I thought long and hard about whether or not to make Nourished Collective a women-only space. In the end, I decided I would rather have a smaller network that provided a space in which the dynamics of being a woman in education could be freely talked about than to create a larger network in which that liberty was compromised.
Women only spaces seem to be much discussed at the moment with some male rights groups seeking to gain access to them and launching lawsuits to enable this. It seems astonishing that members of the dominant group who have sought over thousands of years to segregate women now want in on the game.
In some South Asian communities, the practice of Purdah has kept women segregated from men and in the Ottoman Empire, a Seraglio was the sequestered living quarters used by wives and concubines. In Muscovite Russia, during the Seventeenth Century, there was Terem the elite social practice of confining women to separate spaces from men and this confinement extended to women being prevented from socialising with men outside their immediate family and shielded from the gaze of men being carried in veiled carriages and forced to wear concealing clothing.
And then women begin to design and build women-only spaces (I’d be lying if I said that there have been many days on which the idea of confinement from my partner hasn’t been quite appealing) and some small factions of men cry foul! This all reminds me of dear Zora who on reflecting on the burden of slavery in her essay How it Feels to be Colored Me (yes, I know — I talk about it all the time) writes;
“ The position of my white neighbour is much more difficult. No brown spector pulls up a chair beside me when I sit down to eat. No dark ghost thrusts its leg against mine in bed. The game of keeping what one has is never so exciting as the game of getting”
So, yes, Nourished Collective is proudly a women-only space and as such, I hope it will provide a place for the themes that Zoe Fenson found were important for women she talked to. Her article in The Week explored four key reasons that women felt drawn to women only spaces. The first of these was ‘affirmation and recognition’ and that sense of being around and talking with people who ‘get it’. Women talked about ‘safety’ as an important factor and the opportunity to just turn up and ‘be’, be vulnerable, be savage, be wild and so on. Women also talked about the importance of ‘access’. There was an awareness that women only networks could counter some of the negative bias in the recruitment and selection of women for roles. Finally, the women Fenson talked to cited women-only spaces as places in which to explore ‘intersectionality’ and further dismantle oppression and marginalisation.
Because I want our space to grow and thrive I am putting a call out for women to write articles, short blog posts, commentaries on books, whatever inspires or motivates you really. Posting these within Nourished Collective will add texture and depth to our space and without a doubt, your shared experience will touch the heart of another. If you’d like to publish an article within our Nourished Collective Journal then please get in touch as again these articles may reach women who are not yet part of the network but for whom a short piece of writing could make all the difference.
What I’m reading: 10% Braver: Inspiring Women to Lead Education