Ask anyone what the most pressing issue facing young women today is and you're more likely to hear "How much time you got?" rather than an emphasis on any one specific issue. Harassment and rape, domestic abuse, unrealistic beauty standards, unequal pay, rampant misogyny… the list goes on and on.
Rather than feel overwhelmed or inundated, five female poets are sounding off on the issues closest to them in the best way they know how: slam poetry. The BBC has commissioned these young Brit females for Women Who Spit, a powerful series of shorts where these women share their experiences through the lyrical lacework of spoken word.
They aren't just waxing poetic, either. These women are badass, tackling feminist issues and taking no names. We asked all five to tell us why they slam and the message they hope to get across.
VANESSA KISUULE – TAKE UP SPACE
“I hope that by virtue of what I do I am an example of the fact that young women can have choices. I don't necessarily think it's a matter of aspiring to be a particular type of 'strong' or 'powerful' woman. I think it's important that I stand amongst an array of different women expressing themselves in whichever way they see fit and that as a whole we represent the true multitude of female experiences.
Anger and struggle is an important and inevitable part of feminism but I wanted to do a piece with a celebratory feeling. It's called 'Take Up Space' because all the women I admire are 100%, unabashedly themselves and don't seek anyone's permission to be so. That, to me, is an incredible thing.”
CECILIA KNAPP – WHY I WRITE
“I hope that writing and creativity in all its forms is a catalyst for conversation and change. The Women Who Spit project is an amazing example of this. Five female writers being profiled, each with a different voice and message. This is the kind of thing we need in the media: positive representations of females, rather than the negative, scrutinising that so often prevails in the representation of women.
In my poem, I'm talking about mental health issues, mostly depression and how it's not something that's addressed enough. I talk about watching someone close to me suffering with depression and how life can make it difficult for them to seek help. As a young person, it can be quite hard to position yourself in the world, you're constantly bombarded with images and notions of how you should be living your life and sometimes it's easy to neglect to take care of yourself.”
DEANNA ROGER – SPIKES
“What kind of message do I hope to send to young women? That they are goddesses. That they can reclaim words and sounds and stories and tell their truth. That they are important and powerful and many things – news, narratives, adverts – will whisper to narrow options to suit a specific, usually economically-focused agenda. I'd tell them this riddle – none of this stuff matters if we are not in alignment with our higher selves and, when we are in alignment with our higher selves, that is all that matters!”
MEGAN BEECH – BROADER BROADCASTING CORPORATION
“I want young women to grow up feeling that their aspirations are achievable, that being a feminist is as normal as being a human. It’s amazing to see girls who say to me at the beginning of a spoken word workshop ‘I’m definitely not a feminist’ or ‘I definitely cannot write a poem’ by the end of the session are writing truly amazing pieces about their experiences of being young women. Writing about so many aspects of their lives from being harassed by van drivers in their school uniform to struggling with bullying, depression, body image and pressure to be sexualised. It truly is amazing the things that these girls write and that’s my message to all young women: use your voice, know your own power.”
JEMIMA FOXTROT – MIRROR
“I hope that my work challenges the objectification of women. Just by being outspoken women, by making work that unashamedly expresses our opinions, all of the women in the series are challenging the attitudes that allow certain men to feel they have the right to see and then treat women as sexual objects or toys for their own pleasure. My poems reveal my own, and other women’s, detailed and complicated inner worlds meaning that the very idea that we could exist simply as objects for men’s amusement and convenience becomes fucking laughable!
What you choose to do with your own body is your own business and nobody else’s. Do your best to ignore, or even better challenge, those who attempt to threaten its agency. Try to remember and appreciate all the amazing stuff your body does, all that amazing stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with looking sexy.”
The series Women Who Spit is available to watch now on BBC iPlayer
Follow Trey Taylor on Twitter here @treytylor