Each year, Sydney Opera House programs a day of talks and panel discussions with a focus on issues that affect women today – whether it’s excelling in traditionally male fields of work, tackling the pay gap or surviving domestic violence. All About Women is returning on Sunday March 5 (ahead of International Women’s Day on Wednesday March 8) with a line-up of kickass feminists ranging from one major Hollywood star to war correspondents, scientists, comedians, academics and women who’ve faced a barrage of online abuse.
The big headliner is Academy Award-winner Geena Davis. The Thelma & Louise star launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2007, which aims to increase the presence and representation of women in film – moving away from ‘mother’, ‘child’, ‘love interest’ to female characters on screen that represent whole, rounded human beings with agency. Davis will be talking about her campaign ‘See it, Be it’ – a call for diverse female characters in film that children under 11 can identify with; if they see themselves in a character, they can be it.
Doctor Giulia Enders, author of Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Under-Rated Organ, will be travelling to Sydney Opera House from Germany to talk about the book’s enduring popularity and the fascinating and under-researched digestive system. Scientist Carmel Johnston will be talking about life on Mars, drawing on her experience living in recreated conditions in a research centre in Hawaii.
Trigger warning: The most controversial pair of speakers on the line-up is award-winning writer and public speaker Thordis Elva and the man who raped her when she was 16, Tom Stranger. The pair were teenage sweethearts, dating while Stranger, an Australian now living in Sydney, was on a student exchange in Iceland. One month into their relationship, Elva was raped by Stranger. By the time she was able to conceive of what had happened to her as rape, Stranger had already returned home. After nine years of silence and eight years of correspondence, Elva and Stranger have made their story public in the book South of Forgiveness. Together, they will discuss the aftermath of rape and the pathway they have taken to forgiveness.
Speaking on the topic of violence against Indigenous women will be lawyer, businesswoman and social entrepreneur Josephine Cashman and Marcia Langton OA, foundation chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne, who’ll be calling for a change to attitudes and behaviour towards women in Aboriginal communities and in Australia more generally.
The line-up also includes This American Life contributor and The Guardian columnist Lindy West, Daily Life columnist and author of Fight Life a Girl, Clementine Ford. Syrian correspondent and Middle East Editor for Newsweek Janine di Giovanni, South London performer and co-founder of Touretteshero Jess Thom. Founder and editor of online literary magazines Bookslut and Spolia and author of The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats, and Ex-Countries, Jessa Crispin. Plus, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment Mei Fong.
Other event highlights include Women of Letters, Zoë Coombs Marr’s Barry Award-winning show Trigger Warning, storytelling night Story Club, The Guardian Australia’s Lucy Clark, Queen Victoria biographer Julia Baird, and a panel of Nasty Women: Van Badham, Youth Without Borders founder Yassmin Abdel-Magied and Lindy West.
Multipack tickets go on sale for All About Women on Friday December 9. Single tickets, which start from $27, go on sale on Wednesday December 14.