Flower Power

The UO Cultural Forum puts on the first Camellia Feminist Festival around downtown Eugene

Mahala Ray at the Barn Light
Mahala Ray at the Barn Light

With hashtags like #HowToSpotAFeminist recently creating a focal point for derogatory tweets that peg feminists as hairy man-haters, it’s clear that, even in 2015, people still love to hate feminism, or whatever their warped interpretation of it is.

Such pervasive misunderstanding of feminism inspired Mahala Ray, the UO Cultural Forum’s regional music coordinator, to organize the first-ever Camellia Feminist Festival May 30. The fest takes place in downtown Eugene with films at the Bijou Metro, music at The Barn Light and panel discussions and vendors that align with feminist ideals at Cozmic.

The festival is named for the camellia plant, whose leaves are used to make several types of teas, including green, black and oolong. Ray says she believes feminism is like the camellia: It encompasses many shades of feminism’s fundamental belief in gender equality.

“What I wanted to do with Camellia Feminist Fest was create a space that’s not necessarily academic in nature, but that’s safe,” Ray says. “The idea is just to draw in people who have different entertainment interests, but hopefully do it in a way that’s alluring to people of all different backgrounds.”

The music lineup includes Eugene psychedelic rockers Pancho + The Factory and dream-pop outfit Snow White, as well as Portland’s disco-electro band Gold Casio and electronic artist and producer Natasha Kmeto.

Kmeto is a feminist, though the content of her music isn’t overtly political. Rather, she believes it’s the way she creates her music, by writing and producing herself, that has more to do with being asked to play the festival.

“It’s kind of a stereotype — the dude producers and the chick singer kind of thing,” she says. “I’m really excited. I hope to see more things like this crop up.”

Throughout the day, Bijou Metro will screen the Japanese animated film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and the Persian noir Western A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, followed by discussion of the films’ feminist themes. Cozmic will host two panels: “Defining Feminism” at 12:30 pm and “Going Beyond the Gender Binary in Feminism” at 3:30 pm.

Ray, who’s worked for the UO Cultural Forum for the past five years, explained that she became involved in the event industry because of the possibilities for the exchange of ideas festivals provide.

“I’m hoping that it’s something that can continue in future years,” Ray says. “And it should be something that’s continued, because when the conversation about feminism stops, that’s when we’re in trouble in my mind.”

The Camellia Feminist Festival runs 11:15 am–10 pm Saturday, May 30, at The Barn Light, Bijou Metro and Cozmic; FREE. All ages. For more info, visit culture.uoregon.edu/camellia.