Women and talking. Talking and women. That’s two of my favourite things right there, so really, it’s unsurprising that I enjoy attending Women Say Something. But even if you aren’t a chatty lesbian, there’s no doubt the WSS crew have put together a popular and well crafted event. I’ve already ‘reviewed’ the event here, so I won’t jump into that straight away. Besides, it would be remiss of me to talk about the latest iteration of WSS without acknowledging the amusing rigmarole that led to my front row seat.
You see, some time ago I started following Clementine Ford on twitter. Mainly because she said my friend Amy was hot on tv and I was amused. But also because she engages in one of my top five favourite past times: being funny and clever on the internet. Witty banter ensued and, to cut a long story short, though we’d never met, we decided to get married… a choice made based on a shared love of tv, feminism, fatty food and cuddles, I believe. All was an amusing late night joke until she was selected to participate in the latest Women Say Something panel. It was at this point I commenced a sustained and ultimately successful campaign to go as her blind-date to the event. Before I knew it, I’d agreed to sing at the thing as well and I was hard at work medley-ing Dolly Parton with feminist power ballads.
I tell you this not because I think it wildly pertinent to your day, but because I think the incident a lovely example of the wonders of social media and sassy, forthright, bold women – my favourite kind of women. Why wouldn’t Clementine take this deranged, stalky lesbian as her plus one? Why indeed.
The panels themselves centred on fairly broad concepts: hope and power. I still wish these events drilled down deeper into a particular issue, but hell, it’s not my event and you can’t argue with WSS’ selling power. That said, panelists spoke really well. A highlight in the first was definitely ACON‘s Annaliese Constable’s reading of hope as desire, examining women’s sexual health through modes of desire, rather than deficit. Her vision for a world where women’s sexuality is autonomous and powerful, driven by pleasure rather than reproduction is one I can get on board with. I was also impressed by how quickly and frequently she can say ‘lesbian and same-sex attracted women’. Love PC language. Love it!
Normally distressed by the police (it’s like they KNOW I drive too fast), I was pleasingly engaged by Chief Supt Donna Adney, NSW Police’s Corporate Spokesperson for GLBTI issues. It was refreshing to see a straight, seemingly conservative woman speak so eloquently and passionately about community engagement, despite the PR face popping up a few times. The room was also clearly enamoured by out lesbian Minister, Nicole Flemming. And while she is clearly a wonderful woman doing good work for her congregation and for the representation of women in the church, I still find it baffling that people believe in God at all.
Unsurprisingly, Clementine was not only a hot date (love a girl who says “let’s just buy a bottle”), she was also one of the best speakers of the night. Her insistence that we stop silencing young feminists speaks more broadly to the misconception that my generation is full of apathetic slobs. Please understand that we’re activists too; we’re just doing it differently. She also backed up what she had to say with statistics (*fainting*) and a whole lot of articulate goodness.
The sticking points and/or shared visions and ideas of Clementine, Annaliese, Eva Cox, Gretel Killeen and Emily Miller really deserved more air time. There were repeated assertions that equality doesn’t have to mean claiming power within patriarchal structures, but rather changing those structures; that women often ‘do’ development and change differently to men, references to women’s ‘strength’ as nurturers or the more emotionally capable of the sexes, and some wonderful questioning of equality with men as an end game to feminism vs. changing the world’s very structures – one of the best quotes of the night was Eva’s “we need to remember we live in a society, not an economy”.
I often hit a block when I try to talk about gender equality / feminism as there are certain clashing ideas that I still can’t quite find a way to examine and articulate, phrases I can’t squish together to form an argument. Sort of like… ‘Gender is a construct, a spectrum, a mish mash of masculinity and femininity. But as a lesbian i definitely see women as essentially different to men. We need equality, but we don’t need to be the ‘same’ as men – but women should be able to be as masculine as they want and men as feminine as they want, right? Anyone should be able to do / be anything. But we’re also saying that if we dismantle the patriarchy the world will look different…because women are different…sometimes…’
…I tend not to like admitting when I am lost for words or conclusions, but there you have it. Conclusions aren’t everything and it was great to get my brain going listening to all these clever women. I left wanting more, which means I’ll definitely be back for the next event in November!
While I have my gripes (I’d like less panelists, but more talking from each; someone needs to have a word with the the chef about quality vegetarian food; less talk about same sex marriage please), I really do think WSS is one of Sydney’s great events and I was honoured to be involved. There was even a crazy questioner, dubbed ‘Shouty McShouty’ who covered ALL the bases of stereotypical-panel-disrupter: drunk ‘n ranty before we’d even begun, somewhat racist, pointed accusingly at a panelists, referred to politics as ‘crap’. Her insistence that “it’s called women SAY somethin’ and I’m SAYING SOMETHING” really did make my night. Perhaps the event needs to be renamed “Women Who Are Chosen To Be On The Panel Say Something” – though that would make for a ridiculously long hashtag.
The WSS team also launched Women Do Something at the event, which I think sounds like an excellent initiative. That should kill any criticisms that panel discussions are “all talk”. It’s great to see feminists of mixed ages and backgrounds coming together to create a project like this. Especially when they ask me to sing!
NB: You should also check out the F Collective, who blog and organise regularly on key feminist issues.
Other highlights because I’ve run out of space:
- Listening to the beautiful work of Sally Whitwell
- Meeting and chatting with the charming Kate Monroe
- Performing one last time with the gorgeous Brett Every before he jets off to New York
- The phrase “Women get wet! I’ve seen it” stated on stage, followed by a happy high five between Kate and Annaliese.