8: The Journal Project

The Journal Project: Dialogues and Conversations Inside Women’s Studies edited by Dana Putnam, Dorothy Kidd, Elaine Dornan & Patty Moore

The Journal Project

This was another VPL Booksale find. It’s a collection of journal entries from Women’s Studies classes at Langara College.

I found it interesting from a public/private space perspective. On the one hand, the journals were kept as a class assignment (for completion marks, not grades); the entries were written with the understanding that the instructor would read them. On the other hand, the idea of publishing them as an anthology came after the fact, so a wider audience was not anticipated. In this sense, I guess you could say they were more comparable to letters than to traditional diary entries in that the writers knew for certain that at least one person would be reading their words.

One thing that I found problematic with the selection of pieces is that the majority of them seemed to be written by women who had suffered physical/sexual/emotional abuse. My difficulty with this is that emphasizing worst-case scenarios makes it easy for those women who have not experienced such extreme discrimination to distance themselves and deny that there’s a problem with patriarchy. But just because you haven’t personally been abused or no one’s ever told you that you’re stupid or you’ve never faced extreme poverty (or whatever) doesn’t mean that there aren’t systemic problems with society. I would have liked to have seen more pieces like the one by the woman who was told that she couldn’t be the “head of household” because she was a SAHM. That’s the kind of systemic discrimination that you’ll probably never even be aware exists until it happens to you. It will never be a cause du jour. Yet, it’s addressing those kinds of issues, the ones that seem trivial (but aren’t), that leads to real change.

The Journal Project was published in 1995. The journals were traditional paper notebooks. It was interesting, in the context of my research, to read what they thought journals had the power to do.

[J]ournal writing itself assists social change. When our thoughts are spoken or recorded, they become part of the revolution. Writing it down is powerful and dangerous. –Dana Putnam

I wonder if any of the women are still journaling. I wonder if any of them are blogging.