Friday, January 26, 2018

Voices of Dissent: Dartmouth Feminists of the '90s

Cover ot Spare Rib showing three women haning a Dartmouth 1972 BannerIn the early ‘90s, two new publications emerged at Dartmouth. Both written by women, both claiming to be feminist works, the first was called Spare Rib, and the second Inner Bitch. Spare Rib arrived in newspaper form, with a slightly-bitten apple wedged inside the title. From the spring of 1992 to the winter of 1995, Spare Rib released at least 11 issues. The editors wrote, “Spare Rib is a manifestation of all that Dartmouth women have accomplished, the challenges that face us now, and the victories we hope to gain in the coming years.” Each issue contains interviews and editorials discussing the role of women in the College, as well as femininity in greater society. The writers at Spare Rib were passionate about feminism, and they presented their stance calmly and intellectually.

Open Inner Bitch. The zine’s mission statement speaks for itself:
Deep within you, beneath the strained smiles, the cordiality, the good grades, the conceding laughter, YOU HAVE AN INNER BITCH… Well, this whole rag is in honor of that Inner Bitch. We want to help her grow and become as strong and as bitchy as womanly possible. We want to give her the power to speak her mind. Because silence is a kind of death. It keeps a part of you dormant, like a leg that’s permanently fallen asleep. And it makes it easier for the next woman to get hurt, and the next and the next.
"Ideal Woman" graphic from Inner BitchThe writers at Inner Bitch demanded that women empower themselves. They wanted women to own their sexuality, ignore society’s wishes for straight hair and smooth legs, and defend themselves violently against men. In order to release one’s “inner bitch,” the zine prescribes everything from an “Inner Bitch Makeover” to “Top 10 Things to Do With a Severed Penis.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its aggressive hatred of men, Inner Bitch only ever circulated two issues.

Despite their obvious differences, Spare Rib and Inner Bitch engage in one dialogue. Both publications discuss the pressure of beauty standards, how media portrayal of women “perpetuates sexual inequality.” Both touch upon the issue of sexual assault, blaming “the boys of Webster Avenue” for making social spaces unsafe for women. And both Spare Rib and Inner Bitch encourage women to seek their own pleasure in bed, rather than merely satisfying their partners. The newspaper and zine explore many other topics, as well, each trying to guide women as they navigate Dartmouth’s intensely male culture.

Cover art for Inner Bitch showing a collaged image of a woman with a a gun
Twenty years after Dartmouth became coeducational, the community was still unsure where women belonged on campus. The fact that these separate publications discuss so many of the same issues indicates that Dartmouth women still consistently grappled with sexism and inequality, throughout the 90’s and even to the present day. In Spare Rib and Inner Bitch, we see two opposite ways of writing about adversity: Spare Rib falls somewhere near the middle of political and social discourse, and Inner Bitch is far, far to the left. It’s up to you to decide which is more inspiring––cogent journalism, or an angry, hilariously graphic zine. To see for yourself ask for DC Hist LH1.D3 S63 and LH1.D3 I54.

Posted for Sarah Alpert '21

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Digital Pioneer

Manuscript miniature showing the annunciation of the Virgin from a Book of HoursOur first digital project, Script to Pixels, was a collaboration between Joshua Shaw, Pat Cope and the Special Collections Librarian Philip Cronenwett, who passed away last weekend. Inspired by Phil's checklist of medieval manuscripts, the project took Dartmouth into the brave new world of digitization. Amazingly, it is still an incredibly useful site today. We have given it a few updates and reskinned it a few times, but the site you see is essentially the work that Phil, Joshua and Pat did nearly twenty years ago.

Phil joined the Library in 1979 as Manuscripts Curator and later became Special Collections Librarian. He left an impressive legacy: he was instrumental overseeing the cataloging of almost all of our medieval manuscripts; acquired many important modern manuscript collections; and was instrumental in maintaining the tremendous depth of our polar collections. He came to Dartmouth as a medievalist, but caught the polar bug and acquired many of the most important manuscript items in the Stefansson collection. It was during his tenure that Special Collections moved from its cramped quarters in the Treasure Room of Baker Library into the newly constructed Rauner Library in the Webster Hall.

Phil's work shaped special collections in so many ways that he is here with us every day. He will be deeply missed by those who knew him.