This email is about what it takes to sustain independent presses and media. It's about what it means to sustain an independent feminist organization that centers marginalized people and provides support, economically and professionally, to people thinking insurgent thoughts and writing them down and working to share them with others, so that one mind touches another like a match and ignites it with a new idea.
This email is about asking you to click on this link and give Feminist Press a few bucks, if you've got them to spare, or share the link with a friend or on your social media.
This email is about saying a fond and heartbroken farewell to Bitch Media, an independent feminist media organization that survived for 25 years in this deeply problematic country and publishing landscape. Bitch helped shape my idea of what feminism was, and without it, I might not be the Executive Director and Publisher of Feminist Press. I'm sad for all the kids who will never experience the lightning bolt strike of seeing a magazine with the word BITCH on it at a Borders Books (lol), and discovering that maybe it was ok to be a girl or woman who didn't quite fit into the mold of what was expected of her.
"Recent years have brought a multitude of challenges to our organization, and despite incredible effort, we have concluded that we are unable to sustainably continue creating the quality content that our readers and supporters expect."
This quote from their goodbye letter has been rattling around in my head since I read it two months ago. I spend a lot of time these days thinking about these questions:
What does it take to create something for a niche or non-mainstream audience?
What does it take to sustainably create quality content? "Sustainable" is often a code word for "has enough money" but sustainable also means an organization that has enough capacity, human power, focus, and support to keep doing something very very difficult over the long term.
How do publications and organizations that serve and speak to marginalized people (people who structurally, in this country, are less likely to have access to wads of money and institutional power) continue to thrive and sustainably create quality content?
How do independent organizations create quality content when the mainstream has decided that a generalized, defanged, sanitized version of what you've always done is now marketable?
"Believing that a feminist is someone who simply lives the life she chooses ignores the fact that most women...don't have choices to begin with, and need the structural transformation that a feminist movement offers them.
"The feminism that has become very popular and trendy and headline grabbing...is feminism as an individual identity, rather than feminism as an ongoing ethic of political and social transformation."
This makes me think, too, of the situation with feminist bookstores. In 1990, there were over 100 feminist bookstores in the United States. By 2014, only 13 remained.
But in a heartening turn of events, today, there are at least 22 feminist bookstores. I believe this is because readers have recognized the value of independent bookstores as curators and community spaces, and they have resisted the temptation of ordering on Amazon and prioritized shopping for books in their local (feminist) community bookstores.
People understand the impact that money or its lack can have. Boycotts are a way people have been backing up their opinions with something that hurts for a long time. I'd love to see more of the opposite of a boycott: people showing up en masse for the organizations that are doing the work, the ones that have meaning to them, the ones that help us on the slow but crucial path toward justice, equity, and liberation.
So again, I encourage you to click this link and chip in a few bucks to Feminist Press. This is the last week of our fundraiser, and we're hoping to raise $1000 more before the end of this week. Below is an excerpt from one of the emails I sent to our community:
For my whole career, I have worked at independent companies. People use the word “independent” a lot, but I want to talk about what it really means.
Most books you find in bookstores are published by an imprint that’s a small division within one of the Big Four: corporate conglomerate publishers you can count on one hand, owned by even larger multinational corporations such as News Corp (aka the owners of Fox News).
There are amazing writers being published by them, and talented dedicated people working there, but the corporate structure means that legally, they must prioritize profits above all else. That creates organizations that are deeply averse to risks and invest their money in what looks like the sure thing.
What looks like a “financial risk” to an international conglomerate corporation? New voices. Marginalized communities, and the books written by and for them. Anything that doesn’t have a track record or a comparison point that can be plugged into a spreadsheet.
Great art and literature can only be created by taking risks. Independent publishers like Feminist Press take risks and invest in new voices. But to do so, we need your help.
Thanks for reading, folks.