-Just the Facts
-Women to Watch
of a Slam Poet
National Poetry Slam champion and outspoken feminist shares
a year of her life on the road. By Alix Olson
In these two articles, we explore some of the ways ads
Cultural critic Jean Kilbourne takes on ads offers new
insight into the not-so-obvious messages lurking behind
the luster. By Clea Simon
Today's advertising execs and their big- business clients
are betting that consumers will buy products made by companies
that support social causes. Are the ads just talk, or
is there substance behind the slogans? By Dan Bischoff
On the Ms.
Child by Robin Morgan
Crimson Edge: Older Women Writing (Volume Two)
by Sondra Zeidenstein
Women by Mary Zeiss Stange and Carol K. Oyster
Way by Paula Kamen
is for Everybody by bell hooks
White and Jewish by Rebecca Walker
Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
by Marcia Ann Gillespie
-The Latest on Tamoxifen
-In Poland, Feminism Is the News
-The Right's Stealth Tactics
-Gloria Steinem's Wedding Day
- Newsmaker: Aloisea Inyumba
- What Will Mexico's New Government Mean for Women?
- Opinion: Blaming the Messenger
Elouise Cobell Takes on the Feds
Aunt Jemima in the Mirror
What's a Hacktivist?
The Body Shop's Anita Roddick
Shirin Neshat Sees Beyond the Veil
by Daisy Hernandez, Patricia Smith, and Gloria Steinem
the feminist movement stuck in mid-revolution? According
to this well-known lawyer and activist the answer is
yes. Now it's time to move on and harness our power.
have always had a big mouth. This has not, however,
always been recognized as an art form. The Nuyorican
Poets Cafe can take credit for that. Nice girl
with rebel rising, I was raised in a conservative
steel town. In ninth grade, I was sent to the
principal's office for refusing to pledge allegiance
to the flag. At the Nuyorican, I was sent to the
National Poetry Slam Championship for tossing
allegations at the flag in "America's on Sale."
A good artist learns that what gets you in trouble
in high school is worth paying attention to.
moved to New York City after college to pursue artan
ambiguous goal, I know. I was a feminist. And a dyke.
I'd been acting my whole life. I'd always written and
loved poetry, savoring the freedom of words in my mouth,
but begrudgingly counting pentameter on the page. I
would fool around with my guitar late into the night,
but five chords weren't enough to make me a folksinger.
And so, my amalgam of passions found its home through
the prompting of a college professor who had extolled
the Nuyorican as "the institutional bedrock of radical
poetry." After three weeks of waiting tables, I talked
my friend Pete into coming with me to the café.
"Poetry Slam?" he said. "They don't throw stuff, do
they don't. At a slam, poets get up on stage and perform
their work before an audience, which then chooses its
favorites. Slam poetry sticks out its tongue at the
corporate monolith of rock 'n' roll-over. Its worth
is not determined by literary critics but by the people
who show up to hear it. It's a tongue-in-cheek competition,
a method of enticing people to gather on a Monday night
and watch poetry instead of Ally McBeal.Mostly,
it's a resurrection of community storytelling.
word poetry is as innate to me as radical feminism,
and in my career, they work side by side. Both give
voice to the silenced, battling the elite to redistribute
privilege; both are rooted in liberation, valuing the
personal as political; both have an incredible sense
of humor; both infight passionately-and often; both
are an art form, a balancing act, a gold mine. And neither
one throws stuff.
the New York Times, it's handcuffed protestors in Seattle
/ And the headline reads:"Angry Activists Start a Battle"
/ And the World Bank Leaders / And the WTO and Disney
and Visa and Monsanto / And Goodyear and Texaco all
smile and say, / "Sure is nice to own the paper on a
day like today."
Slam Granny is a busy woman. She runs two sister venues,
one in Salinas and another in Santa Cruz called The
Washrock, which doubles as a laundromat. Tonight I'm
in Salinas, where the audience is composed mainly of
Mexican farmworkers. Women are bouncing screaming babies
on their laps. Slam Granny tells me their English skills
are pretty limited. My English-speaking tongue moves
fast. At the end, they've got a lot of questions; they're
curious about my lesbian identity. We talk about connecting
oppressions, about women's rights, immigrant rights.
About sharing the world. A seven-year-old girl summarizes:
"I treasure the rain / Because rain is good for our
crops / And all of us just want to be filled / To the
anger's subtle, stocked in metaphor / Full
of finesse and dressed in allure / Yeah,
sometimes anger's subtle, less rage than
sad / Leaking slow through spigots you didn't
know you had / But sometimes it's just /
Fuck you, Fuck you / You see, and to me
/ That's poetry too.
-from "Don't Think I'm Not a Nice Girl"
alma mater is a radical campus," my partner
Neeve assures me. It's nice to preach to
the converted sometimes. But I've learned
that political awareness and emotional healing
are separate entities. During the show,
a woman cries loudly, and I am pained by
the influence of my words. I think of Eve
Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues,
stopping short during a rape story as a
woman sobbed. "Is someone holding that woman?"
she asked firmly. "Yes!" a group of women
answered. Following Ensler's example, I
seek out the woman after the show. "Are
you alright?" I ask, unsure of the artist/audience
boundary. "Oh yes!" she says. "I wasn't
crying with sadness. I was crying with rage.
It felt great!"
believe art is universal / If you're a straight white
male artist talking to straight white men / I believe
feminism's in reversal when we believe art is universal
/ Cause then we're just believing them.
- from "I Believe"
"Well, there was one lesbian singer in Portugal, but
she went back in the closet when she became famous,"
my Porto host tells me. "Feminists?" He thinks for a
moment. "Well, there are some, but it is not a welcomed
thing like in America." I am the only female spoken
word poet at this international festival. For five days,
I'm surrounded by male poets eager to bond across cultural
barriers. It's a cornucopia of breast-size jokes. On
the last evening, a poet from Holland who I have studiously
avoided all evening leans toward me and says, "Holland
doesn't have sexism, so I'm not used to this American
feminist thing." He leans back, drains his beer, and
confides the Secret to Art: "Preaching ruins poetry."
Olson and her partner, Amy Neevel, cofounded Feed the
Fire Productions, which is sending spoken word artists
to underserved communities. For more information, visit