Why you should care about women's bookstores


So following my post yesterday about supporting your local women's bookstore, I got a question (not in comments) about why one should care whether or not she has a local women's bookstore. What are these places for? Why are they important? And it's a fair question, albeit one with a lot of possible answers, so I thought I'd take a shot at it.

Rachel Corbett wrote an article a couple of year ago about the importance of women's bookstores. She makes several salient points, but the big ones I'd hit on are as follows:

1. Independent women's bookstores are important venues for books, zines, etc. by women that otherwise have few markets, which in turn increases demands for these products in a time where it is hard to get anything published (as small presses disappear).

2. Independent women's bookstores are venues for events, including book clubs, lectures, music, etc. that have a hard time finding other homes. They also provide more general and very necessary explicitly feminist public space.

The article goes on to argue that it might be OK that these places are disappearing, since feminism is becoming more ingrained into other types of communities, and since there is ample feminist space online. I think that's a cop-out, frankly. While I cannot note strongly enough how important I think feminist online space is, it does not replace the need for local, in-the-flesh venues where women can meet, talk, listen, buy and sell, etc. And online space doesn't speak at all to the need for women writing non-mainstream things to have a place to sell those things.

As far as the cultural integration of feminism, few things make me madder faster than the claim that feminism has done its work and should go home now, and that's where that leads for me. Feminism isn't integrated into anything. Just because things are better than they were in the days when indie women's bookstores started to take hold doesn't mean they are all fine and dandy now and we can all stop fighting. While women are still being raped, we still need to fight. While women are still being underpaid, we still need to fight. And while there is so little support for the work of women that the nation is down to a handful of stores dedicated to that work, we goddamn well still need to fight.

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April 2012

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