If there's one thing that gets proven over and over when you run a feminist bookstore, it's the fact that while we expect girls to like stories about boys, we - as a society - do not expect the opposite.
Most often, when new people come in to Card Carrying, they meander back toward the counter/my desk, and when I ask if they have any questions, they comment on how they've never been in a bookstore "just for women."
Keep in mind, it's a mixed bag of people who say this.
CCB&G is clearly a feminine place. We talked about that prior to opening, when we were having the conversations about what the space should look and feel like. We're both traditionally feminine women, and we wanted it to be a space that reflected us. So we chose a cursive font with a feminine feel, and ordered in some comfy purple armchairs, and bought a yellow tablecloth. Some of this is brand consistency, obviously, but that branding is based on us.
Though I knew I'd be fielding a lot of questions running a feminist bookstore, I did not expect to do so much reassuring that feminism is indeed for anyone and everyone.
When I get the comment, I usually respond with something akin to, "Well, this is a feminist bookstore, so it's for anyone who considers themselves a feminist really." The replies vary from people saying, "Oh..." and turning to walk out of the bookstore without another word to "Oh! How interesting!"
Based on how feminism is commonly perceived - and the femininity we've funneled in to the Shop itself - I'm not surprised by the "women's bookstore" commentary. But what gets me every time is when adults of various ages come in and ask for "a book for a boy."
Sometimes I smile and say [probably a bit too brightly], "These books are for everyone!" Sometimes I ask for more details - like what the child is interested in or if they have a favorite book already - and then make a suggestion based on that information (and act like the sexist comment never happened). Sometimes I just point out the books we have that feature male characters and would therefore be deemed by this customer, "a book for a boy."
I think it's important to note that this happens no matter the age of the boy. People come in looking for a book to take to a baby shower that's "for a boy baby." They want to buy a book for their dad or their brother.
Now, I understand the importance of stories that we can relate to. I cried during The Force Awakens, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel. These aren't rom-coms, friends; they're action movies. Why did I cry? Because I grew up with Princess Leia and that's it. We're seeing change, and it makes me cry on the reg.
But come on. You can't take a boy baby a book about Elizabeth Warren? How silly. First of all, the baby isn't even born yet and you're already making assumptions about what that baby might be interested in some day. Not only are you making those assumptions, you're playing right in to the patriarchy's hands! You're putting a fetus with a penis in to what is commonly called "The Man Box" and that's a little weird, my friend. It's a baby, and you're essentially sexualizing it. Yuck.
This isn't meant to shame anyone, by the way. It's based on observation, and it's meant to bring attention to this strange pattern of patriarchal garbage. Because mostly I just want people to stop feeding that big, bad beast called the heteronormative patriarchy. Starving that festering wound of homophobic, misogynistic, racist nonsense will help all of us.
Posted March 23rd at 9:28pm