Women's WORLD is a network of women
writers who believe absolutely in the transformational power of
the word and the need for women's voices to become stronger, louder,
and more influential. We came together in 1994, at a time when the
great worldwide contradiction between globalization and anti-modern
backlash movements was first becoming clear. As feminist writers,
we felt this contradiction very sharplyin fact, we felt caught
in the crossfire. We feel that way more than ever since September
11th, as a war discourse takes over more and more of the world and
the voices of global feminism become more muted every day. How can
we make our voices heard? How can we keep our ideas alive?
Many of us are not only writers and activists
but also historians who spent years searching through archives or
doing oral histories, on the track of long-forgotten feminists.
We know how quickly women's achievements and books can disappear
from the public record, be swept away by a new historical tide and
lost for generations.
In 1994, when we first came together, we could
see that some of our sister writers were coming under sharper threats
than before. We identified with them, knowing that we could be in
their shoes one day, that the political climate in any of our countries
could shift overnight and we too become pariahs. In this age of
globalization, we wanted to build a network that could work across
borders to defend women writers against those who would silence
them, and could cherish and preserve their ideas and their work.
To some degree this vision was inspired by
Bessie Head, the South African writer who died in 1986. Bessie Head
was born in a mental hospital, the child of a black man and a white
woman in a time and place where such liaisons were unthinkable.
Raised in an orphanage, she became a writer against very great odds.
Her writing was so strong that she got published abroadshe
could hardly get published in apartheid South Africaand her
works were studied in universities, yet she died in poverty before
the age of fifty.
We wanted to build a network that could help
writers like Bessie Head overcome their isolation, connect with
their audience, and find a community that would help sustain them.
We had a vision of an international mutual aid network through which
we could help one another move around when necessary and keep one
Some will ask, why Women's WORLD, when men
are censored too? We certainly don't want a world only for women;
nor is our interest in justice restricted to one sex. But men already
have strong public voices. They have "old boy" networks that help
them move around. And human rights organizations have categories
for the kind of censorship that happens to men. The kind of censorship
that happens to women writers often takes place under the radar
screen because of the subordinate position of women. In most societies,
the state doesn't have to silence women; there are plenty of other
people who will get there first. Though Bessie Head's voice was
effectively silenced, few human rights lawyers would see what happened
to her as censorship. They would say, "She was poor, black, a woman,
living in exile, socially isolated, driven crazy by all that had
happened to her. That may be misfortune, but it isn't censorship."
We think it is … As far as we are concerned,
whatever disrupts the ability of a woman writer to reach her audience
is censorship, whether it is racist governments, conservative clerics,
systemic mechanisms of social control, family pressures, discriminatory
publishers, customs, prejudices, poverty, illiteracy, or the lopsided
system of global media distribution. As an advocacy organization
trying to help women have a stronger public voice, we are against
all such censorship and want to find ways to fight it.
This website is one of our main weapons, because
it can help us overcome isolation. Isolation is the woman writer's
worst enemy. Isolation in a hostile environment can kill the soul.
But we can fight it by connecting with one another. We can make
this website a place of conversation about and mutual support against
the pressures we face as women, as writers, and as political beings.
It can be a place where we speak up in the face of terrorism and
the war on terrorism, and link up with one another regionally and
locally. It includes:
a moderated discussion group where you
can write us about your own work in terms of censorship or other
a questionnaire for women writers that will enable us
to collect data on gender and censorship as part of an ongoing international
"The Crisis," a moderated forum on the
way the world crisis is coming down where each of you are. In
some places, the crisis has nothing to do with September 11;
it is a subsistence crisis, or an AIDS crisis, or an ongoing
civil war. In others, the war against terrorism is totally changing
the ground rules for daily life. We want to know about all these
situations. We have posted some articles, mainly reflecting
on September 11, and including responses by some of our board
members to questions about the world crisis. Now we want to
hear your thoughts.
We also have sections to broadcast the voices
of women in crisis regions. These will change as the world situation
does; at this time, we have two special sections. The first is "African
Women's Voices." This section grows out of our African networking
program, and will give readers all over the world exposure to some
voices that need to be heard. The second is "Voices for Peace
in Israel and Palestine." At least in the US media, voices of war
are almost all we can hear from that part of the world, but there
are other voices we can learn from and should support.
This website is a work in progress. We hope
to improve it as we go and will welcome your feedback and suggestions.
website was edited by Deborah Drier. Otherwise unsigned material
was written by Meredith Tax. Programming and design were done by
Technologies. The website owes its existence to the generous
support of the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.