The Nice Shoes drops “feminist” label from group title

BY FALGUNI BASNET ’21

The Nice Shoes, one of Mount Holyoke’s a cappella groups, was founded in 1992 by women who wanted to have an intentionally feminist a cappella group. “Their goal, at that time, was to perform music that was by women and for women, which they felt was lacking on campus,” said Leanna Bonafini ’19, who has been a member of the Nice Shoes for four semesters.

The group is self-described as an “a cappella group whose goal is to spread feminist messages through music; promote feminism as a positive movement; and to raise awareness of racism, sexism, classism and homophobia on and off our college campus.” Article III, section 1 of their constitution states that “Members must identify as a feminist.” Since their founding, the group has had several performances on and off campus for various social and political causes, and released an original song titled “We are the Feminists.” 

Starting this semester, the Nice Shoes rebranded. “After discussion, we have decided to no longer present ourselves as Mount Holyoke’s feminist a cappella group,” the group posted on Facebook and Instagram.  “Instead we will represent our group with a statement of purpose that captures the complexity of our mission. We recognize the exclusive history of the feminist movement, and would prefer to prove our activist mission through our actions rather than our title.”

The group dropped the feminist label with the intention of making more people feel included. “We wish to be as inclusive as possible,” said Bonafini regarding the change. “We recognize that the feminist label and movement has been exclusive of people of color, and of trans and non-binary people, and we didn’t feel the need to perpetuate the exclusivity. We wanted to be sure we were being intersectional and make sure that we committed outwardly to doing service, having diverse messages and being welcoming.”

In line with this mission, the group updated the lyrics to “We Are The Feminists” to be more inclusive.  However, in the same social media post, they said the song remained outdated, could not represent what they hope to stand for and trivialized issues of oppression. “We will no longer sing it regularly,” said Bonafini.

In the past, the Nice Shoes performed songs that advocated for a social cause. According to Althea Finch-Brand ’21, who joined the Nice Shoes last semester, the group has decided to “still include a variety of artists [and] represent unheard voices in the music community, but things don’t have to be quite as explicitly about some kind of social cause anymore.”   

One of the group’s newest song additions is “Let ‘Em Say” by Lizzo and Caroline Smith. “I think this is what sets us apart from other groups,” said Finch-Brand, “that we take into consideration the artists and genres while choosing the songs we perform.”

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