Spring 2017 Digital Project Review No.4: Jamie Goodall's review of "Click! The Ongoing Feminist Revolution"
Click! The Ongoing Feminist Revolution
Created and maintained by Clio Visualizing History. Produced and edited by Lola Van Wagenen, Susan Ware, Melanie Gustafson, Marilyn Blackwell, Amy Feely Morsman, Art Bell, Paul Hansen, Kris Surette, and Bob Selby. https://www.cliohistory.org/click/
Reviewed October 12-21, 2016.
Jamie Goodall, Stevenson University
Click! The Ongoing Feminist Revolution derives its clever name from two unique understandings of the word “click:” one being a 1970s term referring to the moment when a woman awakened to the powerful ideas of contemporary feminism, and the other referencing the click of a computer mouse connecting individuals to powerful ideas on the Internet. The objective of the site is to explore the power and complexity of gender consciousness in American life throughout history from the 1940s to present. In this capacity, the digital exhibition succeeds brilliantly and appears to be current with modern scholarship on the many subjects covered—no easy task.
The project examines women’s issues, lives, and activism at the national, grassroots, and individual level. To do so effectively, the struggle for gender equality is divided into three major sections—workplace and family, politics and social movements, and body and health. The project links visitors to primary source documents, images, and archives related to a variety of subjects within these contexts, many of which are also listed in the exhibition’s “Resource Library.”
There are numerous ways for visitors to the digital exhibition to interact with the vast amount of information contained on the website. Each of the three major sections is further divided into subsections that can be accessed from the “Click! Menu” button. This helps to alleviate the feeling of being visually overwhelmed by so many different types of text, media, and pages to access—of which there are no fewer than two-dozen pages excluding the credits. These subsections allow visitors to navigate to pages of interest and curiosity without requiring them to hit the “Next Page” button endlessly. These pages range in subjects from “Discord Among Women” to “Changing American Families” and each page provides visual primary sources, including videos, audio, and images, to accompany the textual information. Although the website can sometimes be difficult to navigate due to the sheer amount of information and resources available, it is an incredibly useful tool for upper level undergraduate or graduate students researching issues in women’s history between 1940 and the present, or professors seeking to incorporate primary resources on these issues into their classroom for student consumption.
Given the visual design of the exhibition, including its use of many bright and vibrant colors and youthful illustrations, I had the initial impression that this website was geared towards a younger audience—perhaps K-12 or even college undergraduates in their first year or two of study. But after reading the information provided for each section, it became clear that this website might be better used by upper-level college undergraduates, graduate students, or early professionals who need easy (and free) access to primary sources and academically-sound information. Phrases like “periods of heightened mobilization” and “a single issue around which a broad constituency of women could coalesce” are not phrases typical of a more wide-ranging audience of varying degrees of literacy and education. But given the visual additions to each page, it is more accessible to audiences than it might otherwise be. And by creating text to accompany these images and videos, the exhibition creators took into consideration visitors with hearing impairment. Additionally, the creators took care to create a PDF download option of the textual information to make the exhibition more ADA accessible—particularly for those with blindness, low vision, or color vision deficiencies.
There were many creators and contributors to this particular exhibition, including Lola Van Wagenen, director and producer, who also happens to be the founder and President of Clio Visualizing History; Susan Ware, head writer and a pioneer in the field of women’s history, former editor of Notable American Women: Completing the Twentieth Century; and Melanie Gustafson, timeline content creator and writer who works as Associate Professor at The University of Vermont specializing in U.S. women and gender politics. The exhibition also benefited from the expertise of Marilyn Blackwell, resource library coordinator and consultant; Amy F. Morsman, consultant and contributor; Art Bell, video editor; Paul Hansen and Kris Surette, web design and implementation; and Bob Selby, original artwork contributor. One area of concern I noted is that, although the site aims to discuss the “power and complexity of gender consciousness in modern American life,” I noted very little in the way of an exploration of the relationships of women’s history to the histories of gender and sexuality. I think a greater emphasis, or ease in locating information, regarding LGBTQIA women—including transgender or gender non-conforming women—and their impact on women’s history could make for a more inclusive exhibition.
The positive contributions of this digital exhibition, however, far outweigh my criticisms here. The creators of this multimedia exhibition have, despite its few design flaws (such as the juvenile color scheme and failure to note whether the site is static or whether they accept updated contributions), created a rich repository of information and primary source material that will be of great interest and use for those individuals interested in the history of women in modern America. Additionally, upper level university students studying historical events in general between 1940 and 2016 might find helpful information and resources among its many pages. I think a website such as this could benefit from expanding its reach to include wider audiences, particularly young girls in a K-12 setting who are interacting with sites and collections like A Mighty Girl and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, and could benefit from a more historically-based approach. I applaud the creators and contributors to this exhibition as it is an invaluable resource and I look forward to seeing it, like women’s history, continue to evolve.
After reviewing the Click! site, I think one of the most important issues of historical interpretation raised is who defines feminism? The term feminism itself is loaded with many different meanings and understandings. Referring to the work as part of a “feminist revolution,” I think the creators of Click! might serve their audience well by being clearer about how they are defining feminism and why the approach they’ve taken pushes the issue of feminism forward. This is likely something that historians would find as a point of contention when viewing the site. If I could change one thing about the site, it would be the aesthetic layout. I think that the colors and illustrations make it appear too geared towards a younger audience and undermines the important message that the creators are trying to illustrate. Otherwise, I find the site to be engaging, informational, and highly educational.