‘History Investigators’: An Interactive Workshop on the History of Resistance to Sexual Violence at the Shameless! Festival
On Saturday 28 Nov, the SHaME team and WOW hosted the Shameless! Festival at Battersea Arts Centre in south London. With an amazing and diverse turnout of people, ideas and opinions flew about throughout the day. The only disappointment was that we couldn’t all be in two or three spaces at once.
The SHaME team ran a range of activities including ‘History Investigators,’ an interactive workshop where festival goers delved into fact, myth, folklore and personal histories to build a timeline of resistance to sexual violence.
Historians Ruth Beecher (@deltacane) and Allison McKibban (@AllisonMckibban) were on hand as people sorted through images from primary sources from the nineteenth century right up to 2020: photographs, newspaper articles, court records, book covers and more. Each artifact was a reminder of an act of resistance against sexual violence – some well-known, others less so. Attendees then had to place the event on a timeline, bringing to bear lots of knowledge, some intrepid detective work and some inspired guesswork!
Participants talked about what and who they thought was most important in the fight to create a rape free world and to change attitudes to sexual assault and harassment. Feminists, doctors, ‘ordinary people,’ lawyers, the media, and academics were in the mix and participants talked about the ways race and ethnicity, age, class, gender and disability played in visibility of sexual assault and in the struggles to make positive changes.
Often and for understandable reasons, academic research and popular depictions of sexual violence focus on the harm caused by cultures of violence. The History Investigators Workshop was intriguing and uplifting as attendees explored the peaks and troughs of resistance and the inspirational strength of resistance from survivors and their allies across the globe.
We hope to build a digital timeline on our website so watch this space!
Dr Ruth Beecher is a postdoctoral research fellow on the SHaME project. She is a social and cultural historian with interests in the history of race, gender, children and families, and popular culture in the US and UK in the twentieth century. Read more about her research here.