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A stage for change: Student group and festival focus on social change

Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Mamo

Credit: Courtesy of Laura Stalter

One out of every three women around the world has been abused at some point in her life, most of them between the ages of 16–24, according to the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium and Safe Voices.

FemmeFest, a four-day music festival organized to raise awareness of violence against women, hopes to reduce those numbers. This year’s FemmeFest will take place Thursday through Sunday in venues around Columbus.

Started in 2014, FemmeFest was created in response to Columbus’ Fashion Meets Music Festival’s announcement that rapper R. Kelly, who had a history of violence, particularly against women, would be heading the inaugural two-day event. FMMF organizers eventually decided to remove Kelly from the lineup.

Electro-pop band Damn the Witch Siren was set to perform at FMMF, but after finding out Kelly was the headlining act, it decided to take a stand.

“FemmeFest just kind of happened out of all the talk about how we need to be more aware about these kinds of situations … After all the talks around Columbus just exploded that people really cared about this,” said Bobbi Kitten, the band’s lead singer.

Last year, all the donations and money raised  from FemmeFest were given to the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, a nonprofit statewide coalition of members working to end sexual violence. This year’s profits will go to the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, also known as BRAVO, a group that aids survivors of hate crimes, discrimination, domestic violence and sexual assault.

“As musicians, we are standing onstage and we have these opportunities to talk to people,” Kitten said. “I think that it’s cool that artists talk about these things or care about these things.”

Intersectional Feminists, a student-run group at Ohio State, is also getting involved in FemmeFest and the fight for equality.

Sarah Mamo, a third-year in political science and African American and African studies and co-president of Intersectional Feminists, said education is the best way to effect change.

While feminism may mean advocacy for some, Mamo puts her own twist on the term.

“In one word, equality … It’s always the feminine traits that are shamed,” Mamo said. “The feminine traits and that shame that comes with them transcends all walks of life.”

Intersectional Feminists does more than just fight back against sexism. Aimed toward bringing awareness and change to things such as misogyny, racism, fat shaming, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia and more, the group is more than what its name suggests.

Founded earlier this spring, the group’s main goals range from basic education of feminism and intersectionality to giving students the resources and space to speak their minds.

“We’re trying to create a very safe environment for students to have discussion about topics about intersectional feminism,” Mamo said.

Mamo and her Intersectional Feminists co-president Bailey Laverty, a third-year in animal sciences, will be heading a workshop titled “Concepts in Intersectional Feminism” on Sunday during FemmeFest at Kafé Kerouac.

“We hope to give knowledge to people of different levels of understanding to feminism,” Mamo said. “The intersectional part of Intersectional Feminists basically states that all forms of oppression interlock and affect people in different ways.”

With education being a top priority for both Intersectional Feminists and FemmeFest, Mamo stressed the importance of knowing who the enemy is.

“Knowing the things that wish to oppress you is a great way of finding different methods of ways to combat them,” she said.

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