This is a festival wrap of the fourth edition of All About Women at the Sydney Opera House, by Geoff Orton.

The festival is billed as "a full day of talks and discussions about ideas that matter to women and provides an important platform for women’s voices". And I'm going to just skim the surface of what was a great festival. 

All About Women

Photo Credit: Yaya Stempler

And Sydney woke up from Mardi Gras without the slightest hint of a hangover. Across five rooms at the Opera House, it's one of the biggest events of the year they host each year, and it really was a special venue on Sunday. 

All About Women

Miranda July

Photo credit: Prudence Upton

Writers Bloc's first mission of the day to see the marvellous Miranda July. While her work is often challanging and divides critics, it was wonderful to hear her talk about having a go and pushing past self-doubt. 

Metaphor for life: Miranda July could only draw pictures with people with their arms raised high in the air.

Punk ethics: Enthused by the do-it-yourself music of her mate, Miranda started an all-girl movie chain letter that she named Big Miss Moviola before renaming it Joanie 4 Jackie. Basically she’d ask people to send in VHS tapes of their short films and she cut them together and send back a mixtape. And now it’s going to be in the Getty Museum.

On self-doubt: “Just make stuff that isn’t that good, and survive it”

Better Man?: Pearl Jam’s Better Man was blaring on the house speakers minutes before MJ entered the stage. Firstly it was bizarre to hear such an old song before a contemporary artist but secondly, the choice must have been intentional.

What Needs to Change?

 

Photo credit: Prudence Upton

Different views: The chair of this event, Jenny Brockie jokes that this panel was going to solve the world’s problems in under an hour. And while, it didn’t happen, hearing from the varied experiences of Masha Gessen, Crystal Lameman, Mallory Ortberg, Ann Sherry and Anne- Marie Slaughter gave me a bigger insight into the scope of feminist issues.

Things I learned:

Thing that stuck with me: Anne-Marie Slaughter defended White Feminism by saying that this discussion wouldn’t have happened without it. Mallory Ortberg conceeded this but countered by saying feminism now needs to grow and incorporate more experiences. 

Times Masha Gessen was accused of frowning: 3

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl

Photo Credit: Prudence Upton

Fan out: This event felt like there were lots of people just to see to Carrie. Huge applause and lots of LOLs

Word list: loquacious, pedagogy, vernacular, epistolary, assuage, mercurial, verbose

Event as a three chord punk song: It's a great interview on finding your people, moving away to get some creative air and also what it's like to be the first person at a party with Miranda July.

Estimated Dude Population: up 20%

Women of Letters

 

Photo credit: Prudence Upton

This event is my Mum’s favourite. We’d been to a few of the Sydney events before so we knew what to expect. But as with Women of Letters, you always leave thinking ‘that was a special one’. And this was the same. Still, it was nice to see Mum doing fist pumps as Catherine Fox laid into inequality in the workplace. 

However, as Michaela McGuire said in her introduction, Women of Letters is designed to be ephemeral, with stories share only for the room on that day, so I won’t say too much about what was said other than to suggest you go to see if it ever rolls into your town.

Sleater Kinney

Carrie Brownstein Guitar Windmills: 4

Times I thought it was strange to see a punk band at the Opera House: 7

Faces smiling: 2500

Final thoughts

There was so much on: I went to about 20% of the events but would have loved to have seen a lot more. The sheer depth and diversity of thought that is brought together under festival's banner of celebrating women's voices is startling. The festival is platform for women to engage and discuss ideas. It's also a rare place where men are invited to listen for once, and to learn about life from a different lens of intersectionality. And also about concepts like intersectionality. And, also, to see Sleater Kinney. 

The key takeaway, apart from the awesome power of guitar windmills, is that while this festival celebrates women, that's a celebration that everyone, all human beings, could benefit from. That and I've got an awful lot of reading to do.

 

Satellite events:

Some events were simulcast around Australia and New Zealand and there are quite a few already up on YouTube.

Number of This Is What A Feminist Looks Like T-shirts: 0


This is a FOMO piece, part of a series where writers reflect on their experience of literary festivals around the world. To read more like this, click here

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Geoff Orton's picture

Geoff Orton

Geoff Orton is the founder of Writers Bloc. He's also a teacher and a Boston Celtics tragic.

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