in case you missed it: all about women festival 2015
International Women’s Day. The Sydney Opera House. A day all about women. Can you imagine anything better? I sure couldn’t, so I signed myself up to a whole day of listening to and engaging with amazing, inspiring women who are changing the world and inviting us to join them.
Breaking the Wife Drought with Annabel Crabb
The first session of the day was with the delightful Annabel Crabb, who was speaking broadly about her recent book, The Wife Drought. The talk examined how the same event – having a child – has a remarkably different impact on men and women’s lives, particularly regarding their career prospects and earning potential.
While this is a truth that often seems self-evident, the statistics Annabel listed reveal a depressing reality. Men are more likely to be hired, and be paid more, if they have children. They’re “family men.” The opposite is true for women, who become “working mothers.” Then consider the breakdown on the number of full-time working fathers and mothers who have a “wife” (a partner who works part-time or not at all). Seventy-six percent of full-time working fathers have a “wife.” Fifteen percent of full-time working mothers have a “wife.”
The crowd laughed, sighed and eventually bristled with the need to change something, to fix this systematic inequality. How do we do this? In Annabel’s words, ‘we need to change cultural expectations of men if any real change is to be achieved.’ They are trapped in gender norms just as much as women are. As for how we alter these deeply imbedded cultural norms? Well, having the conversation is a great start.
How to be a Feminist with Clementine Ford, Celeste Liddle, Roxane Gay, Tara Moss, Anita Sarkeesian and Germaine Greer
Wow. What a line-up. Some of our favourite feminists talked ‘how to be a feminist,’ and they covered A LOT of ground (I had six pages of notes. I’ll give you the cliff notes version).
Clementine Ford, Celeste Liddle, Roxane Gay, Tara Moss, Anita Sarkeesian and Germaine Greer were our wonderful panellists. In talking “how to be a feminist”, they all stressed that attempts to be a “good” feminist and focusing on definitions was reductive. Instead, we should focus our attentions on solidarity and ensuring the feminist movement is truly inclusive. No more “White Middle-Class Feminism!” Intersectionality is key. If feminism is to achieve its goals, it must include all women – all races, all sexualities, and all ages.
Celeste Liddle and Anita Sarkeesian were united in their view that feminism is a fundamentally revolutionary movement, aimed at overthrowing a system of oppression. Roxane Gay loved the sentiments being discussed, but labelled herself a realist, and highlighted the importance of transforming these wonderful ideas into reality and creating measurable change.
Conversations with Muslim Women with Randa Abdel-Fattah and Susan Carland
Conversations with Muslim Women came from a desire to amplify the voices of Muslim women who are so often spoken about, but not spoken to, in our current climate of Islamaphobia. Randa Abdel-Fattah and Susan Carland spoke intelligently, empathetically and eloquently about their experiences as Muslim women in Australia.
Their frustrations at rehashing the same conversations again, and again, and again, were palpable. In particular they highlighted the onus on the Muslim community to continually disprove their danger, to denounce the actions of terrorists, and essentially prove their credentials as decent human beings.
Randa spoke about the spectrum of racism, and highlighted the reality that even well-meaning feminists could perpetuate damaging notions. For example, white women who would say ‘I believe in a woman’s right to choose…but do they really have a choice when it comes to wearing the veil?’are part of the problem. Susan – who is just about to complete a PhD that explores how Muslim women fight sexism – highlighted that the overwhelming majority of feminist Muslims operate from a “pro-faith” position. Imbedded in the Islamic faith, she explained, are the tools to remedy sexism.
The central message from both Randa and Susan was the importance of trusting in women’s agency.
As for how we can help spread the message? Randa and Susan (like nearly every woman who spoke) are often the target of online abuse and harassment. They asked that if they – or any Muslim woman – has given an interview, published an article, that helped you rethink your perspective, pass that message back along. Send them an email. Tweet at them.
So, go forth and follow them on social media. It’s time we all started listening.
Gamergate and Beyond: Women in Popular Culture with Anita Sarkeesian
**Trigger Warning: This segment contains reference to sexual violence, rape and death threats.**
Anita Sarkeesian’s claim to fame is decidedly unenviable. Back in 2012, she launched a Kickstarter to raise money for Tropes v Women in Video Games, a YouTube series that would look at how are women are treated in video games (spoiler alert: it’s not well). This resulted in a wave of vitriolic abuse and harassment that beggars belief.
Since 2012, Anita has been subjected daily to threats of sexual violence and death threats towards herself and her family. Her personal information has been leaked and distributed online. She has had to move. Her Wikipedia page was vandalised with sexual images and racial slurs. There is even a Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian computer game, in which players could “beat up” Anita by clicking the mouse. Earlier this year, she posted a collection of the hateful messages she received in just one week. It’s enough to make any (decent) person feel physically ill.
This is all part of “Gamergate”: ostensibly a push for journalistic reform in gaming, and in actuality a systematic attack against prominent women in the gaming industry. In this talk, Anita highlighted the more subtle forms of misogyny that haunt her life: the online impersonations and the persistent (and completely unbelievable) conspiracy theories. She also outlined potential solutions, the first among which is legislative (think cyber civil rights). At the moment the onus is on women to manage the harassment. This needs to change.
Bad Feminist with Roxane Gay
So, full disclosure: I think Roxane Gay is one of the greatest people on the face of the earth. Both Bad Feminist and her novel, An Untamed State, are among my favourite collection of words ever. I don’t think I’m alone in this: when Roxane was asked to account for her popularity in Australia she responded, ‘the power of words…they reach beyond borders.’
Roxane then gifted us a whole lot of words, on topics as far-ranging as the responsibility of becoming a “public academic” to her love affair with Channing Tatum (and Magic Mike 2) to the importance of respecting other points of views and listening as much as you talk.
She highlighted the necessity of intersectionality in the feminist movement and even spoke (albeit reluctantly) about how white women can better work with women of colour. Essentially, she said, people of colour are tired of being educators. Google shit. Go to the library. And escape the trap of #notallwhitefeminists. It’s not always about you.
Finally, when asked about the impact of events like All About Women, which are in effect ‘preaching to the converted,’ she had this to say: we might be preaching to the converted, but at least you’re in church. And you will leave church and spread the word.
So go forth, my fellow feminists, and spread the good word.