by Tara Thorne
It’s good to be a woman in Halifax this weekend with the kickoff of the inaugural Atlantic Waves conference, two days of talks, workshops, panels and networking about issues and concerns facing Atlantic Canadian women.
“This conference is timely and significant,” says organizer Kristel vom Scheidt. “The Conservatives are trying to shut the door on organizations working to improve women’s lives, and Harper needs to know that we will not be silenced.”
“I was volunteering on the NDP campaign,” says conference coordinator Krista Davis, “licking envelopes with this woman who referred to herself as a feminist more times than I had ever heard in my life. She was talking about having an army of feminist babies to overthrow the patriarchy. She said, ‘You should come to a planning meeting,’ so I did. It’s been a trip, that’s for sure.”
The conference, which takes place October 14 and 15 at Saint Mary’s University, includes a wide array of speakers—including Caitlin Beaulieu, Pamela Harrison, Joan Jessome and keynote speaker Bernadette MacDonald—on panels and leading workshops on subjects including activism, queer culture, parental rights, politics and health. On Saturday there will also be a vendor boutique where women will be sellling their arts and crafts or promoting their organizations.
“This is something that has kind of a history in Halifax,” says Davis. “We’re really bringing together these women that did this in the early ’80s and bringing it together to learn from these women. Feminism has kind of been dormant for a little while, but we’re going to try to bring it back.”
“Personally, I was always under the impression that I’m very lucky to be female,” she adds. “Even being an artist: Being a white male artist is difficult. So I always felt I was lucky to be a girl and didn’t even think about the steps we had taken to get to play the game. I can play the game—you flirt, you get tips. I didn’t even realize it at the time. Then I read this book called 10,000 Roses, a history of second-wave Canadian feminism.” (By Judy Rebick of rabble.ca.)“I was reading it and I was crying and laughing and couldn’t believe I hadn’t learned any of this in school. And there’s this whole part of being female that I was not even aware of. Feminism is a word with negative connotations—that one group that burned their bras. And I think that people don’t need to worry about it because they can play the game.”
The conference will be twinned with the second annual FemFest, which has two components. There’s an art show, FemFest Art, which will be held at the Khyber Centre for the Arts—“installations throughout the building; the Khyber Club, alternative spaces and the Turret Room,” says Davis, who is the Khyber’s programming coordinator. The 17-artist line-up includes Sym Corrigan, Tonia DiRisio, Muriel Zimmer, Anna Taylor, Brenna Phillips and Emily Vey Duke. The show opens at 6pm on October 14 and runs until the 21st.
The reception will be immediately followed by a night of performance down the hill at Reflections. Hosted by Taryn Della, FemFest boasts a ridiculously talented group of singers, speakers and performers. A mere $7 ($5 in advance at Venus Envy or the SMU Women’s Centre) will get you The Raging Grannies, Asna Adhami, Feral Bliss, Leigh Brown, Clearing By Noon, Amelia Curran, Kool Krysh, Angela Parsons, Rosalyn Illucci, Pink Velvet Burlesque, The Radical Cheerleaders, Whiskey Kiss, Mufaru, Skank Williams and possibly the most exciting performer in Halifax right now, Tanya Davis.
A conference of this type is needed now “in light of the Conservative government that we all have to deal with,” says Davis, “and their cuts to everything. For them women and children come last, art comes last. Art to them is big-budget films and tourism.”
You can register for Atlantic Waves right up until Saturday. The cost is $60 or $30 for students/unwaged. Registration forms and the event’s entire schedule are available online at www.atlanticwavesconference.ca
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