Sunday, November 6, 2016

How We Survive

Last week I saw this event ad on Facebook. The idea of a feminist poetry slam was irresistible, and I reckoned the two women performing would be well worth hearing.
      Carrie Rudzinski was judged fourth best in the world at the 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam. She's performed her work across New Zealand, Australia, Canada, India and in almost all 50 of the United States. Currently a guest lecturer teaching Spoken Word at Manukau Institute of Technology's Faculty of Creative Arts, she's also programme director for the Rising Voices Youth Poetry Movement.
        Olivia Hall has been performing poetry since 2013. In 2015 she was Matariki Slam Champion, Capital Slam Champion and placed third at the National Slam Finals. She's one of the organisers for Wellington's acclaimed Poetry in Motion, and is currently completing her Honours degree in Sociology at Victoria University.
Back in August, simply advertising their feminist show on Facebook had brought trouble, as Olivia explained to 95bfm. They didn’t expect the trolling they got, but they simply deleted these comments. It seems the trolls took revenge by denouncing their event page as “abusive”, because Facebook suddenly took it down. But both Wellington shows were sellouts, and now they were back with the latest version.
       I got there at opening time to be sure of getting a good seat near the back. I thought I might have to leave early because of (a) intolerably loud music, or (b) not being able to hear the words (despite my hearing aids), but it was fine. I was 40 years older than anyone else there - but that was okay, because it made me invisible. I’d thought it would be like the old days, with no men – not banned, just staying well away. I was completely wrong. Most of those there were young male/female couples.
        The show is billed as “a biting and honest narrative on what it is to be a woman living and surviving in 2016. Addressing everything from rape culture to body image to heartbreak to {Queen J.K.'s] Hermione as a feminist role model, this show carries a switchblade and a hallelujah.” All true. 
         They had me (and the other couple of hundred people) from the opening lines. I was smitten with sisterly empathy, admiration, and envy for their hard-won confidence, talent, honesty and passion, and their ability to put feminist truth, love and strength into such shining words.
          But I was smitten with sadness, too. Forty-five years after feminism (or as Carrie and Olivia call it, common sense) first found me, women are still having to speak out on the same deadly stuff.
          And when it comes to “body-shaming” (so perfectly demonstrated by Trump), its dominating, destructive power has not diminished, it has only grown stronger – so much so that in a recent poll of US teenage girls, 42 percent said Trump’s disparaging remarks about women had negatively affected the way they thought about their own bodies. Olivia’s poems on her hard-fought battle to defeat such feelings made me cry, in sorrow and in rage.

I'd like to post different kinds of poems too, but these are the only ones I could find on YouTube.


  1. Oh - I didn't know this was on! What a shame as I would have loved to have been there.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Anne :) I imagined that life would be so much easier for my daughter, that things which were fought for in the 1980s (I am a generation younger than you) would be automatic now. Being a female working parent has become a lot more acceptable, but it seems that for every gain in the workplace, the price has been exacted on women's bodies.