She will join two other modern, feminist activists at this year's All About Women festival for a discussion panel that explores the label of 'nasty woman'.
The panel, entitled 'Nasty Women', consists of Van, mechanical engineer and founder of Youth Without Borders Yassmin Abdel-Magied and writer Lindy West. Having faced criticism for their outspoken views, the trio have taken up the label of 'nasty woman' as a badge of honour, as Van explains. “The idea of having the panel was because of something Donald Trump said about Hillary Clinton: 'Oh, you're a nasty woman',” Van says.
“Obviously it hit the internet immediately where all of these women were like 'I want to be nasty; if you think Hillary Clinton is nasty, I want to be nasty like her', and a lot of women are.
“We live in a very interesting period of history where after the feminist revolution has taken place and you see women who have been brought up with an expectation that they will lead lives of agency and that they have a right to pursue vocations, express opinions and to take leadership roles, and that's very challenging for a lot of people.”
As a visible public identity, feminist activist and social commentator, Van has had her own share of experiences with being labelled for her views, which have been well-publicised.
On an episode of 'Q&A' in July last year, she and panellist Steve Price came into conflict over the issues surrounding domestic abuse and violence against women in Australia. Price famously told Van she was being 'hysterical', a comment which initiated a backlash against both Price and Van from their various supporters and detractors.
Recalling the event, Van maintains Price feels threatened by outspoken women. “I had this situation when I went on 'Q&A' with Steve Price and I was making a very logical, cogent, coherent argument about things like the origin of the Iraq War, the economy and leadership of the Liberal and Labor parties,” she says.
“For the entire duration of the programme he was getting antsy and upset, and he was really threatened by the fact I'm this young woman who will talk about the war and military spending. I don’t think he’s used to having those conversations, especially with people who have different beliefs from his own.”
Taking place in the lead-up to International Women's Day on 8 March, All About Women features a packed programme spanning 22 events. In its fifth year, the festival will be headlined by Academy Award-winning actor and advocate Geena Davis, as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mei Fong and author Clementine Ford.
“Lindy and I are both columnists for The Guardian and we are pretty indicative of the new media, new-media community and new-media audiences the internet has created,” Van says.
“The thing about the internet is that it’s made feminists in particular very visible and, lo and behold, there's actually a massive audience of women, and men, who want to talk about equality and feminism, and want to fight disadvantage and discrimination. They’re actually morally motivated to participate in those discussions and think and strategise about progressive, local change.
“It’s the same with Yassmin… she’s ended up with a role in public discourse because people want to talk about the experiences of women of colour, people want to to talk about participation and inclusion. That’s why we’re on the panel, because we’re three people who have been brought into contact through the platform the internet has given us to create an audience.”
'Nasty Women' takes place as part of All About Women 2017 at the Sydney Opera House 5 March.