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Australia to hold first of its kind ‘Feminist Writers Festival’ at Melbourne in August

The festival aims to break down and challenge the barriers that feminist writers face

  • Women make up 50% of the population in Australia, but only have 26% representation in parliament
  • In Australia, women on an average make 17.5% less than men
  • The Feminist Writers Festival will be held on August 27 and 28 in Melbourne, Australia

Feminism is a political movement that involves people campaigning for equality granted towards women. In Australia, they have declared a Feminist Writers Festival, and there is much hype around it. There are some appalling facts in regards to feminism in Australia. In Australia, women on average make 17.5% less than men. Women make up 50% of the population in Australia, but only have 26% representation in parliament. Finally, one in three women has experienced sexual or physical violence in their lifetime.

Keeping these facts in mind it is not hard to understand why people are fighting for equality. Many people have spoken out about it. At the Sydney Writers Festival, Gloria Steinem simply stated, “Just don’t ask us if feminism is still relevant.”

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Openly being a feminist writer in today’s world is no easy task. In fact, often times the few and the brave women who declare themselves as such, are ridiculed. This was the case with Clementine Ford. On January 25, Ford innocently tweeted-

“Writing a book is the hardest thing I have ever done. #homestretch”

Funny Feminist Make Me a Sandwich Poster. Image source: zazzle.com.au
Funny Feminist Make Me a Sandwich Poster. Image source: zazzle.com.au

This received almost instant backlash from Gary Orsum, a YouTube user. Orsum opened his YouTube video mocking Ford, claiming her tweet was hilarious. He then found a sewer worker and addressed him as such, “Excuse me mate, um, Clementine Ford’s having a pretty hard time of it. Would you mind letting her do your really cruisy job as a sewer worker for a week, while you take on the hardest job ever in the world of writing a book and stopping whenever you feel like it to make a cup of tea and get on twitter and abuse men?” Unfortunately for Ford and other feminist writers, the video has over nine thousand views and four hundred likes.

For anyone looking to get into feminist writing, this story can leave a daunting impression of the backlash you will receive for even the most innocent of opinions you may have. It is clear that the world has much farther to go in accepting feminist writers, and hopefully, the festival aids in this movement.

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That is just one example of what feminist writers have to deal with. A clear indicator that something must change can actually be found among the main twelve Australian review publications. When looked into, there is a clear bias regarding male reviewers towards male authors.

The festival aims to break down and challenge the barriers that feminist writers face. They are attempting to, “free people from historic boxes” says Cristy Clark, Chair of the Festival. The festival is made up of a diverse group of committee members, Celeste Liddle (aboriginal origin), Maxine Beneba Clarke (Afro-Caribbean), and Shakira Hussein (Pakistani). Each woman, although having different roots, sets out with the goal to challenge the conventional way people tend to think about writers and their works.

The women passionately backing the festival realize that things will not change immediately. They do hope that they open up channels of communication and support among feminist writers so that change will happen gradually.

-by Abigail Andrea, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @abby_kono

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