“Speak Like a Girl” educates Rutgers on rape culture through poetry


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Photo by Viktoria Marich |

Olivia Gatwood and Megan Falley use spoken word to spread their messages as far as possible, and on Thursday night they brought their “Speak Like a Girl” show to the University.

A large crowd gathered in the College Avenue Student Center where a large mix of men and women sat awaiting their feminist spoken-word show.

The show was held by the Department of Leadership and Experiential Learning as part of “Leadership Week" and was hosted by Matt Garcia, a counselor in residence on Cook campus.

“Through humorous and passionate performances, the two shed light on issues such as street harassment, boy image, rape culture and the patriarchy,” Garcia said.

The two did not spend time on introductions, but instead immediately began with a poem about women giving up cosmetic products and crashing the industry. This was the first of many poems, some recited as a duo, others solo.

The poem entitled “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” focused on the idea of stereotypically female character in movies.

“'Manic Pixie Dream Girl' is what you usually see in romantic comedies written by white men, and they exist solely to provide a sense of excitement and youth for the boring male lead role,” Gatwood said.

The female characters are always the same, “think of Zooey Deschanel,” Falley said. They will be there to save the male character from their typical, boring life, but the man will still always be the lead role.

“Manic Pixie Dream Girl” was the entryway to speaking about sexism, rape culture and the objectification of women that was explored further in other poems.

“Think of the way we treat women who say no or reject advances,” Falley said. “We live in a rape culture and see a lot of examples in the movies, the news, what doesn’t make the news and so on.”

Pepé Le Pew, the male skunk in the children’s cartoon “Looney Tunes," is an ideal example of rape culture, she said. It taught children that objectifying women is acceptable.

“This guy would always chase around the black cat and hug and kiss her and chase her throughout the cartoon hillside,” Falley said. “No matter how much she tried to get away from him, he would chase her and persist.”

Parents would sit with their children and watch these cartoons, which would always be accompanied by a laugh track, Gatwood said.

Michael Anderson, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, was the winner of the MARK competition that followed the “Speak Like a Girl Show,” and thought the two were inspiring.

“I think they’re amazing and have guts,” Anderson said. “I’ve worked with SCREAM Theater a lot as an orientation leader and (with ideas of) rape culture, and the way they presented it here was great.”

The reason why Gatwood and Falley can be perceived as uncomfortable is because people aren’t comfortable with being comfortable. Their whole show is discomfort, he said.

Around the middle of the show, the two women began to list off real-life examples of rape culture while interacting with the audience.

A girl reported an athletic team for assaulting her while unconscious, but the news reporters mourned their careers, Falley said.

This is a reference to the 2012 case involving athletic students from Steubenville High School in Ohio. News anchor Candy Crowley of CNN said the two young men had such promising futures and now watched it fall apart. Paul Callan, a legal expert, asked what the lasting effect is of two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape, according to Gawker.

“I am 16 when my first manager whispers all of the things he wants to do to me,” Gatwood said. “And when I say no, he threatens my next paycheck.”

The two then asked anyone in the audience who has ever been cat-called to raise their hand. About every woman put her hand up.

When asked to keep their hands up if they were ever made to feel scared while being cat-called, every hand remained in the air.

“Why don’t we yell back at cat-callers?" Gatwood asked. "Because you’re scared for your life."

Gatwood and Falley find it to important to have a large amount of men in the audience, so that the poems and audience interactions can teach them how prevalent rape culture in society can be.

“When you need to say something no one can censor your pencil,” Anderson said. “When you can get your mental through your pencil, I think that’s one of the best things.”


Alexandra DeMatos

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