If you're female, chances are you've been the subject of street harassment. I know I have. I've been followed, catcalled, jeered at, and asked how much I go for. And my experiences are, unfortunately, almost universal. Venessa Marco, a slam poet, has been there too. After she walked up to a bodega and the man behind the counter said, "You look like the kind of girl who can swallow," Marco wrote and performed a kick-ass poem called "Patriarchy."
Marco performed her work at the 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam, in which 72 female poets from around the world compete for the honor of being the WoWPS champion. Although Marco didn't nab the champion spot, her work still speaks very strongly of the constant sexual harassment and assault women from across the globe face. In the American agriculture industry, undocumented workers face assault and rape. Last year, a judge ruled that unpaid NYC interns cannot sue for sexual harassment. In China, female factory workers are often subject to inappropriate comments, photos, phone calls, or similar behavior. The issue is one that, weedlike, crops up again and again. Work like Marco's illuminates sexual harassment for what it is: a seemingly casual comment or touch that can be burned into a woman's memory.
Most responses to "Patriarchy" have been positive. One viewer wrote that "Her response was not only nonviolent, but intelligent." However, another wrote that it was "just another excuse for her to perform...REAL bravery would've entailed her challenging [the man at the bodega]." Although I think Marco's poem is masterful, you can judge for yourself by watching the video below:
"See how quickly you become a mouth again? A cavity? A temple and brothel, both cathedral and Jezebel?"
Because I really can't resist, here's another poem by Marco and and Tonya Ingram, "Khaleesi:"
If you need more powerful slam poetry in your life (and hey, who doesn't?), you can watch the Rutgers Slam Poetry team perform "The Rape Poem To End All Rape Poems."
Image: Button Poetry/Youtube