Don't let the dizzy lettering or cutesy name fool you -- GiRL FeST Bay Area isn't an occasion to get soused, hook up with a hottie, or pontificate on pretty, vacant stuff. The second annual multimedia festival has a clear, resounding mission: to prevent violence against women and encourage positive representations of women in the media. The great battering rams in this case are art, education, and lots of opportunities to convene with activist-minded people who aren't afraid to mix their art with that unduly suspect "f" word: feminism.
Organizers Jessmaya Morales and Kathryn Xian have orchestrated four provocative days and nights of music, film, dance, panel discussions, and multidisciplinary "smart parties," and they've rounded up some of the most ebullient lady artists, performers, and activists out there. Actress, writer, and indie film darling Amber Tamblyn spits fire with her spoken word and also in a screening of the film Stephanie Daly, a poignant exploration of teenage pregnancy and the grievous consequences of abstinence-only importuners, which landed her a best-actress award at Berlin's Locarno Film Festival. Amid all the screenings and readings, however, audiences won't want to miss the comedy portion of the festival, since female empowerment doesn't only wear a poker face. The raunchy musings of Ali Wong are a particular must, ´specially if you want to take a breather after some of the more sobering panel presentations. Wong, a San Francisco comedian, delivers memorable quips about white Rasta guys and female genitalia with near-messianic vigor, offering a risible counterpoint to ubiquitous dick jokes.
Fans of the performing arts can get swept up in circus and modern dance from groups like Dance Brigade, a self-professed "feminist social change dance theater" that sparks audiences to action with their dynamic, impassioned shows. While the festival offers fun for the whole family, violence prevention is at the core of all the events, and GiRL FeST offers the kind of perspective that's so needed in the well-meaning yet sometimes myopic sex-positive backdrop that tends to permeate S.F.-style feminism. Practical workshops and panel discussions on sex trafficking, misogyny in hip hop, and media literacy flank autobiography and poetry writing workshops, drumming circles, and other hands-on stuff for artsy activists.