Yesterday, Michigan State University's fourth annual FEMfest filled the MSU Student Union with positive energy through an empowering display of the arts.
Organized by Women*s Student Services, the event celebrated feminism in the arts by featuring artistic displays and aimed to "break the stigma around feminism," according to FEMfest host and international relations senior Maren Nicolaysen.
"Feminism (is) about building an inclusive and expansive community to stand in solidarity with everyone," Nicolaysen said. "Not just people who identify as women.”
This year's FEMfest was more than a celebration of feminism. For many, it was an opportunity to reclaim the Union as a safe and community space for students following the Feb. 13 shooting on MSU's campus. After the tragedy, the union was closed to the public and then reopened this past April.
“It’s really important for our campus, for people to hopefully come in and feel safe,” WSS social media intern Jordyn Bradley said. “The Union doesn’t represent what happened, but it represents other great things.”
The event began with an animated drag performance from apparel and textile design sophomore Tristian Laney. Known on stage as Breakfast Boufeé, Laney elicited cheers from the crowd of over 200 people as he strutted down the ballroom aisle to No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” in a blonde wig and black leather dress.
“At first I was definitely overwhelmed, but I was prepared and so ready to get going,” Laney said after his performance. “Once I got into it, I kinda blacked out … but all I remember is everyone having a great time seeing me.”
The night continued with a blend of powerful speakers and touching musical acts, including an acoustic performance of the song "Aphrodite" from songwriter and visual storytelling junior Victoria Irish.
Irish said she came up with the song about young love after putting more intention into her lyrics. She said the song was "very queer, but very youthful."
Other performances throughout the event included a rendition of an ABBA hit by Ladies First, MSU’s only traveling acapella group on campus. A disco ball spun above their set, feeding the room's electric energy.
For students like journalism sophomore Cassidy Howard, who performed her own poetry, seeing the Union in a new light through FEMfest was inspiring.
“This was the first place in Lansing, in the State community, where I was able to perform poetry,” Howard said. “I felt just wonderful, it’s odd to say with something so depressing.”