On Dec. 10, the University of Rhode Island Women’s Center will host its first-ever Fem Fest in to promote gender equality inspired by the age of the #metoo movement.
The event’s coordinator, junior Shannon McDonnell, said that the event is about celebrating gender equality and discussing modern gender issues. McDonnell said that current events, such as the #metoo movement and Time’s Up, inspired her to start Fem Fest.
“It seems especially over the last year, so many groups focused around gender issues and gender rights,” McDonnell said. “I kind of wanted to have this opportunity to combine all of these groups together.”
Fem Fest will begin at 10 a.m. with a fair in the Memorial Union Ballroom. One nonprofit featured at the fair will be the feminist group, The Women Project. Several student groups will also attend, including Feminists at URI, URI Democrats, URI Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and W.O.W.W. (We’re Offering Women Wisdom).
The fair will feature various small businesses that have shown dedication to feminist activism. Some of these businesses include Tink Knit, a nonprofit that teaches low-income single mothers how to knit hats and scarves that are sold on the group’s website. Impact Everything, an online store in which the profits made from sales goes to various causes, will also be included. Other vendors are Twenty Stories, a bookstore that promotes diversity in literature, and artyfactos, a jewelry store that uses recycled materials such as dried fruits for jewelry. The store artyfactos’ proceeds go to low-income women in Colombia.
Shannon Lynch, a staff member at the Women’s Center, said that she is most looking forward to meeting some of the businesses that are attending Fem Fest.
“We live in a culture that doesn’t give women-identified people enough of a voice, especially in businesses and in the media in every way possible,” Lynch said. “I think that’s one of the great things about what Fem Fest is. It’s giving voices, it’s showing us all of the different women in the community that are doing businesses that have all these great programs.”
From 1-2 p.m., several keynote speakers will speak at the event. One is a Providence-based artist and filmmaker Rachel Brian, who URI students might know for creating the “Tea Consent” video frequently shown in URI 101 courses. Brian will speak about using art for activism. Mary Ann Sorrentino, the former director of Rhode Island Planned Parenthood, and Jennifer Rourke, a podcaster for the Women Project, will also speak about their work in women’s issues, as well as how students can get involved.
“Having these speakers come and be able to give advice about ways we can actually take this passion we have and put it towards something useful and impactful, it’s cool to kind of give us a direction towards this,” McDonnell said.
Fem Fest will also include a basket raffle. Proceeds will go to the Women’s Center’s Violence Prevention and Advocacy Services (VPAS), which works to prevent various kinds of abuse and sexual violence at URI. According to McDonnell, VPAS is not funded by the University, so donations are imperative.
McDonnell said that Fem Fest will be one of the Women’s Center’s most ambitious projects.
“All of our events so far have been really small scale,” McDonnell said. “They’re mainly just contained with us and people we know. This really will bring in people from around the state. We’re getting involved with other peer groups, and the Union Ballroom is a really big venue, so we’re hoping for a good turnout. It’s kind of getting people who aren’t generally involved with these issues, involved with these issues.”