Herstory, precarity and women’s spaces

History is a fascinating thing, full of contradictions – set out to preserve memory, yet quite prone to forgetfulness… especially when it comes to women’s side of the story!

This year, admittedly, has been unusually amazing for women and herstory. With the suffrage centenary in the UK, expense has not been spared to make women feel celebrated. Some women anyhow…

However, that is all about to change. With less than two months left until the end of the centenary year, most, if not all, of the major sources of funding that had been added this year, helping the feminist movement finance some really wonderful activities, are due to magically disappear, and women’s history is at risk of becoming a distant and rather foggy memory yet again…!

And things will revert back to ‘normal’. Patriarchal version of normal that is – a version of reality where women’s activities, just like ‘women’s work’ are mostly free and easily forgettable, and nothing seems too strange about that to most people.

Something that has been celebrated so loudly and proudly, coupled with a recent big resurgence in the feminist movement, is not likely to just go away quietly, however. It feels like the women’s movement has gained so much momentum this year that much noise will be made about the injustice of it all.

Admittedly, we, women, have not perhaps been used to this year’s kind treatment long enough. Perhaps, if we knew our history, or herstory, rather, we would be more likely to riot arm in arm about all the injustices perpetrated to us, as women and as a movement, more coherently. And instead, we focus on single issue campaigns – this is not to blame women for the state of affairs; patriarchy is, of course, responsible for keeping us as busy as ever – often forgetting our own herstory and the power of solidarity.

Once upon a time… London was a true haven for feminists. It provided many spaces for feminists of various persuasions. Many of them funded by the GLC – a statutory body for London – Greater London Council. Now, 32 years after its abolishion, the story of feminist London is barely lodged in most young feminists’ memory.

Most of the time, when London feminists find the Feminist Library for the first time, they are quite surprised that such a thing exists at all! True, in some ways it’s almost a miracle that it has survived so many years – 43 and counting – without much funding at all. But if one looks at it knowing the wider historical context of feminist spaces in London at the time when the it first opened, a different picture altogether emerges.

The Feminist Library used to share its previous three spaces with other feminist organisations – the Spare Rib, Sisterwrite and A Woman’s Place. All of these and nearly all of the other spaces like that, have gone now, leaving the Library to hold the fort alone – still underfunded, still undervalued, struggling away…

The Library’s struggle is emblematic of where the feminist movement is today – still struggling against most of the same issues. We have won certain battles, but the war against patriarchy is still very much alive, and in some cases it has gotten worse, with the capitalism paradigm taking over our lives so much, and normalising economic violence against people, especially women and children…

The Feminist Library’s home of 32 years has yet again become non-viable. It has to move and yet again start over in a new space. The good news is that the new space is looking promising. With a 25-year lease, the Library will be able to flourish in its new, secure home, for at least a quarter of a century. But it needs your help!

Help it protect its precious herstories and obtain a stable and sustainable home for future generations of feminists, so that they can have easier access to the stories they need to read in order to avoid having to reinvent the wheel yet again… Support the Feminist Library crowdfunding campaign now!

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Open book photo – Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com