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Who Shapes How We See Our History?

Watching history change, Personal experience
Gillian Polack
Posted: 09 Mar - 10:15 pm  

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Joined: 21-February 03

Looking around at International Women's Day activities on Monday, it struck me that even in the process of celebrating women and women's history, we are modifying the historical record. The process of interpretation and explanation changes our official memory of an event, and certainly changes the information available about an event. Sometimes this change can be really positive - hence the need to celebrate International Women's Day - but more often issues are more complex than that.

I was wondering, if any of you have any personal experience of participating in something, and then watching the politics as it took the event over, or the post-event reporting change the event from what you remembered being part of to quite a different creature. If you have, I would really love to see some of this posted (your experience of the evnet *and* how you saw it change) so that we can get insights into how the memory of women's history is shaped.

Posted: 10 Mar - 02:08 am  


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This gets me to something that I was thinking about: reclaiming our records (archives, history etc) so that it is ours and not some sort of censored nice version of things.

Clearly the media report things in a certain way and so the reports i saw on some of the events that I went to were nicely packaged to be palatable to the wider public. Or what is seen as palatable.

In talking to a friend today: we were wondering why a particular event (that used to be quite big, got funding from the local government, and then got defunded) was small this year in its first year back. My feeling is that over the last decade of defunding of women's organisations, and the general backlash and regression of women's rights, that we have forgotten how to celebrate women.

We have got out of the habit of being involved because there has been little to be involved in, and it has often been corporatised. So, we need to be reclaiming our day and reclaiming the types of events that are held. I must say WHM is doing this nicely so thats a big start, but we need to make sure that funding is there, that we actually attend the events, and that we talk about them.

Taking along women who would not normally attend is a big contribution that we can all make. I invited a friend to the launch of WHM the other day and she was pleased to come, took the program and might even show up here at some point. I hope so.

So, are we out of practice because we've been hiding or pushed aside for the last decade? Is that what we are now tackling - resuming our previous activity level and confidence?

some speculative brainstorming!

Posted: 16 Mar - 05:45 pm  


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Christina poses an interesting question - have we been pushed aside or forgotten how to celebrate? I think there may be a third option - we've forgotten how to make time to be involved.
As someone who considered themselves an activist and who is generally pretty involved in a wide range of things, I didn't do one thing this year to celebrate IWD A whole bunch of factors meant that I didn't have the time. I know that there was a rally planned on the Saturday, that I couldn't attend because I was involved in someting else. However, I sent my daughter and partner along, to an event that didn't happen because not enough people turned up - clearly I'm not the only busy woman!!
But this has been a pretty full on year for activist women across a number of campaigns. I know that the War in Iraq, Australia's treatment of refugees and the US/Aust free trade Agreement have been taking up a lot of my time. Add that to study, work and kids and I'm grateful to have a weekend to spend with my family.
I think that the challenge of recording women's history and of IWD is to incorporate all those women who are active in areas that don't necessarily lend themselves to archives or media reporting, and who work in grass roots, activist or community groups that rarely make that front page and aren't necessarily the first thing we think of when we think of women's history or IWD.
Though this could just be the ramblings of a fatigued mind!!

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