Imagine a public space that feels warm, safe and welcoming — people from all walks of life coming together to participate in a global discussion around what it means to be a woman in today’s society. Imagine the awe of this cohort converging inside one of our country’s most iconic public spaces — the Opera House.
It’s the only festival in Australia that boasts a majority audience of female-identifying persons.
It’s All About Women.
Yep. The All About Women Festival is now in its ninth year, and as usual, it’s packed with international superstar guests who will challenge the norms of feminine identity, celebrate pivotal moments, and share strategies on how to live in a world that’s still unequal.
Taking place on Sunday March 7, the festival also includes film screenings, contemporary art installations, workshops and panel discussions.
Festival Director Dr Edwina Throsby believes the world has shifted so dramatically in the past year that negotiating the various roles women hold across society, politics and culture can only be improved by coming together as a community of diverse voices, and talking about it.
“We’ve seen the distinction between the public and the private spheres collapse, female world leaders emerge and thrive, and traditionally feminised areas like home, family and community be emphasised like never before,” she says.
“One of the things that the pandemic has done is it’s put even more of our lives online. Our social lives, our work lives, our entire lives have been completely shifted online.”
Throsby believes that this circumstance-driven shift could signal a long-term one; where home life is merged into our work lives.
“Home life used to be separated from work. I think that has had an impact on women. Historically, the domestic space has been coded feminine. And work and professional spaces coded masculine.
Whether you’re a male CEO or female assistant, that separation just collapsed. You can’t pretend that family life doesn’t ever incur on professional life.” she says. “Hopefully it’s a positive development, and we’ll see things such as flexible working conditions continue as a result of that.”
Ultimately, it was this recognition that helped Throsby build out this year’s program and ensure it reflected the unique time (some would say turning point) we’ve moved into.
“There are quite a few concurrent considerations I make when I’m thinking about the shape of the program,” Throsby shares.
“I want to reflect all current arguments around the broad themes of the festival. All About Women is about people affected by the patriarchy. What are the issues that are most salient at this point? Who is saying the most interesting things about these things?”
For Throsby and the rest of the program’s coordinators, making sure all attendees leave with some tangible take-aways is important, irrespective of their stage of life.
“I want people to come and find something for themselves,” she says. “One of the things I love about this festival is that you’ll see audience members aged from their teens through to grandparents. It’s multigenerational. There is huge diversity among the crowd.”
This year’s speakers include some big international names including literary icon, Isabel Allende, and British journalist Caitlin Moran. But Throsby also boasts about a couple of newer voices she expects will make their mark.
Former editor-in-chief of Jezebel and co-host of “The #MeToo Memos”, Koa Beck is one of them.
“She’s been able to articulate the issues around an ideology she calls ‘white feminism’. This ideology has at its core that the driving goal of feminism is equality with men – usually white men – without realising that this often comes at a cost for marginalised women, women of colour, working class women, and so on. And this has been completely embedded in a whole bunch of other historical events— like the fight for suffrage, or the emergence of “bossgirl” feminism. It’s a relatively new conversation here in Australia.”
Laura Bates is another speaker that excites Throsby.
“She’s written several books about misogyny, including the famous Everyday Sexism (a book which chronicles hundreds of personal experiences, stories and facts about what it means to be a woman).
She’s also the founder of Everyday Sexism Project, which focuses on the daily indignities women face. From this came her most recent book, Men Who Hate Women, which looks at the spread of extremist misogynistic online communities that are radicalising boys and young men against women, with real-life consequences.
These are online groups. They’re actually groups and actually targeting boys with these beliefs. They spill into real life violence. This old fashioned idea that the internet and real life are different is just no longer the case.”
Now in its 8th year, the festival has commemorated and celebrated some pivotal moments in history including the #MeToo movement; a milestone which Throsby believes advanced feminism in an astonishing way.
“What it showed was the universality of the female experience—and how often just being a woman exposes you to all sorts of harassment and violence”, she says. “It created a real sense of solidarity — it was truly a global movement which has shifted arguments in a good direction.”
A stellar lineup of extraordinary women from across the world will be appearing at All About Women Festival on Sunday March 7, 2021. Livestream tickets will also be available to select events, for audiences to livestream or watch on-demand from across Australia and around the world.
Click here to get your tickets today.