Cheryl Siecker (left) and Maria Yates (right) hold up the newest Bay Area Ladyfest poster.
Have you noticed some new fliers wheatpasted in your neighborhood? Maybe featuring two women embracing, with the word "LADYFEST" loudly displayed underneath?
It's been eight long years since the Bay held its own Ladyfest - the female-positive music and arts festival, which has spread from its Olympian riot "grrrl roots" to every continent on the globe except Antarctica - but it's finally back. And (internalized misogyny beware) it's happening this weekend.
Since the first Ladyfest, the festival has grown to become a space that showcases art and music by not just women, but queer and trans folks as well - a growth that has definitely been a launching point for the organizers of the 2012 Bay Area Ladyfest.
Although the recreation of the festival is the result of work done by a collective group, the idea was first a gleam in the eye of recent Oakland migrant, Vee Vee Satan, a 21-year-old originally from San Bernardino, who moved to Oakland shortly after being involved with a Ladyfest in Riverside. Group members were shocked to learn the Bay hadn't seen a Ladyfest since 2004 - but that wasn't their only reason for feeling the festival's reinstatement was imperative.
"When I came to the Bay, I went to different meetings and organizing groups and I felt like my voice wasn't being heard a lot of the time - and I felt like it was super male dominated," Satan said. "It was different situations, even the music scene that wasn't political. I was being talked over in different types of meetings, political, a lot of anarchist type meetings."
Inspired by their experience working with Riverside Ladyfest and determined to create a space focused on empowering women, trans and queer individuals, Satan posted a call for volunteers on Facebook in March. The call out was a success, drawing others who were frustrated by the lack of political actions focused on women's issues, like Oakland resident Cheryl Siecker.
Thirty-one-year-old Siecker also was in pursuit of feminist-focused groups and and said she felt underwhelmed by the International Women's Day event at Frank Ogawa Plaza. She worked on incarnations of Ladyfest several years previously in Brisbane, Australia Although she is a noise musician, Siecker will not be performing at Ladyfest this year - but she will be selling zines she's written, as well as items handcrafted by Indonesian anarchist collective Stich 'N Bitch.
The festival will happen over four days, taking place in both San Francisco and Oakland. Ladyfest technically commenced with a reception for the month-long photography exhibit at Farley's East in Oakland last Friday, but the festival begins Thursday, Sept. 13, in San Francisco at Oddball Cinema. The screening is the only event that is not sliding scale (it's $10), but it will feature rare celluloid gems like the only film ever made by Bessie Smith, the famous Blues songstress.
Friday night will begin at Oakland's Rock Paper Scissors with a keynote speech by Wendy-O-Matik, a Bay native writer, poet and "radical love activist." Radical love is "a look at relationships and open relationships from a feminist and radical perspective, according to Oakland resident Maria Yates, also a member of the Bay Area Ladyfest collective.
Saturday features workshops during the day at The Holdout, film in the evening Black Hole Cinematheque and a full schedule of performances through the night at ABCO Art Space. Performances will be happening simultaneously on two stages (both indoor and outdoor), including spoken word, music, comedy and even an Emma Goldman impersonator. Saturday's event also will include free childcare.
Ladyfest events are all ages, to allow parents to bring their children, but also to include youth.
"In the art world what we see are men in whatever genre we look at - whether it's who's hanging in art galleries in the famous galleries, or whether you go to a typical show," said Yates, 32. "There's not a lot of women, queer or trans people represented in those spaces, so it's important to be able to see somebody else doing it - some people need that in order to think, 'Oh, I could do that, too.'"
Inspiring others is Satan's main goal.
"I hope there's a person that goes home and is like, 'I'm gonna start a band!'" they said.
If you are interesting in volunteering with Ladyfest, contact the collective at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see the full schedule of events that was far to extensive to cover in this short article, visit their Wordpress.
Full Disclosure: After chatting with the organizers, the writer of this article could not resist submitting some of their own work to Ladyfest. It can be seen during Saturday night's film screening at Black Hole Cinema.