“SheFest facilitates a space for all of us to investigate our own intersectional identities, while connecting with others like us”

BY JOANNA KAMAL. ABOVE: MUNROE BERGDORF AT SHEFEST 2020

It’s International Women’s Day and I am surrounded by women and non-binary people in a large lecture hall waiting for Munroe Bergdorf to appear. She’s late and the crowd is excited – jovial, chatty. A small cheer ripples through the room as an organiser announces: “Munroe is in the building!” 

Munroe speaks to us about gender, identity, feminism, and queerness. At one point during the relaxed Q&A, she exclaims, “I’m so queer on so many levels!”

The account of her life and her activism is simultaneously strong, tender and vulnerable. She reminds us of the fight for her womanhood, of her transness and her blackness. Of the need to include trans people at every level of decision making; of the importance of overhauling our education system, and of the fat, black women at the foundation of the body positivity movement. 

When asked about the women that inspire her, she says: “I just love women that get people’s backs up. Why shouldn’t they? Men do it all the time.” Her words encompass the essence of SheFest: re-education, empowerment, self-acceptance and gender inclusion. 

At a SheFest event called Plates: Women, Food and Community, the feeling is the same. I see women and non-binary people hugging each other and exchanging smiles. I chat with strangers on my table like they are old friends and I am reminded of the importance of bringing like-minded people together, of the power felt when womxn are able to safely dominate a physical space, and of how profoundly moving it is when our experiences are actively centred.

Other events, such as the exhibitions and talks led by self-identifying female artists in Rotherham, or the party run by GRL, a Sheffield-based female and non-binary DJ collective, drive home the same messages. Over the course of ten days, SheFest consistently created a space for people like us to feel at home and understood. 

Amber Topaz’s show, one of the last events of SheFest, was titled “The Rude Awakening – Sex, Shame And Liberation,” humorously and informatively exploring the oft-unheard experiences of womanhood in much the same way that Munroe Bergdorf did.

It seems that SheFest facilitated a space for all of us to investigate our intersectional identities whilst simultaneously connecting with others like us and, frankly, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I think it’s time we held a hell of a lot more of these types of events in every city, in every country, across the globe. 

To learn more, click here. And keep an eye out for what’s to come next year – if you’ve not been to a festival like this one before, it’s probably time you did. 

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