W-o-W, Wowzers and, well, wow!
Using three different variations of ultimately the same word might seem like a bizarre place for this to start, but if you're clued up on your knowledge of feminist events this won't seem strange at all. If anything, the repetition may simply be reiteration the tone of this weekend, which was incredibly engaging, enriching and informative.
This weekend saw International Women's Day, falling on March 8th. The general idea behind IWD is to raise awareness of Gender Equality, and the event encourages people of all backgrounds to 'think globally and act locally'. In some areas, March has been given the title of Women's Month, so it seemed incredibly fitting to devote an entire weekend to celebrating women and filling oneself with information and cultural goodness.
First off, the Women Of The World Festival at The Southbank Centre. The WoW weekend, aimed at everybody, attracted audiences of varying age, gender and background – even a school trip of young girls in blazers couldn't get enough. I encountered them a lot, going up and down the lift, enjoying the choral 'ooooh's and 'aaaahhhh's in accordance to the level the lift was going from and to. While this was somewhat entertaining, I must admit, it didn't have a patch on the remainder of the festival. My Friday Day Pass permitted me to attend all the talks and events, which included Maxine Peake in Conversation, Women and Power, Omnishambles: Where are all the Women?, Bringing up Boys, Rape and Sexual Assault and Funny Women Comedy Workshop, amongst several others.
WoW Question Time, hosted by Sarah Sands and presented by Harriet Harman, Linda Jack and Ruth Porter saw a debate on the state of women in politics and how we can seek to include more women in power. Regardless of how clued-up you are on 'sensitive' subjects like feminism and politics in general, it is easy to see and feel the effects of things that are of mass proportions such as the gender pay gap, for example. I commended the presenters on their ability to articulate the could-be-tough-to-comprehend subject matter in a way that was easily consumed by the masses (though the audience was clearly very intelligent), and left them feeling empowered and positive.
Although Harman's comment mentioning that our 'Post-feminist' world means that men and women are no different on paper, her contradictory statement of saying that women need to 'man up'. To this statement I was too chicken to actually ask the question I had formulated, but I wanted to say something along the lines of 'Do you think that phrases such as 'man up', even though, as Harriet stated, they are laced with irony, are a healthy basis for women to go from? Or are they further reinforcing the heavily misogynistic stereotype that we're trying to move away from?'. I also had a slight issue with the fact that the conversation and subject matter seemed to revolve solely around white, middle class, nuclear, heterosexual families. There was no mention of many minorities, if any at all. Regardless, the overall vibe was for the greater good and the atmosphere was buzzing.
The Wowzers festival ran throughout the weekend, as a (free!) sister event to WoW. Though totally crowd-funded, the event itself was undeniably nourishing. The speakers and those who ran their workshops really ought to be praised individually, as well as those who curated and organised the event. Even down to the last detail, the event aimed to provide a safe, respectful area for everyone – from gender neutral toilets to a 'breathing room' in case things got overwhelming. As a sufferer of GAD, I was pretty impressed with that.
Saturday night saw a return of the legendary night 'Bad Reputation', collaborating with the Fanny Pack team in a Bad Reputation vs Fanny Pack extravaganza. Of course, this meant bopping in the LSE Student Union to an eclectic yet perfect mix ranging from Rage Against The Machine to Hole and back again. I'll always be impressed with other people dancing like they just don't care, and everyone was stomping around and working their best riot grrrl moves until the early hours. I'm pretty sure I even saw someone doing the worm. 10 points to Gryffindor!
Sunday saw gorgeous weather which only contributed to my overall feeling of tranquility – I slapped on some factor 50 and sashayed down Blackfriars Bridge en route to day three. I sat in workshops all afternoon, beginning with 'Expanding Femininity'. Dr Caroline Walters encouraged conversation about being feminine, I even managed to slide in the fact that I learnt pretty much everything I know about being feminine from a man (which she seemed to enjoy), and most people pitched in with fascinating points about their own femininity and how they gage it.
Following this came a zine making workshop, which of course I was delighted by. I made a prototype for Queerevolution, and it's now hanging on my bedroom wall even though it looks like it was made by a child. Being up to my elbows in patterned paper and cutting and sticking images of Pussy Riot, Beth Ditto, Frida Kahlo, Margaret Cho et al is probably the best thing a person can do on a Sunday afternoon. The 'How to Write Intersectional Erotica' workshop was also a total riot, if a little awkward at first. Nevertheless, it was fascinating and the marker pens smelt amazing (not recreational drug use, promise). After heading to the Sunday evening cabaret and not winning a prize in the raffle, I tried not to show my disappointment as I sat and observed the crowds being truly engaged by the artists that performed.
This weekend was nothing but wonderful, and is truly a testament to the amazing people that took part. Though the professionalism and huge footfall count for WoW was overwhelming, Wowzers definitely held its own in comparison. I don't think I've ever stepped into a Monday morning feeling so proud of finding my own strength in being a woman, and so proud of everything that we do to fight for gender equality. Thanks again, to WoW and Wowzers for enabling me to feel that way. I hope everyone else gets the chance to, too.