A Pox on the Patriarchy
As its name suggests, The Women’s Room has never been and never could have been the project of a single woman. Like all feminist activism, it took the work of a number of women to bring together, some of whom contributed a fiver here and there, a phone call, an idea, some of whom worked for hours without pay, simply because they believed that this was an important project.
The genesis of The Women’s Room was a tweet by Catherine Smith, now Costello. We were all angry about two days in a row where the Today Programme hosted an all-male panel to discuss women’s bodies. Ever the ideas woman, Cath tweeted something along the lines of “If the BBC can’t find women experts, we should set up a database for them”. I loved the idea and immediately replied, saying, let’s do this.
It started off as an excel spreadsheet — I think we gathered together about fifty names within the first hour — but before long Yvonne Aburrow had created a google website for us. That website lasted a few days before a new one was built for us on wordpress by Jem Turner. Later on, Jax Blunt provided her web expertise to help us further develop the site.
There have been many other helping hands along the way. Amy Dennis, who runs WIMPL, a networking organisation for women in media and publishing, decided to help me run a launch event for the new website — which itself was only possible because so many amazing people donated in response to my tweets on a memorable weekend in February 2013. Cat Brockhurst helped for hours working out all the various categories of expertise for the new website. Cassie Robinson very kindly sorted out a space for the launch, and also met with me on numerous occasions right at the beginning when I was trying to figure out how to turn The Women’s Room into a serious force for women — she provided meeting space, gave advice, and ultimately helped me organise the first meeting I gathered together of expert women who might be able to help. Hannah Curtis has been helping pretty much since the beginning, volunteering at the launch event, running the volunteer rota system, and single-handedly managing the twitter account. I simply wouldn’t manage without her.
The Women’s Room is by no means what I would like it to be — there is so much more it could be doing to be helping to increase and improve the representation of women across the media. Unfortunately it is something I have to do in spare moments I can grab, which means all I have time to do is approve journalists and experts, rather than take it in new directions. Still, it’s a pretty amazing database and a fantastic achievement.
The Women’s Room wouldn’t have come into being without all those who have given up their time along the way — and there are way more than I have mentioned here. But ultimately, the first spark came from Cath, and it wouldn’t exist without her, without that first tweet. Cath is a passionate and fierce advocate for women and I’m privileged to have been able to work with her on such an exciting and meaningful project.