WOW Saturday Pass!

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So I mentioned on Saturday 8th March, also known as International Women’s Day, that I would be attending the Women of the World (WOW) Festival at the Southbank Centre, London. I had such an incredibly inspiring, interesting and empowering day that I now wish I had bought tickets for the whole three day event (at only £30 for the whole weekend, or £12 for day passes it is such a bargain!).

All in all, I was able to attend four talks (and there was so much to choose from). Me and my uni friend decided on Fighting the Neurotrash, Online Bullying, Feminism and Privilege and the Pick of the Festival, which included soundbites from Politics of Afro Hair, The Liberty Session and State Failure, Being a Man and the Under Ten’s Feminist Corner. I thought I would share some of the notes I made whilst listening to these talks, but the videos can be viewed online on the Southbank Centre Youtube Channel.

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Fighting the Neurotrash, with Professor Gina Rippon and MP Chi Onwurah, in association with ScienceGrrl:

  • Looked at how science has been, and still is being, used to enforce cultural attitudes and gender stereotypes – for example, men can’t empathise and women can’t read maps.
  • Fighting the Neurotrash is not just about freeing women from these gender constraints, or ‘neurosexism’, but freeing men as well.
  • Perfect example of Neurotrash: The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine.
  • Brains are malleable and permeable as a function of what’s going on around us and our environment – the brain can always adapt.
  • Publication bias – scientists are constantly under pressure to publish and as publishers only find it most interesting to only publish significant findings, the science behind it can, therefore, be distorted or taken out of proportion.
  • Science doesn’t always take into account factors such as socioeconomic status or education, instead they tend to focus on gender as this is the easiest aspect to record.
  • There is more difference between a large group of female brains rather than between the sexes.
  • Recommended reading: Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences by Cordelia Fine.

Online Bullying, with comedian Ava Vidal, TIME Magazine Editor Catherine Mayer, campaigner Catherine Criado-Perez and Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos Jamie Bartlett, chaired by journalist Kira Cochrane:

  • 2013 has been a watershed moment for women speaking up about rape threats they have experienced on online social media platforms such as Twitter.
  • Abuse against women, generally, who try to move into the public space.
  • Between December 26th 2013 – February 9th 2014 there were over 100,000 cases of the use of the word ‘rape’ on Twitter in the UK alone.
  • Over the course of January 2014 there were over 130,000 cases of the use of the words ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ on Twitter in the UK – a lot of these cases were used by young girls.
  • Ava Vidal on how she deals with the abuse she receives on Twitter and on her Wonder Women articles for The Telegraph: ‘to be silent is to be complicit’.
  • Ava doesn’t just receive sexist comments but racist comments as well.
  • Caroline Criado-Perez – co-founder of The Women’s Room and campaigner of keeping women on the banknotes, talked very personally about her experience of Twitter trolling after winning the campaign to keep women on the banknote.
  • Criado-Perez showed us some of the Tweets she received from men, which were horrific in their sexually explicit and violent content.
  • There was a debate on the positives and negatives of the ‘cloak of anonymity’ that can surround social media.

Feminism and Privilege, with Nan Sloane – director of the Centre for Women and Democracy, Reni Eddo-Lodge – writer and contributing editor at Feminist Times, Eleanor Lisney of Sisters of Frida and Marcia McMahon (I hope I have spelt that right) – author and trans acivitist, chaired by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown:

  • Looked at whether feminism has been, and still is, too white and too middle-class.
  • ‘Intersectionality’ – coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to describe when two or more identities clash, for example, feminism and race, feminism and disability or feminism and class.
  • It is important to recognise and be honest about your privilege as well as to recognise your oppression.
  • However, privilege-checking can stop the conversation when what we really need is more dialogue between the different groups of women.
  • Patriarchy hurst everyone but men are the ones who benefit from it the most.
  • Feminism has, in the past, been wholly irrelevant to the majority of communities, such as working-class women, women of colour, disabled women, trans women, etc.
  • Feminism should be less of an intellectual movement and focus more on activism.

Of course I couldn’t go away from the festival without being inspired to buy the Delusions of Gender book by Cordelia Fine, which was mentioned in the talk on Fighting the Neurotrash. The next day I popped into a bookshop in Brighton (I was making the most of the sunshine and my weekend off work!) and found the last and only copy they had. I also couldn’t resist the WOW merchandise either!

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