The Feminist Storytelling Network was established at NUI Galway in 2017 by Dr Miriam Haughton, Lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies. The Feminist Storytelling Network is an interdisciplinary forum that promotes research, pedagogy and activism relating to feminist principles, histories and experiences. The network’s purpose and goals are multiple and interconnecting, including:
To offer a dedicated interdisciplinary research network that is grounded in the principles of feminism as well as theatre and performance, most specifically
- by examining the personal as political and vice versa
by situating both private and public experience as embodied and performative.
To promote early-career and established research, pedagogy, and activism with a designated focus on feminism, gender studies, and interdisciplinarity
To identify how gender relations and feminism can inform personal and public life, particularly as it is experienced via social relations, cultural traditions, and the development of policies and legislation
To provide a democratic and non-hierarchical space that is collaborative and supportive for discussion and debate
To consider approaches and methodologies to the current challenges facing women, men, and issues of equality in personal and public life
To support intersectionality via the lens of feminist histories, scholarship and activism
To challenge and make visible structural discriminations, by addressing explicit and unconscious bias in routes of knowledge creation and dissemination
To highlight the urgency of feminism and gender studies in education, from primary school level to tertiary institutions.
This network formed its roots in NUI Galway’s Gender ARC and frequently collaborates with Gender ARC in the hosting of symposia and working groups. This network is open to the co-hosting of events with individuals, groups and organisations, and invites proposals in this regard.
In Ireland, a national impetus to examine the recent and historical past came under a collective spotlight as part of widespread centenary commemorations. The Decade of Centenaries is ‘dedicated to the programme of commemorations relating to the significant events in Irish history that took place between 1912 and 1922.’ (www.decadeofcentenaries.com). This period of intense commemorative activity has resulted in equally intense retrospection and critical reflection concerning how the state of Ireland was formed and how it has developed to the present day, constituted by its multiple apparatuses and institutions. This includes examination of politics, policies, and value-systems embedded in the Constitution and legislation, as well as the leadership that prescribes, in varying degrees, social behaviour, interactions and norms.
This pervasive critical examination of the foundation of the state has highlighted major interventions by feminist historians, sociologists, cultural commentators and artists, who advocate for national revisions regarding dominant narratives of Ireland’s past, and, Ireland’s present. In theatre specifically, the #WakingTheFeminist movement protested the Abbey Theatre’s centenary programme, evidencing its patriarchal privilege not only in that programme and the national theatre, but in top-down funding and programming decisions nationwide (www.wakingthefeminists.org). The recent Gender Counts (2017) report commissioned by #WTF and supported by the Arts Council provides a vital base from which to continue to deliver research-led expertise in how structural discrimination, unconscious bias, and explicit sexism has become normalised within the arts community. The impact of #WTF was such that it quickly became intersectional and international in scope, creating a movement and momentum that looked to gender inequality historically and structurally, and to feminisms as a mode of instigating change. #WTF occurred after the landslide victory for the Marriage Referendum (2015), and before the landslide victory for the Repeal the 8th Referendum (2018). The centralisation of private experience in public space, through dialogue, was fundamental to these major changes. These victories evidence that the status quo in Ireland has changed, and its time for its structures to catch up.
Outside of Ireland, politicised grassroots movements such as #MeToo and Everyday Sexism (www.everydaysexism.com) further identify that gender equality has not been achieved, and indeed, gender relations are in crisis across the political and personal spectrum. The recent surge in women voicing their private experiences of discrimination and violence in the public domain – a space where traditionally the female voice is marginalised and silenced – has created a momentum and aspiration that is palpable globally. This culture shift does not assume a complete dissolution of tensions that exist across feminist positions, class, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality and personal beliefs. In many ways, this opening up of private experience has further highlighted how deep and problematic divisions can be across women’s and feminist experiences. However, a more explicit and visible sense of solidarity, learning and active citizenship can be harnessed from what is potentially a fourth wave of feminism, building on the major struggles and achievements of the feminist movement throughout centuries previous.
Why We Need Feminisms Today
We need feminisms today to right wrongs, and create rights. Topics that the FSN is keen to address include:
Abortion rights and research worldwide
The gender pay gap, the glass ceiling, structural discriminations in the workplace
Women and Health
Violence against women
Gender and the arts: equality in the cultural sphere
Major revisions of educational systems and content
Gender equality and the law: policies, implementation, transparency, monitoring, accountability