Students explore definitions of feminism at Fem Poetry Slam

Ashton Bell, a local poet, performs his poem at the Fem Poetry Slam, where he won the head-to-head slam. Bell is one of many poets and community members who showed up at the slam to express feminist ideas in a safe space. Photo by Meghan Mendez.

Ashton Bell, a local poet, performs his poem at the Fem Poetry Slam, where he won the head-to-head slam. Bell is one of many poets and community members who showed up at the slam to express feminist ideas in a safe space. Photo by Meghan Mendez.

The word ‘feminism’ means something different for everyone. The Fem Poetry Slam on Nov. 16 brought the Westminster College community together to celebrate those differences through poetry, an open mic and a head-to-head poetry slam competition.

Westminster Slam hosted the event in collaboration with the Feminist Club and Girl Up, a female empowerment and education organization that recently opened a chapter at Westminster.

Nicole Tyler, a junior English major and member of Westminster Slam, and Sabi Lowder, a sophomore custom major and the president of the Feminist Club, were at the forefront of bringing the event together.

“It’s important [to create space to talk about feminism] because it allows for different perspectives,” Lowder said. “Especially (and hopefully) if you’re talking about intersectional and radical feminism. I think people often get scared of feminism because they don’t understand it, but it allows us to look at the world through a different and more critical lens. The patriarchy is oppressive, and talking about feminism fights that.”

Both Lowder and Tyler said they consider themselves radical feminists, but they each have different definitions of what that means.

Nicole Tyler, a junior English major, kicked off the Fem Poetry Slam by delivering a feature piece, which was followed by an open mic and a head-to-head slam competition. Tyler, who is part of Westminster Slam, collaborated with the Feminist Club and Girl Up to make a space to spread radical intersectional feminist ideas. Photo by Megan Skuster.

Nicole Tyler, a junior English major, kicked off the Fem Poetry Slam by delivering a feature piece, which was followed by an open mic and a head-to-head slam competition. Tyler, who is part of Westminster Slam, collaborated with the Feminist Club and Girl Up to make a space to spread radical intersectional feminist ideas. Photo by Megan Skuster.

Tyler said sociologist Allan Johnson has influenced her understanding of feminism.

“Allan Johnson writes about four different types of feminism, and one of the categories is radical feminism,” Tyler said. “My entire existence is radical because I am a queer black woman and I felt that it kind of indicated that there is no space for me, which is why to be a feminist to me is to reclaim that space and push the issues that are happening.”

Tyler said she is primarily a racial activist and hasn’t done as much with gender because she has never found inclusive spaces to do so.

“Now is the time to push those spaces and hold them more accountable to be inclusive because they are not going to get far without us people doing the work to get the visibility and representation,” Tyler said.

Lowder said she considers herself a radical feminist, as well. For her, that means being inclusive of all minority groups, as well as supporting “girl power.”

“I am all about intersectional and radical feminism, meaning a step away from first wave white feminism that only focuses on white women in the Western world if you are white and of the privileged dominant group,” Lowder said.

Warren Cook, a senior history major, said he started regularly attending Feminist Club meetings during his junior year at Westminster and said he appreciates the club’s inclusivity.

“I think what I really appreciate is an open space where certainly in the past two years the Feminist Club has really welcomed intersectional radical feminism,” Cook said. “That always makes for, I think, a lively discussion, and it opens up the discussion for multiple perspectives about what feminism really means to all these different club members.”

Cook said the Feminist Club offers many perspectives about the idea and definition of feminism.

“We can talk about feminism in a really broad context rather than men vs. women and a [with] a narrow lens," Cook said.

Instead, Cook said conversations about feminism should center around examining "asymmetrical power structures within our society and what we can do to try to make it so our community is a more equitable place."

Kate Wilson, a first year nursing major who participated in the slam, said she was afraid to call herself a feminist when she was younger not because of the word’s negative connotation but because she hadn’t yet experienced inequality.

“As I got older, I realized that there is so much of a gap in how people of different genders are perceived and seen and how much our rights differ and the expectations differ between the two genders,” Wilson said. “So I think that to me, feminism and my idea of it is constantly evolving and changing.”

Selina Foster, a senior math major, said she has been involved in equality movements across the Salt Lake Valley—particularly the LGBTQ movement—and brought yet another definition of feminism to the table.

“Feminism is actively attempting to reconcile the intersection of different marginalized identities,” Foster said. “It is the idea that all people should be equal... regardless of their gender, their sexuality, their race, and [the idea] that everyone can work together to create equality for these people all across these platforms.”

An updated version of this article, published at 5:44 PM on 12/9, provides clarification with brackets in a quote from Warren Cook.