On April 13, 2018, Urban’s Students for Women’s Equality and Rights (SWEAR) club and Lick Wilmerding’s Organization of Women (LWOW) club hosted the fourth annual Girl Talk. In past years, Girl Talk has encouraged Urban students to write and perform pieces that abide by basic guidelines provided by the Urban counseling office while Lick students have performed pieces written anonymously. This year, however, Urban students were also obligated to perform pieces written anonymously.
In an interview with the Urban Legend, SWEAR co-leader Leah Baron (‘18) said, “This year, Lick really wanted to have the most transparency between their administration and their student leaders as possible, and, in doing so, the concern was that Lick’s administration, and I guess Urban’s administration as well, wanted to have equity amongst Urban and Lick performers across Urban and Lick boundaries during the Girl Talk performance.”
Girl Talk is an affinity show for people to share their experiences navigating life as women and as those who can identify with the female experience. The show began with an introduction from SWEAR and LWOW leaders. Audience members were advised to step outside at any time due to the triggering topics covered in performances. While monologues during the two and a half hour event covered wide-ranging aspects of womanhood such as self love, body image, sexual assault, sexuality and political intersections, many pieces also spoke to personal experiences such as a letter to a passed loved one.
In an interview with the Urban Legend, Lick student Sadie Ray Smith (‘19) said, “I’m extremely frustrated because I feel like it’s a really powerful experience to speak your truth and that doesn’t mean your own but it can be that for some people. I wanted to read a piece about my dad, and it’s my dad, so it’s kind of frustrating now that someone else is reading it because it would have been a really good experience to be able to say that in front of people.”
Ray Smith was not the only student to voice concern at the mandated anonymity. When asked about student pushback, SWEAR’s faculty advisor Shafia Zaloom responded, “[pushback] had to do with assumptions that girls made that we are guests at Lick and the only reason we can do this is because Lick shares their space with us. When we collaborate with their programs, it’s really important that there be consistency so that we don’t undermine either school’s guidelines or mission in how we approach this. At LWOW, they’ve had different adult advisors who have dealt with [the show] in different ways.”
All donations from the event went to Casa de las Madres, a nonprofit organization that provides “shelter, advocacy and support services to women, teens, and children exposed to and at risk of abuse and domestic violence,” according to their website. This year, Girl Talk also collaborated with Lick’s Lit Mag to display art created by female students.
“Lick has a group called Lit Mag, which is the Literature and Art magazine, and so they wanted to do an editorial or compile a bunch of works from female artists at Lick and Urban … to have a magazine that celebrates art and women making art and art based on femininity and womanhood,” SWEAR co-leader Renee Theodore (‘19) said.
Despite new guidelines that censor students, Girl Talk was ultimately a success as parents, faculty and students filed into the 500-seat theater to support and listen to women’s voices. Throughout the show, the performer’s connection to the audience was palpable as snaps of agreement, laughter and clapping brought two schools together.