All About Women

Sophie Gallagher attended the All About Women festival, where she spoke to Celeste Liddle and Clementine Ford.

At the All About Women festival, I found myself in a room with Roxane Gay, Clementine Ford, Anita Sarkeesian, Celeste Liddle, Germaine Greer and Tara Moss. Women like Rosie Batty, Annabel Crabb, Jane Caro and Judith Lucy were huddled around me, discussing the problems and solutions of every issue from domestic violence to women in comedy. To say this was my feminist dream world is an understatement.

The festival, held at the Opera House last weekend, was a place where women could get together and discuss everything that mattered to them in 2015. From becoming ‘bad feminists’, to embracing intersectionality, this year’s festival reached a more radical and honest point than it had in the past.

I spoke to festival curator Ann Mossop, who said the event was a place where the issues facing women could have a voice. “All About Women is a chance for us to really put women centre stage, and make sure that we’re hearing from women whose ideas are important, but also hearing about topics that matter to the women that make up our audiences.”

That said, the complete lack of trans and non-binary female speakers was disappointing, and an error that Mossop hopes to rectify in the future, “ensuring important issues are addressed over time”. The festival was a success, but its gaping holes are a broader representation of the effort feminism still needs to make to ensure greater inclusivity and acceptance.

Despite this, Mossop hoped that audience members could still have a rich experience, and use the knowledge they learnt. “We can’t solve all the problems of the world. What we’re hoping to do is give women tools to think about important issues, share the insights of other people and take that into their own lives.”

Celeste Liddle & Clementine Ford on How to be a Feminist

Celeste Liddle is an Arrernte Australian. A freelance writer and unionist, she blogs personally at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist.

SG: What are the biggest issues facing feminism today?

CL: Individualist feminism versus collectivist feminism—so the fight between individual empowerment and feminism as a movement about the current social structures that rule our lives. I think that, on one hand, I have a lot of admiration for celebrities who get out there and proclaim their feminism. But on the other hand, it allows the dialogue to shift to an individual level, which is not what it’s about; feminism is meant to be about empowering the least powerful in society and helping the entire world to become a more equitable place.

SG: Do you think there is a divide between Indigenous and white feminism?

CL: The way I see it, through the process of colonisation, Aboriginal women have to grapple with every single thing that any other woman would—so everything from oppressive beauty structures, to representation in media—but we’re doing it alongside the politics of being displaced people in our own country. There’s that mix between fighting patriarchy within our own communities and trying to state that we’re diverse people, versus actually fighting for a voice in a broader movement. It’s an incredibly difficult thing. I see the politics of bodily sovereignty and land sovereignty running parallel because there’s no other way that I can actually envisage it. To liberate every woman in this country, from my limited perspective, you have to actually liberate Indigenous women, because they’re the most trampled.

SG: What role does intersectionality play in feminism?

CL: No movement is going to be successful without looking after the least powerful, so there’s no point in a revolution that preferences the exact same white male voices. Intersectionality should be central for everyone’s politics—if we’re not looking after those who need the most assistance we’re just going to reinforce the same power structures over and over again no matter what revolution it achieves.

Clementine Ford is a freelance writer and broadcaster who writes on feminism and pop culture.

SG: What do you believe are the biggest issues facing women today?

CF: Silence, continued sexual oppression, reproductive health care. I think the two biggest issues for me are economic freedom and bodily autonomy. Bodily autonomy can be whether or not you choose to reproduce, whether or not you identify your body as woman even if others don’t—I think that allowing women to make choices that men are entitled to make is a huge part of feminism. But one of the big challenges is trying to figure out how we dismantle the current structures of power and recreate something better, because we can’t actually achieve equality within the structures we’re based in currently. They’re invariably predisposed to disadvantage certain groups.

SG: Domestic violence is an issue you’ve brought into the public discourse through your writing. What needs to happen to affect change and create more awareness?

CF: One of the biggest things we can do is fund women’s health services around the country. They already don’t get a huge amount of funding and they have to battle for their funding every year. The people who are doing the actual work for gender equality need to be given more money and more access to public spaces to share their message. We need to start taking it seriously and stop treating it as an issue where only a handful of men will ever be implicated. It’s not just about whether you’ve raised a hand to hit a woman, it’s about the underlying foundations of sexist attitudes and belief systems. So what really needs to be cut off at the root is the very fundamentals of sexist ideas. Sexist jokes and attitudes, even if they are trickling, reinforce the idea that women are less. If the weight of a single sexist joke is a drop of water, enough drops of water will still fill an ocean.

SG: What is feminism to you?

CF: A lifesaver.