Gender, Social Justice

These 5 spoken word pieces embody our beauty and body image struggles

Brave and beautiful poetry from some of the world's most talented performers.

As a spoken word poet, naturally, spoken word poetry is going to affect me the most when it comes to art that highlights social issues and internalized joys and frustrations humanity goes through. It is so great to see art being so inclusive and diverse, especially for women’s voices to be heard.

Beauty standards and body image standards can be stigmatizing for women, so in order to bring awareness to that, these spoken word poets make you snap all the snaps in regards to their honesty and relatability. These are definitely not the only poems that cover beauty and body image for women. There are a wide range of poets you can look up as a source of encouragement if you need more than what is provided in this list. Take a good thirty minutes to an hour to listen to a lot of these poems to feel good about yourself – if just for a moment.

So, without further ado, here are the top five spoken word performances, placed in no particular order, that embody and highlight the beauty and body image struggles women face.

1. Song of the Prettybird by Shay Alexi Stewart

“What a treat hosting between my thighs. You’ll spend equal time begging to share bed with me, condemning mediocrity.”

I remember first seeing this poem in person at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational in Texas this past April, and I remember screaming the entire time watching and listening. Her intricate metaphor of the pretty bird covers how women are often objectified, harassed, and placed under this pressure to be pretty in our society. It can cause women to be silent, not wanting to sing.  Stewart’s movement, grace, and intonation will make you relate to her so hard.

2. In My Skin by iCon

“This is not self-hate. This is loving the skin I’m in even if it is only an illusion.”

This woman will be able to change everything you think about makeup and womanhood, especially if you’re the type of woman who believes that makeup can’t be an empowering tool for women. iCon is able to cover the biases men and women have about women who wear makeup often and the bashing they may go through when they decide to go natural. The double edged sword for women’s beauty is still alive and well, and iCon beautifully confronts that through her words and her performance.

3. Transplant by Chrysanthemum Tran

“When I say that my selfies are a radical act of self-love, I mean that my Instagram is your guilty pleasure.”

I also got to see this poem in person at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, and I couldn’t stop grunting in affirmation and snapping. Tran’s exuberance about their trans identity and the variances of trans beauty and womanhood makes this piece encouraging and adamant about body positivity. Not feeling comfortable in the skin you’re in, or not having the freedom to express the skin you’re in because of the judgment of others and their need to cut and paste your appearance is a feeling of loneliness that Tran shows here.

4. Dear Ursula by Melissa May

“And while you may not have had the waistline of a princess, I’ll be goddamned if you didn’t have the swagger of a queen.”

This poem is in reaction to the 2012 edition of The Little Mermaid Ursula dolls that transformed the beautifully curvy sea witch into a cinched size zero. May goes in on how even though Ursula was the villain of the story, she was a hero to her for embracing her body and being someone curvy women could look up to. Creating this doll for young girls was a huge disservice to them and to the character Ursula herself. May’s voice is so powerful in this piece.

5. Trapped Room by Mercedez Holtry

“The womanizer says be a dirty girl, be a pretty girl, be a good girl, be a girl who doesn’t talk too much…”

Not only does Holtry cover the struggles of body image for women, she covers a lot of the double standards women face, and feminism has helped her find her voice in her poetry. Her fast paced cadence and diction makes viewers hold their attention to what she has to say as a woman and as a woman of color. Again, double standards are still alive and well for women, and if we don’t talk about it or acknowledge it, behavior isn’t going to change in the slightest.