By Teresa McMinn Cumberland Times-News, Md.
Fashion magazines that feature seemingly perfect models, TV dramas centered around aggressively competitive vixens and music videos that portray females as the weaker gender are just some of the stereotypes real women face each day.
But a local movement hopes to change those perceptions and create an environment where women celebrate and support each other.
Cumberland resident Deanne Stump in February founded the YaYa Sisterhood of Western Maryland.
"I was distressed about how women are portrayed," said Stump, referred to by the group's members as "Mama YaYa."
The group is open to all women regardless of socioeconomic status, political or religious affiliation, she said.
"Women wear so many hats, have so many obligations," Stump said and added the local group -- which is not associated with national YaYa organizations -- holds meetings that are friendly and casual. "We're real laid back with no pressure ... It's just a way of gals getting together and relaxing."
The group provides a forum for women to laugh, socialize, support each other and organize efforts to help folks in the community, she said.
"It's not just a social group," Stump said. "It's socially conscious."
Additionally, the group meets -- typically on a monthly basis -- at local restaurants to support area businesses, she said.
Recently, roughly 30 members of the group were at the Crabby Pig restaurant, 13 Canal St., Cumberland where they brought a variety of school supplies and other necessities including children's shoes, underwear, socks and snacks to donate to needy students at South Penn and John Humbird elementary schools.
Other local causes the YaYas helped include the Western Maryland Food Bank, Heart of the Earth Sanctuary and Rescue and First Way Pregnancy Support Center.
Upcoming local meetings are set for Hobo's Restaurant in Hyndman, Oscar's Restaurant in Cumberland and Sand Springs Saloon and Steakhouse in Frostburg.
Charities to benefit from those gatherings include the Union Rescue Mission and Family Crisis Resource Center.
"We do small things with great love," Stump said.
"YaYa House Mothers" Susie Bloom, Mary College and Sheila Hook are some of the first members of the group.
"(These women) are all givers," College said of the group members. "It's just a really good feeling to work together and help others."
Tawny Austin of Cumberland said her friends, members of the group, asked her to join the YaYas.
Austin recently attended her first meeting and said she enjoyed the feeling of sisterhood, mutual support and desire to help others.
"That's how I was brought up," Austin said. "To give back."