You, Join the Femmeniste Revolution!
Femmeniste, the feminist activist group hellbent on a revolution, is here to challenge society’s gender expectations and celebrate women through art. The project is gathering submissions from women all around the world, to be exhibited this summer in Antwerp. The exhibition will provide a platform for women to tell their stories and smash feminine stereotypes, reorienting their representation in the arts and media industries. I spoke to Aleksandra, the founder of Femmeniste, to find out more.
“What I want to achieve with this project is to speak about the unspoken,” she tells me. “For example, I have dealt (and still am dealing) with severe depression and its ups and downs for years, sometimes leading to suicidal thoughts and self-harm.” Aleksandra remained silent about her mental health for a long time, until she reached her early twenties and decided that she wanted to help other girls going through similar experiences to her own. “I want to support them; let them know they are not alone and that they matter!”
Aleksandra is a Polish woman living in Belgium, who describes herself to me as a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athlete and MMA fighter, as well as a singer, art lover, and poetry enthusiast. It was while she was writing slam poetry that she had the idea to start Femmeniste. “I just felt my anger grow bigger and bigger, and the writing couldn’t stop,” she tells me. “There are still so many things, so many unspoken matters. One simple poetry text isn’t going to change this.”
In this moment, Aleksandra wanted to find a way to encourage other women to speak up about their experiences. Not only did she want to break the stigmas that silence women, but she wanted to put a stop to oppressive labels dictating how a ‘real’ woman should look and behave. “Girls are told what to like, do or not do, wear, listen to, look like from the moment they grow breasts, and I, alongside the rest of the Femmeniste team, are done with it! We are women; it is our own individuality that makes us real women, not whether we fit into society’s standards.” Setting up social media pages was just the beginning, and enthusiasm for the project came thick and fast. “I was surprised how quick every girl wanted to join,” she admits.
The Femmeniste exhibition will tackle female experiences and issues such as sexual harassment, women’s mental health, cat-calling, girl hate and much more, by bringing together spoken word artists, female rappers and dancers, as well as art and photography. However, Aleksandra makes it clear that men are also welcome to participate, and share their own perspective on feminist issues. What’s more, Femmeniste are interested in sharing the work of people from all over the world in order to have a real variety of testimony; to celebrate what unites these women as well as what makes them diverse.
On the 7th of April Femmeniste held an initial ‘meet and greet’ in Antwerp for those involved to share their vision and encourage more women to take part in the different aspects of the project. Local people got together, armed with pens and post-it’s, to brainstorm the ways in which to make an interactive, international expo. They will reconvene on the 22nd April for collage-making, which will involve cutting up and refashioning images of ‘traditional’ beauty in an attempt to address the failure of the media to represent women as nuanced human beings.
Be it illustrations, written testimony, poems or single phrases; if you have a story to tell, Femmeniste want to hear it. It’s important to Aleksandra that the exhibition they create is not exclusive to a singular female experience. She asks you all to contact her with your own stories of womanhood and, most importantly, share her vision. Whether you’re an artist, a writer, or just want to spread the word, your input is what will power the revolution! Women’s power is in the collective, and collectively, women’s voices will bring about change.
The exhibition will take place from 31st August until the 2nd of September 2018, as well as online for those outside Belgium to see. If you’re interested in sharing your story, a piece of art, or simply watching the project unfold, find Femmeniste on Facebook and Instagram.