Former White House staffer Tina Tchen. Comedian Zoë Coombs Marr. Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young. Journalist and philosopher Carolin Emcke. These are just some of the high-profile speakers soon gracing the Sydney Opera House stage on March 10 for the All About Women festival.
Designed “to make you think and push your boundaries”, the event – now in its seventh year – is officially positioned as a “vibrant day that asks questions about gender, justice and equality”. According to Edwina Throsby, Sydney Opera House’s head of talks and ideas, it’s also a great reason to connect with the city and its people.
“I would really encourage people to come and recognise most people have similar concerns about our community and our world,” says Throsby. “The more conversations that can be started in lines or foyers, while looking at things or doing workshops, I think the better for the feminist movement globally.”
With talks, panels, workshops and more running from 9am to 7:30pm across the entire day, nearby sustenance is essential. Fortunately the Opera House surrounds offer some of Sydney’s best walk-in eats and drinks: hit up Ground Control Café on Alfred Street opposite the ferry terminal for coffee and snacks to get going; grab a late-afternoon slice at Frankie’s Pizza, a 15-minute walk from the Sydney Opera House; and to close the day, finish with a drink at Employees Only on Barracks Street, the Sydney outpost of a famous “secret” New York institution.
If you decide to stay overnight, it’s worth basing yourself in Surry Hills just to stay in the lush Paramount House Hotel, where you’ll be treated to a decadent experience no matter which room you stay in. Stroll to the nearby TITLE bookstore on Crown Street the next morning to pick up some feminist reading material for the plane ride home.
With many of the speakers appearing exclusively in Sydney, we asked Throsby for five highlights from the program.
The Problem with Wokeness with Ayishat Akanbi
“Ayishat Akanbi is a really incredible voice out of the UK,” Throsby says of the stylist and cultural critic who in this panel will discuss the concept of “wokeness”. “I really like the way she thinks because it’s completely unconstrained by fashion – which is ironic for her because she works in fashion. She’s a stylist and a real fashion-forward figure in the English cultural scene prepared to say things that go against what a lot of people are thinking”.
Akanbi will discuss her radical exploration of the limits of wokeness, which she argues has “robbed many people of compassion and replaced it with moral superiority”, with SBS broadcaster Jan Fran.
The Future of Feminism
Ayishat Akanbi will also appear on a panel on the future of feminism, joined by Aya Chebbi, a Pan-African feminist and African Union Youth Envoy, as well as rising Indigenous activist Aretha Brown.
“She’s fantastic,” says Throsby of Brown. “She’s extremely young and only just started talking publicly.” Currently the prime minister of the National Indigenous Youth Parliament, you might also recognise Brown from her speech at last year’s Australia Day protest in Melbourne.
Being the Boss with Tina Tchen
In a coup for Sydney and the event, former White House staffer and Time’s Up co-founder Tina Tchen will discuss her achievements, as well as the challenges of being the boss.
Throsby says the practicing lawyer, who was once chief-of-staff to Michelle Obama and worked with Barack Obama is “an incredible powerhouse of a women. She’s also been working really hard on the Time’s Up movement, the practical response to the #MeToo movement. She has taken it to the next level. I think she’s incredibly inspirational and fascinating.”
Live podcast recordings
Chief among Throsby’s excitement this year is a series of live podcast recordings happening at the event. These include The Waves, formerly Double X Gabfest; The Cut on Tuesdays, a venture of Gimlet and New York magazine, and Witch Hunt, with Guardian Australia’s Gabrielle Jackson and Melissa Davey.
“For years The Waves has been one of my go-to podcasts when something happens that demands a feminist response,” says Throsby. “It’s like sitting down with your friends and having a chat about the ins and outs of whatever might be going on.
The Cut is a fairly new podcast about the intersections of our political activism and personal lives, while Witch Hunt sees Guardian Australia journalists Gabrielle Jackson and Melissa Davey delve into the world of women’s health in a post #MeToo environment, looking at the complexities of dismissal, misdiagnosis and medical gaslighting.
Te Kopere Maori Healers
Combining singing, dancing, massage and herbal remedies, a group of experienced healers from New Zealand will share the traditional Maori healing practice known as Rongoa Maori in an intense and holisitic session held in the caves of the Sydney Opera House’s northern foyers.
Throsby says it’s unlike anything else on offer at the festival. “People who have done this workshops say it’s like a transcendental experience,” says Throsby. ““I think it’s a really special and beautiful thing on the program this year and tickets for that are going to fill really quickly.”
All About Women takes place on March 10 at the Sydney Opera House.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with City of Sydney.