On May 17, Feminist Happy Hour celebrated its one-year anniversary with a special show at Schuba’s Tavern. The event’s host Alicia Swiz, jumped on stage to welcome guests and immediately pointed out, “My shirt says sex on it, and my body says slut. Do what you want with that information.” And that set the body-positive, women-positive, sex-positive tone for the night. (BTW, her handmade shirt comes from the local talent Ghost Eyes).
Feminist Happy Hour is usually held the second Monday of every month at The Whistler and features women-identified performers and artists. Women-identified is a self-enforced label at the happy hour: “If you say you’re a woman, we believe you,” Swiz said.
The happy hour serves as a show-and-tell for local artists who maintain their own projects in Chicago. Among the performers at the anniversary party were Sameena Mustafa, co-founder of the South Asian comedy collective Simmer Brown Comedy, and McKenzie Chinn of the Growing Concerns Poetry Collective.
Swiz’s main goal for Feminist Happy Hour is to “give space for vulnerability and talk about things that aren’t always embraced and welcome in other spaces.” A goal that the event definitely achieves. At the anniversary show, performers used a mix of essays, poetry, comedy and music to cover everything from racial micro-aggressions within women’s communities to renaming the “walk of shame.”
“FHH certainly feels safer than other spaces I’ve presented my work,” said Britt Julious, who shared a poignant essay about her relationship with her mother and with disco. “I often write about my body, sex, my miscarriage and my sexual assault. It is freeing to share my writing with people who aren’t shocked by my subject matter.” Julious also appreciates that the event caters to women. “It’s rare to find a space that prioritizes women-identified voices and gives individuals of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to showcase their talents to a wider audience.”
At the end of the night, Swiz thanked everyone for supporting a show with the word “feminist” in it, a term that she recognizes not everyone warmly embraces. But Swiz believes we still need specifically feminist-oriented activism:
“Feminism was born out of women calling attention to their own oppression and working towards a world that included them as fully autonomous beings. That work is still being done, which is why I choose to embrace the term feminist in my work. … We do not live in a world, and we most definitely do not live in a country, that values girls and women, and feminism is the primary social movement that continues to call attention to this. But feminism is not a panacea, nor does it guarantee community or a shared vision. Feminism is malleable, and the actions behind it are what give the word meaning outside of its historical context. For me, identifying as a feminist and labeling my work as such reflects a commitment I have made to show up everyday and embody the values I want to see in the world by creating spaces for girls and women to be seen and heard.”
Feminist Happy Hour is just one of a handful of powerful projects that Swiz promotes through her organization SlutTalk, whose mission is to create and maintain a vibrant feminist community. Among her other projects is Kiss & Tell, a monthly storytelling and open mic event that “centers on sex, dating and the messy truths about love.”
To learn more about SlutTalk events, follow @wearesluttalk on Facebook and Instagram and join the mailing list at wearesluttalk.com.