Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March Radness: It's Women's History Month!

You might be able to guess this just from reading this blog, but, as far as I'm concerned, every month is Women's History Month, especially here at Rock and the Single Girl. But I think that this institution exists precisely for the purpose of providing an opportunity to talk not only about women in history, but also to talk about what history, and its documentation, really mean for girls and women.

Musician and blogger Kate Wadkins and I have been talking about documentation, but this conversation is definitely bigger than just the two of us. Many of the so-called original Riot Grrrls, such as the members of Bratmobile, Emily's Sassy Lime, Heavens to Betsy, and Bikini Kill have participated in interviews for documentaries and museum exhibitions on Riot Grrrl. Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna recently admitted to currently being 'obsessed with archiving', having just donated her papers to NYU's Riot Grrrl collection, and former band mate Tobi Vail has been thinking about "documenting history from a strategic perspective." Bloggers like Kate, Stacy at Soul Ponies, and myself are interested in the same issues, and I think we're all interested in getting as many young women to join the discussion as possible.

But rather than merely 'discuss' documentation, the way to really understand why recording history is important is to actually do it yourself. As kids, we learn about History with a capital H, a grand and dominant narrative of conquest, war, plunder, and exploitative production. It's a narrative that has little to do with us, and which I imagine has little meaning for most kids.

What we don't learn is that history is happening constantly, that it's a process with no real end, and that it's built on the stories and lives of normal, everyday people. When we write our stories, our herstories, we write our own narratives, and this is an incredibly powerful activity.

When you take the time to write your story, you contribute your voice to History with a capital H. But I think it's more important to document your life for you! I think it feels really good to take time to focus on you, and the things you do on a daily basis that are important in your life. Even the most seemingly mundane details of your existence, like interactions with your family members and friends, the things that happen to you at school or work, the way you spend a weeknight where you choose to stay in, can be worth remembering. You are worth remembering, worth reading about, and your experience has the potential to illuminate future generations. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

So ladies, in honor of women's history month, and the women who've come before you: get out your diaries, journals and sketchbooks. Access your livejournals, blogs, and twitters. Break out your scrapbooks, cameras, and zining supplies, and get to the fun, frustrating, cathartic, liberating work of documenting your life. Get to the work of making a record of you.


SISSY said...


no, but seriously, I've been thinking a lot lately about archiving ladyculture and whether the "archives" that Bikini Kill and The Raincoats have set up--or any internet archives aside from archive.org, for that matter--are viable means of documenting history.

when websites like livejournal and blogger and twitter eventually close--and they all eventually will--where will this info go??

I think that K. Hanna working with NYPL to ensure Riot Grrrl is recognized as a legit movement, and libraries like Barnard's library establishing zine librarian positions will some day extend into the digital realm, making sure that lady-cyberculture is preserved. Until then, we have to educate our own communities about the importance of digital preservation.

(Can you tell I studied to be a digital librarian??)

(ALSO, "March Radness" = WIN.)


jamie said...

Girl, I didn't even know you could study to be a digital librarian. It just goes to show you that I definitely need to educate myself about digital preservation. It speaks not only to issues of documentation, and how important that is on a personal level, but also to issues of access to technology.

lol, I wrestled with that March Radness pun for you don't even know how long. I don't know why, I just felt unsure about it at first.

SISSY said...

SO TRUE. the "digital divide" issue is a tricky one. but then, so is the issue of living in a "privileged" area (in terms of being urban, close to centers of culture, etc).

I see paper zines and mailorder as an egalitarian force that brings information to people who don't have access to digital forums/blogs/etc. I also see blogs/webstuff/etc as a way to level the playing field for those of us who grow up outside of the lovely bubbles that are the NYC, Portland, London, etc scenes and therefore would otherwise have no access to learning about/hearing/seeing these bands/artists/activist/etc.

both forces, though, have a positive affect on girl culture, IMO, even with their drawbacks.