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All About Women 2023

This year's three-day lineup features Bikini Kill, child actor-turned-'I’m Glad My Mom Died' author Jennette McCurdy and human rights barrister Jennifer Robinson.
By Sarah Ward
January 17, 2023
By Sarah Ward
January 17, 2023

In its entire concept, Sydney Opera House's All About Women has always pushed girls, ladies and women to the front. So, the fact that the 2023 version of its key feminist festival will feature riot grrrl pioneers Bikini Kill couldn't be more perfect. That in-conversation event is just the beginning of the event's program, however, with the complete bill also going big on high-profile guests — such as child actor-turned-I'm Glad My Mom Died author Jennette McCurdy and human rights barrister Jennifer Robinson.

Former iCarly star McCurdy will chat through her experiences, including growing up in the spotlight, finding her independence and the events that led to her New York Times best-selling memoir, in an Australian-exclusive conversation. After successfully representing Amber Heard in Johnny Depp's UK libel case, Robinson will feature in a panel called 'The War on Women', about fighting for both rights and lives, alongside Egyptian American journalist Mona Eltahawy, Pakistani author and journalist Fatima Bhutto, and Mununjali Yugambeh and South Sea Islander Professor Chelsea Watego.

Running from Saturday, March 11—Monday, March 13, All About Women's 2023 festival marks its 11th, and sees the event held across three days for the first time ever — growing again after it only just expanded to two days in 2022, in fact. And, in another significant change for this year, the event's lineup is guided by four festival co-curators. Doing the honours: author, podcast presenter and gender equality advocate Jamila Rizvi; Gamilaroi academic and Tell Me Again author Dr Amy Thunig; feminist social commentator, novelist and writer Jane Caro AM; and Sydney Opera House's Head of Talks and Ideas Chip Rolley.

Their full program includes 25 events featuring 60-plus international and Australian artists, thinkers, and storytellers, starting with an evening of storytelling, poetry, dance and music for the fest's Opening Night Gala, hosted by Clare Bowditch and featuring actor Eryn Jean Norvill (The Picture of Dorian Gray), "mother of African contemporary dance" Germaine Acogny, Iranian Australian singer and instrumentalist Gelareh Pour, and Fatima Bhutto. And, it also spans Cult Classic author Sloane Crosley chatting about modern dating with journalist Maddison Connaughton — and a romance and reality TV-focused discussion between Bachelorette Brooke Blurton, Just The Gist podcaster Rosie Waterland, and Gamilaroi and Torres Strait Islander writer and actor Nakkiah Lui.

In a session about neurodivergence in women and gender-diverse people, 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame, Heartbreak High's Chloe Hayden, and research psychologist and activist Dr Jac den Houting will talk with Thunig — and a panel examining trying to achieve justice in sexual abuse claims, and the trauma the process can bring, will feature sexual assault law reform advocate Saxon Mullins, criminal lawyer Katrina Marson, Yorta Yorta woman and survivor advocate Amanda Morgan, and lawyer and author Bri Lee.

Or, attendees can look forward to Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies scholar Kylie Moore-Gilbert hosting a session on the women-led revolution in Iran, as joined by Pour, scholar and poet Dr Saba Vasefi, and author and journalist Shokoofeh Azar; plus a panel about the body positivity movement's struggles to be genuinely inclusive, featuring Wadjanbarra Yidinji, Jirrbal and African-American former model Sasha Kutabah Sarago, body love activist and podcaster April Hélène-Horton aka The Bodzilla, fashion editor and queer rights activist Deni Todorovič, disability rights campaigner Elly Desmarchelier, and comedian and broadcaster Tanya Hennessy.

The list goes on, covering Clementine Ford exploring the history of demonising single women, a session on women's activism through a First Nations lens, diving into starting a family in a modern world, unpacking gendered emotions, and turning Eltahawy's FEMINIST GIANT newsletter into a panel. The Girlboss movement, making tough decisions, the shame often imposed on women and girls, leading movements, a Bikini Kill gig: they all get their time in focus, too.

Just like in 2022, the festival will host its sessions in-person for Sydneysiders, and will also live-stream to viewers both around Australia and worldwide — which is ace news if you live outside of the Harbour City.

Debi Del Grande

Top image: Jacquie Manning.

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