Women’s History Month: Web archive collections that #BreakTheBias

March 8th, 2022

By Bridget Collings, Raven Germain, and Tanya Ulmer, Web Archivists for Archive-It

This year’s International Women’s Day campaign theme invites us to collectively #BreakTheBias by celebrating women’s achievements and imagining a gender-equal world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. 

Many Archive-It partners are raising awareness against bias, stereotypes, and discrimination faced by women by documenting important feminist cultural heritage. One such example is the collection Issues in Women’s Rights curated by McGill University School of Information Studies. The archived websites in this collection highlight past and present issues in women’s rights and explore how overlapping identities of religion, race, and sexual orientation impact experiences of oppression. 

In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8th and Women’s History Month, here are three thematic public collections from Archive-It partners that showcase women taking action for equality. 

Breaking the bias in the art world

The art world has long been a space dominated by men that works to uphold oppressive structures and rigid gender roles, from the lack of inclusion of female artists in galleries to the lack of equal respect and pay for artists, curators, academics, and critics alike. 

Guerilla Girls, an anonymous group of female artists started in New York City in 1985, are devoted to fighting against such gender inequality and sexism in the visual fine arts world. Donning gorilla masks to remain anonymous, they use art as a medium to disrupt mainstream narratives and expose inherent biases. Their motto emphasizes how breaking the bias is an ongoing effort rather than a specific moment in time, and the best we can all do is to “keep chipping away.”

The New York University preserved some of their efforts in their collection: Fales Library: Guerrilla Girls. Within the archived sites, you can find art projects, videos, lectures, exhibitions, and action projects by all three Guerilla Girls groups, which split into three organizations in 2001: the original Guerilla Girls, the touring theater group Guerilla Girls on Tour, and Guerrilla Girls Broadband, which focuses on digital technologies. Also included in this collection is The Male Graze, a commission for the UK’s 2021 Art Night festival which explores bad male behavior through the lens of art history. 

Naked lady lounging in a gorilla mask.

Guerilla Girls 1989 poster

Breaking the bias in politics

Being a woman in politics means confronting and breaking bias on a daily basis. While women are still consistently underrepresented at all levels of politics, strides have been made to increase participation and leadership in politics. 

In 2018, a historic number of women, particularly Black women, ran for political office in the USA and won. This increase in Black women candidacies has been coined #TheChisholmEffect, which pays homage to pioneering African American politician Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to U.S. Congress. 

These political campaigns were collected by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture as part of their Black Political Elections 2018-Present collection. Focusing primarily on the Black women that ran in 2018, and Kamala Harris’ campaign in 2020, this collection showcases a number of politicians that went on to make up the historic 20 Black women that were elected to the U.S. Congress in 2018. Examples include Lauren Underwood, Ayanna Pressley, and Lucy McBath.

Ayanna Pressley smiling and wearing a hat

Ayanna Pressley’s campaign website

Breaking the bias in the workplace

Women working in the male-dominated brewing industry face sexist biases in their workplaces daily. In May 2021, Brienne Allen called out this behavior on her Instagram account (under @ratmagnet), inviting anonymous testimonials of women experiencing this kind of sexist behavior. The number that poured in during the next few days was in the thousands! Judith Herz dubbed it the #metoo moment for the U.S. Beer industry (in the video through the banner link), forcing an industry-wide examination of how female staff are treated in breweries. 

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro collected the industry responses in their collection: Craft Beer, Racism, and Sexism Statements, May 2021. The Brewers Association issued a Community Call to Action, offering its members resources to combat sexual harassment through WeVow, an organization established to provide counseling for victims and training for employees. 

Burial Beer executives posted a public apology to their female staff. Creature Comforts Brewing outlined steps taken to foster a more inclusive workplace. And Allagash Brewing Company listed a number of actions they would take to break their workplace bias, starting with “The number one thing you can do is to treat all people respectfully regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, position, religion, etc.” Cheers to all of that!

Screenshot of the Brewers association website featuring an image of a woman walking in a brewery

Brewers Association Call to Action website

Continuing to #BreakTheBias

As these collections show, many biases have already been broken in the art world, in politics, and in workplaces. Many more still need breaking to realize a gender-equal world, so keep on breaking them in your own communities! And when you see online evidence of this, continue collecting, preserving, and sharing those websites that forge women’s equality.