Exciting announcement: on Sunday April 7 Daily Life will co-host a festival of ideas about the issues that matter most to women. The event will be held at The Sydney Opera House and will feature an exciting program of debates, panels and talks by inspiring women. The line up includes international guests Ayaan Hirsi Ali (author of Infidel) and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. It will also feature appearances by Daily Life bloggers Clementine Ford, Sarah MacDonald and Julia Baird. We asked Ann Mossop, head of public programs at the Sydney Opera House and curator of All About Women to reveal some more details about the day.
Daily Life: What is All About Women all about?
Festival Director Ann Mossop.
Ann Mossop: All about Women is about ideas that matter to women, and making sure that these are well and truly part of public debate. There is a lot to talk about, so the day is really a snapshot of current issues and the chance to hear from some extraordinary women.
DL: Why did you choose to launch this event?
AM: In our Ideas at the House series, we present regular talks and many more of the public intellectuals who are part of our program are men than women. When we were looking at the great speakers we had lined up last year ‑Alain de Botton, Richard Dawkins, Michael Pollan ‑ we saw a certain gender uniformity. We developed The F Word with Germaine Greer, Naomi Wolf, Eliza Griswold, Clem Bastow and Jenny Brockie and the event sold out, there was great buzz and lots of interesting discussion, so we wanted to do something similar again.
Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Photo: Steven Siewert SWS
When our new CEO Louise Herron joined the Sydney Opera House last year, she wanted to build on this so All about Women was developed.
DL: How and why did you select the speakers involved in the panels? What do you expect of them?
AM: We are always looking for interesting, current ideas and people who can talk about them knowledgeably and with passion. We also want to find people who our audiences might not otherwise see, and who have fascinating personal stories. The sessions in the Festival have different formats, so there is not a standard contribution that we expect from speakers. We really want them to come and talk about things that matter to them and to engage with our audiences.
DL: Which event do you expect to generate the most debate and why?
AM: M is for Misogyny will be a contentious session, but speakers like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Leymah Gbowee will also get people talking. Of course, if we are talking about what is the watercooler topic the day after, it may well be parenting tips from Paris, or your own take on the myths about sex addiction and sexual attraction.
DL: What event on the program are you most looking forward to and why?
AM: I am really looking forward to hearing from Leymah Gbowee. She was one of the Nobel Peace Prize winners in 2011 and was honoured for her work as the leader of Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace that helped end the Second Liberian Civil War. She has an amazing story to tell.
I am also really keen to see the panel M is for Misogyny which will bring our international guests together on stage, because when people get together, the result is unpredictable and exciting.
DL: Feminism has become rather popular in recent months. What is your take on the mainstreaming of feminism, and where do you think the feminism stands now?
AM: The ‘popularity’ of feminism has been waxing and waning for more than 100 years, so I am not so concerned about whether it is fashionable, more about what current interest means that we can do as a new generation tries to figure out what it means to them. Women in Australia now are in a strong enough position to have an impact on the intractable issues, and if not to solve them, to get them out into the open for real discussion. I think we need to go well beyond debating what feminism is or isn’t and think about what still needs to change for women to have real freedom and equality. There is also a chance internationally for feminism to be a global movement in a way that second-wave feminism never quite managed, which is a very exciting possibility.
DL: What do you hope attendees get out of the event?
AM: New ideas, a great day with friends, good conversations, something useful and inspiration from amazing women.
DL: Do you expect many men to attend?
AM: I would expect to see a good proportion of men at the event, as we have seen at other events in the past.
DL: What kind of impact do you hope that the event will have on the issues affecting women (and men) today?
AM: I hope that the event will get people thinking and talking about the issues, and act as a catalyst for women to think about what matters in their own lives, and what matters to other women in Australia and throughout the world.
DL: How will you decide the success of the event?
AM:There are always tangible and intangible measures of success. Of course we want lots of people to come and to enjoy the day and get a lot out of it. We want people to go on talking about the ideas and make this an ongoing conversation and our partner Daily Life will be a key part of doing this. But the success of any event also depends on indefinable things, like the atmosphere and whether people are excited to be there, so we’ll have to try and capture this on the day.
DL: What are the challenges in an event such as this?
AM: Persuading people to come to Australia can be a challenge sometimes, but really the challenges are the same as for any event of this kind: getting the right people and great ideas, and making it all happen. We have great speakers and our beautiful venues, so once we have the audience, we’ll be set.
DL: What are the key focuses/issues that the event will hone in on?
AM: There are really quite a diverse range of issues that we will be talking about, and people can choose what they want to hear about. We are looking at international issues, personal issues, things to do with work, with relationships, with family. If you wanted to focus on the personal, you could spend the whole day thinking about parenting, sex, whether to have children. You could decide that work was your focus and come to sessions like How to be brave or How to juggle or you could spend the day thinking about the lives of women in other parts of the world. I think that mixing it up will probably be the most fun, and that it will also be about choosing which of our amazing speakers you want to see.
All About Women, co-presented by Daily Life, will be held at the Sydney Opera House on April 7. For a full list of speakers and events visit The Sydney Opera House.