The F Word, a feminist publication at McGill, celebrated the release of their latest publication on Thursday, November 13th at Le Cagibi, a café and restaurant in Montreal’s Mile End. Many McGill students gathered in a celebration of feminism to support the collective, whose mission statement reads that it “seeks to explore feminism in its present-day cultural context as a unifying, anti-oppressive, intersectional force.” The event reflected this exploration, through art, writing, live performance, and the gathering of likeminded students.
Entering the venue, I first noticed that the walls of Le Cagibi’s back room were adorned with art. There were paintings, sketches, embroidery, and patches embellished with the F Word’s logo. We made our way into the room, paid the $5 entry fee, and got stamped on the back of the hand with green ink. At one end of the room we saw a table where women were knitting and painting. At another table, coordinators were offering copies of the publication.
Soon after we were settled into the dimly-lit room, we discovered the meaning behind the green stamps on our hands---The F Word had reclaimed the female gender symbol, ♀, as a symbol for feminism by adopting an extra line to form an “equal sign” across the bottom of the figure. We procured copies of the publication, (the online version can be found here), and began flipping through.
Striking titles, such as “Demon in the mirror,” a piece by Vita Azaro, and “Unsafe Places” by Hannah Korbee, caught my eye. The theme of the night was expressing anti-oppression, and the art, writing, and performances closely echoed this idea.
The first live performance was by Frances Calingo, whose sweet voice shook the crowd with lyrics; “Is there something wrong?/Should we get it checked? Write a list of the symptoms so nothing gets left out.” Her words and clear, memorable voice rung out, and the audience roared with approval as she finished her set.
Next, Erin Strawbridge preformed a haunting poem, entitled, “Translation.” She commenced with the powerful line, “’You’re too pretty to be a lesbian’/You’re pretty enough to get a boyfriend.” Erin explained that a man once recited this line, what he intended to be compliment was, to her, anything but.
Other performers included The Kells, with original music, along with Frances Maychak, Ali Vanderkruyk, who performed spoken word poetry. In a unified voice, the performers cried out against oppression that they had personally faced, and promoted freedom from stereotypes, as well as equality of the sexes.
For some, the atmosphere felt intense. Some of the language used in the poems was shocking and broke the barrier of comfort that we adhere to in daily conversation. But the works produced important points of discussion and promoted openness and awareness for a cause that deeply affects our society. Why should we feel uncomfortable talking about certain aspects women’s equality and why can the term "feminist" seem to have a negative connotation?
According to the title page of their publication, The F Word explores the idea of feminism in a way that “extends to all anti-oppressive perspectives.” The event created an open space for conversation and left the crowd feeling empowered, and motivated to learn more.
For more information about the F Word, visit their website.
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