by Jenna McDaniel
The “F-Word Live!” poetry slam held at the University of Idaho last week on Thursday, November 6th was a huge success, featuring a number of local spoken word artists performing original poetry. Spoken word is a form of interactive poetry that expresses social commentary in a performance-like presentation. The event highlighted the skills of many different activists, feminists, and poets, and showcased their personal opinions and perspectives on current equality between men and women.
This was the first poetry slam I had ever attended, and I absolutely loved it! All of the performances were spectacular and blew me away. What captured me the most was how each poem was so easy for me to relate to. At this event, I found emotions within me that I didn’t know I had for such controversial topics. It showed me that it’s okay to express how I feel, and to soak in the expressions of others. I loved the “Mmm-hmm,” “Hell yeah!” and snapping and clapping by audience members when they agreed with something said in a poem. It made me feel so good to see the satisfaction the poets experienced while performing their poems with such whole-hearted passion. It was as if the poets were releasing pent-up feelings that came from somewhere deep inside them, and when they were vocalized, the persuasion hit me, and their words took me with them.
The one performance that stood out the most to me was “I’m a Bitch” by Jessy Forsmo-Shadid, who also happens to be a fellow writer for the Women’s Center blog. Her poem was about how she overheard a guy talking about his girlfriend to his friends one day. He was saying unkind things about her, and proceeded to call her a bitch. Forsmo-Shadid’s poem lamented how she didn’t stand up for the absent girlfriend that day, but that if she had, what she would have said. As a student, this is something I experience almost every day. I overhear people bashing on their significant others all over campus, and it’s hurtful to me, even as an unrelated bystander to their relationships. I feel hurt and embarrassment for the individual being spoken about, and as a woman, I naturally pick up on words exchanged by other women and their friends. Bashing on significant others is one topic I hear frequently.
The theme of the poetry slam was “The Other F-Word,” or Feminism. I feel that the word “feminism” is often misconstrued. Many believe it’s about putting men down to boost up women. In my view, feminism is to strengthen the presence and status of women universally. It isn’t meant to enable women to surpass men in terms of superiority, but to rise with them in terms of equality. According to the Feminist Majority Foundation, feminism is:
“The policy, practice, or advocacy of political, economic, and social equality for women.”
The key to this definition is the word “equality.” Many overlook that key principle or don’t emphasize it enough, and assume that feminism implies women’s superiority to men. Discrimination has no part in feminism, but when equality is not emphasized enough, it can be easily implied. In Barbara Hannah Grufferman’s article Feminism: A Moral Compass for Change?, the founder and director of Feminist.com, Marianne Schnall, interviews singer Annie Lennox. This is what Lennox says about feminism:
“I get very frustrated when I hear women saying, “Oh, feminism is passé,” because feminism means empowerment. We need feminism. It’s not against men; it’s about the empowerment of all.”
The “f-word” is often given a negative connotation. It started as a civil rights movement, to address the social, political, and economic oppression of women, but has grown beyond a movement concerned only with women’s rights, to something bigger, with a potential to affect change on a global scale. Grufferman’s article closed with some great advice from feminist playwright Eve Ensler:
“Give voice to what you know to be true, and do not be afraid of being disliked or exiled. I think that’s the hard work of standing up for what you see.”
Live your convictions. Put your beliefs into action. Don’t just be a feminist–be a brave feminist.