Cultural femicide - the first time I heard this term was on Mumsnet . It blew my mind. The term was coined by feminist activist and writer Bidisha to define the erasure of women from politics, art, literature and history.
I've been a feminist since I was a teenager. I knew that men were disproportionately represented in politics, art, and culture. As a graduate student in history, I have wasted hours of my life reading The Truth About History by men; a truth that rarely ever included women. My undergraduate and post-graduate degrees were in women's history: specifically on the erasure of women from their own experiences within the Holocaust. Yet, the reality of cultural femicide had not sunk in. I knew women's Holocaust testimonies had been side lined, particularly in North America, as part of a very specific narrative of war. What I hadn't thought about was the ways in which the publishing industry itself, without recognising the reality of the Holocaust in North American culture, had participated in the erasure of women's testimonies simply because they were women.
This required a fundamental rethinking of my understanding of women's history.
I'd like to suggest this was a lightening bolt moment and I had a sudden realisation of how badly I'd underestimated the erasure of women but that would be, at best, a deliberate misrepresentation.
My first foray into combatting cultural femicide was reading only books written by women. It was a suggestion by of another member of Mumsnet that I gladly undertook. I've been reading only women authors for three years now and it's been an amazing experience discovering authors like Maggie O'Farrell, Kamile Shamsie, Joumana Haddad, Valerie Martin, Kate Mosse, and Chimaamanda Ngozi Adichie as well as rediscovering old favourites like Elizabeth Gaskell, Jean Little and Dorothy Gilman. I even ran two feminist book clubs on Mumsnet which met monthly online. I started collecting women's writings and publishing a weekly round up. But, this wasn't enough.
So, I have created the blogging network A Room of our own: A Feminist/ Womanist Network as a way to combat cultural femicide. The network is collecting, archiving and sharing women's writings, art, music, photography and any other medium of expression that can be posted online. There are already blogging networks for women but I wanted to create one that illustrates the full spectrum of feminist and womanist thought. We don't expect members to write about feminism or womanism; just that they self-identify as one. We have already published posts on male violence, women's history, parenting, pop culture and CeeBeebies.
I expect members will have fundamentally different definitions of feminism, after all the term womanism was created by Alice Walker to demonstrate the erasure of women of colour from within the modern feminist movement. I believe these differences are worth exploring, debating and celebrating. Feminism is a political theory and everything can, and should, be analysed through a feminist lens but women's voices, experiences and knowledge should be central to this analysis. As such, A Room of Our Own welcomes links to blogs that haven't been updated in years.
We host a new featured post everyday which vary in topic and medium. We are currently collecting posts on domestic violence, "romantic love" and heteronormativity for the week leading up to Valentine's Day. We are also hosting a month long series on women's history in the month of March. This can be research, personal history, testimonies, art, photography or simply sharing a family anecdote. We are open to all submissions from women who self-identify as feminists and womanists.
A Room of Our Own is for women by women making women's experiences, beliefs and musings the core of feminist and womanist thought. Please join us in celebrating feminism and womanism by combatting cultural femicide.