With 2020 rolling in on a red hot carpet of climate catastrophe and worrisome global leadership, we can only hope that the new decade holds positive change for the world. The Sydney Opera House’s annual feminist festival, All About Women, doesn’t promise to reveal the master key to all of society’s problems, but it does present intriguing investigations into issues and ideas that affect not just women but every member of society.
The impressive line-up of speakers that have just been announced for next year’s festival will discuss everything from the handling of sexual assault cases within the justice system to our social relationship with alcohol, the body positivity movement, and menopause. Doctor Edwina Throsby will be returning as festival director for the eighth edition of All About Women, which will focus on the connectedness of all kinds of feminists, people who identify as female, and humans more generally on International Women’s Day, March 8.
Leading the group of diverse speakers is writer and artist Chanel Miller, whose memoir, Know My Name, has fuelled discussions about sexual assault on college campuses in the US, the treatment of survivors and perpetrators in the court system, and how this is reflected in media coverage. In 2015, Miller was sexually assaulted while unconscious at a Stanford University party. Her assailant, Brock Turner, was sentenced to six months imprisonment, of which he served three months. Miller’s vivid memoir depicts the crime, subsequent court case, and aftermath of both experiences.
Writer, comedian and TV producer Lindy West – whose non-fiction work Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman inspired the popular TV series, Shrill – will bring more personal perspectives and political understanding to the table, discussing social justice, body positivity and pop-culture. Looking beyond the West, Pakistan-based journalist and author Sanam Maher will address ‘honour’ killings and domestic violence across cultures with author Jess Hill, while Middle East correspondent Azadeh Moaveni looks at the drivers and influences of women who have joined radical political groups.
Women of all ages and communities will be engaged by the huge day of talks, workshops and performances at the festival. Darcey Steinke will take a deep dive into evolving concepts of gender, taboo discussions about menopause, and women’s wants in their post-reproductive life stage. Gain insight into the enduring matrilineal lines within First Nations communities in a multi-generational discussion between Indigenous women. Panelists include artist and curator Paola Balla, poet, playwright and children’s book author Kirli Saunders, community advocate Amelia Kunoth-Monks, and her actress and activist grandmother Rosalie Kunoth-Monks.
The festival will also highlight prominent researchers like Princeton University astrophysics professor Jo Dunkley, who will look into the future of the universe, the nature of dark matter, and the impacts of female astronomers. Then, historically-upheld myths about differences in the male and female brain will be dismantled by cognitive neuroscientist Gina Rippon.
If you get a little itchy in your seat at a day of panel discussions and heated conversations, you’ll be keen to see the uncensored, physically wondrous performance by the Working Bitches. Or, get moving at workshops in African head wrapping, mixing essential oils, and digital life drawing with All About Women illustrator Alice Oehr. And if you want to say your piece about the day’s discussions, be part of Conversations with Feminists, where a huge contingent of the All About Women crew get together for a three-hour chat with festival attendees, speakers and influential locals talking about the personal and political feminist issues we’ll all face in 2020.
Presale tickets to All About Women at the Sydney Opera House are on sale from 9am on December 3, with general tickets available from December 6. Be part of the festival on International Women’s Day, March 8 2020.