Born Behind Bars: The Fate of Children born to Incarcerated Mothers

By Lyndsey Risinger

The following is the third installation in my series covering various topics dealing with the overarching subject of mass incarceration.

A Growing Issue

From ABC News

The rate of women's incarceration has soared in years since 1970. At an increase of 832%, these rates have grown at nearly double the rate of men's incarceration.2 With higher numbers of female prisoners comes unique challenges, one of which being the issue of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood within the criminal justice system. Roughly 4% of sentenced women are pregnant at the time of incarceration.2 Though many of these women are nonviolent offenders, current legislation means that newborns are often taken from their mother within 24 hours after given birth. From there, they will either be taken to immediate family for care, adopted, or put into the foster care system. Unfortunately, a large percentage of women who give birth in prison are the primary caregiver for their child, meaning that they are most often sent to child services upon seizure from the mother.

It is approximated that roughly 2 million children under 18 have a parent in prison, a majority of which are under the age of 10.2 The absence of a parent during early childhood can have detrimental effects on early childhood development. These effects are merely amplified by the child knowing their parent is in jail or prison for a crime. High rates of anxiety, depression, and childhood delinquency have been recorded in children who spent time in foster care or adoption services at some point. This is an example of the tendency of the US criminal justice system to perpetuate itself. The lack of parental connection and guidance affects childhood socialization, throwing these children a repetitive cycle that inevitably leads to incarceration.

A Possible Solution

In attempt to combat this endless cycle, some states have started implementing prison nursery programs. Prison nurseries are separate prison facilities (often on-site) that house new mothers and their children for anywhere from 30 days to 30 months after the child is born. The first of these facilities was introduced in New York state in 1902, which stood alone until 1994 when Nebraska implemented a similar program.2 Since then, seven additional states states (California, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia) have incorporated programs like this into their women's prisons.2 While the concept of prison nurseries was introduced in the early 1900’s, the concept did not take hold for many years due

to debates surrounding many different aspects of the programs.

Read more...


LGBTQ Incarceration: An Issue Overlooked

Below is the second part in a four part series related to UM's 2017 Common Read Just Mercy

By Lyndsey Risinger

In contribution to the ongoing series focused on topics addressed in The University of Mississippi 2017 common read “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, I will be giving commentary on recent studies and their findings in regards to incarcerated Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual individuals.

The U.S. Prison system has recently revealed yet another statistic to add to its long list of shortcomings in a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. This study, conducted by The Advocate, found that the incarceration rate of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Americans is 3 times higher than that of the general population. No, that is not a typo, roughly 1,182 LGB community members per 100,000 are jailed versus the 612 per 100,000 of the rest of the population. Not only are the entrance rates high, the rates of unspeakable violence against Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Inmates are deplorable as well. These issues are just some of the many that non-straight Americans are faced with, and need to be addressed both the people causing them and those that have the power to change them.

Lets first address the issue of mass incarceration of LGB individuals. You may ask yourself the question, why so much disparity? What makes LGB people so much more likely to be imprisoned? The answer is simple; the rates are higher not because LGB people are vagrants and vagabonds, but they are stereotyped as such, leading them to face higher rates of discrimination and in turn, incarceration. This discrimination comes on all fronts, from their families, employers, schools, and the US justice system.  While America has come a long way in expanding the rights of LGB individuals, there are still many factors that create stigma around them:

  • In schools, bullying runs rampant, and LGB people are particularly vulnerable targets. Such harmful exposure at such a young age can create mental instability and disorder, another stigmatized condition.
  • Often they are rejected from their families and employers for who they are, leading to increased rates of homelessness and unemployment.
  • Outdated and unrevised laws wrongfully target members of the LGB community. This form of discrimination is particularly palpable to HIV positive individuals, who are at risk of being prosecuted for actions that have been scientifically proven not to spread disease.
  • In some cases, these people have been required to register as sex offenders, hindering their progress in every area of life.

Despite the hundreds of studies proving that these laws are inefficient and discriminatory, no action has been taken to improve them; only little action has been implemented to fight bullying and rejection of LGB individuals by their families, peers, and employers. These factors are just the beginning of the nightmare that a jail or prison sentence can be for people identifying as Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual.

Read more...

Our Women: Locked Away

Below is the first part in a four part series related to UM's 2017 Common Read Just Mercy

By Lyndsey Risinger

Since its debut in 2013, the hit TV show Orange is The New Black has received unprecedented publicity, with reviews ranging from drastically critical to shouts of praise. Most of these such reviews focus not on the show itself, but its effects on societal standards of focus. While most incarcerated women in real life don’t have dramatic criminal backstories or have nicknames such as “crazy eyes”, the show is nonetheless a pioneer in spreading awareness of female prisoners and their concerns, a topic that before did not have a place for discussion in the public mindset. This new development has paved the way for explorations such as this one that dive deeper into such topics. In short, the following is a brief summation of the history of female imprisonment, including the discrimination female inmates face, factors that have allowed the public to remain in blissful ignorance about the harsh treatment of incarcerated women, and methods in which we may be able to rewrite the script of prejudice and bring reform to societal views and governmental institutions

Introduction

The rates of incarceration for women are higher in 25 US states than in the entire country of Thailand.1 According to a study titled “States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context”, despite the U.S. being home to only 5% of the worldwide female population, it accounts for nearly 30% of the world's incarcerated women.1 Female incarceration rates have steadily grown in recent history, spiking in the 1980’s, when the going rate nearly tripled.1 This rapid and exponential increase has put increasing strain on the US justice system and economy, and has brought the ethics of female imprisonment into question.

Why the Increase?

Not only has the sheer mass of women in prisons increased, but the context of what it means to be a female on trial has completely evolved. According to a study published by The Sentencing Project, women were 11% more likely to be convicted of drug and property crimes than men in 2014.3 Prison reform creating gendered prisons has made it morally easier for judges and juries to sentence women to prison for more minor crimes. Despite many conditions remaining inhumane, the separation of genders has created the illusion that women are safer in female prisons. Despite this notion being repeatedly disproven, it allows the public to justify harsher, longer sentences.

Read more...


Women of Color Network

by Maddy Baldwin

     Earlier this semester, I sat down with Dr. Nichols and Dr. Crutchfield of the Women of Color Network to ask them the important questions of: Why did they start? What do they want to do? And what does this organization mean to each of them and to this campus? Just by asking these questions I learned and observed the obvious passion and devotion both of them have for this organization and the opportunities it presents for women of color on the Ole Miss campus.

So why did they start?

     When I asked this simple question,  I got in response a beautiful story of transferring experiences with similar groups from Dr. Nichols grad school to the Ole Miss campus because this group is not just needed on our campus but is needed in all Universities or work environments. They started to bring a sense of community to this campus, a place where students, faculty, and staff could come together. But the “why” has grown, what they thought would be a group discussion about work or school, has become something deeper. This group has become a space where women come to take a load off and talk about their kids, spouses, and daily lives. A sense of solidarity and a sense of place has formed for this group.

     They expected to see mostly students and faculty at their meetings and surprising to them 95% of the attendees at these meetings is the Ole Miss staff. Because of this, they realized the why this group was needed was very similar to the response that Dr. Crutchfield gave me. This group is essential for survival, it helps these women navigate a campus where the faculty and staff is separated by departments, shows them how to exist as a minority on this campus, and creates an opportunity for a secondary education because of the professional development aspect of this group.

     For Dr. Nichols and Dr. Crutchfield, it brings them out of the rat race of their lives and allows them to connect with women on the campus that they may have never met or bonded with if this group did not exist. So why did they start? Because of the beautiful sense of community, professional development opportunities, and because of all the unexpected beauty that has developed in just a year of this group existing.

 

What do they aim to do?

     Their aim is to help the women of color on campus with professional development, form connections between departments, navigate their academic journey, and meet other women. They also want to do Brown Bag events and partner with other groups on campus such as FEMISS. Dr. Nichols and Dr. Crutchfield also hope to expand this idea and this group to other campuses by going to conferences and showing other women and campuses what they are doing here in hopes that they will also do it on their own campuses. They want to show our university and other universities that this is a selling point for students, faculty, and staff looking to join the university.

 

What does it mean to each of them and to this campus?

Campus

     This group means challenging and tearing away the negative rhetoric that is so often applied to Ole Miss. It shows that progressive work is happening on this campus and that Ole Miss fully supports this progressive work because of the encouragement and financial support they have received. It is also a step in the positive direction Ole Miss was already working towards.

Dr. Nichols

     This group embodies her heart for women and the question she always asks herself, “What can I do to improve someone’s quality of life?”. It embodies her heart professionally, personally, and in her work.

Dr. Crutchfield

     Because she works at Ole Miss regional campus in Tupelo, this group allows outreach and fills the need for learning how to navigate and also gives support on an isolated campus. For her, this group embodies her heart for helping people feel comfortable in the skin they are in and showing people that there are things that we all share and this connects us.

Read more...

Super Progressive?

By Ellis Starkey

While the Super Bowl was full of its usual glitzy ads for summer blockbusters and fancy cars, this year's commercial breaks had a more political vibe than in years past. Women, minorities, and immigrants were pushed to the forefront to promote inclusiveness during one of sport’s most divisive events. Below, I critique a few of the night’s more memorable commercials.

Google’s ad was not brand new, but the message behind the Google Home commercial was clear. Families of all kinds - small and large, young and old, gay, straight, and multicultural - come together in comfort with the help of Google. The familiarity of the ad was comforting, and the subtle hints of inclusivity, like the gay pride flag hanging in one window, set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Audi’s heartwarming ad followed a young girl through the trials of a box car race while her father speaks to us in a voice-over. His worries of what he’ll tell her about her worth compared to men are silenced by her fierce, hard-fought triumph. Through her, he sees a better, more equal future. Oh, yeah, and they climb into an Audi at the end.

Not every ad was so subtle. Lumber 84 showcased a Hispanic family - a mother and her young girl - making a “vague journey north”. In the second half of the ad, the family finally reaches the border, only to find a giant concrete wall in their way. The resourceful young girl takes an American flag - made from scraps found on their journey - out of her bag to cheer up her mother. When they look up, a crack is visible in the wall. The crack turns out to be a gate, built with lumber, dedicated to letting in those with “the will to succeed”. This obvious dig at President Trump’s plan for a border wall was so controversial that the second half of the commercial was not allowed to air, leading curious fans to crash the lumber company’s website in their race to see the family to safety.

Read more...

Never Forget: "We the People"

By Maddy Baldwin

The Week Before:

Well we are here, at the final countdown. Honestly I am not sure if I am counting down to a detonation or New Years day. On the morning of November 9th what America will be waking up to? Either way there will be those who feel triumphant, a campaign won, but what about us who have been riding the fence the whole time? What about us who felt a little worry and shame putting our absentee ballot in the mail or leaving the voting booths? What will we feel when we see our red, white, and blue waving in the air?

Now I can not tell you what to feel or how you feel, but I am going to tell you how I believe you should feel. If you struggled during this election, debated what you believed in, read the facts, fought for someone you believe in whether it was Hillary or Trump, and you voted, then you should feel proud. No matter what is to come from our future president, you should be proud that you voted. That you fought for and voiced your freedom. Because at the end of the day no matter if on November 8th we vote Republican or Democratic, on November 9th we wake up American, and having the freedom to vote for what/who we believe in is one of the most important things that makes us Americans.  So wake up with pride, not hate or shame, be proud of our beautiful country. Be proud, even though the election was nasty and challenging, that we even had one. Be proud that “we the people” have a voice in who leads us, be proud of the men and women who fought for our freedom to vote and that we honored their battle by voting.

I want to say that no matter if we wake up saying Mr. or Madam President-Elect I am proud of y’all. I am proud to be an American, because it means that you all are a part of the “we the people” and I am proud to stand with y’all.  I am proud of the fights we have had over politics, I am sorry for the friendships that were harmed or lost due to difference of opinion and beliefs, but I am proud of the discussions between friends, strangers, and family. I am proud of y’all for struggling, for being uneasy, because that means you were doing it right and you were caring. Come November 9th I will be proud of being American but I will also be proud of who our president is, because I respect and honor y’all’s voice, and if the majority believes in one person I believe in the people who cared enough to put them in office. The election process is not meant to divide us as people, but instead it is meant to unite us as Americans, please remember that. Please remember that we all are “we the people” and we should stand united together proud to be Americans.

Read more...


Cracked Glass Bridges

Scales of justice

Scales of justice

You know that glass bridge I have been standing on, well it is starting to crack. After the last debate and the recent video and information released on Trump, I have broken into tears at least twice. Let me tell y’all, I don’t cry often and I panic even less, but I have been stuck, unable to write, and unable to sort through the disaster this Presidential race has turned into. I don’t want to write my opinion for y'all, because I honestly think there are too many opinions out there and not enough facts. Journalism use to be, here are the facts you decide, and now "journalism" and a Facebook newsfeed are hard to tell apart. The problem I am having though, is there are no clear facts; most of it is smear, cover ups, and opinions. After a debate if you turn to Fox they say Trump won, and if you turn to CNN at the same time the are saying that Clinton won. I feel like every source I go to is equal to a Wikipedia page, because the next day it is easily changed. This election is built on opinion instead of clear facts, but to choose a president you need to have the facts and form your own opinion. I am going to highlight some facts that are not positive about each candidate. Please understand that this is not a comparison piece, I am not putting them up against each other, but instead just laying out the common themes and facts of both candidates so that you can see them in a non-biased light. When reading below understand that there is no way you can accurately compare the two candidates to each other. Trump doesn’t have 30 years of political dirt to be held against him while Hillary does; you on you own have to decide if that is a positive or a negative to you. You on your own have to decide which candidate you feel comfortable voting for, because in the end voting is the most important expression of our freedom.
Hillary Clinton
  • 33,000 emails were deleted from her private server
  • She said none of the emails contained classified material, twenty-two were marked “special access program”, a level that is higher than top secret  
  • Two boxes of emails and information have gone missing
  • Four Americans died at the American Embassy in Benghazi, numerous calls were made to the State Department to send backup or approve the request to abandon the embassy the requests were denied.
  • The Clinton Foundation has and continues to take donations from foreign donors, some of which are state sponsors of terrorism and suppressive of women and LGBTQ rights
  • She not only stood beside Bill Clinton during the sexual allegations against women, one which lead to his impeachment due to the fact that he lied to Congress, but she also condemned the accusers without granting them due process
Donald Trump
  • Through the 2005 video with Billy Bush he said it is okay to sexually assault women
  • The comments made are extremely offensive to women and their rights, and are not presidential in any way
  • He has made an uncountable amount of misogynistic and racist comments
  • Not released his tax returns
  • While  his temperament works for him in the private sector, we are unable to know how it will work when dealing with foreign dignitaries
  • Donated $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who then stopped the investigation into Trump University
  • The allegations from multiple women in the last couple of weeks, if determined to be true, are not only offensive to women but a violation of their human rights
  • The investigation into the solicitation of foreign donations for his campaign
Now I write those facts, not picking a candidate, but instead picking fact over opinion. Because if I stated my opinion on both candidates it would be an endless rant of emotional turmoil. But that is not what you, America, or I need, we need facts, we need to look at evidence of actions and conclude from there which candidate we can stomach to vote for.  I apologize for the negativity of this post, I hope to be more positive in the next. But the fact is sometimes you just have to dig through the dirt to find the truth, and even when you find the truth it might still be ugly to look at.
Read more...

The (Not So) Great Debate

By Maddy Baldwin

unnamed-1Anyone’s stress level still recovering from last Monday night's debate like mine is?

I was looking forward to the first presidential debate, because I thought it would help me get a step closer to deciding who to vote for come November. So Monday night I gathered around the TV with friends, all who have opposing opinions from each other, and with a pencil and paper in hand I began my search for an answer, or just some kind of sign. I soon realized that to get through this hour and half debate I would need to have something stronger than water, so I got cookie dough instead to calm my emotional turmoil.

Then the debate began, and I saw that the candidates were just as confused as I was, Trump wearing a blue tie and Hillary a red pant suit, if I wasn't already confused enough by these two. The audience was asked to remain quiet throughout the whole debate as usual, and then Hillary started off the debate with her intro speech and then Trump with his. If you watched the primaries but missed the beginning of the debate, it’s the same speech they have both been giving the entire time.

Read more...

Voting for a Voice

by Maddy Baldwin

As the media clearly and aggressively shows, we are fastly approaching the Presidential Election. Sadly, this has started to fade into the backs of students and people's minds. This is understandable, in the sense that if you get yelled at long enough you start to tune it out, and this election has brought on an obscene amount of yelling. Due to the screaming matches of the candidates, people have become worn out and started to question if they should even vote.  I understand, I am tired of being yelled at too, but you don’t have to return the yelling to have a voice. Voting is your voice.

Though this election has obtained the largest investment and interest of the younger generation, my generation, it has also scared off many people from voting. A lot of us do not like either path we are looking at, and are timid to select a name when November rolls around. I am one of those people faced with the anxiety of having to make that decision in the upcoming election. I have also reached the highs of constantly having four different news channels on to try to discover the truth. Then the lows of hiding from my phone, having the “ I am moving to Canada” thought,  having the urge to scream, and I have asked “why” more than I thought possible. Then I remember this simple truth, we are the United States of America, not because of who our president is, but because we the people have the freedom to choose our president. We the people have a voice.

Read more...


End-of-Semester Reflections

By Charles McCrory

With Thanksgiving break fast approaching, we at the Sarah Isom Center are taking a breath to reflect on an eventful semester for the Center, the University of Mississippi, and the national and international consciousness. First of all, we would like to thank everyone who helped make SarahFest 2015 a smashing success, featuring provocative lectures and rousing performances. This blogger spent the majority of Neko Case’s concluding concert swaying spellbound in front of the stage, and got chills when, at the end of the show, Case personally thanked the Isom Center for its efforts at inclusion.

The thrill of Sarahfest had barely worn off when it was time for “Gender, Memory, and War in the Anglo-American World,” a conference by The Center for Civil War Research. The Isom Center partnered with UM’s English and History Departments to co-sponsor the conference, which commemorated the 150th, 100th, and 75th anniversaries of the US Civil War, World War I, and World War II, respectively. Speakers from across the US and UK gathered at UM to discuss the effects of gender and memory on our understanding of these momentous wars.

Code Pink, our Halloween Queer Extravaganza at Proud Larry’s, in partnership with UM Pride Network, was a ghoulish good time. Guests had fun with the event’s liberated theme; costumes played elegantly with gender norms, and even sparked a few cases of mistaken identity. This blogger showed up as Velma Kelly from Chicago, complete with a bobbed wig and sheer sleeves, accompanied by a gender-bending Link from The Legend of Zelda. 

Read more...

Rebels Against Sexual Assault (RASA): Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How?

Who are we?

We are Rebels Against Sexual Assault, a group of students with the common goal of educating Ole Miss about sexual misconduct and prevention methods.

What do we do?

RASA aims to spread awareness and prevention methods of sexual assault, dating violence and stalking through peer education and other events, such as the recent first annual Sex Week.

When/Where do we meet?

We do not yet have a regular meeting time, but you can keep up with us and/or ask questions by contacting: olemissrasa@gmail.com

Or on the following social media:

  • OrgSync – Rebels Against Sexual Assault
  • Facebook - Rebels Against Sexual Assault
  • Twitter - @OleMissRASA
  • Instagram - @OleMissRASA
  • Tumblr - olemissrasa.tumblr.com
Read more...

Misty Morning Music: Discovering Neko Case

by Ian Whalen

When I was in high school I would often find myself driving around town listening to KDHX, the local community radio station in Saint Louis, Missouri. They would play anything and everything you could possibly imagine. However one chilly morning in March stands out to me as the most memorable.

Picture1I was driving to school and a song started to play, the voice singing from my car speakers was as hypnotizing as a Siren, cutting though the misty morning air. I listened closely and with great attention to the lyrics and found them to be intensely captivating.  The song ended and the DJ announced that Neko Case had just released her latest album called Middle Cyclone. I committed this information to memory and when I got home from school that day I downloaded the album immediately.

It wasn’t too far after I was initially exposed to Neko’s music that I found myself buying the rest of her discography and really appreciating her masterful story telling and lyrical imagery she uses in all of her songs. I found myself spreading the word to all I knew to check out this album and it became quite popular amongst my friends and family.

Following her latest release, The Worst Things Get, The Harder I fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You in 2013, my appreciation for her as an artist grew immensely. I remember reading interviews about this album and how candidly she spoke about her recent struggle with depression. The music on this album really spoke to me and I think it speaks to many other people who suffer from depression at any point in their life. Her lyricPicture2al prowess is really present on this album. I think of songs like Where Did I Leave that Fire and Night Still Comes as two tracks that really stood out to me.

If you have never given Neko Case’s music a listen I would suggest you start from the beginning and just follow her transformation from a country inspired songstress to an alt-county/eclectic musical powerhouse.

It will be my 5th time seeing Neko Case live when she preforms at The Lyric on September 27th to benefit the Sarah Isom Center. I encourage everyone to go and see Neko perform live. Every time has been an incredible experience and her personality really shines at her live performances. If you go you should especially look forward to her cheeky banter with Kelly Hogan, her long time back up singer (who is also performing during Sarahfest 2015, you should check her solo work out too!), in between songs.

It isn’t too often that Oxford is able to draw a performer of this caliber, so take advantage of this opportunity to not only see a great concert but also one that will benefit the Sarah Isom Center.

Read more...

Welcome Back from the Isom Center

By Charles McCrory

This has been a landmark summer for conversations on race, sexuality and gender. It has seen nationwide controversy over public use of Confederate symbols; the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality; and Caitlyn Jenner’s public coming-out as a trans woman. Oxford has been no stranger to these conversations; Lafayette County held its first same-sex marriage ceremony on the steps of the Oxford courthouse in June, and the city has temporarily suspended the Mississippi state flag, amid disgruntlement from local flag supporters. While not the first city in the state to take down the flag, Oxford has been first in requesting the state legislature change the flag.

With these new developments comes a change familiar to us at UM: the fall semester is upon us. One can feel the sleepy earth beneath the Grove tremble at the prospect of its imminent trampling by loafers, high heels and tent spikes come football season. We at the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies are trembling in anticipation of our upcoming Sarahfest 2015. Kicking off September 18, Sarahfest spans a week of rousing performances, documentary screenings and brown bag lectures, culminating on the 27 Neko-Concert_Posterwith a benefit concert by Neko Case at the Lyric. Even if you’ve never heard of Case, chances are you’ve seen her staring back at you from posters around Oxford: flaming-haired, brandishing a sword, bare feet braced against the hood of a 1967 Mercury Cougar, a hard-scrabble landscape behind her. This image, similar to the cover of her phenomenal 2009 album Middle Cyclone, conveys the toughness and vulnerability juxtaposed in her music, which draws from the wellsprings of folk, country, Americana and indie rock to craft an entirely original aesthetic, shot through with tornadoes, murders, birds and classic cars. For homework before the show, listen to Case’s gender-bending manifesto “Man” off her latest album, her haunting elegy “Star Witness,” and my own late-night-on-the-back-porch favorite, “I Wish I Was the Moon.”       

Read more...

The Gender Binary is a Total Drag

Picture courtesy of Stacey Harkins/Facebook

Picture courtesy of Stacey Harkins/Facebook

By Caroline Abide

Wednesday evening of the Isom Student Gender Conference, a drag show featuring Alicia Stone-Valentino, Syrn Marage and Kiera Mason took place at Lamar Lounge. Outside of the unassuming restaurant and bar, the line for entrance trailed to the street. Clearly, in Oxford the demand for drag is one that has gone unfulfilled for too long. Squashed against the side of the stage, I stood in the periphery of the performers for the entire show. I had never experience anything quite like that performance and found the entire event fascinating. Each drag queen was dressed to the nines and made up elaborately; they moved with astonishing fluidity and grace. From my experience, I can say that everyone should experience a drag show at least once in his or her life. Even though the idea of dressing in drag probably seems bizarre to some, I found the show inexplicably mesmerizing, possibly because the characters that the men were portraying seemed better at being feminine than I am. I questioned, however, what I was to take away from the performance. On the one hand I knew I had enjoyed the exhibition, but as I considered the display further, I wondered if I should find the whole thing offensive—did the practice of dressing in drag imply that femininity was nothing more than a costume, and a garish one at that? Was it fair that these men were able to experience the fun and glamor of being a woman without any of the real life disadvantages?

Read more...

Crossing the State Line

TN_state_line_Memphis_city_limit_signWalking into a Southern university, such as Ole Miss, seems to be a daunting place for young women’s reputations. Not only are these girls away from home for the first time; they are also entering a realm of Southern culture, tradition, and gender roles. In the South, it is inconceivable that a young woman would enter into sexual relations with a man before she is married. At college, on the other hand, sexuality runs rampant across the campus, and abstinence is no longer the only form of birth control.

As the girls evolve during their time at the university, some begin entering into sexual relationships with their male counterparts. Due to the lack of sexual education in high school, not all students are aware of the repercussions of unprotected sex. While the student health center does offer birth control and condoms, many students do not utilize this area to learn about sex and health. So, when that time of the month comes around, some girls are shocked when their monthly visitor does not arrive.

What does a girl do when she is late? Does she call her parents? Does she tell the boy? Or maybe she turns to a trusted friend, a fellow member of her sorority. It is not a conversation that is common in sororities, but it does happen. When a sister tells you that she is pregnant, there is no judgment, there is no stigma, there is only love and understanding. To the outside world, sororities can seem like cliques, or groups of bitchy girls, or a place where cookie-cutter girls are desired. But this is untrue. Sororities are a group of girls who put aside their differences to help one another and make their college experience something to remember. A sorority is a support system for young women, which is why sorority sisters are sometimes the only people a girl trusts with her problems.

I first found out my friend "Serena" was pregnant after she had gone to Memphis. By going to Memphis, Serena had had an abortion. It is a phrase that girls use when discussing an impending abortion. By crossing the state line, girls have the opportunity to take matters into their own hands and choose whether or not they want to be mothers in college. The first person Serena told was her best friend, a fellow sorority sister. Unlike a parent, there was no scolding. Unlike a boy, there was no blame. With a sorority sister, there was an open ear, a hand to hold, and somebody there to wipe away the tears.

With the stigmas surrounding abortion, it is hard to conceive that Southern girls are proponents for pro-choice. Not all girls support abortions, but being a part of a sorority gives girls a network of support. I have had a few friends that have had abortions. All of the girls have changed in some way because of this traumatic ordeal, but the one thing they have in common is that they all had a sister to confide in. When the outside world views sorority girls, they sometimes see them as trivial women with no concerns outside of fraternity boys and formals. What the outside world doesn’t see is a group of women that are able to find a source of strength with a group of people that have joined together in the name of sisterhood. Without sororities, my friends would have been unable to get an abortion. When big choices need to be made,  it is vital to have someone you trust by your side, and what better person than a sister?

Read more...

Super Women

10269623_10152120506043302_2409024361975547098_nBy: Kathryn Hathorne

Two of the top ten most powerful people in world, according to Forbes.com for the year 2014, were women. #5 on the list was Angela Merkel and #6 on the list was Janet Yellen, both have become household names, especially Janet Yellen in recent months. Merkel was elected as Germany's Chancellor in 2005, making her the first female to hold this position and now the longest serving elected EU head of state. Merkel was ranked 2nd on Forbes 2013 most powerful list making her the highest ranked woman ever. Yellen is the current Chair of the Board of Governors of The Federal Reserve System and first woman to ever hold this position. The reason I bring up all these facts about these two incredible women is to highlight how important understanding the principle, there are no limits to the life you can live, applies to all women. These two women did not grow up the way my generation has, but these two women along with countless others have paved the way for women to be seen as powerful all over the world. Both women are in the their 60s and I can assure you they see how the world has changed and how the world view of women has altered over the years. I am only 20 years old and I have seen many women be the first to achieve statuses that were predominately considered male only. I can only imagine what is to come in the realm of women's first. Mississippi is currently paving the way for women in the National football league with the first female NFL referee, Sarah Thomas. That gives me so much hope! Even five years ago I could not have imagined a women being on the sidelines as a referee. As someone who plans to become the first female General Manager of a NFL team, I am empowered by the thought that this goal does not seem to be unattainable.

Read more...

There’s Beauty in the Pixie

Picture1By Candace Smith

When you initially tell someone to list some physical traits that make a beautiful woman, they would probably start off by saying pretty hair (while saying this picturing a women with stunning long hair). It wouldn’t matter if the hair was black, blonde, brunette, or red. If it was long, it would always be what was desirable. I remember as a kid standing in lines at grocery stores and browsing through magazines. I noticed that each cover always had one thing in common, a striking woman with perfect skin and perfectly, silky, long hair. Even in commercials about things not even related to hair, for example, skin care, feature women who have the most remarkable hair. Society has presented a specific view of the ideal woman. This view in fact includes a woman with enviable, long hair. I mean there is even an entire Disney princess that is famous all because of her magical golden locks.

 

Miley Cyrus, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Shailene Woodley, Emma Watson, and even Beyoncé, among many others have decided to subvert the typical hair images of women. One thing all of these women have in common is undeniable confidence. In their case, I’d have to disagree with the known saying, “My hair doesn’t define me.” I believe they would agree that they are indeed defined by their hair. There hair shows hey, I do not need long locks to feel beautiful. I’m okay with being different. Because I don’t have long locks, others are able to see the real features that make me absolutely phenomenal. I personally, don’t know if I have the boldness to do the big chop. Maybe one day. In spite, I stand proud of the women who say, I have a pixie and I am just as striking because of it.

Read more...

"Gay and Greek, Straight and Shunned"

By ROY. G. BIV.

Greek life on this campus is intense and crazy for an average straight member, however being gay makes Greek life an entirely different ball game. Being gay and being a member of a Greek organization on this campus is a rare commodity. So forgive me if I would like to keep my identity a secret for the time being. This campus is becoming steadily more open with the idea of openly gay members in the community, but it is sad to say that I believe the Greek community is behind the times with embracing the growing LGBTQ community with interest in being Greek. Sometimes I find myself sitting in the house wondering if certain people would still speak to me at lunch if they knew I was not exactly who they thought I was. I also wonder if I would be a member of the amazing organization I am currently if I had not presented myself as straight during recruitment. I like to think that it would not have mattered, but I can not say for sure. I am not in this alone however. I was surprised to learn about other people just like me in the Greek community: apart of the community but not fully expressing themselves out of fear of how their friends would react. I know these stereotypes are not true for all members of the Greek community. I have friends that I know would be welcoming to any LGBTQ members into their Greek Community and I applaud those people. I just want all those members of a Greek organization who identify with the LGBTQ community to understand that they are not alone, and hopefully there will be a time when we can be who we are and embrace all the areas of our lives equally and openly.

Read more...

Debating Women's Roles

o-TWO-WOMEN-TALKING-facebookRecently, an older friend of mine and I had a debate over the role of women in the workforce, wherein I battled so much misogynistic rhetoric I am anticipating having bone chilling flashbacks for weeks to come. I had been in the midst of thesis research on how the Bible addresses women and was relaying several horrific stories, culminating with Peter’s view on women, which is essentially stay home and earn your keep through childbearing and don’t even think about being in a leadership role. At the time, I didn’t realize that my rejection of that sentiment would lead to a tense one-hour conversation culminating in my getting hung up on for stating “I don’t care for how many months I am laid up in bed from pregnancy I will never acquiesce to a man being my keeper or master whom I must submit to” (an assertion of my human rights and personal autonomy that was, evidently, unbearable).

To save you the torture of rehashing the entire misogynist rhetoric circa 1950 ridden debate, I’ll walk you through the key points. My friend’s sentiment was that because women are anatomically able to bear children they are saddled with “100%” of the responsibly for that child. What’s the man’s role in this you may ask? A supervisory one, wherein he makes the money and plays catch with Junior for an hour on Saturdays. But why does the women’s physical capacity to grow a human and breast feed said human chain her to the domestic sphere? Because women can face health problems during pregnancy to where they can’t provide for or perhaps even adequately take of themselves, and they need maternity leave once they have their child, add all that together and it makes for a rather unemployable person (to be said in one’s best creepy old Republican man voice). Thus, in a worst-case scenario, every time a woman has a child she is out of the workforce for at least a year, and who knows when that year may strike? Better not to roll the dice on that one and refuse to hire women who are able to bear children. Therefore, women who use their baby making skills are only good for those skills.

Read more...

My Uncle Justin...

by Lexi Willcoxon:

On November 17, 2014, Missouri legalized gay marriages, according to district. Judge Rex Burlison overturned the ban on gay marriage in St. Louis, stating that the ban was unconstitutional, and this allowed for the freedom of marriage for all people, with no regard to sexuality. On November 18, 2014, Justin Thomas and his fiancé Nik Nelson announced that they were moving their wedding venue back to their birthplace: Missouri.

My Uncle Justin was born in Nevada, Missouri in 1973. He met my mom in 2001, and ever since then he has been adopted into our family, and I have always known him as my uncle. Justin’s fiancé, Nik, was born in Frontenac, Kansas. Although they didn’t meet until 2011, they had similar life experiences. Both men struggled with the same difficulties of life: doing well in school, deciding on a career, moving out of their parents’ house, and coming out of the closet. In a society that places a stigma on being gay, Justin and Nik were fortunate that their families were accepting.

Growing up in such an open household, I never saw anything weird or unnatural about my Uncle Justin being attracted to men. Although Justin had told my brother and I he was gay when we were little kids, he never brought any boyfriends to meet us. My mom and her friends would go on “girls trips”, of course including Justin, to Kansas City, and they would shop, eat, and go to the gay clubs. Even then, Justin never introduced his family to anybody that was special to him. Then came Nik.

Read more...