On Friday 25 October, the BBC will be hosting 100 women from all over the world for a “unique day of debate and discussion” that will be broadcast on BBC TV, radio and online, including the BBC World Service as well as by many of their 27 global languages services. These women “do all kinds of things: they make music, save lives, raise children, run businesses, write, preach, act and tell jokes.” (The website also says they “strive for a better world for themselves and their families,” the last bit of which they clearly wouldn’t have appended if it were a conference of men, but I’m gonna let that one slide just this once.)
The event concludes BBC’s 100 Women season, which talked about the risks, challenges and opportunities faced by modern-day women over the course of October. Earlier features include readers’ views on life in the 21st century, an exploration of airbrushing that incorporates a journalist’s photoshoot/post-production experience, David Cameron’s face and teenagers’ selfies, and an article about one of the world’s toughest anti-abortion laws in El Savador.
Here are five interesting women from the list of those who’ll be at the conference tomorrow, chosen on the highly objective basis of “people I found cool”:
Shazia Mirza (@shaziamirza1) is not only a brilliant British stand-up comedian, tackling Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia as a Muslim of Pakistani descent, but also a columnist for The New Statesman, The Guardian and Dawn (Pakistan’s oldest and most widely-read English newspaper). She is definitely rocking this tie/blazer situation.
Anis Hidayah (@anishidayah) is a co-founder of Migrant Care, which provides legal assistance to migrant workers and campaigns to strengthen state protections for them. 70% of Indonesia’s 4.5 million migrant workers are women, many working abroad with poor legal and societal protections in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Dubai.
Paris Lees (@ParisLees) is “a woman, on a mission.” Britain’s “most influential LGBT person” of 2013, she writes everywhere (e.g. The Guardian, The New Statesman, DIVA, VICE) and is the first trans person in many things (e.g. Channel 4 & Radio 1 presenter, DIVA cover girl). She edits META, a magazine devoted to gender, and works with All About Trans.
Dr Brooke Magnanti (@bmagnanti), formerly known as Belle de Jour, is an American anthropologist, author and former sex worker. She tells us “why everything we’re told is wrong” in her book The Sex Myth, and speaks on the themes of biometric and forensic science, sexualisation and popular culture, and internet anonymity and identity.
Sister Teresa Forcades (@TeresaForcadesF) is described as a “radical Spanish nun” (Catalan, to be accurate), which is clearly a perfect title. A trained doctor with a PhD in public health and fundamental theology, watch her criticise austerity and capitalism as well as the misogyny of the Catholic Church in this interview with The Guardian.
As a conference with a worldwide purview, and especially as one based in the UK, this event will inevitably be negotiating the lines between “international” and “neocolonial.” How do we talk about regional issues like female genital mutilation or sex-selective abortion on a global stage without sliding into cultural imperialism? How do we avoid problematic binaries (East/West, progressive/backwards) in discussing gendered issues while appreciating how they differ from place to place, and how translatable are values and experiences across borders? Does a “global feminism” or “womanhood” exist and if so, what does it look like?
None of this is meant to discourage you from listening to these women! I have fallen in love with so many of them so many times today. These are just some things you might want to keep in mind while you’re checking out the conference.
See the full list of featured women and the rest of the month’s articles, interviews and features on BBC’s website, and follow tomorrow’s conversation on Twitter at #100Women.