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Documenting the revolution: Grassroots Feminism

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Rosy Moorhead
WVoN features editor

Culturally unproductive. A passive consumer of mass culture and media.

Does this sound like you? No, I didn’t recognise myself in that description, either.

But if you’re young, and in particular a girl or young woman, this may be the preconception that society has of you.

But the women behind Grassroots Feminism (GF) beg to differ.

They see girls and young women as capable cultural producers of a variety of film, music, media and festivals, and so have created a social platform, in the form of a website, to gain insight into and document these media and their meaning.

Founder Elke Zobl explains why she started the project:

While I was working on the Grrrl Zine Network project [a resource site for international grrrl, lady, queer and trans folk zines], I realised that it is not only zines but feminist cultural productions and activities overall that are not archived or made accessible to a larger audience.

An interactive feminist community portal was missing.”

So she created Grassroots Feminism, a central and interactive community platform for feminists and queer youth all over the world to access, contribute to and share archives, projects and resources, as well as network with and encourage each other.

The site is organised and maintained by Zobl in collaboration with Rosa Reitsamer and Stefanie Grünangerl, all from Austria, and Red Chidgey from the UK.

One of GF’s research projects, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), is ‘Feminist Media Production in Europe’.

Zobl explains: “Besides researching and presenting our results in an academic context, we also wanted to make them accessible to a wider interested public and feminist communities.”

To this end, Zobl, Grünangerl and their colleague Ricarda Drüeke are currently compiling and editing a book, Feminist Media: Participatory Spaces, Networks and Cultural Citizenship, due to be published later this year.

In the slightly more academic vein that the original research project started out in, the editors have invited scholars to contribute case studies and analysis of feminist media.

While feminists have long recognised the importance of self-managed, alternative media to transport their messages, challenge the status quo and spin novel social processes, it has been an under-researched idea,” Grünangerl says.

Hence the book sets out to explore the processes of women’s and feminist media production in the context of their economic, material and cultural implications, the potential of new technologies for feminist activism, and concepts of social change through feminist activism.

The book will also include a selected list of feminist media projects from Europe, providing basic data about them and links to their websites.

Zobl adds: “The book – as well as our research project – is needed as women have always played an important role in movements for social justice.

In the past two decades, an increasing number of women have taken the tools of media production into their own hands – a vital social phenomenon that has gone largely undetected by members of the public, academia and even sometimes the feminist movement.”

As a consequence of this invisibility, she believes, very little documentation and research has been done on women’s own media cultures, especially in Europe.

This book, and the GF platform, aims to redress this. GF hopes the impact of the the book’s publication will be “to inspire! To inspire [young women] to become active!”

As well as the more academic parts, they would also like to include a discussion among feminist media producers, and invite all such to take part, WvoN readers and contributors included. 

The editors have created a forum with a set of questions, the answers to which they will collate and merge into the book.

The questions up for discussion include: the issues you think need to be urgently discussed and taken up in the feminist movement and in feminist media; what the biggest challenges are in producing alternative feminist media, and; how feminist media production can challenge the status quo and effect social change.

Zobl says: “It is my sincere hope that Grassroots Feminism evolves into a tool for transnational activists, cultural producers and researchers to link their struggles and develop connections between cultural, social, political,environmental, economic and other coalitions.

In the words of Chandra Talpede Mohanty [the prominent postcolonial and transnational feminist theorist]: ‘everyday feminist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist practices are as important as large, organised political movements’.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some culturally unproductive, passive consumption of mass culture and media to get back to.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, visit GF’s forum and give your opinions on the questions there. GF will collect replies until Sunday, March 25. 

 

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