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Crowdfunding Feminism

2011 July 18
by Sarah Jackson

No doubt most of you will have heard of Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform for creative projects. If this were a newspaper the headline would probably be “Move over boys” or “The feminists are coming” or something like that because I’m going to point out that there are some feminists using it.


I like Kickstarter because of its pleasing by-the-people-for-the-people ethos and the fact it gives independent filmmakers, writers, musicians and artists a chance to make their ideas a reality. It’s all very ‘open’ as they say. In fact Open Source blog says this:

The beauty of Kickstarter is that it bypasses the traditional channels artists would need to navigate in order to fund a project. Here funding depends on community participation rather than closed-door gatekeepers. The individual investments can be small and spread among those who care about that project’s success.

What we have here of course is also a fantastic opportunity for political or minority groups to get unpopular projects off the ground, projects that would never be able to attract funding from traditional investors (who tend to be of the wealthy white male variety) because they can’t see the ‘market’ for them.

Some awesome feminist projects

Womanthology cover artHave a search on Kickstarter and you’ll find all kinds of socially conscientious and community projects about race, sexuality, disability, class and yes: gender. In fact Ms Magazine in the US have started a regular Feminist Booster Club feature on their blog to spotlight different feminist projects deserving of support.

And it works. One example is the fantabulous Womanthology project which has managed to fully fund itself in a matter of weeks:

Womanthology is a large scale anthology comic showcasing the works of women in comics. It is created entirely by over 140 women of all experience levels… The purpose of the book is to show support for female creators in comics and media. There will be multiple short stories, how to’s & interviews with professionals, and features showcasing iconic female comic creators that have passed, such as Nell Brinkley and Tarpe Mills. A Kids & Teens section will also be included, showcasing their work, and offering tips & tricks to help them prepare themselves for their future careers in comics.

Face with criticism ("My eyelid is droopy") taken from women's magazineOf course it helps that the project has the support and involvement of a number of big names (for geeks anyway) such as Gail Simone, Bonnie Burton and Neil Gaiman. But still: awesome.

A project I’d been following for a long time before it was at the Kickstarter stage is The Illusionists:

The Illusionists is a feature-length documentary about the commodification of the body and the marketing of unattainable beauty around the world.

The film will explore the influence that corporations have on our perceptions of ourselves, showing how mass media, advertising and several industries manipulate people’s insecurities about their bodies for profit.

Having followed its development over the last couple of years I think its going to be a corker. And it’s not quite at its funding target yet, so you know… *cough* stump up! *cough*

Microloans for women in the developing world

The idea of crowdfunding has taken off in a big way over the last couple of years, and it’s often linked to the microfinance initiative in development, particularly in relation to empowering women.

There is something quite thrilling about using Kiva or another platform to give funding directly to a woman in Kenya or Nepal to help her start a business. And of course you get your money back so you don’t have to lose any time worrying whether genuine altruism really exists.

However it’s worth bearing in mind that even though you may be helping one woman, her family and maybe her community (which is nothing to be sniffed at!) spreading capitalism to every corner of the earth isn’t necessarily the best way to help women as a group. Microloans don’t do much to tackle the structural causes of poverty and inequality. In fact they don’t always help individual women.

Don’t stop giving, but think about giving to projects that will also help women protect themselves from violence, disease and discrimination while they run their business.

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