UCA’s Feminist Union organized and hosted an open mic event titled “Feminism Isn’t A Dirty Word: A Poetry Slam” in the Student Center Amphitheater during X-period Nov. 15 to allow students to share their thoughts on topics like feminism, equality, human rights and advocacy.
Feminist Union sought to use the event to reduce the level of taboo associated with marganalized groups. Senior and president of Feminism Union Briana Vongvilay wanted to address the negative feelings some people have towards the word feminism.
“There’s a lot of different versions of feminism for each individual. The one common thing we all have is being intersectional feminists. We just want to see each person succeed and be happy and live their truth,” Vongvilay said.
Although there are positive connontations of the word feminism, Vongvilay realizes there are negative ones as well.
“I know people think feminist are femi-‘nazis’ because they feel we are only here for the betterment of women, but we aren’t only here for the betterment of women — [we’re also here] for everyone else. We are focusing on issues other than ourselves and we are helping others in the process. To be an intersectional feminist, I believe you have to want the betterment of all people and not just your own people,” Vongvilay said.
Feminism Union wanted this event to allow others to feel a sense of safety.
“I hope that people leave this event knowing that the Feminist Union is a place of safety and love. I hope this event helps people feel they can speak their truth even if their voice shakes,” Vongvilay said.
Spoken word poet Julia Pistole opened up about how sex workers can be feminists.
“There’s this traditional view of feminism that [says] sex workers can’t be feminist because they are overtly sexual or comfortable with their bodies. They think it’s automatically objectifying women. Throughout my time as a sex worker, I have learned that the strongest feminists I have met have been sex workers. It is a form of empowerment; you can reclaim your body as your own rather than society’s. You can use your body as you want to and how it benefits you. Your body shouldn’t be about someone else,” Pistole said.
Pistole wanted to bring awareness to the freedoms women aren’t granted for their bodies. Women who are sex workers are often exploited for their bodies.
“In the South, we have a big problem with rules in place to protect sex workers and that is why I ended up going to Vegas for a while. Vegas has rules and protections for sex workers. In Arkansas, it is really looked down upon so the rules really [prevent] it [rather] than regulate it. It is hard in Arkansas not to get exploited,” Pistole said.
The poetry slam was hosted by the UCA Feminist Union, UCA Gender Studies Program and UCA Creative Writing Department.