In 2013, four friends gathered together to discuss an idea for amplifying the voices of women online and promoting Wikipedia as a site for challenging that silence. That discussion became an initiative called Art + Feminism.
The steps to encouraging a woman to be heard and to be visible in her community are fraught with resistance and ridicule. Beginning this project, we knew that our role would not only be to empower women – we use the most expansive definition of that term – to edit online but to stand with them as they are challenged by those who do not see value in their voice and who do not see value in them. Art + Feminism is about making Wikipedia better, as a tool for open access to reliable information, but it doesn’t end there. It’s about dismantling systems of thought that ignore the presence and input of women in the room and diminish or erase entirely their place in history.
We don’t see ourselves as masters of social progress or change. Nor are we here for press coverage, or lines on our CVs. (We laughed pretty hard when we were described as a fast growing company. It’s more like a bunch of nerds video conferencing from their bedrooms.) What we are is a group of people brought together by our belief in women and their work. And we’re bound by our wish for women to have all the resources they need to release the full force of their power into the world.
As a campaign and as individuals, we know what it is to be heckled and to have folks make assumptions about our identities and orientations. We know what it is to be ignored. We know what it is to be silenced. We know that many of you reading this, if not most of you, are all too familiar with these experiences. But 4 years ago, we made a commitment to do this work, not for ourselves but for the betterment of representation of all women: Black women, trans women, Bengali women, queer women, Puerto Rican women, cis women, White women, women who struggle economically, women who seek to use their resources to do good in world, women like you.
A wise woman once said that every day you show up, you’re re-educating people as to who you are and what you believe in. Today, for us, is no different.
- We believe that feminism is a lens that throws all systems producing inequality into doubt and a reflective process through which we can work to dismantle interconnected modalities of oppression.
- We believe in working collaboratively in brave, friendly spaces because liberation is a collective process.
- We believe that art is fundamental to the creation of thriving, open societies. So, too, are open access educational resources.
- We believe that representation matters.
- We believe that the experiences of women are varied and complex and we value and honor these differences in embodied knowledge.
- We see our greatest achievement as a participant walking into a workshop and learning that they can exist on Wikipedia and be a critical convoy of information for women like them and women they might not ever fully understand, but believe in.
- We draw inspiration from sheroes past and present: the women of BLM and Idle No More, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, Judith Butler, Berta Cáceres, Kathleen Hanna, Dolores Huerta, Malala Yousafzai, Cecile Richards, Nina Simone, Angela Davis, Sandy Stone, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw and on and on.
And we intend to enact these beliefs in the world in a spirit of serious joy!
In addition to these beliefs, we hold space for communities of support and accountability. Our growth and development means nothing without you, the hundreds of organizers who work with us and the thousands of participants who have made this initiative a reality. Art+Feminism is a DIY project, and we try to keep it radically open, so that groups can make it their own. As hard as we try to bring excellence to every single task we take on, sometimes we will disappoint. We ask that you give us the gift of holding us accountable when we do. Our openness to feedback is critical to our evolution, though we draw the line only at criticism meant only to obstruct our work or diminish its value.
This project, like Wikipedia itself, is a work in progress. And like you, we’re learning as we go. We are Siân Evans, Jacqueline Mabey, McKensie Mack, and Michael Mandiberg, the lead co-organizers of Art + Feminism.
Are you ready to edit with us?