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the first word
by julie parker

You are holding in your hands a bouncing baby magazine—and it’s a girl! Or, as a Doonesbury character once announced, “It’s a baby woman!”

How WNC WOMAN will grow and blossom will be the usual combination of nature and nurture, for its very purpose is to create a platform for local women to share their ideas, insights, knowledge, and wisdom. We are creating a “web” through which the women of Western North Carolina can be interconnected, interdependent, and interactive. And such a web is naturally supported by a website: ours iswnc-woman.com.

Sally Helgesen, author of The Female Advantage, writes of the webs created by women:
“The structure of the web of inclusion first presented itself to me when I tried to draw rough approximations of the organizations run by women...What I came up with always bore a literal, architectural resemblance to a spider’s web…this interweaving made the structures inextricably integrated and connected – a pattern, really of relationships… Also like a spider’s web, the structures were continually being built up, stretched, altered, modified, and transformed….” from The Web of Inclusion: Architecture for Building Great Organizations.

Helgesen goes on to tell how she found out that, in the process of devising ways of leading that made sense to them, women had built profoundly integrated and organic organizations, in which the focus was on nurturing good relationships; in which the niceties of hierarchical rank and distinction played little part; and in which lines of communication were numerous, open, and diffuse.
“I noted that the women tended to put themselves at the centers of their organizations rather than at the top,” she writes, “thus emphasizing both accessibility and equality, and that they labored constantly to include people in their decision making.”

There was no recognized name or category for what the women were doing, so Sally Helgesen began referring to their organizations as “webs of inclusion.”
from Women Weaving Webs: Will Women Rule the Internet? by Clarisse Behar Molad, Ph.D.

This web of inclusion is the very nature of both our process and our product.

The Women Weaving Webs project was born on a trip to Western North Carolina in 1996. I was thinking about moving here from DC, and had asked my friend Clarisse to come explore the area with me. We were both working on our Ph.D.s at the time – hers in Electronic Commerce and mine in New Media Studies. Our interests overlapped; when we saw our first dreamcatcher in Cherokee, suddenly our interests were even more tightly interwoven. The dreamcatcher’s web took on a profound meaning for both of us as we began to think about the ways women relate, how the Internet works, and the parallel between the two. We were both inspired by the concept of “women weaving webs”. After our trip, Clarisse went off to write her book and conduct seminars around the country about women and the Internet (I spoke at a couple of them), and I went off to create and conduct doctoral-level seminars on hypermedia (multimedia, web, email, etc.) and the social construction of knowledge.

In 1997 I moved here and started my own web design company—Handwoven Webs. (See the thread? Pun intended!) I’d been doing web design for the federal government since the Web was in its infancy, and wanted to apply my skills to helping local businesses, organizations, and individuals prosper. Last year I was asked to join the board of a local women’s organization. I was impressed by the lack of attendance at the monthly meetings. It was clear to me that the barriers of time and space—conflicting schedules and geography—prevent women from getting together as much as they’d like. Even communicating by phone can be problematic—we tend to play phone tag as often as we reach a live person.

“Aha!” I thought. “Good old ‘hypermedia and the social construction of knowledge to the rescue!’ Asynchronous communication is the answer. “ Asynchronous communication is not, as you might think, a high-tech solution—we’ve been doing it for millennia. It’s called writing.


Writing. . .is the greatest invention in the world. Great is the astonishing range of analysis . . . great, very great, in enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space; and great, not only in its direct benefits, but greatest help to all other inventions. "Slaying the Dragon" by David J. Eicher


It was my friend Sandra Huie who came forward holding the print piece of the puzzle when she suggested I do a print magazine for Western North Carolina women. Over a plate of linguini at the Sunnyside Cafe just a few short months ago, Sandra planted the seed that was then carefully nurtured by a circle of wonderful women whose ongoing interest, enthusiasm, ideas, feedback, and support have been critical to the idea becoming reality. Kelle Olwyler said of this collaboration: “I love the circle of women who are holding the net in their hands that is holding the creation in space.” Thank you, then, to all the women who’ve been “holders of the net” in various capacities: Most especially thanks to Sandi Tomlin-Sutker, my friend and co-conspiritor in this effort.

The threads of my life have been interwoven (dare I say Handwoven?) with the threads of so many other women. These threads have come together in an elegant tapestry that is now WNC WOMAN. And like Penelope’s tapestry, together we will also un-weave some of the threads of our lives, some stories we have been told that are indeed myth, like what a woman’s place is and what her limitations are. Come—join us!

Western North Carolina Woman
WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA WOMAN
is a publication of INFINITE CIRCLES, INC.

PO BOX 1332 • MARS HILL NC 28754 • 828-689-2988

Web Design by HANDWOVEN WEBS
Celebrating the Spirit of Place in Western North Carolina