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Review: The Fairer Sex: Women of the World Festival 2014

 

From 5-9 March (2014) I attended the WoW Festival at the Southbank Centre. Women of the World is a mixing ground for all walks of life, boasting a diverse program over 3-days, it is not a festival just for women, WoW is a festival for the partners, the friends, and the support systems around women. There is inspiration, entertainment, and knowledge being exchanged inside and outside of the festival. You can’t talk about WoW without WoWzers, the fringe festival that runs parallel to the program, a big part of the festival being the network on the outside of the symposia for those unable to attend in earnest.

There were questions asked and material presented that just missed the mark in their candor. In a celebration of women, as the festival was, there seemed to be an air of reservation hanging over the proceedings in parts, a problem that happens in many auspicious endeavors now a days. I noticed it with the “Porn” talk that came across as tangential to the actual discussion, what role sex education should play in society. In any instance where there is not a member of the group being discussed, i.e. performers, porn producers, porn directors, porn distributors, presented on stage to talk about their practice in the midst of academics of the subject, red flags should be raised. The discussions of “Trafficking”, and “Who Owns Your Body?” took steps toward breaking down the doors around women’s rights, but the missing piece on “Sex Work” being left out the discussion, one that affects the rights of women to work with their bodies in an unconventional manner to earn a living without interference from a male dominated engine seemed like a pulled punch. “Does Page 3 Make the World a Better Place?” It was the high impact topic with the recent issue of The Sun partnering with the breast cancer charity, Coppafeel. This talk was extremely polarizing, but practically nonissues in itself with the weight of the sentiments around the topics. A frank and open discussion on sex work wouldn’t have solved the problem but would have been a refreshing discourse to deal with the issues of violence against women, the agency of women, and women’s privacy in the public sphere.

With a strong showing of support behind it, next year will mark the 5th year of the Women of The World Festival. On such an anniversary there is bound to be some excitement brewing. I was present for an excellent discussion called “Louboutins and Landfill: How to be a Sustainable Fashionista” covering not only how to make your look sustainable but the ethics of the fashion industry, I just missed the back and forth between Vivienne Westwood and Shami Chakrabarti, and I caught talks on the Clore Ballroom between conversations. Fortunately, there is a dearth of content online making it easy for me to catch up anything I missed, well, almost anything. I was unable to attend the life drawing session as it was women only. Why shouldn’t there be a women only space within the World of Women Festival? At the end of the day the World of Women Festival is about empowerment. The Daughters of Eve brought a face for women affected by FGM, giving content that was fresh, and engaging. The keynote by Jude Kelly was dynamite in filling in those blanks left during the festival and leaving the audience on their feet ready to make a change for the better.