Bay Area Ladyfest is this weekend!

Aaah feminism. The word itself causes a million debates, has a million different meanings and ways to define and redefine itself. It’s Kim Katrin Cosby, it’s Audre Lorde, it’s shaving and not shaving, Grace Jones and Poly Styrene, CeCe McDonald, selfies, Hollaback, fighting the wage gap, fighting to claim autonomy over our bodies, it’s creating platforms for all women to be visible and voice their experiences.* That last one is what lies at the heart of feminism for me personally, and what drew me to Ladyfest. The importance of safe spaces that prioritize marginalized experiences, whilst supporting women’s talents and creativity, is a key part of the global Ladyfest ethos, and here in the Bay Area you get a whole weekend of DIY workshops, shows, speakers and vendors doing just that! 

Bay Area Ladyfest 2013 kicked off with a movie night at Oddball Cinema last night and continues across the weekend in both San Francisco and Oakland locations. I chatted to two of the organizers, Rebecca Crump and D'Arcy Bertrand, to find out more about Ladyfest and what goes into putting it on. 

(* if some of those names up there are unfamiliar, go check them out!)

For anyone not familiar with Ladyfest, could you tell us a bit about its history and how/when Ladyfest Bay Area came about?

Rebecca - LadyFest drew inspiration from the RiotGrrl movement of the 90s, I associate it with strong feminist politics, and a punk and DIY ethic. LadyFest took these politics a step further by being trans-inclusive. I believe it all began in 2000 in Olympia, with performers like Cat Power, Sleater-Kinney and The Gossip leading the way.  I had the pleasure of performing at one of the first LadyFest Bay Area festivals in the early 2000s and it was such an amazing, liberating experience for me. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it again.

D'Arcy - Ladyfest is a feminist festival that supports the lgbt community and celebrates doing so by enjoying art, cinema, poetry, music, and many other things. Ladyfest is about respect and is inclusive of people who are not lgbt.

There are so many amazing womyn in the Bay Area doing their thing: how do you choose the bands, workshops, speakers and vendors? (is there a specific theme for example?)

Rebecca - We are pretty explicit about our festival being Feminist with a capital F. This is not Lilith Fair, Feminist is not a bad word. We basically put the word out and then as a collective, we pour over the submissions and vote on them. This year we hoped to have lots of Queers and POC represented.

D'Arcy - It is indeed a challenge choosing because it is impossible to pick a favorite. For me I chose artists and vendors that compliment one another with what they had to offer.

How do you choose the organizations (Charlotte Maxwell Complimentary Clinic in Oakland, and St James Infirmary in San Francisco) that Ladyfest Bay Area gives the proceeds to?

Rebecca - We look for organizations that are feminist, that aren’t as well known in the community.  Places that could really use the extra boost.

D'Arcy - Democracy! We vote!

What are the challenges of putting a Ladyfest on?

Rebecca - We have a shoestring, DIY budget, so getting venues is always a bit tough.

D'Arcy - Picking favorites? Lol. Really making time was hard for me in the planning of Ladyfest. It takes many months to prepare but is well worth it.

I saw this question posed to the organizers of Ladyfest Philly and I liked it so much that I’m going to ask you the same thing - Ladyfest Bay Area is clearly about more than just gender and feminism, taking more of an intersectional approach to creating an anti-oppressive space. Can you explain why that has been important in organizing the fest?

Rebecca - We want everyone to feel at home at LadyFest. While we are specifically celebrating artists and performers that are gender minorities, just like Feminism, LadyFest is not just for cis or trans women. LadyFest is for ALL of us in our diversity of gender expressions to enjoy. 

D'Arcy -This is only a hard question for me because it seems so clear to me that people need to be at least respectful of one another. There is a long history of oppression towards women and it still continues today. It doesn't persist AS much today because we have created space to not be oppressed. This is us doing our part to keep that beautiful strength alive!

And lastly, individually, is there anything you’re particularly looking forward to out of all the events happening this week?

Rebecca - I am really looking forward to hearing Julia Serrano speak.  And the radical workshops will also be a highlight: Kids Liberation Workshop, Lady Shred Session By SF Skate Like A Girl, Healing Our Queer Spirits- Healing Circle, Responsible Queer Curation. So much goodness to be had!

D'Arcy - Partying and accomplishing much more.

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For more information on Bay Area Ladyfest and the fantastic line-up of events, click here. Check them on Facebook as well, and if you're attending on Saturday, come say hi to me (Sarah) at the ‘How Are Your Insides?’ table  (I'll be selling my zines there. Look for a neon cover that says ‘My Family’s Vaginas.’ I’m all about subtlety).