The Pioneer Activities Council (PAC) brought the talents of performing duo Olivia Gatwood and Megan Falley to Marietta’s campus on Feb. 27.
Falley and Gatwood tour college campuses and other venues with a show entitled Speak Like a Girl, a spoken word poetry show exploring feminist themes and the personal stories of Gatwood and Falley.
A reoccurring issue throughout the pair’s poetry was society’s denial of a woman’s ability to say no, leading to skewed ideas of consent and acts of violence toward women.
“We can think of many instances in our own lives where we maybe said no to something and received some kind of backlash or violence for it,” Gatwood said. “And so we wanted to think of this as a continuum, about these major acts of violence being linked to the very small acts of violence that we feel every single day.”
Gatwood explained that many college students do not understand what is required to obtain true consent, and consequently fail to recognize many cases of rape.
“Students were being taught, and people were being taught, that rape was this fantastic thing, like you have a man in a ski mask jumping out at you in an alley,” she said.
Rather, according to Falley, rape is far more common.
“Most rapes happen between people who know each other in intimate spaces like bedrooms, like living rooms, like dorm rooms, and most of them happen in intimate partner settings,” Falley said.
The two explained that true consent is also not as simple as saying “yes.”
“You can’t get full consent if someone is under the influence, you can’t get someone’s full consent if you’re threatening them, if they are feeling pressured or coerced, and that is also rape,” Gatwood said.
Many of the attitudes and perceptions held by society promote what Falley and Gatwood referred to as rape culture.
“It’s a culture that we live in, that permits acts of violence and acts of rape, and excuses them and normalizes them,” Falley said.
Though the performance was undoubtedly entertaining, Falley explained that she and Gatwood aim for it to be educational and empowering as well.
“We are hoping that people who are affected by these things feel comfortable, seen, validated, have language, and the people who haven’t, get angry, want to make change, want to stop, want to help,” she said. “I think people feel empowered, too, in their bodies, in their sexualities, in their voices and in their stories.”
Gatwood added that they are careful to cover a wide range of topics under feminism in order to accurately represent the issues present on college campuses and in society.
“It was important for us to create an arc for the show, so there are so many avenues of feminism, thinking about sex positivity, queerness, body image, rape culture, street harassment and all of these different venues,” she said. “It was a matter of figuring out an order that created a storyline that we felt like functioned as kind of an entertaining lecture.”
Gatwood believes performances such as Speak Like a Girl play a significant role in facilitating discussion about gender equality.
“We know a lot of students are having these conversations and don’t have many outlets, or aren’t having these conversations, and spoken word is such a great way of relaying these ideas,” she said.
Senior Casey Peel believes that the performance was effective in providing a safe space for discussion, and offering validation, empowerment, and support to MC’s female students.
“I’m always glad when I see these types of things because it’s like an act of solidarity with all women,” said. “If feels good to be a part of that group, knowing that everything isn’t just in your head, everyone has felt these things before, and that’s not a space that you are in a lot because especially here in Marietta, there’s a lot of male-dominated spaces.”
Sophomore Muhhammad Miller feels that the impact of Speak Like a Girl will be limited on campus, however, due to the small audience.
“I think it makes zero impact,” he said. “The reason why I say that is because the people here already know the message, so it’s really tough to get it out to the crowd. I think it’s just how we act [that is] going to make the difference.”
Junior Megan Baché agrees that the ultimate goal should be to reach a larger number of students, but believes that the discussion prompted by the performance is a good starting point.
“I think the first step is achieving an open dialog about sex and sexuality, and this was a wonderful way to get that dialog started,” she said.
PAC Education, Diversity and Unity Director Emerald Demor hopes to continue the dialog that Speak Like a Girl began.
“Marietta College is a small campus with more traditional views so I would like to continually bring events that challenge the thought processes of students here and introduce them to new ideas,” she said. “I hope that the performance will have an impact on the college in that I want people of all genders to be able to see signs of sexism and gender issues and then either speak out against the inequality or at least choose not to participate in it.”