Everywhere you look these days, women are in the headlines. Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, once at the top of the business world, won Republican nominations for senator and governor. Australia has their first woman prime minister, Julia Gillard. And the media is beating the "girls rule" drum, too. The July Atlantic cover story is, "The End Of Men: How Women Are Taking Control of Everything." And Report on Business magazine is bright pink this month. Its headline reads, "This is not a women's issue." Inside are stories about companies run by women.
So maybe I shouldn't have been surprised when, last week, Toronto was filled to overflowing with women on stage.
Take ideaCity, our annual gabfest (TO's version of TED). Executive Producer Moses Znaimer organized the entire event around women speakers -- with men entertaining at breaks. The audience (which appeared to be evenly split between men and women), had their minds blown by Sally Armstrong, one of the first journalists to write about what the Taliban were doing to the women of Afghanistan. Armstrong shared what women are doing to bring human rights -- and sanity -- back to strife-torn regions. We met Sophie Morgan, a young British woman who was in a car accident the night she completed her A Levels, and who is now a paraplegic disability rights activist (I'll write more about Sophie this fall). And everyone's favourite feminist, Erica Jong (who gave the world the phrase, "zipless fuck") told us that we're going to see another's women's movement. "This time, we're going to finish" what we set out to do in the seventies.
Luminato embraced women this year, too. This city-wide festival of arts and creativity introduces Torontonians to artists from around the world -- and Canadian creative types to the tourists and international media who flock to our town. I caught two in which women really shone. First, Bela Fleck's joyful documentary, "Throw Down Your Heart" about his journey to "take the banjo back to Africa." It featured lots of spectacular women musicians, saving the absolute best for last -- Oumou Sangare, a singer from Mali. Unbelievable power and emotion in that woman's voice! I immediately bought the CD and haven't stopped playing it. Also caught The Africa Trilogy. A small Toronto company, Volcano Theatre, had a clever idea: to bring the work of three playwrights (German, Kenyan, American) together to explore the relationship between Africa and the West. Each was stunning but, again, the last piece took my breath away. It was by up-and-coming American playwright, Christina Anderson. Her work is going to be transforming stages around the world, count on it.
I managed to squeeze in a screening of "No Woman, No Cry", Christy Turlington-Burns' film about maternal health around the world, introduced by the down-to-earth-goddess herself. It was part of the inaugural G(irls)20 Summit -- twenty-one girls from G20 nations and the African Union got together to discuss how girls and women can work together to help solve some of the world's greatest challenges. Interesting new initiative from the Belinda Stronach Foundation (Belinda is a New Radical -- that is, someone who's putting the skills acquired in her career to work on the world's greatest challenges -- for more, please see archived articles).
On the seventh day, I rested. And contemplated. Looked out at the night sky, realized that the moon would be full on June 26th, and that there would also be a lunar eclipse. At the same time, leaders of the G20 would be in town (mostly men).
The phone rang to wake me from my reverie. A friend from London, a social venture capitalist, wondering what I was doing for the weekend. "Are you getting out of town to avoid the G20 hassles, like everyone else seems to be doing?" We talked about my week of women, and this father of three daughters offered his take. "Julia, men have screwed things up royally. It's time for women to take the lead."
As I was about to sign off and submit this post, an image came into my head. A huge marquee hanging over Mother Earth, flashing away: "Girls, girls, girls!" It's nice to know that this eternal come-on might now mean something different.
OK, now over to you. Has -- as Moses Znaimer put it -- "the era of male dominance come to an end"? Do women -- and girls -- rule? Is this a good thing? Which women inspire you? Please share your thoughts by commenting below. As always, I invite you to write to me directly. Julia (that familiar symbol) wearethenewradicals (punctuation) (suffix).
Julia Moulden is an author, speaker, and columnist. She is hard at work on her third book (patrons wanted).