In the age of #MeToo, a women’s expo sounds like an empowering, socially conscious experience, possibly with highly educational and informative seminars directed at modern women navigating a modern world. But this is Utah, where homespun crafts and the gender pay gap rule. So, is the Salt Lake Women’s Show with its clean, non-threatening logo and overtly feminine (pink!) website really serving the needs of Utah women? Or is it just a sticky trap catching any cis-white-Mormon female who wants to up her arts-and-crafts game?
Turns out, it’s a little bit of both. Attendees on opening day were greeted by an onslaught of kitschy booths featuring everything from makeup stalls to time share salesmen and plastic surgery offices and no fewer than five vintage-trailer-housed clothing boutiques. But sandwiched among the usual MLMs (or direct distribution companies, which are apparently different) are truly unique local gems like Spirit and Soul of the Tree—which produces handmade wooden bowls made from Utah trees—Marissa’s Books and even risqué Blue Boutique proudly showing its latest line of designer lingerie.
The women’s show isn’t just about paying an entrance fee for the privilege to shop. The real meat of the expo is in its workshops and presentations simultaneously happening in four areas. Their schedule lists dozens of events, many craft and kitchen related on topics ranging from “Chalk Painting Basics” and how to make a happy birthday sign to prepping healthy meals. There’s a full lineup of seminars as well. The Inspiration Stage boasts “Make-up and Style Tips,” plus talks with a little more depth, like “Wonder Woman You: How to Power Up (and Love) Your Brain, Emotions, Spirit and Relationships.” And while “Bras That Fit Can Change Your Life” is an absolute truth, spending an hour on the topic might be overkill.
There’s a lot going on (thank God the Fabletics and Dillard’s fashion shows aren’t scheduled at the same time). And the range of topics, while seemingly fluffy and somewhat counter-intuitive (“Draw Him in as You Draw Him up! Understanding and Supporting the Men and Boys in Your Life”), actually have substance. Beside a crowded craft table headed by a gentleman doling out very practical tips on raised garden beds, a presenter on stage shared her personal story of battling heart problems and attempted suicide. There might have only been 10 people in the audience, but they were all very attentive.
Which brings us to the point of all this: Utah is home to a range of women with a range of needs and ideas. If someone wants to move past “Making the Perfect Mocktail” or “Creative Table Settings for Your At-Home Dinner Party,” she can at seminars like “Inspiring Women to Breakthrough.” Or if you just want to shop, that’s cool, too. You’re a woman—do whatever you damn well please.