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Her Story: Transforming Open Through Feminism


Support is Everything” by Ipsita Divedi, licensed CC BY-NC-SA.

For over 40 years, millions across the globe have collectively celebrated the achievements, histories, ideas, and contributions of women on March 8 and increasingly, throughout March for Women’s History Month using #HerStory and #BecauseOfHerStory. This year, we wanted to do something special to celebrate this annual event, so we reached out to several members of the Creative Commons Global Network and the broader open community to ask them to share their personal stories, ideas, and insights by responding to five questions. The result is this five-part blog series called, “Her Story.” Throughout this series, we’ll also be highlighting the work of women artists who submitted pieces to Fine Acts’ Reimagining Human Rights challenge. 

Our hope is that these conversations will inspire you to reflect on your own stories and ideas. We also hope it will motivate you to think about how you can help make open sharing more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. Put simply, we want to make sharing better—to do that, we need your help.

In part three of this series, participants responded to the following question: How can feminism transform the open movement?

Les courants féministes sont de véritables bouillons de culture d’idées et des valeurs et accompagnent sous diverses formes notre histoire à travers des demandes d’égalité, de justice, de liberté, de visibilité. De son côté, le mouvement de la culture libre reste majoritairement masculin (par exemple  seule 10% de personnes participant à Wikipedia sont des femmes; il y également beaucoup moins de femmes dans le développement de logiciel libre que dans le développement de logiciel propriétaire) et l’ambiance parfois assez agressive, voire sexiste. Les féministes sont à l’origine de nombreuses initiatives innovantes destinées à sensibiliser, recruter, former, soutenir les novices du mouvement libre, et membres des groupes de travail réfléchissant aux moyens de développer un environnement plus amical, plus positif, plus réceptif et réactif aux situations individuelles (tels que développement de Charte de participation). 

EN: Feminist currents are veritable broths for the culture of ideas and values, ​​and in various forms accompany our history through demands for equality, justice, freedom, and visibility. For its part, the free culture movement remains predominantly male (for example, only 10% of people participating in Wikipedia are women; there are also far fewer women in the development of free software than in the development of proprietary software) and the atmosphere is sometimes quite aggressive, even sexist. Feminists are behind many innovative initiatives aimed at sensitizing, recruiting, training, and supporting novices of the free movement, and are also members of working groups reflecting on ways in which to develop a more friendly, positive, receptive, and responsive environment.

Abolishing the patriarchy and cisheteronormativity gives room in which we can foster creativity into the knowledge we consider important to share and preserve. Black women and Black queer folks have so much knowledge and brilliance to share, but this is shadowed daily by the small but meaningful and impactful things that go on within the open movement. Such as controlling or directing who receives funding, people not having the “necessary” networks that could get them into rooms where important and powerful decisions and conversations are made, Eurocentrism, a lack of diversity in leading organizations, inequality in labour and hiring procedures, etc. Until these things are dealt with, nothing will change.

I am not an expert in this area but I can say that feminism would help to put equality in practise in the open community, not only in terms of gender but every level of social equality.

Silvia Federici dice que los comunes no son “cosas” sino relaciones sociales. Por ello, hablar del acto de compartir, [commoning], los vínculos y la interdepencia, pueden ser ideas que desde el feminismo ayuden a derribar las jerarquías sociales impuestas y transformar el movimiento abierto.

EN: Silvia Federici says that the commons are not “things” but social relationships. For this reason, talking about feminist ideas like the act of sharing, commoning, social ties, and inter-dependence can help demolish the imposed social hierarchies and transform the open movement.

Feminism is an integral part of the open movement. Equity and inclusion are building blocks of openness: you cannot be truly open if you are keeping people out. Most of the main players in this space are dedicated to ensuring gender equity. Within the Wikimedia movement alone, active feminism and gender-equity projects and groups exist across languages, themes, and regions. Accompanied by safety and security teams and policies (such as the Universal Code of Conduct and friendly space policy), together and separately these projects and initiatives have transformed the Wikimedia movement. There is a LOT of work still to be done, but the movement is definitely a more gender-friendly space than it used to be. These projects have not only elevated women and encouraged female contribution but have also allowed for space where men can be gender sensitised and have the opportunity to work towards gender equity too.

Obviously, we need to address gender equality in the open movement, but here I would like to go beyond that. Feminism has a lot to teach about forming communities, destabilizing crystallized power structures, and learning within differences. There are many affinities between the open movement and feminism. More than a legal solution, the open movement is about changing worldviews and creating—in the present—the living experience of what a different future could look like. Feminists are about that too. But one of the things which I think is exceptional is that feminists have learned over the decades how to fight in extremely adversarial environments, how to protect themselves from reactive waves, and how to reshape the movement in the face of internal power imbalances. Feminists have had to differentiate and define themselves too, politically, geographically, and in terms of values and principles—and at times, to join forces for common causes. Feminists have long understood the need to fight for both cultural and institutional change. These are all learnings that I think are very useful in addressing today’s challenges in the open movement. 

An ecofeminist approach to the open movement requires us to interrogate the patriarchal systems that continuously make it impossible for women to access, share, and consume openly accessible knowledge and content. Traditionally, it is men that are considered professionals whilst women were and are referenced/viewed as an aesthetic and a support system to their male colleagues in the open movement. Many women, to this date, are only able to exist as ghostwriters to their male colleagues in the open movement. This needs to end. The open movement needs to embrace and expose women’s works so we can equally celebrate and promote women as co-creators with their male colleagues. 

? There’s more! Read part one and part two of our “Her Story” blog series today. Part four and five will be published Monday mornings (EST) throughout the month of March. Stay tuned!

Posted 15 March 2021