The Women of Leather: Bringing a Sub-Subculture to Light
Women who are into leather constitute a sub-community within a subculture. For that reason--and more likely, because of its innate macho nature--the contributions of women to the leather community have long been overlooked. For most, images of muscle-bound leathermen dominate the social dialogue and the image of who’s into leather--and who’s not.
Two women are looking to change that via a new project facilitated through Chicago’s Leather Archives & Museum. Sarah Humble and her partner Leigha Fleming have spearheaded an ambitious new venture to collect and preserve the history of women’s leather with hopes of expanding the museum’s collection of women’s memorabilia.
"We are responsible for collecting and honoring our own histories," said Humble of the project, an idea she and Fleming had brewing in their heads for years. "We are the ones who need to do it, and we’re ready to do so."
Launching their project with the start of the year, Humble and Fleming have dedicated 2010 to the gathering of materials of all sorts. The are looking for everything-- papers, media, books, pictures, artifacts. They will also be conducting interviews with leatherwomen all over the world.
Their response has already been impressive over the past month. They’ve already received donations from individuals including prominent names such as Vi Johnson, Kat Sunlove and Jan Lyon. Organizations including the Southwest Leather Conference have also been supportive of their efforts. They hope to unveil the exhibit at the Leather Archives & Museum with the start of the new year, in January 2011.
Humble said an inclusive perspective was essential to the project’s success, and she was excited at the prospect of including the contributions of transgender, bisexual, heterosexual and women of color. She hoped participants would range from women who’d only attended one play party up to those names at the forefront of the community.