Idle Chatter? The women protecting and preserving the feminist voice

Photo Credit: Ella Milburn

Photo Credit: Ella Milburn

As part of Manchester History Festival I went along to Idle Chatter?, the first of three evenings of discussion and performance organized by the Feminist Web Archive, a non-profit project focused on curating, storing and presenting the work of the various women’s groups in Manchester from the 60s up to the present. The evening started with a display of several newsletters by the Women’s Liberation Collective, followed by a performance piece by the Little She Girls, an interview with two of the members from the original collective and rousing spoken word poetry by Steph Pike.

Manchester has long been at the epicentre of the feminist fight and the birthplace of some of its greatest warriors so it seems appropriate that this should be the place where people are taking steps to preserve the work of generations of feminists who made sure the voices of all women; be they black, lesbian, disabled, immigrants, locals, whoever they are and wherever they came from, they were heard and that will not be forgotten. What the Feminist Web Archive provides for is an educational and inspiring insight into intergenerational feminism and a chance to learn from those who have fought the battles with the arms that we must now take up and continue.

Throughout my education I was taught the plights of the suffragettes till kingdom come but the crusades of the more recent decades were entirely overlooked, perhaps having happened to recently to be considered history. But it was these women who equally fought for the freedoms women of my generation and those to come take for granted such as gay rights or access to contraception and abortion. What’s important to remember is that this isn’t just a matter of history; these are ongoing battles that the moans at hearing the unfulfilled Women’s Liberation manifesto make greatly apparent have yet to be won.

While being a woman in Britain may not be an oppressive reality, there are many obstacles and inequalities that still face the 21st century woman, and regarding those that we have already managed to achieve them, is it not our duty to turn to those in countries and societies that are still crippled by oppressive patriarchies and help them to do the same? Is it not the duty of the empowered to reach down and help pull those still oppressed up? These women reminded me that although I may have never faced discrimination or disadvantage due to my gender, there are many who do and my privilege should only serve as a platform from which to help others and raise them to the freedom that I enjoy daily. There is still a need for feminism, in Great Britain as in the rest of the world, and there is so much we could learn from these inspiring women who paved the way for the change that we must continue. One of the speakers, for example, was in the group who set up Rape Crisis in Manchester, an incredibly important service that has helped so many since its creation in 1976.