Ladyland — what initially inspired it and how we hope to inspire you
By Charlie Levine
Last year I read Caroline Criado Perez’s book “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men” after subscribing to her newsletter and being so inspired by her tone of voice. I love her approach to being an active feminist and encouraging others to be pro-active as well with easy tools and templates. Perez has the receipts for feminist issues and it was incredibly galvanising to read this book and made me want to do something more than be a passive reader and pro-active curatorial programmer. I also read “The Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-made World” by Leslie Kern, and with that something really clicked with me. I am a feminist. Though sometimes I have questioned how I can more actively contribute to the conversation. It was these two books, fermenting within me, that when I was in the pub with some friends talking about the disparages in society for non white male identifying people that the mixology erupted and Welcome to Ladyland was launched.
Ladyland was a title that came up as a bit of a joke. We also tossed around Women’s World and The Female Forest, however, Ladyland was the title that kept coming up in the conversation. It could be the association with places like DisneyLand that are so commonplace in our soft power cultural subconsciousness and also that link with a fictional reality. The potential of creating a land based upon an idea or a dream that then inspires others to imagine and play really helped it cement itself as the name for the project.
As we invite you to join us, we welcome you, again like a theme park, or as you cross county borders and are welcomed to new spaces, Ladyland wants to do the same. It wants to let you know you’re crossing a border into somewhere new, but it is welcoming, friendly, inclusive and encouraging of conversation, collaboration and exploration.
The next day I googled Ladyland to see what was already out there in the world and embodying that phrase. There is an amazing music festival in Brooklyn called Ladlyland Festival that is a safe queer celebratory space where you are invited to “Come join our army of lovers…” There is a beautiful designer called Emma Scott-Child who created This is Ladyland. Emma produces wall calendars and creative workshops. She describes This is Ladyland as “a place for daily inspiration, things to make and do and great ideas for everyday problems.” Also we discovered the first museum of fluorescent light called Electric Lady Land in Amsterdam, and the Ladyland podcast by Kim Baldwin where she interviews and celebrates women ‘from all walks of life and different background’ and totally worth the subscribe.
But the one Ladyland link that really confirmed the name for me was a wonderful short story called ‘Sultana’s Dream’ by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, published in 1905 in The Indian Ladies’ Magazine. This incredibly short story really packs a punch. It tells the tale of Ladyland, a world that appears to the protagonist Sultana in a dream. In this world the male and female roles are reversed, women are in positions of power and populating the streets and public areas where the men are hidden away in kitchens and back rooms. As a result there is no war, there is no negativity, rather it is a place flourishing and vibrating with the energy of women and mother nature. It is filled with hope and potential.
Although Welcome to Ladyland is not looking for complete role reversal, rather we want to challenge the ‘norm’ to be more representational of the global majority (women and people of colour) as well as encouraging a queering of space from how we understand it as white, cis, male, young, healthy and wealthy. This story stood out because it was a dream, it was flawed and perfect at the same time. It was a woman’s dream and that is valid enough to make room to listen to or read and meditate on. After which parts of it will seep into the unconscious and help shape and determine Welcome to Ladyland’s outcomes and outputs. As will all of the other things I have and will read, as will the conversations I have with people about this idea, as will the times when I allow myself space to let my mind wander and discover new thoughts. And so, hopefully, will you, with some of our articles to read, and in the future some images to look over and for you to remember and discover your own thoughts and opinions of what Ladyland should look and feel like when on the bus, picking up the kids, daydreaming in the coffee shop queue, holding your parents hand while they sleep or scrolling on instagram.