The HMCS Wardroom celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Wall of Women project on Friday night. The Wardroom now houses a permanent installation displaying 11 important women in King’s history.
The night included live music featuring ‘non-dude’ performers, tables from South House, Nova Scotia Public Research Group, the King’s Bookstore, a craft station and a snack station. The women who organized the project gave a speech followed by the cutting of a cake frosted with the purple words ‘fuck the patriarchy.’
Students Advocating Representative Curricula (SNARC) is the society that stemmed from the Wall of Women project, and had been preparing for this night for months.
“[I’m] really excited to have so much of the extended community to come support us. It’s been really amazing hearing from so many different voices and having so much different support,” Rach Klein, one of the members of SNARC said.
A year ago, student and founding member of SNARC, Meg Shields, was drinking in the Wardroom and noticed the lack of female representation on the walls. At this time there were more pictures of boats on the walls than women.
Shields and her peers wanted to change that.
“Tradition is a backbone that we have [at King’s], but it’s a backbone that has some splints and needs to be taken care of and attending to,” Shields said.
What began as a Facebook chat with more than 30 people, including over five student societies, professors, the advancement office, the registrar’s office and the archivist, lead to the inaugural day of the Wall of Women back in 2014.
“The project grew really fast. It demonstrated that there was a pressing need in the community to address the issues,” Shields added.
Today, the 11 portraits of important women have hung proudly on the walls of the Wardroom for a year.
The feedback, organizers say, has been mixed – the wide majority of responses have been positive. The approximately 10 per cent of negative feedback they have received, they say, has come from a place of misunderstanding and poor communication.
“Our goal was not to display an exhausted showcase of all the women who have had an impact on the school, we would need a lot more wall space for that, but we simply wanted to demonstrate that women have had a significant place in our history,” Clara McGaughey, one of the executive members of SNARC, said in the speech given Friday night.
“So much of what makes kings special is our focus on discussion and our willingness to entertain all kinds of ideas, but a lot of that discussion really ends up being theoretical, and we want to put that theory into action,” McGaughey said.
“Gender imbalance is something that faces us every day, in national news stories, in administrative power dynamics and in academia,” Clare Barrowman, another exec and project organizer, said during the speech.
The timing of the project was also significant, as it aligned with issues outside of King’s community, like the Dalhousie Dentistry scandal and the Jian Ghomeshi scandal.
Klein still recognizes the fact that there continues to remain a lack of representation on the walls, even after the 11 portraits were hung.
“It’s a very binary system that we’re working from right now, because that’s the access to records that we have, but we do want to celebrate non-binary and gender queer and trans folks within this gender-oppressed arching system,” Klein said.
“The wall of women project has been our attempt to carve out a place for women physically, historically and intellectually,” Klein continued.
When the Wall of Women made its debut, the small group of dedicated students who created the project, ratified into an official society, now known as SNARC. The purpose of which is to create and support projects that deal with issues of representation and marginalization in both curriculum and academia at King’s.
“We’re a resource, we’re here for other people to come to if they want things done we make things happen. We make your crazy radical feminist dreams come true,” Shields said.
SNARC is already looking ahead to the future. After a yearlong statistic project focusing on the history of women at King’s, and on the Foundation Year Program’s curriculum, SNARC will be presenting the findings at a conference coming up. They will also be announcing a Valentines Day event, which – hint: involves breakup letters, performed by students and faculty.
The members of SNARC are very proud of what they’ve accomplished. They’re always looking for new members to join and continue the project they’ve so diligently put together.
“If you’re a student, they can’t fire you. Don’t worry about being radical,” Shields said.
Note: a correction has been made to fix a spelling error.