#PressForProgress – Sheffield festival pushes for gender equality

The Oscars and the #MeToo movement have made headlines all over the country, but for Sheffield, the battle for gender parity and against sexual harassment has been made more personal by a Fringe Festival.

SheFest is a week-long range of activities culminating in a massive takeover of Tudor Square for International Women’s Day.

More than a day for families to have a bit of fun in the city centre, SheFest’s aim is to #pressforprogress.

The hashtag, put forth by the International Women’s Day campaign, has been localised by SheFest to push the campaign’s goal of “motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.”

The goal came about after a shocking 2017 Global Gender Gap report from the World Economic Forum revealed gender parity is more than 200 years away.

SheFest started in 2014 after local volunteers decided to square up against gender equality. In 2016, it was voted one of the best UK Festivals for International Women’s Day. Events begin today, with informative sessions, gallery displays and even coding via Google Digital Garage.

The events are diverse, as are the hosts and participants. Andro and Eve, an organisation that celebrates queer culture, is set to host a drag king cabaret at the Walkley Community Centre. The centre will be a glitzy cabaret where “everyone is encouraged to drag up and find that heaven really is a place on earth.”

Co-founders Katherine Warman and Rhiannon Scutt are enthusiastic about sharing their love for queer culture to an audience because representation matters.

They said: “the drag king scene has traditionally embraced a wide range of gender identities, and often provides an outlet for creative expression for queer people who may not feel welcome in mainstream ‘gay’ venues.”

Alex Finch, in a blog post for SheFest said the conversations and talks during SheFest are still critical despite the number of brave individuals who stood up and said #MeToo.

Dr Seán Williams, an academic at the University of Sheffield and a speaker at SheFest, said the fringe festival was an opportunity for him to bring discussions off the paper and into the public.

He said: “Public engagement is a part of academic life. This is just one of those things I do… it shows that academics are more than just an ivory tower.”

Dr Williams’ talk will look at the representation of hair loss and wigs in films with cancer as one of their themes.

He said: “The films, though problematic, respond to a popular de-sexualization of the sick.”

His talk does not aim to come up with a simple solution, but allow people to realise such issues exist and talk about them.

Dr Williams’ desire to introduce people to issues and encourage discussions can be extended to the entire festival, which will be an opportunity to “increase the number and diversity of women engaging in Women’s Day celebrations.”

SheFest will take place in Sheffield from 5 March to 11 March 2018.