LadyFest Miami Returns This Weekend, Because Miami Needs Feminism

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You'll hear lots of F-words if you spend enough time in Miami. The first one that comes to mind is a colorful expletive often hurled at motorists dangerously cutting you off on the Dolphin Expressway. But there's also a less common but far more powerful F-word, one that Miamians need to start inserting into their lives: feminism.

Feminism, the movement for equality of all people in society regardless of gender, race, class, or sexuality, doesn’t get its due in Miami the way it does in more progressive parts of the country. But the 305 really needs a feminist movement — one that's tailored to the unique struggles of its inhabitants. 

Miami needs feminism because it has both the second lowest median income in the nation and the second highest poverty rate. We need it because our state has a tremendous problem with domestic violence, reporting more than 100,000 cases in 2014; and our city is tragically in the top three cities in the nation for human trafficking. We need it because Miami has more than 150,000 undocumented immigrants, many of whom experience higher degrees of exploitation and abuse but are without recourse. These are issues that many local feminists are working to combat, but they can’t do it alone.

That's where LadyFest Miami comes in. The grassroots, volunteer-run convention is a free, all-day feminist extravaganza featuring workshops, music, art, and networking. LadyFest is geared toward budding and seasoned feminist activists tackling many of the issues noted above, but it welcomes all who simply want to learn more about how feminism can help their communities.
“The need for fostering community was thrown into sharp relief recently when Miami was named one of the most dangerous cities to be a woman in the U.S. — ranking poorly in women’s health care, education, and wealth," LadyFest organizers explain in a statement. "The relationships that are deepened and developed at events like LadyFest Miami are essential for establishing the support systems needed to thrive in this difficult environment.”

Feminists in Miami often find themselves without community, organizers say, and many experience burnout as a result. LadyFest addresses this need while also bringing feminist issues to the attention of the masses.

“The space that LadyFest Miami creates is invaluable: an affirming space for women and girls centered around our experiences, that uplifts our narratives and inspires us to celebrate and critically examine our lives. It’s about building power and solidarity,” says SAVE Dade organizer and LadyFest co-creator Charo Valero.

“All sorts of great work is happening in our communities, but happening as islands, and LadyFest Miami is a space to celebrate this work and create a platform to introduce people to organizations and local movements,” says codirector Maria Dominguez, a longtime friend of Valero’s who was brought onboard to produce the event.
This year's event will concentrate on a diverse array of issues facing Miami women. A workshop on recognizing the difference between healthy and abusive relationships, led by marriage and family therapist Elizabeth Jarquin, aims to reduce domestic violence. Another focuses on how to facilitate conversations about race, guided by Heather Burdick of the Miami Coalition of Christians and Jews. At another event, undocumented caretakers will get advice on how to organize in order to fight exploitation. 

The LadyFest lineup also uses the arts to spread its message. Queer poetry readings, group yoga, improv comedy, and musical performances by Emily Sheila and Dama Vicke will help break up the day. 

Elsa Roberts, co-chair of the LadyFest Communications and Marketing Committee, urges anyone with an interest in feminism to attend — whether they identify as women or not. 

“LadyFest has served as a gathering place for women and people allied with us, and that didn’t really exist before," she says. "[It’s] allowed women and girls from many different communities to come together and share their experiences and struggles — as well as men and trans people.”

LadyFest Miami
9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, October 2, at MADE at the Citadel, 8325 NE Second Ave., Miami. Admission is free. Visit ladyfestmiami.com.

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