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Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

FEMfest 2023 offers insight into the feminine experience through art

EAST LANSING – The MSU Union was filled with a flurry of emotions last Thursday, as Women*s Student Services–in collaboration with the University Activities Board, MSU Women*s Council and Impact 89FM–invited students to FEMfest 2023 in the Union Ballroom.

 

FEMfest is an annual celebration of women’s voices, featuring many musical and spoken-word performers from the East Lansing community. It provides a platform for people who have been historically silenced and encourages MSU students to empower themselves.

 

WSS and its partners have created a supportive environment for limitless self-expression, as well as a noticeable kinship between performers and audience members. 

 

Throughout the night, students laughed, cried and cheered as they experienced the many different sides and struggles of womanhood. The variety of performances emphasized the strength of femininity in all forms, whether it is portrayed as a joyful experience or a melancholic journey. 

 

Attendees enjoyed 13 unique performances including readings of poetry, song covers, original music, dancing and a drag queen lip sync. Each performance presented a vastly different perspective and fostered a space for women to be heard. 

 

Among the night’s performances was an a cappella rendition of Swedish Europop group Abba’s “Angel Eyes,” sung by MSU’s very own Barden Bellas: Ladies First. 

 

The group compares themselves to the popular movie “Pitch Perfect” because they are the only all-treble a cappella group on campus. During the group’s 38 years of performance, they have toured the country to perform and won multiple awards in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.

 

Ladies First hopes to show other musicians that there is always a space for them to thrive.

 

“We have a slogan, which is ‘Honest. Grounded. Powerful,’” said Atea Nelson of Ladies First. “It’s the legacy that we’re continuing. It’s why it’s so important and special for us to be at FEMfest, we want to embody that. I feel like FEMfest is a very empowering event for a lot of people, so we’re really honored to be here.”

 

The group offers an optimistic future for MSU students: one where all groups are free to do what they put their minds to, and one where they have inspirational role models.

 

The journey to find a welcoming community is often invigorating and rewarding, but it can also be isolating. Natalie Barnett, also known as iimber, understands and represents this idea in her original song “Trust Issues.”

 

“I’ve always hung around guys my whole life, so I was never really feeling like I was super feminine,” Barnett said. “But I came here and it was really accepting and nice.” 

 

During a video interview with Barnett, she explained that a core theme of “Trust Issues” is the fear that she will never be able to find people who can handle her at her worst, placing pressure on her to perform as something else and making it difficult for her to maintain relationships.

 

This idea of women’s acceptance hinging on how they present themselves and conforming to perpetual happiness is common, yet Barnett doesn’t shy away from the rougher edges of her experiences. 

 

“There is a lot of feeling,” she said, describing the tone of her albums. “A lot of trauma in the initial writings.” 

 

Barnett said another theme of her music is “freedom and the fear that comes with it,” which can be interpreted in many different ways pertaining to the feminine experience. She relates this specifically to being judged for being confident about her identity.

 

While their subject matters are a bit different, both Ladies First and iimber have something in common: their ability to inspire women through sharing their art. 

 

Over the years that FEMfest has existed on MSU’s campus, it’s grown by a wide margin–in funding, attendance and experience. Overall, this year continues FEMfest’s legacy as an opportunity for women to express themselves in a safe and supportive environment. It is also a chance to experience art from diverse creators.

 

Students are encouraged to join WSS and MSU Women*s Council for upcoming events, as well as attend FEMfest 2024 next fall for moving music and impactful messages.

 

For more FEMfest 2023 interviews check out Impact’s FEMfest 2023 playlist on YouTube.

 

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About the Contributor
Maco Jeleniewski, News Editorial Assistant
Maco (he/she) is a freshman pursuing dual degrees in Journalism and Vocal Performance. She was told by her mom to apply for a job on campus, and it just so happened that Impact 89FM was hiring! Before college, he was the Secretary General of his high school Model UN Team, which led him to start doing journalism full-time. When not writing, Maco sings opera, reads horror novels, does drag art, and releases a mix of covers and original music. You can find her music on all streaming platforms under the name coopiric! Maco also is a huge fan of Will Wood, The Cog is Dead, and Tenacious D. One day, he hopes to get over his fear of bushes. “Ah-rah, dee / Soo-guh-goo-gee-goo-gee, Goo-guh fli-goo gee goo / Guh fli-goo, gah-goo-buh-dee / Ooh, guh-goo-bee, Ooh guh-guh-bee guh-guh-bee / Fli-goo gee goo, A-fli-guh woo-ma mama Lucifer” -Tribute, Tenacious D

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