There was no shortage of inspiration at the All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday, with discussions on hot-button topics from Donald Trump's presidency to the #MeToo movement and why dog owners are deluded (thanks, Fran Lebowitz). Here are just five—of many—powerful takeaways from the brilliant feminist festival.
Why joy is important to the #MeToo movement
Speaking via satellite before her Oscars appearance on Monday, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke recounted how the movement took off and shared a powerful message for sexual abuse survivors about the importance of joy. According to Burke, learning how to “access joy” could potentially save lives. It certainly changed hers, she explained. “I tell these girls, I tell everybody I know, all the survivors I know, that joy saved my life. Accessing joy saved my life,” she said. “The truth is your life can be filled with joy, the trauma’s still there, it's not going to go anywhere, but you need to lean into the joy and not the trauma.”
Why casual sexism needs to be shut down
Joining Tarana Burke on the #MeToo panel, journalist Tracey Spicer pointed out just how damaging casual sexism can be. “I don’t know how many of you have seen the sexual violence pyramid, but along the bottom of it—the wide base—are sexist attitudes,” she told the sold-out crowd. “That allows, on the top of that, sexist jokes. On top of that, groping and grabbing, then sexual predation, and domestic violence at the very top…. These attitudes, this casual sexual sexism, is what supports the worst of the behaviours. So we have to address all of this as a pattern.”
And, following on from her reporting on the allegations against TV veterans Don Burke and Craig McLachlan, Spicer revealed she has a new story in the works about sexual misconduct in the Australian music industry.
Women are now allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, so what next?
With a set of car keys, Manal al-Sharif changed the rights of women in Saudi Arabia forever. In 2011, al-Sharif helped start the women’s right to drive campaign, which led to her arrest and saw her condemned by her government, local media and millions of others. “I couldn't believe the hate being directed at one woman,” she explained on Sunday. But, as of June 2018, Saudi women will be allowed to drive. Al-Sharif now has another issue in her sights. The writer and activist explained that Saudi Arabia’s strict male guardianship system— in which women must seek the permission of male relatives (even their sons) for the simplest activities—is next on her agenda. It should be on yours, too.
The secret to Donald Trump’s appeal
A discussion aptly titled ‘Grabbing back: women in the age of Trump’, relived the crushing moment that the former Apprentice host became president. Iconic author and speaker Fran Lebowitz had a simple explanation for Trump’s popularity. “Trump’s appeal is he’s stupid,” she quipped. “To me, Regan was a template for the stupid president.” According to Lebowitz, "the president can’t be too stupid, it makes people feel good…”
Change needs to include everybody
Writer and actor Nakkiah Lui brought many to tears with her vision of what feminism looks like today. Explaining how many—including herself as an Aboriginal woman—have felt excluded by waves of feminism, Lui called for change to be inclusive of everyone. Her takeaway? “Our feminism isn't limited to the rights of women, the same supremacy that devalues women is the same supremacy that devalues so many lives around this world.” Lui added: “There is no true success, no true victories if they don’t include all women, if they don’t include our most vulnerable.”