This has been a year. As a museum professional and art historian, I have had much reflection on how and what I do, what we do, what the industry does and can do. As individuals, I think we are all doing our best, but of course we can always do better, for ourselves and others. Always strive, even in the most incremental ways, to be kinder, more inclusive, more open-minded. As an organization, we can do better too. Museums all need to do better. No matter our subject matter, no matter our collections, no matter our founding date, we can all do better. Cultural change is required. This must be a group effort, or it will not be lasting. Especially in the areas of gender and misogyny. While colonial and post-colonial countries and their cultural institutions have big work to de-colonize their collections, sexism and misogyny can be found all everywhere, even in museums that see their collections and practices as progressive. De-misogynizing museums, and their academic feeders like art history, anthropology, science and social history, is important work that should be prioritized. This call for de-misogynization takes its cue from the current practice of de-colonization, however, I was inspired by one of my own problematic favorites, Simone de Beauvoir. In the 1970s, she advocated for sexist language to be elevated to hate speech, that it was the same as racist language. It should be considered just as virulent as racist or ethno hate speech, for obvious reasons, as it leads to equally violent outcomes. Girl Museum, with its new model separate to the ways and traditions of physical museums, has made a conscious effort to not replicate sexist methods and language. We strive not to exploit or use language that disparages based on gendered constructions. However, we have not been perfect, and have a long way to go build any kind of holistic picture of girlhood. We are limited—by time, by human capacity, by budget, by a long history of neglect of girls’ stories and images to even draw from for our projects. Museums, libraries, and archives (and the people who work in them) can all do better in gathering stories of girls in history and today. But we will keep trying, stumbling, succeeding, and learning. I hope our efforts will rub off on others to continue to bring girls’ stories into the light in 2021 and beyond.
-Ashley E. Remer
Girl Museum Inc.