impropriety. However ultimately, we see the way that women are doomed to live in hopeless situations due to patriarchal rule.

~Sasha Sanders, Alum, 2013

Powerful Women in Media: Take One


            I find it really interesting when I see a movie that portrays women in such a negative way, or more than likely from the gaze of a male, who is probably the network producer. It’s caused me to wonder… where are the women producers? Maybe if a TV show, or movie that displayed women’s issues what actually overseen by a woman, things might make sense a bit more.

            With that being said, I decided to examine the power of women in the media through four different women, Sherry Lansing, chair and CEO of Paramount Pictures, Cathleen Black, President of Hearst Magazines, Geraldine Laybourne, Chairman and CEO of Oxygen Media, and Judy McGrath, President of MTV. These women exemplify the reason that it’s crucial to have women in high positions in the media.

Sherry Lansing was the first woman to be in charge of production 20th Century Fox. She has headed hits such as Braveheart, Clueless, Runaway Bride, and The General’s Daughter; this is because she brought to the movies something that never was there before, the perspective of a woman. Lansing put her personal taste aside and thought about what “the people” wanted to see. One top filmmaker even said, “Sherry’s the first executive who succeeded by expressing her womanness, not by trying to be a guy” (guardianunlimited.com). This is very pleasing to hear because very often, women in high positions try to imitate the men in high power positions, rather than just being themselves.

When it comes to the question of whether Sherry Lansing has power in the media, the answer has to be yes. However, we ask “does Sherry Lansing holds as much power as men in similar positions”, I believe it takes more evaluation.

Cathleen Black is another important female player in today’s media. She is the president of Hearst Magazines, the world’s largest publisher of monthly magazines, and she oversees the financial performance and development of famous magazines like Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, and Harper’s BAZAAR (hearstcorp.com).

            Black also marked an important point for women in history when she became the first woman publisher of a weekly consumer magazine – New York, and also when she became the first woman President of Hearst Magazines. With an impressive resume that includes her being President and Publisher of USA Today, and being named President of the Newspaper Association of America in 1991, Black brings a certain female perspective to all of her endeavors.

She has the ability to be open-minded and look at all possible problems and solutions. One of Black’s huge successes has been promoting her titles worldwide. She owes a great deal of this success, in my opinion, to her female perspective. While marketing Cosmopolitan to countries like Russia and the Philippines, Black realized that specific changes had to be made to accommodate the women of these particular countries. She recognized that women in “third world” countries did not necessarily want to read the same things as American women. As a result, she created original editorial material for each region. Eventhough they were across the ocean, Black still related to her customers.

There is no question as to the power that Cathleen Black holds on a daily basis in the media. But then again she does not have the same power that a man would have in her same position. Although there were no offensive headlines to announce Cathleen Black’s appointment to presidency, I came across an interview in which she was referred to as a “top-ranking woman executive in magazine publishing (Outlook Magazine)”,and she was aksed how she felt about this title, she responded to esponded to the question, answering“I would rather not be known as the top-ranking woman anything. I’d rather be seen as an effective and strategic leader of a large organization, the same way one would describe a male executive”. She doesn’t want to be seen as successful, for a woman, she wants to be seen as successful, period, and her response reconfirms the fact that even women in extremely powerful positions are treated differently than men holding similar positions. I mean I’ve never heard a man being referred to as a “top-ranking man executive”, he is simply a top-ranking executive – sex need not be mentioned I suppose – you tell me.

~Sasha Sanders, Alum, Class of 2013

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