The Feminist Library: A Short Film


[Poster Art by Ruth Ciara]


> Shortlisted for the Women’s History Network Community Prize <

Date: 17th September 2016
Time: 6pm
Location: The Feminist Library
5, Westminster Bridge Road
London SE1 7XW
Tickets: Donations on the door

It took me over a year collecting interviews with a good friend of mine and fellow journalist (though, unlike me, she’s actually a real journalist with a paid job) to get all the footage for this film. When her job got too busy, I took on the rest of the project solo, edited the footage and liaised with women at the library on everything post-production. At times I got severely fed up and wanted to throw it all in the metaphorical rubbish bin of my life, along with the other countless projects I’ve thought up and not followed through with. But the truth is, these women were too good to give up on.

I’d spent too many hours listening to their stories; learning about the Women’s Liberation Movement (the period of history from which much of the Feminist Library’s documentation is from) and realising the enormity of what generations of women have achieved before me. I’d learned too much about what the Library is, and what it stands for, and I cared. I cared deeply. I cared about the fact that, as Alice Wroe put it during our interview, no one had ever told us about these women. No one had ever told me there was a rich inventory of women role-models from the past (and present) that I could draw on. Women who led rich lives and have fascinating stories. No one had ever taught me about the Women’s Liberation Movement in Britain, and why it had to happen. No one, absolutely no one, not at primary school, not at secondary school, not even at university – no one put the stories and herstories of women on an equal footing with the stories of men, who coincidentally seemed to fill our textbook pages. No one had ever told me that, 40 years ago, women had to fight for domestic abuse services in Britain. No one told me that women had to struggle to make women’s history and women’s studies a respected and acceptable subject matter at university. Though I had a sliver of awareness about this, no one told me that there were events, many events, and important historic dates (dates that should even be in school history books!) and conferences all about the rights of women which took place around the country during the 1970s and ’80s. No one told me that the first National Women’s Liberation Movement march happened in 1971, that the Equal Pay Act came into force in 1975, and that there was a real and vibrant movement working toward the economic, legal, social, cultural and political independence of women at that time. Crucially, no one told me that this was the legacy I’d inherited as a young Franco-British woman from London. That I’d come from a history of oppression, but that the women who came before me had worked hard to start putting things right. This is the history, the identity and the context I’d been denied no thanks to my culture and education. How could I let this all go?

I made the film.

Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Feminism, like any movement, is endlessly fascinating, complex, layered, and most important of all, intersectional. No one had told me that, either, but I gained a much greater awareness of this during the making of my film. Many, still today, want to pigeon-hole feminism and feminists into grossly reductionist stereotypes. The amount of times I’ve been cringed at when answering “yes” to the question “are you a feminist?”, and the endless and repeated explanations I’ve had to give (mostly men) about me not being some kind of “man-hating, finger-pointing, reverse-sexist” once I’ve openly identified as a feminist, make for tired and increasingly redundant exchanges. The other question I seem to get, “but is feminism really still relevant?”, makes the education we’ve all been denied as a society painfully and glaringly obvious. But I digress…

The point is, feminism is a multi-issue social movement with an important history. It is also as complex today as the individuals who comprise it. I am a skinny, white, abled, Western, heterosexual, middle class, cisgender woman, which is currently the most privileged experience of ‘woman’ that I can think of. Feminism includes transgender, multi-ethnic, disabled, queer, fat, non-Western, working class perspectives and identities and all of the complex issues and narratives that come with them. I wish my film spoke about these perspectives in more depth. Some of them it doesn’t mention at all. But I’ve made a start. And I hope I’ve managed to show feminism as a rich and complex phenomenon that viewers will take away with them and want to learn more about. And for the feminists who’d never heard of the Feminist Library before, now you know where it is. Give the place a visit. It has given me a community of sisters, and an education.

Happy viewing 🙂

Watch it   => here <=

Visit the Feminist Library’s website  => here <=


All images © Anaïs Charles 2016. All rights reserved.