Wokeness, Inequality and Awakening: All About Women Festival

Individually, we are one drop. Together we are the ocean.

On Sunday 10th March, I decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do… attend an event about empowering, educating and inspiring badass women. All About Women is a festival celebrating women and our achievements whilst critically engaging in the global discussion surrounding gender inequality, and what it looks like for women around the world.

As I was on the train en route to Sydney, I firstly took some time to think about my experience as a woman in the world today. I am a proud feminist and feel relatively ‘woke’ about women’s issues in today’s society. But no matter your ‘wokeness’ level, if you’re a woman navigating today’s society, gender inequality affects each and every one of us in different ways. This is what gender inequality feels like in my everyday life;

  • I am terrified to walk home from the train station (5 minutes from home) at night.
  • I am scared of having my drink spiked when on a night out.
  • I feel ‘lucky’ for getting a job, rather than feeling I’ve ‘earned’ it.
  • I am labelled hysterical and psycho when I am angry or emotional.
  • I think twice about what I wear out, in case I attract unwanted attention.
  • I question my male friendships.
  • I get offended by trashy hip hop music videos.
  • I second guess when I hold hands with my girlfriend in public.
  • I’m constantly told my body is not sexy enough, slim enough or (insert health influencer buzzword here) enough.
  • I’m worried I won’t have enough superannuation when I retire.
  • I hold off disclosing my sexuality straight away.
  • My heart breaks every time I hear about a woman who has died at the hands of violence.

These are just some of the ways I do not feel equal in society. But being a white woman living in Australia, I know that my experiences are vastly different than those experiences of women of colour, transgender women, women with disabilities, women of faith and any woman who identifies as part of a minority.

This is why I wanted to attend this event. To hear, learn and grow from women whose experiences are different to mine, reflect and challenge my own knowledge, and think about what the future of feminism and gender equality looks like.

The Cut On Tuesdays featuring Clementine Ford

I attended a live recording of one of my favourite podcasts called ‘The Cut On Tuesdays.’ If you haven’t heard of it, and if you’re reading this blog, you will love it and I implore you to pause. go download. listen for the 40 minutes. come back. and say with me now. WOW!

I’ve never been to a live recording of a podcast, so I can truly say I had no idea what to expect. I attended with my friend Zina, and her Mum, which was a très cool duo to attend with. Under the beautiful arches of the Sydney Opera House, in the newly refurbished Utzon room, Molly Fischer brought the house down with her brilliant episode and presentation. With such a strong voice and even stronger ‘can do’ energy, I was immediately hooked. The fact that I could see Australian feminist icon, Clementine Ford, sitting in the front row, had me wriggling nearly off my seat!

Molly spoke about ‘women’s media.’ Everything from the sealed section in Cosmo, to the buzz word badass, to evolving from a fashion blog to a major political news company, now known as The Cut. When she invited Clementine Ford on stage to discuss gender and women’s rights here in Australia, I found myself nodding along to everything they were saying. As a young woman who recently graduated from a media and communications degree, it’s pretty inspiring to hear directly from the horses mouth, the experiences and challenges associated with being a woman in the media.

When the interview was wrapping up, Clementine Ford asked Molly what she thought of Australia and the way in which we treat women, after rather explicitly suggesting Australia is a rather sexist country. Her response was interesting. Whilst having only been in the country a few days, the first thing she mentioned was the luxury Australians have by having Medicare and universal health cover. Compared to the US, we are incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful system where a doctors appointment doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars. It was also interesting to see them apply a feminist lens to healthcare. Women’s rights are human rights and society as a whole benefits when women are treated equally. It was pretty damn awesome to be in a room where I felt excited by the challenge of being a woman with a passion for the media and the critical ability to engage with it.

Wokeness and Radness: Ayishat Akanbi and Jan Fran

The next session I attended was titled the ‘The Problem With Wokeness,’ presented by Jan Fran and Ayishat Akanbi. My first question was, well what is wokeness? And is there a problem with it?

I think the first time I came across the term ‘woke,’ was Childish Gambino’s Redbone, with the line ‘Stay woke, n*ggers creepin. They gon’ find you. Gon’ catch you sleepin.’ Fast forward a few years and being woke is one of the trendiest things you can be. Upon doing some light research before this talk, I found that ‘woke’ or ‘staying woke’ originates from American people of colour about racial injustice in the US with regards to police brutality. Woke is the past tense of ‘to wake,’ implying that wokeness equates to waking up to yourself and the world around you. Seeing the world for what it really is in all its messiness. Now, wokeness equals being aware of various social injustices affecting our communities and livelihoods.

So… what’s the problem with it? Well I must admit, I was so completely absorbed by her conversation and what she had to say, that I stopped taking notes and decided to just take it in. But one of the biggest takeaways is that she argues that wokeness has stripped us of our compassion. At the end of the day, regardless of our identities, we are painfully similar and have a lot more in common that we could believe. Compassion is fundamental for creating empathy and real connections with people who are similar to use yet have experienced the world in a different way to us.

I learnt that you really can’t be woke about everything. At the end of the day, we will never truly understand everyone’s unique experiences of the world. Oppression and inequality affects people in many ways. It’s up to us to listen, learn, be allies and speak up. I learnt it’s also not worth your time or energy to argue with people who are less intelligent than you. And by less intelligent, I mean, stupid idiot internet trolls who have already made up their mind and will attack you to break you. I found this enlightening because it’s a reminder to not always take things personally. That people can be passionate about a situation, whilst being respectful to you. And when they’re not, they’re not worth your time.

Ayishat also recommended if you want to have real conversations and attempt to really debate ideas, then leave your DM’s open. It’s funny how reactionary people are in the comments section. They type first and think later. In the DM’s, it’s a whole other story. People are respectful, polite and articulate. Even when disagreeing on a topic. I honestly believe this is how you have meaningful conversations that lead towards long term change.

I left the Festival feeling incredibly inspired yet apprehensive. It’s kinda crazy attending an event where everyone there is like minded, especially in the fight for gender equality, and then you leave the safety of your bubble and realise that there are some not so woke people out there. But the takeaway is that there are people out there. Fighting the hard fight, speaking out and standing up.

We’re not there yet, and we’ve got a long way to go, but in the meantime we can lift each other up and enjoy the ride.

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