Girl Fest takes aim at portrayals of women

Feb. 10, 2012 | 1 Comment In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition

Girl Fest, the festival of young women’s empowerment, is back for an eighth go-round, with five days of events designed as an antidote to bullying and violence against women.

The festival is a mix of movies, music, art, discussion and opportunities to join in, with workshops on self-defense, art, T-shirt design, zine-making, conflict resolution and more. One of the unique aspects of Girl Fest is its emphasis on physical participation — in hip-hop dance, paddle-boarding, yoga and other group activities.


Where: multiple sites.

When: Thursday-Feb. 20

Cost: Many events are free; individual event tickets are $5 to $8

Info: See a full schedule at, Sign up for events at or call 426-8416.

Organizer Kathryn Xian, an outspoken activist for women’s rights, says Girl Fest is part of a national movement to encourage women to take leadership roles, and to counter destructive images.

“How girls are treated from age 9 to teen years and above affects them during these formative years,” Xian said. When media images “groom” a girl to think of herself as a housekeeper and delicate figure, or one whose body is more important than her mind, it discourages the impulse to lead and to achieve, she said.

Girl Fest’s films, talks and activities provide an alternative: strength, independent thinking and a supportive community.

“Aside from being an incubator for women learning how to effect change, it’s an example for women,” Xian said.

ERIN SMITH, the powerful singer and frontwoman for The Throwdowns, is an example in her own right. She called from Maui last week to talk about The Throwdowns’ appearance at Girl Fest’s “Peace Party” on Saturday.

“Me and the guys are just proud to be part of it,” she said.

Maui band The Throwdowns performs at theVenue on Feb. 18 for Girl Fest's Peace Party.--Tony Novak-Clifford

Maui band The Throwdowns performs at theVenue on Feb. 18 for Girl Fest's Peace Party.--Tony Novak-Clifford

A lot is happening for The Throwdowns this year. The band’s singles are getting airplay in California, and Smith is planning a series of promotional stops in the Golden State, in addition to working up a solo album.

“In fact, I’m going to Montreal for all of March to work on a solo record with the Arcade Fire producers,” said Smith, who is originally from Canada. “I’m excited! I’m just writing a lot right now.”

It’s a good time for Smith, but she’s well-informed about the pressure on young women to conform to cultural stereotypes.

“I think it’s harder for young girls — and women! — these days because we’re so inundated with images, all day long,” Smith said.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of highly sexualized imagery in videos and such. … It’s a strange age for that,” Smith said. “And speaking for myself, I would not want to be that girl. I just think it would feel so not genuine.”

She spoke with pride of being praised by a mom who brings her kids to shows because Smith has a “strong personality” and exudes confidence on stage.

“I’m pretty strong, and so I don’t feel a lot of pressure to do anything I don’t want to do,” she said. “I also work with a lot of really great dudes. They’re respectable and responsible — they just want me to rock it out.”


>> “Finding Light Out of the Darkness”: Opening reception: An 18-woman art exhibition and kickoff party for Girl Fest with DJs Ezl, Ramyt, TJ and Spike; 7 p.m. Thursday at Manifest, 32 N. Hotel St. Free; all ages until 10 p.m., 21 and over 10 p.m.-2 a.m.

>> “Desert Flower”: Opening film (rated R). A dramatized telling of international model Waris Dirie’s journey from Somalian girl who undergoes genital mutilation to London refugee to model, then United Nations special ambassador for women’s rights in Africa; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at theVenue, 1144 Bethel St. $5-$8.

>> Panel discussion: “Sexualization of Girls and the Rise in Violence against Women,” with actor Amber Tamblyn (“Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”); Laura Lederer, founder of The Protection Project at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; educational psychologist Allana Coffee; and prosecutor Abby Dunn; 2-4 p.m. Feb. 17 at Halau o Haumea, University of Hawaii-Manoa Center for Hawaiian Studies. Free, all ages.

>> “In Your Face, Ani diFranco!” / The Amber & Mindy Show: “literary criminals” from California– Mindy Nettifee (a performance poet, designer and activist) and Amber Tamblyn — bring their poetry and music to the stage. 6-7 p.m. Feb. 17, UH Art Auditorium. $5, all ages.

>> “Miss Representation”: This stirring, fast-paced overview of the case against media exploitation of women has spurred a national response. Find out more at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at theVenue; $5-$8. Concert that follows is free for those who attend film. The film screens again at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 at Sacred Hearts Academy Theatre, 3253 Waialae Ave. for all ages.

>> Peace Party: The Throwdowns: Maui up-and-comers The Throwdowns headline, with a lineup assembled by Ong King’s Shain Miller that includes Belly Dancers in Paradise, slam poetry, California-based Girl Fest supporters Amber Tamblyn and Mindy Nettifee, and Honolulu indie band Gnarwhal, 9 p.m. Feb. 18 at theVenue; $5-$8.

>> Girl Fest Down & Derby: Pacific Roller Derby women’s teams, pitting the South Shore Sirens against the Leahi Diamond Dolls; 2-4 p.m. Feb. 19, Palama Settlement Gym, 810 N. Vineyard Blvd.; $5-$7, all ages.

–Elizabeth Kieszkowski /

  • Anonymous

    Next year have the writers of H50 come to your Fest. How they protrayal woment is somewhat sad. If your a kick butt woman it fine. If your writing for other then Kono they have a major problem of development with  scripts. Not all of us can shoot, and fight with all the vigorous needed, but that what makes us women. The entertainment business has fail to see this. They could have a women lawyer to process the felons. Hawaii-five 0 cross over the line of the law weekly. They need to be bailed out of their sorted behavior.