Debunking gender stereotypes

“Speak Like a Girl” founders use poetry to address feminism, equality

Alexandra Cline

With poems in their hands and a message in their minds, “Speak Like a Girl” founders Megan Falley and Olivia Gatwood started a conversation about gender norms and the perception of women in today’s society, hoping to disprove outdated stereotypes.

On Wednesday in Elrod Commons, the two women addressed notions of feminism and equality along with the representations of each in present culture, facilitating a conversation about healthy relationships and the pressures encountered by women at college campuses across the country.

Though the poetry and spoken segments of the show centered on the portrayal of women in popular culture and in everyday life, Falley and Gatwood also noted the inherent structural problems women face within society, including earning only 78 cents to the dollar as compared to men.

“The 78 cents that women make compared to men is even less for women of color…And did you know that there are more CEO’s just with the name John than there are total women CEO’s?” Gatwood said.

The poets asserted that along with economic issues, the language often used to discuss assault and rape of women is sometimes problematic, referring to the actions as mistakes or regrets instead of immoral, punishable crimes.

“Today we see a lot of women pressured out of saying no or encountering violence for saying no,” Falley said. “Doing something nice for a woman or any other human doesn’t mean you’re entitled to anything.”

According to Falley, not only are these perceptions prevalent on college campuses and in other social situations, but they additionally exist in songs, video games and even children’s television shows. This points to a broader problem of women’s depiction in the media.

“The lyrics in songs like ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’ and Justin Bieber’s ‘What Do You Mean?,’ and even in shows like Looney Toons, when it’s seen as funny for the male skunk to pursue the female he likes even after she’s pushing him away, aren’t seen for what they are,” the women said. “It’s blatantly obvious how these women feel, but it’s still being ignored.”

In spite of these ongoing problems, progress continues to occur in areas of body positivity and gender fluidity due to newfound attention brought about by members of the public, especially among young people.

“We want to make college campuses safer,” the women said. “In our show, audience interaction is definitely encouraged. We want you to snap, yell, clap, and be engaged with us.”

Not only did the two activists engage the audience during their performance, they also hosted a poetry workshop and allowed students to read poems of their choosing prior to the show.

Though they understand the work still needed to promote fair representation of females in today’s world, Falley and Gatwood insisted that students, young adults and all members of the community should become involved in the effort, not only activists and feminist speakers.

“It’s as much up to you as it is to us,” the women said. “We’re always looking for new ways to get people interested and really create change.”