In case you didn’t already know, women rock! It’s an non-debateable fact that gets overlooked far too often in society and a group of graduate students and professors at the University of Washington and Seattle University have organized a two day conference and film festival this week to help change that. On February 17th and 18th, the inaugural Women Who Rock festival is taking place on the UW campus (Thursday) and Seattle University (Friday) aiming to shed more light on rock star women that exist within and around the music world at large. Some innovative media components are expected to be a part of it. And the two day conference is free to the public.
According to one of the conference organizers, University of Washington-Bothell professor Angelica Macklin, who put together Thursday’s film festival, they’re actually playing on terminology by utilizing the term “Women Who Rock” and many of the movements and individuals that will be the center of discussion during the two day conference don’t have to involve actual performers. “It’s women who rock in various things in their life,” Macklin said during a quick phone chat. “There are women who are community organizers, women who have radio shows, women who do good work on race studies and gender that often crosses into music. Someone like Rahwa Habte, co-owner of Hidmo, is a total rock star just by providing a space for musicians to gather.”
The original concept for the two day fest was partially born out of the EMP Pop Conference, which took place in Seattle for roughly a decade, but is moving to Los Angeles this year. With such a wealth of good academic discussion about music and groups often marginalized within music absent from the city landscape this year due to the Pop Conference’s move, Women Who Rock has a unique opportunity to fill that void and put sharp women at the forefront. That shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish when looking at a portion of the conference’s mission statement:
The Women Who Rock Conference, organized by the Women Who Rock Research Project and the Women Who Rock Graduate Student Collective, highlights both contemporary and past movements in and outside of Seattle by bringing together musicians, activists, writers, advocates, educators, and scholars to talk about questions of female representation and access for women within music scenes. We have been particularly inspired by the ways that Chicana and Black feminist thought has expanded who counts as “women” and what counts as “rock.”
Conference organizer and associate professor Michelle Habell-Pallan who works within UW’s Women Studies department says that not only will forms of new media and digital storytelling be a part of the daily breakout sessions, but DIY media is actually playing a strong role in spreading the word about the conference itself. “Facebook has been really important. We haven’t done anything formal but the word is getting out there via the Facebook and WordPress accounts that we set up,” Habell-Pallan says. “It’s been very DIY already, including a community radio appearance last weekend, but it’s working. We expected about 100 people to come out and we’ve already got 193 folks pre-registered for the conference.”
The film festival alone is a strong acknowledgment of the way digital storytelling within a community can help create change. Seattle filmmaker Jill Freidberg has three documentaries that will be shown, including her powerful film, Un Poquito de Tanta Verdad (A Little Bit of So Much Truth), from her time documenting workers on strike in Oaxaca, Mexico taking over community radio stations to spread news of the uprisings. Scott Macklin’s People Not Places will be shown regarding female hip-hop mavericks Invincible (Detroit/Israel) Sabreena Da Witch (Palestine) and Toni Hill (Portland) forging new ground in the music arena.
Key conference co-organizer and professor Mako Fitts of Seattle University will be on indie station Hollow Earth Radio tonight from 9pm — 11pm discussing the upcoming festival and playing music from many of the participants. Listeners on the Web can tune in live.