Liam Matz is an Asheville High School student and, like Martha from one of our previous posts, is a spoken word poet. Recently he wrote and performed a piece with SoulSpeak Asheville entitled, “Abuse,” in which he speaks out against the systemic causes of domestic abuse. Liam has had an interest in spoken-word poetry since he was in 7th grade when he was able to see a few popular poets perform. He said it was then that he realized that, “spoken-word poetry is a way for you to communicate with others in a very powerful, almost spiritual, way that would deeply affect people.” After visiting Asheville’s shelter for women and children, Steadfast House, two years ago, he decided to use this art form to communicate the injustice he saw and inspire people to take action against it. In an interview with YMCo, Liam told us, “My initial thought with this poem was to combine that power [of spoken-word poetry] with the reality that we have here today and to really shock people into action.”
In Liam’s poem, he writes:
“Pain amplified by the constant sexism that has hold on her life is like his hold on her arm…
No one understands why she stays, but then again, no one can see the ball and chain of economic dependence
No one can comprehend the mental slavery that has whipped her mind into submission
No one wants to believe that equal rights are still not a part of our status quo.”
These lines in particular highlight the systemic causes and effects that keep victims feeling trapped in an abusive relationship. Liam believes all of these can be traced back to “the misogynistic culture that we have in the United States, that allows men–particularly men–to beat on their significant others.” Liam is right to acknowledge that intimate partner violence is not just man-to-woman, however, in the majority of cases (4 out of 5 based on US Department of Justice statistics) women are the victims.
Liam offered up a suggestion on how to break this cycle. He says one important thing we can do is think about the language we use and hear in the media to describe women. Liam says, “To think about the words that you’re saying, you can certainly realize that they’re wrong, and by not saying those words you perpetuate the idea that women are equals. That not only stops misogynistic culture, but also goes towards stopping abuse…so, by thinking, you can not only make a change in your life, but in the lives of others.”
What are youth in your community doing to take a stand against partner violence or to change the culture that makes it possible? Let YMCo know at [email protected]!
If you want to hear more from Liam on this piece, click here to watch his interview with YMCo (disclaimer: some explicit language is used in the interview), or click here to read the transcript of “Abuse.”
As always, we’ve also created a study guide for you to use with your youth group. Find it here!