Women of the World festival 10th anniversary, Southbank
PUBLISHED: 17:07 09 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:07 09 March 2020
The Guilty Feminist, Caroline Criado Perez and Jess Philips were among the attractions at a three day festival of big ideas, activism, comedy and stories
The tenth WOW festival coincided with the 200th Guilty Feminist podcast by Camden Town comic Deborah Frances White.
White's compellingly eclectic shows, which start with multiple admissions of 'I'm a feminist but..' perfectly sum up the women-centric blend of activism, inclusivity, debate and fun in a not too judgmental atmopshere.
Jude Kelly started this big tent of a festival a decade ago when she was running the Southbank Centre and on every International Women's Day since, it has offered a prominent platform for big ideas, personal stories, and marginalised voices.
WOW is now international, hosted by 17 countries from Pakistan to Brazil and like women themselves, no two are the same.
This year's three-day London programme ranged from discussions on mental health, trans activism and fertility, to fashion, disability rights, and how to have feminist sex.
The audience was respectful and attentive, the line-up thoughtfully diverse, with race, religion, sexuality, age and ability more equally represented than any panel show you care to name.
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With her authenticity, humour and can-do activism, Jess Philips struck a chord as a champion of women's rights as she talked about her book Truth to Power - the biggest takeaway was 'never waste a crisis' - something she'll hopefully apply after Labour's disastrous election result.
Hampstead author Jessica Hepburn chaired a session on infertility and Gospel Oak campaigner Caroline Criado Perez introduced her book Invisible Women which exposes the data bias in a world designed by men.
An essay by Sabeena Akhtar on the invisibility of working class Muslim women and her personal experience of Islamophobia showed movingly how the personal is very definitely political.
Belsize Park human rights lawyer Dame Helena Kennedy chaired a panel that included inspirational campaigners Gina Martin, who managed to get upskirting made illegal, and actor Liz Carr, who when not handcuffing herself to buses to champion disability rights is being cast in a Hollywood blockbuster.
Meanwhile Brook Charity sex educator Ruby Rare encouraged us to have more orgasms and a quartet of funny women ranged from an ex Jehovah's Witness slung out at 13 for being gay, to some near the knuckle gags about the slog of motherhood.
From the gender pay gap to domestic abuse, sexual violence to discussions on race and climate change, Kelly emphasised the importance of offering and taking space, and the power of both the individual and collective to demand equality and create change.
'Individually we are powerful but together we are unstoppable.'
As for her 200th podcast, The Guilty Feminist saw an enlivening discussion on why likeability is the bane of women's lives, Bridget Christie's song about cry-baby anti-woke actor Laurence Fox that may have shot at an open goal, but was nevertheless hilarous, and the more tuneful, extraordinary soulful tones of rising star Joy Crookes. Stimulating, energising and a bit exhausting.
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