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Sister Outsider discuss power of language during visit

April 1, 2015

“Language has an agenda,” poet Denice Frohman told students at a workshop earlier this week, part of a two-day visit to campus.

Frohman is the 2013 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion and one-half of the duo Sister Outsider. She and fellow World Poetry Slam Champion Dominique Christina performed publicly on campus Monday night.

During the Tuesday morning workshop at Hugh Stephens Library, Frohman explained how “language is used to create systems of oppression.”

“No system of oppression can exist without the language to justify it,” she said.

Citing examples such as “prisoner” versus “inmate,” and “choose” versus “decide,” she shared the origins of some of the words people use daily without really understanding their meaning.

Frohman challenged students to think of a belief they once held but no longer do. Students responded that they now believe feminism matters; that they now feel they have a voice and that they can be comfortable in their skin. Such discussions support the duo’s commitment to providing marginalized populations with a voice and finding ways to acknowledge and celebrate diverse identities.

The workshop was part of several experiences from the slam poets on campus. During Monday’s “At the Intersection of Art and Activism,” Frohman and Christina focused on using poetry as a tool for social change. A third event, “On Being an Other,” explored how privilege and oppression insist on the degradation of certain identities and ways of being.

As Tuesday’s workshop closed, Frohman urged participants to “have an intentional relationship with language.” After all, she said, “words make worlds.”

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