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March 15, 2015 | by  | in The Week In Feminism |
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The Week in Feminism

Sydney held its third All About Women conference on 8 March as part of celebrations for International Women’s Day. The conference aims to inspire discussion on important issues that matter to women and put the spotlight on Australian perspectives. Many feminist guest speakers were featured including columnist and author Roxane Gay, bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert, and media critic and blogger Anita Sarkeesian.

The speakers talked about their books and took part in panels discussing the women’s defence force, women’s part in countering global warming, and inequality in the workforce. Many of the talks and panels were streamed live to New Zealand and other parts of the world via satellite. However, if you missed it, the entire day’s events have been recorded and are available on YouTube. I recommend watching the “Women Warriors” panel which discusses what it’s like to be a woman in the military. “Conversations with Muslim Women” is another must-see panel discussion, featuring Muslim women shedding some light on the intersectional obstacles in Australia’s Muslim community, how to fight sexism within Islamic communities, and societies reactions to Muslim women as feminists.

This day marked the start of the All About Women Festival which runs through to March 29. The All About Women Festival is part of the Sydney Opera House’s Ideas at the House program—a year-long program that showcases ideas, conversations and debates from leading thinkers and motivators.

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Feminist website Femsplain was temporarily taken down by hackers on International Women’s Day. The hackers shut down the website by overloading the server, thereby making the site appear unavailable to other users. It is so far unclear as to who hacked Femsplain, but the site has received threats of hacking by anti-feminist 4chan users in the past.

Founder of Femsplain Amber Gordon says that hack attempts are common, but they have previously been able to prevent them by pre-emptively blocking the attackers’ IP addresses. Gordon believes that an attack this severe on a day intended to celebrate women is no coincidence—“It’s unfortunate but the reality of our mission.”

So what effect did these tech-savvy bastards have on Femsplain’s website? Fortunately the site was up and running within three hours of the hack. Due to coverage of the attack on social networks, Femsplain managed to turn the shitty situation around by raising their small site’s profile. This serves as a good example of the measure some people are willing to go to in order to prevent women from having a voice in safe forums and, given the day that it happened, celebrating our victories.

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President of UN Women Aotearoa New Zealand Angela McLeod made a realistic, if not slightly disheartening, speech at a Parliament breakfast celebrating International Women’s Day. She presented the statistics that indicate serious gender inequality in New Zealand: one per cent of CEOs in the top NZX companies are women, the gender pay gap still hangs around 13 per cent, and violence towards women and girls has increased over the last 20 years. She followed this with the assurance that they are aware of the challenges facing New Zealand women and they are aware of the measures necessary to overcome them.

The unspoken question, then, is why we’re not seeing constant and tangible changes and why some of the statistics have actually gotten worse. McLeod says that these changes “essentially require political will.” Well in that case, I looked forward to next year’s speech with the same statistics—or worse if our domestic violence rates continue to increase—and the same empty rhetoric.

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