On Sunday, the world celebrated another International Women’s Day. But how far we come in addressing gender equality globally? I speak with WOW (Women of the World) Australia 2020 Executive Producer Cathy Hunt, whose conference will explode onto the stages of the Brisbane Powerhouse from April 2 to 5, with more than 100 speakers including former Governor General Quentin Bryce and Australia’s first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
We’ve just celebrated International Women’s Day. Where do women currently sit?
I know that we are slipping and we’ve been slipping on many different charts. Even though we see some fantastic work, it is a hard one to push past a particular threshold. You’ve got to keep the conversation going and push these boundaries. This is not a zero-sum game. There are not “x” number of jobs and women are going to steal your jobs. If we had true gender equality it would mean more jobs for everyone.
What are the big issues women still face?
Some of the big cultural issues, and these are cultural issues, are the issues of domestic and family violence. We are still counting dead women. What is that truly about? When you pare that whole thing down it is that lack of equality from the start, which is why we do a festival.
What about men? Should there be a similar festival for men?
There is with WOW in London. They do a festival all about men. In Brisbane we include some of these elements. We are trying to open WOW up now. The odd man has come to a conversation and they walk out and the first thing they say is “it was brilliant, I wish more men could hear that.” We are encouraging everyone to bring a bloke to WOW.
Are there any male speakers?
Yes. On Wednesday, April 1, director Tom Donahue will talk about his film This Changes Everything. On Thursday, April 2, Social Commentator Jane Caro will interview Journalist David Leser about his #metoo movement book men, women & the whole damn thing. On Friday, April 3, David Leser, specialist in gendered violence Professor Patrick O’Leary, former cricketer/now educator Michael Jeh, and Group Executive Aurizon Ed McKeiver, will discuss the issue of domestic violence, and how it is not a “women’s problem” in a session called Owning It.
You also have an Under 10s Feminist Corner. What do children this age understand about feminism and what do you wish to teach them?
There’s one for boys and one for girls and they are specific workshops which teach children about issues in the playground and at home. At WOW London one year, one of the Under 10s created a petition about the issue of boys’ toys and girls’ toys and they got thousands of signatures. It was presented to a particular toy shop in London. They may not understand the term feminism, but they understand about inequality more than we realise because they begin to see the way genders are treated differently. It all starts too early, blue for a boy and pink for a girl.
You describe the main event as “three days of fun, laughter, inspiration and reflection”. What is the MAIN message you wish attendees to take home?
We want to inspire women and girls to make changes in their lives for the better and we want to give them the confidence to do that. We want to provide them with skills they may need along the way and introduce them to new networks and people on that journey. We want to bring men along on the journey with us. If you look at the UN Sustainability goals for 2030, gender equality is one of those goals. I am a true believer we won’t meet any of these goals until we have gender equality. How can we solve the climate crisis and poverty unless we think about women and children? We want people to go away inspired that they can change a situation.
Tickets to WOW are on sale now through wowaustralia.com.au, Brisbanepowerhouse.org and premier.ticketek.com.au. This colourful program includes a cabaret extravaganza Glittery Clittery, songstress Christine Anu in concert, and Spinifex Gum – a choir of young Indigenous women. Other highlights include workshops, short talks, readings and soapbox moments, and a healing space.
ISN’T it ironic, don’t you think? Yes, a little too ironic that the day I am meant to be reviewing a show called First World White Girls, every imaginable First World problem rears its ugly head. I wake up from a delectable deep sleep courtesy of last night’s meditation class (First World White Girls love yoga and meditation) and wonder what the universe has in store for me this day. Like other First World White Girls around the planet, I reach over in bed for my MacBook Air (you don’t expect me to sleep with a PC, do you?) and switch it on, only to find one of those mosquito bite emails that is going to itch all day. I sigh, and go and make my Vietnamese coffee (I’d rather DIE than drink instant), check a few more emails, and get ready for my yoga class.
There’s a green tea (First World White Girls adore green tea) and avocado on Ryvita before I have to head to a GP appointment in my air-conditioned car (I mean, really, who can live without aircon?). But wouldn’t you know it, I have to wait a whole 30 minutes in the doctor’s surgery (OK, it was on a comfy seat, with a flat screen TV, my iPhone and magazines to keep me company). I get free blood tests and pay $75 for my appointment, of which I will receive $37 back on Medicare (You mean I have to PAY something for great health care). My female doctor (yes, a woman) pens a string of scripts for other things, like valium, which are designed to make my White Girl First World more bearable.
I head off to lunch – sushi of course – with a gay male friend (First World White Girls always have gay male friends), and while waiting for my second green tea of the day and my lunch, my mate and me take turns at complaining about our mornings. Lunch takes 30 minutes to arrive, a point I make of mentioning to the waiter (does he not KNOW I’m busy?) and on the way home I pick up a skinny chai latte (First World White Girls love chai latte). But I’m annoyed as I go to pay with the spare $50 floating around my wallet and wouldn’t you know it, the till is stuck and I can neither pay nor receive my chai. Just as that serious issue is fixed, I head upstairs in the shopping centre to pick up my library books (which cost me 50 cents to reserve) but I can’t just swipe my card and leave, as I owe the library $10.20. This time my eftpos card won’t work, and so I have to pay in cash. I mean, how annoying, right?
The afternoon is spent writing, emailing and surfing Facebook until I have to knock off early and have a long, hot bath (my First World White Girl muscles are tight from all the yoga, you see) before picking up my friend for the show. But I get stuck in traffic in my air-conditioned car, and while I listen to music on my choice of radio stations, I shake my head at what a First World White Girl day I’m having. My friend jumps in my vehicle and we complain all the way to Brisbane’s Judith Wright Centre, where we stop briefly for a burger before the show. I’m relieved to find the burger joint also sells wine, I mean, after the incredibly GRUELLING day I’ve had, how could ANYONE go without wine. I snatch another one just before we enter the theatre.
If you see nothing else this year, try to get to a production of First World White Girls somewhere around Australia for this is quite possibly the best reminder you will ever have of what a fortunate life we lead. Written, composed and performed by Brisbane cabaret artists Judy Hainsworth and Kaitlin Oliver Parker, this one-hour performance is punchy and perky without being at all preachy. Dressed in floral frocks, faux fur stoles, beige shoes and hair that is coiffed to perfection, the two proceed to entertain the audience with their singing, dancing and dialogue. “Just because we have food, water and espresso pods, doesn’t mean life is easy for us,” they quip, in between sipping on San Pellegrino bottles, with a straw.
In fact, the audience is invited to participate, by writing down one (just one) First World problem on a piece of paper, which is then collected in a Tiffany bag, and read out at random. I wrote: “I can’t find a boyfriend” and regular
Global Goddess readers will know this is a life-threatening issue for me. There’s even a checklist to discern whether you are a First World White Girl which includes:
• If you throw a fit when there’s no free wi-fi
• If you chip your $80 manicure
• If you get teased for owning an Android phone
• If your friend spoils the end of Game of Thrones before you get a chance to watch it
• If you get a disastrous spray tan the day before you are bridesmaid at your best friend’s wedding
I know, I know! These are all very real issues, and I’m not sure why the UN isn’t stepping in to solve them.
By the end of this show you will have laughed your head off (that doesn’t literally happen in the First World) and taken a good, hard look at yourself. This performance may not solve all of the planet’s issues, but it does take a giant leap towards solving some of our First World Problems.
The Global Goddess was a guest of the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, which has a great program of eclectic performances throughout the year – http://www.judithwrightcentre.com To see where First World White Girls are playing next go to http://www.firstworldwhitegirls.com.au
THE invitation stipulated dress code should be “fabulous” and given I think I should be awarded a Purple Heart for stepping out of my jarmies and into a cold winter’s night, I seriously underestimated what fabulous meant. Luckily, just as I was about to leave the house in what would have been another of my many fashion faux pas, I decided to call my best friend, who was involved in the function. “No, no, no!” he laughed, when I told him what I was wearing. “Wear one of those dresses you have.” And with that, he hung up. Now, any woman can tell you that being told to wear “one of those dresses” is not altogether helpful, so running late, I clutched at my old faithful Little Black Dress and dashed out the door.
Last night was the launch of Synapse’s 2012 campaign to highlight awareness of Acquired Brain Injury. Synapse works to rehabilitate those affected by Acquired Brain Injury and to educate the public about how serious, and common, this issue is. Among a population of 22.6 million, 1.6 million Australians have an Acquired Brain Injury. And last night, guests at a Brisbane function were invited to Synapse’s annual “Bang on a Beanie” or in this case “Bang on a Boa” launch.
There was Cabaret, champagne and canapés. And necklaces, naughtiness and nipples. I have it on good advice that one or two people may have been offended by the nipples. Not me! Given that I have been known to get mine out on one or two festive occasions, I was in complete awe of the Burlesque dancers who have found a way to entertain a group of people with their nipples AND get paid for it. I even made a mental note to sign up for a class or two. What those women could do with tassels was truly terrific and to say I’ll be practicing that sometime this weekend in the privacy of my bedroom is somewhat of an understatement.
It was a night for the bold and beautiful. Like Julian Saavedra. Julian, 20, from Colombia, was ran over by a taxi two years ago and landed on his head. He spent 20 days in a coma and several months learning to walk and talk again. After leaving hospital, he suffered from depression, which still plagues him some days. But he’s a survivor. “I was at home, bored. I got a book by Synapse on surviving Acquired Brain Injury. I started to translate that into Spanish. Then I translated magazines and campaign brochures.” These days Julian works part-time with Synapse and studies French and Russian.
Then there’s Donna Sanderson, 39, a former hard-core heroin user who “scored” one night, hit her head on her bed, vomited and passed out. The vomit which blocked her airways sent her into a coma, interrupted the brain’s message to her legs, and now she’s in a wheel chair. But this Synapse board member lives independently: “Having an Acquired Brain Injury is not the end of the world.” She also sports two tattoos, the first reads: “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me” and the second are symbols for strength and courage. She aims to add wisdom to her arm sometime soon.
Lisa Cox, 32, was a healthy 24 year old when she suffered a brain hemorrhage out of the blue which left her 25% blind. She also lost 9 fingers, her left leg and her right toes and is also in a wheelchair. Lisa, who loves to write, is a motivational speaker at schools and a national ambassador for Synapse, has this message: “Brain injury can happen to anyone at any time.”
The function ended and I walked out into the crisp night air, delighted and inspired, and no longer worried about my dress or the fact it was cold. Before heading home, I decided to dance at my favourite 80s club, as a bit of a celebration for the fact I am happy and healthy. The club was teeming with gorgeous young men, all flirty, fabulous and full of life. In the course of the evening, I may have accidently touched one or two. I danced till my feet were sore and went home in the wee hours of this morning. As is often the case with me after a good night out, I’ve awoken with an inexplicable bruise on one foot, someone else’s red necklace, and without my winter coat. But I’ve still got my health. And yes, those nipples.