I spent this past weekend at the Women of the World Festival at London's Southbank Centre and enjoyed the most satisfying two days I've had all year. I left a little knackered and overwhelmed but also, and more importantly, inspired, rejuvenated, excited, blessed, grateful and generally feeling that I need to be spending more time around lots of women.
When I got home, I spent a couple of hours downloading all of this information to my partner and thought that breaking it down into chunks would be a better approach for the blog. Every day this week, I'll be sharing highlights from my time at the festival. You can look forward to:
- Some great discoveries: organisations, artists, sites and people that you need to check out
- Highlights from my WOW Bites presentation, Digital Tapestries
- Celebrating fashion and why it's not frivolous
- Female sexuality (from gender violence to being a lady, from racism to reclaiming the magazine stand!)
- Food, identity and feminism
A funny anecdote antidote
One of the best moments I had at WOW was participating in a Funny Women workshop. Imagine a room full of 50 odd women, from different continents and varied backgrounds, probably ranging in age from 10 to 70. Funny Women founder, Lynne Parker, challenged us to drop our inhibitions for one hour, to be whoever we wanted to be and to look at ourselves through the eyes of the women who know us best. It was frightening, liberating and ultimately reaffirming.
In one exercise, we had to impersonate our mothers, sisters or best friends and talk, in that character, about ourselves. To a complete stranger. It was amazing to find out that pretty much every woman in the room saw these mothers, sisters and friends as being proud of them. Enlightening how stepping outside yourself makes it so much easier to really see yourself.
The candour and the vulnerability that was shared between this group of strangers shows just how much of a safe space a group of positive women can provide. A platform for you to jump forth, past doubt, fear and imagined barriers, through to making the life you want. As Lori Halford shares in things she learned this weekend, over on the official WOW blog:
"The best way to recover from the hardest times in your life is by finding support from those who truly understand what you’re going through."
Many narratives, one anthology
Throughout the weekend, it was interesting to see similar themes popping up at very diverse events. Themes like how our societies allow very narrow spaces in which we are 'allowed' to exist. Themes like the need for more awareness, especially when it comes to the subtle prejudices (to do with gender, race, religion, heritage and so much more) that so many of us (people, including women) can be complicit in propagating. It all reinforces that, as different as our backgrounds, experiences and lives may be, ultimately, we have a huge amount in common. And if that isn't a reason for solidarity …
Stay tuned for more dispatches this week.