Fem fest a hit, once toilet issue is sorted

Kim Balmer, Cara Corden and Alex Bryce who helped organise the event
Kim Balmer, Cara Corden and Alex Bryce who helped organise the event
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FEMINISM in Sheffield in 2013 is alive and well and apparently unsure what to call toilets.

The city’s third annual LaDIY Fest - an extravaganza of workshops called things like Fat Activism - took place this weekend. And just hours before doors opened organisers were agonising if it was acceptable to label the loos ‘male’ and ‘female’.

Apparently it wasn’t.

“You would not believe how much we have been discussing toilets,” noted organiser Cara Corden. “We are now re-labelling them ‘toilets with urinals’ and ‘toilets without urinals’.”

So, that was sorted. Which was a relief.

Restroom issues aside, LaDIY Fest was, by any measure, a success.

More than 200 people - 80 per cent women, 20 per cent men, 40 per cent in funky headwear - attended the day-long event at Quaker Meeting House in St James’ Street.

They were there to socialise, share ideas, get educated and debate the finer point of, for example, online misogyny. There was also - as at any such forward-thinking event - a T-shirt printing stand. The kitchen served up food. “Vegan only,” The Diary was told. But it was nice anyway.

In the evening, things moved to the Redhouse bar in Solly Street where several female-fronted bands played. This year, unlike last, there was no-one who had scrawled the word ‘womb’ on their torso with an arrow pointing downwards. But there were some delightfully flamboyant outfits nonetheless. Early indications suggest not a single bra was burned in anger.

“Why do we do this?” pondered Cara, a 29-year-old secretary of West Street. “Because it’s important Sheffield has a feminist event. It’s about getting like-minded people together and discussing new ideas, while making new friends.

“Every woman is affected by some form of harassment in their daily lives - and events like this can help draw attention to how unacceptable that is and empower us.”

The idea, ultimately and simply, is that the more people who embrace these ideas, the better place Sheffield will be to live.

“I don’t want the world to be the way it is,” says Gemma Short, a 25-year-old teacher, of Walkley Street, who led a discussion on lads mags. “I don’t want women to have to worry about harassment.

“Events like this may be relatively small but if holding some discussions mean you share your ideas then you are doing something worthwhile. It can help change things slowly.”

The little things, it seems - even down to what to call a toilet so as not to offend - are important.