Let the SXSW games begin!

By Austin Woman magazine, Photos by Anne Cox

The official first day of the iconic festival’s long-awaited comeback was in full swing. Austin Woman got a chance to partake in quite a few interactive panels and discussions. We talk about everything we got up to to kick off our SXSW coverage.

The Elephant in Our Womb: The Fight for Women

Kicking things off bright and early at 10AM with women’s reproductive rights. This panel was a conversation between former Texas State Senator and founding director of Deeds Not Words, Wendy Davis, and Texas House of Representative chairwoman, Donna Howard. The discussion started off with a recap of Texas’ current abortion policies, and both women shared their sentiments.

“All bets are off in terms of saying this is really to protect women,” Donna said.

Both speakers also agreed that they believe the case that established legal abortions nationwide, Roe V. Wade, will be overturned when the SCOTUS hears the Mississippi abortion case in June. Wendy mentioned how the state of Texas already doesn’t have good policies in place to protect foster children, which undoubtedly increase under the new system,

“Foster care is terrible, children are being sexually assaulted and we have some of the highest child hunger rates,”

To finish off the session, both Donna and Wendy encouraged audience members to not only organize but run for office in areas where there are not strong defenders of reproductive rights.

“If you do not have control over your own body, then what do you have control over?” – Donna

Nate & Bob Odenkirk Host Dining Experience toCelebrate ‘Summer in Argyle’

SXSW Lunch Break! This fine-dining hot-dog experience was a fun promotion for the upcoming Audible Original, Summer in Argyle. Attendees were able to grab a free hot-dog, and take a picture with the giant carboard cutout of Bob Odenkirk.

A short synopsis of the new series is below from the trailer description on Audible.

“Created and written by Nate Odenkirk (The New Yorker, The Onion) and his father Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show, Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad), Summer in Argyle is proudly Audible’s second best murder comedy.”

Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Audible.

How the Metaverse can Rebuild Society, But Better

This SXSW session featured panelists Aleatha Parker-Wood from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Taj Reid from Edelman Austin, Adi Robertson from The Verge, and Darren Shou from NortonLifeLock. They are all experts on the design, safety and beauty of the Metaverse.

The Metaverse is essentially a virtual world where participants can enter as their own avatar with Oculus VR goggles, or another VR set-up. This allows participants to do things they might not be able to do in the real world, such as fly or connect with people from far away – in a much more meaningful way than a video chat or text.

Darren Shou elaborated on a survey of users when asked what they wanted out of the new technology, “They want to do things in the metaverse that they couldn’t do in the real world.”

With all innovations in technology, one the top priorities is safety of the users and their data. Aleatha asked the question, “How do we make it easy to be a good human being?”. Meaning, it should be difficult for users to get up to any nefarious activity on the platform, and much easier to interact with it for its intended purpose.

NFT’s have also played a huge part in SXSW this year. The Metaverse allows users to actually interact with their NFT’s and in some instances, wear them. This brings a whole new value and marketability. More on NFT’s to come.

KEYNOTE: Alexis McGill Johnson

Alexis McGill Johnson and Busy Philipps

Alexis McGill Johnson is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Peacock TV’s Busy Philipps, a well-known abortion activist, interviewed Alexis.

The tone of the conversation started off with what many of us are feeling right now: frustration and anger. The past year has not been an easy one for Planned Parenthood. Alexis doesn’t think that will change anytime soon,

“We are literally asking for permission to take care of our own healthcare, our own bodies, and make decisions for ourselves.”

Johnson also stated that she expects Roe V. Wade to be overturned in June when the SCOTUS reviews the Mississippi law that effectively bans abortions at 15 weeks. If Roe V. Wade is indeed overturned, Alexis went on to say that this will still allow other states to make up their own laws prohibiting and outlawing abortions. The current policy in Texas is that abortion is not legal (and in some cases, criminalized) after six weeks of gestation. To learn more about Senate Bill 8 in Texas please refer to our previous article, “The Future of Roe v. Wade: What it Means for Texas Women“.

Alexis went on to tell the story of a Texas patient who was in the hospital with an intended pregnancy, where the fetus was no longer viable.

“The provider in the hospital said that they couldn’t perform an abortion on her, because she was well past the [6 week] time, and they were worried that they would get in trouble from their hospital administrators.”

“‘Go home. Come back when you have sepsis.’ That’s the kind of cruelty that we are talking about.”

The key takeaway from this discussion was that we need to keep having conversations about reproductive health and continue to de-stigmatize it. Alexis also asked the audience to donate what they could to the organizations fighting for reproductive rights, and to stay angry,

“There is an energy and fire that i haven’t seen in the last decade…The arc is long but it bends towards justice.”

Big Gay Kickoff Party

The Austin LGBT Chamber of Commerce got the SXSW festivities off to the right start. Part networking mixer, part dance party, it was the perfect way to warm up from the 38-degree weather. President Tina Cannon showed why she’s so beloved within the community. She greeted everyone with a smile and a hug and one of the biggest laughs you’ll ever encounter. Though early (with a start time of 6:00 p.m.), the atmosphere was one of acceptance and openness. Quite literally everyone in attendance embraced each newcomer with open arms and hearts. It didn’t hurt that the DJ had a penchant for ’80s fare that kept the yung’ins spirited and the seasoned partygoers one the dance floor. What a great way to end the first night of South By’s grand return.

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