By providing women with digital and physical platforms where they feel safe to express themselves, this DIY collective are bringing a vital new approach to the way we access arts.
“Sexism and misrepresentation is far-reaching and the only way we can improve things is by opening up dialogues, offering up new perspectives and unpacking its influence across society, both inside and outside of the workplace.” Aoife Robinson cuts straight to the chase. GRRRL POWER is a collective that addresses sexism, “aim[ing] to re-address gender inequalities in contemporary art, literature and music, by bringing self-identified women together and creating spaces for them to thrive creatively.”
Aoife, Olivia Graham and Michelle Houlston are the people behind the scenes at Grrrl Power, but the full collective encompasses a wider range contributors and collaborators. Earlier this year, they invited self-identified women and non-binary people to submit essays for their Lonely Girl Phenomenology series, which Aoife explains “explores love and relationships – realms which host blatant examples of sexism and misrepresentation which still need legitimate spaces for discussion.” Taking influence from Chris Kraus, artist, curator and author of the seminal novel I Love Dick, which crucially blurs memoir (“this was a woman talking about the female consciousness, which was pretty groundbreaking”) and theory, Grrrl Power have published essays on topics as wide-ranging as exoticism and Orientalism, the male gaze and its entangled entitlement, fashion and mental health, and the trivialisation of female music fandom.
“Before Kraus, there have been innumerable women building us to this project. From reading Riot Grrrl zines as teenagers to hearing about Gorilla Girls and attending Queen of the Track events in Liverpool. What women have been doing around us has been invaluable.” Their influences run wide and deep, as Olivia explains, and many of these are rooted in the realms of those who have self-published or made a space for themselves where they were previously shut out. “Independent media is so, so important. It’s about making things more relevant – what is an issue in your community and how can you get people to respond to it? It’s hard to be an actual active activist in this day and age, but things like zines and blogs can get your voice heard,” Aoife offers. Zines are invaluable: you only have to look at gal-dem, the zine comprised of over 70 women of colour to see the worth in creating your own platform. One of the reasons why its founder Liv Little started out was because established media didn’t represent her and her peers. The power of zines is something that is also apparent to Grrrl Power, as Michelle explains: “This form of media is especially important if you are a demographic in society that doesn’t allow your voice to be heard in mainstream media.”
Aoife refers back to Kraus and her confessional stream of literature – “It’s important to give women space to articulate these things for themselves. There’s nothing more irritating than a man trying to do that for you” – but carving out their own platform is a thread that also runs through what Grrrl Power are doing. Their Lonely Girl Phenomenology series has given other self-identified women a space to reflect, rage and be read, while simultaneously introducing the Grrrl Power team to other voices: Oliva cites Lands, a collection of poetry, by Jemima Khalli, who submitted an essay to their series, while Michelle testifies: “It’s in everyone’s interest to seek out women, or non-gender conforming artists because without them, we are missing out on a world of insight and opportunity.”