Top 15 Slam Poems Addressing Social and Political Gender Issues

Slam poetry, a competitive form of spoken word poetry, was originally derived from hip hop and the Black Arts Movement. Not unlike many hip hop pieces, spoken word poetry allows the poet to connect with the audience and explore various issues and ideologies. Much of modern slam poetry overlaps with current events and contemporary social issues, with the range of topics nearly as diverse as the poets themselves. Possible topics that may be heard at a slam include racism, sexuality, gender orientation, feminism, mental illness, or any combination of these or other important issues. For many poets, their work serves as a platform to address the societal issues they have seen and observed and to call out institutions that seek to oppress or discriminate a group of people. They are able to fuel their beliefs and passions into a piece of art and use it to move their audience, and that ability to move others is a testament to the power of spoken word poetry. It is an empowering and influential form of activism that plays an important role in the progression of social change.

Personally, through exposure to many different individuals' perspectives and experiences, slam poetry has restructured my own beliefs and the way in which I view the world around me. When I first came across slam poetry online, I was largely apathetic about most social issues for the simple reason that I did not feel their impact on my own life, and therefore I did not feel the need to advocate for change. Quickly, my position shifted, and for a short period I became what would likely be referred to as a ‘white feminist,’ but as I immersed myself in the slam community and began to educate myself more on these social issues, I began to build an identity and belief system around intersectional feminism. Through poetry, I became impassioned by the need for social change in the face of so much discrimination and inequality.

While gender issues are just one of the problems we, as a society, are facing, it is something that is universal and becoming more and more prevalent in mainstream culture. In light of this, I have compiled a list of fifteen poems that helped me to think about these issues from a new perspective and confront some of the things that I had always taken for granted. The following poems are all beautiful and empowering pieces from poets whom I greatly admire, and I urge anyone reading this to take the time to watch them with an open mind.

*Disclaimer: While this list includes my fifteen of my favorite feminist poems, the pieces on the list are not in any particular order, and the order in which they are listed is not indicative of my feelings about any one of these poems in comparison to another.*

Lost Voices”, Darius Simpson and Scout Bostley  

                        Favorite Line/s: “My body has become cause to write legislation, cause for a** smacks in the back of the class, my body has demanded everything but respect. I have been asked, ‘what makes you feel unsafe?’, and I struggle not to yell, ‘everything’.”           

Rape Poem to End All Rape Poems”, Justice Hehir, Kate Thomas, Lindsey Michelle Williams, and Lillie Hannon

Favorite Line/s: “Until no really means no. Until rape means crime. Until woman means human. The rape poems will continue until there is no d*mn material left.”

Feminism”, Ashia Ajani, Tolu Obiwole, Abby Friesen-Johnson, and Alexis Rain Vigil

           

Favorite Line/s: “Even when we disagree, we are burning the table, building a new one. No one is invited because everyone is already here.”

Fantastic Breasts and Where to Find Them”, Brenna Twohy

                       

Favorite Line/s: “I will not practice bloody hands, I will not make-believe dissected women. My sex cannot be packaged, my sex is magic, it is part of a bigger story. I am whole. I exist when you are not f*cking me, and I will not be cut into pieces anymore.”

Rape Joke”, Rhiannon McGavin and Belissa Escobedo

           

Favorite Line/s: “Men like to use the excuse ‘boys get raped too’ when they hear women talking about their personal experiences. First, ‘boys get raped’ should be its own sentence. If you’re only acknowledging their trauma to silence female survivors, then you’re a scumbag. Second, all the male survivors we know would kick your teeth in for saying that.”

Like Totally Whatever”, Melissa Lozada-Olivia

Favorite Line/s: “And they like, put my ‘parentheticals’, my ‘likes’, and ‘ums’, and ‘you knows’ on a wait list. Tell them no one will take them seriously in a frilly pink dress. Or that makeup. Tell them they have a confidence problem. That they should learn to speak up, like the hyper-masculine words that are always the first to raise their hands.”                       

Friend Zone”, Dylan Garity

Favorite Line/s: “We all know the statistics, but we don’t know how to accept how easily we become part of the problem. You cannot kill a monster until you are willing to see it in the mirror, until you recognize its shape in your own skin.”

Ten Responses to the Phrase ‘Man Up’”, Guante

            Favorite Line/s: “Of course. Why fight to remove our chains when we can simply compare their lengths? Why step outside the box when the box has these bada** flame decals on it? We men are cigarettes: dangerous, and poisonous, and stupid. You ever notice how nobody ever says woman up? They just imply it. Because women and the women’s movement figured out a long time ago that being directly ordered around by commercials, magazines, and music is dehumanizing. When will men figure that out?”

Collapse the Economy”, Olivia Gatwood and Megan Falley

                        Favorite Line/s: “Thank you for all of this lipstick to write ‘I am flawless’ on the wall. Thank you for the cover up, the vanishing cream. Thank you for making us invisible, that way, you’ll never see us coming.”

Smile”, Rhiannon McGavin

                        Favorite Line/s: “Action over thought, thoughts left lingering, wriggling through veins and vital organs, trying to fight something which you know is bigger than you, the cudgel which has bludgeoned countless before, because if there’s no struggle, you lose the cold and broken hallelujah of ‘well at least you fought back’.”

Yellow Light”, Mila Cuda and Caitlyn Bove

                        Favorite Line/s: When a girl says no with red on her lips, you still do not learn to yield, slow down, stop, stop, stop. A woman’s protest is heard as a car crash. Her tongue is a street, each word is met with a road block. She spits shrapnel and iron foots the brakes. She’s seeing red and all see is yellow. And you pretend that it looks green.”

The Tampon Poem”, Sierra Demulder

                        Favorite Line/s: “Lord knows, there is nothing more terrifying than periods. There is nothing more terrifying than the natural, bodily function of a woman. It is hard enough that everything on this godforsaken planet teaches women to hate themselves, to feel ashamed before feeling beautiful, and you are disgusted by the one thing your daughter’s body does that yours doesn’t.”       

Teaching Our Daughters to Take Up Too Much Space”, Jessica Romoff

                        Favorite Line/s: “Instead of giving our daughters stories of how to be rescued, how to be saved, how to be forgotten, let’s start reminding our daughters of all the battles we fought, and won.”                       

Pavement, Rhiannon McGavin

 

                        Favorite Line/s: “You think it's funny because you don't know what it's like. It is crying because you're so sure no one could ever love you enough to bust up the granite so flowers can blossom again. It is the shame of long sleeves so that no one ever looks at you like that again. It is rage that snaps pencils because you didn't fight more, because you didn't run like a red horse at the first scent of danger, because there were wounded before you, and there will be wounded after you.”           

Ain’t I a Woman”, Kai Davis

                        Favorite Line/s: “When a white girl in my class calls us ‘we’. Speaks of the universal need. Says woman is the new black. Talks picket signs like I’ve never marched before. Talks injustice like I’ve never met a cop before. When she hushes me and then speaks on my behalf, ain’t I a woman?”