In launching she-files, the past month has been a blur of interviews for stories, nose-to-the-grindstone writing, lengthy emails and lively meetings (editorial, legal and website development to name a few). Less than two short months ago, the idea for she-files was born during a transcontinental London-to-Denver phone conversation between us (Ginanne Brownell Mitic and Kristin Kirsch Feldkamp), and we have hustled and have had a great time since then creating what you see today. Inspired by women’s stories and distressed by the misogynistic tone of recent political events across the globe, we decided the best way for us to harness our skills and counteract some of the pervasive negativity towards our gender that we have been experiencing was to create a webzine featuring articles written by women, about women and for women that would provide reliable information, connection and community. Thus she-files was born, and a launch date of January 21, 2017 was specifically chosen to coincide with the global marches taking place that day in support of women’s rights and respect.
Though she-files itself has been more than just a gleam in our eyes for only a short time, we have both spent years of our lives studying and writing about women and women’s issues. As an international journalist, Ginanne has written a vast number of articles about women around the world for publications like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. She has also become something of a girls’ education advocate, writing from places like Nepal and Kenya about the barriers girls face when it comes to their access to education. Kristin, meanwhile, has worked in several fields (including public relations and museums) but always with her women’s studies background at the back of her mind. She has delivered papers at conferences on feminist theory and writers like Virginia Woolf and, most recently, after taking many years off from work to raise a family, she has blogged about parenting and social issues for publications like Scary Mommy and Literary Mama.
Now that you know a little bit about us, we want to share some of the statistics that made creating she-files even more important and urgent. In our world today, 600 million women live in nations where domestic violence is not a crime. Meanwhile globally 31 million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls who should be in lower secondary school do not have access to education. And it is estimated that of the 43 million people around the globe who are enslaved, 55% of them are women and girls. Clearly, being a woman in many parts of the world can be a pretty tough situation. But let’s not forget it is not just in the developing world where there are inequalities: according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013 women who worked full-time had median weekly earnings of $706 compared to the median weekly earnings of $806 for men. Shockingly, the U.S. has dropped from 20th to 45th on the Economic Forum’s World Gender Gap Report Ranking between 2014 and 2016. And in a country like Ireland women are significantly under-represented in government on both the local and national level, with only 15.7% of women elected to the Irish Assembly and accounting for less than a fifth of members in local authorities. Across the European Union, female representation in national parliaments as of 2013 was a paltry 27.5%.
Even armed with all of these statistics and the knowledge that gender discrimination is fundamentally wrong, standing up and demanding equal pay, requiring access to reproductive health and hygiene, requesting better educational opportunities and expressing outrage at politicians’ sexist comments about women can be terrifying, and viewed by some as dismissable or even worse, as hysterical. An example of how scary standing up for women’s rights can be is Brown University-educated actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson’s confession that she was hesitant to admit she was a feminist. If a talented, beautiful, educated, wealthy and white celebrity living in Britain thinks it’s scary, we can only imagine how frightening it is for a thirteen-year-old girl seeking an education in Kenya or a Filipino housekeeper in Dubai. Yet it is important—integral even— for all women who think they should be treated as equals to men to have the courage to speak up. Malala Yousafzai, the 19-year old girls’ education advocate and youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, said that hearing Ms. Watson describe herself as a feminist gave her the courage to begin calling herself a feminist too. Our words are our power and they can be an instigator of significant change—for one individual or an entire community.
With she-files, we hope to build our own community where every woman feels invited, respected and included. Whether you lean left or right politically or don’t lean at all, this is a space to read and share stories about amazing women from all walks of life, big and small, without discrimination getting in the way. Thank you so much for taking the time to think about and, hopefully, join our mission—women, stories, no glass ceilings.
graphic maximummm from Shutterstock