The Effect of the F-Word

Yesterday morning, I was standing at the counter at the back of the shop, our newest bookstore volunteer next to me, both of us quietly working and chatting. Suddenly, I heard "boo" coming from the doorway. We both looked up to see a white man who looked to be in his late 60s giving us a thumbs down. He literally said, "Thumbs down, thumbs down!" and I said, "No one cares about your opinion." He kept walking, albeit slowly, and was saying something so of course I yelled, "What was that, sir?" He backtracked a few steps and said, "You wouldn't even be here if it weren't for men!" So I told him to keep walking. Because seriously? Ugh.

Though this was the first time someone had addressed their unfounded, ignorant vitriol about feminism directly to me , it's not the first issue we've had being an openly feminist business. A few months after we opened - and while the comments about "locker room talk" were still fresh - I used a quote from Lauren Duca (a smart, feminist, freelance journalist) on one side of our chalkboard sign, and a quote about Colin Kaepernick's activism on the other. Essentially, I used quotes confirming that Tr*mp is a rapist and Kaep is a patriot. I knew the quotes would potentially garner some attention, so I was sitting back at the counter, keeping an eye on the chalkboard sign. I watched as a woman stopped to read the side about Kaep, and then the side about Tr*mp. Then I watched her look up in to the bookstore with a mad face on, and toss coffee out of her cup and on to the sign.

Sweetie, you wasted your coffee: those chalkboard paint colors don't run.

Most often, un/anti-feminist people wander in to the bookstore and pretty quickly realize that it's not for them, so they turn and leave. Sometimes they make comments they think I can't hear, but never anything truly disparaging. Usually things that make it clear they have no idea what feminism actually is. They think it's man-hating, or only for women, or that it's some scheme created by the radical left.

Any time we're featured on the local news, the comments are offensively ignorant. As in, they mean to offend but really I'm just offended by how willfully ignorant they are. I can't roll my eyes hard enough.

We're occasionally targeted by trolls on instagram. One in particular disliked a post we made about toxic masculinity and proceeded to go through our feed and comment on several posts. He was - as you can imagine - highly unoriginal.

I dislike focusing on the negative aspects of running a feminist business because to be honest, it's mostly an incredible experience. Something about the atmosphere in the bookstore puts people at ease, and this means I often have more than just a basic sales-related conversation with customers; I get to have personal discussions with people. We talk about real things. Sometimes we brainstorm new events for the bookstore, or ways to address difficult societal issues. It's fulfilling work in ways I did not expect.

Another positive thing of note is how our supporters turn out whenever we have to unfortunately deal with online harassment. They are smart, funny, and fast! They have no idea how it feels to know they are on our side here at Card Carrying.

It's easy to shake your head and say you don't know what people have against feminism but for most of us, that would be a lie. We know exactly what it's about, but it's sad and a little scary to admit it. Because what bothers them is the power. The power they know we have when we band together, and the power they know they'll have to compromise on to treat us as equally as we want. As we demand. They know that sharing power means they'd have to see us as full humans, and they'd rather not do that. They'd rather maintain total control.

We're all guilty of jumping to conclusions once in a while: of leaning on stereotypes because it suits us in some way. That mindset is pervasive among un/anti-feminists who are trying desperately to hold on to their power. It's easy to say we hate men if it helps their case. It's easy to point at work that doesn't center cis, hetero, white men because those men are often seen as the default in our society, and they know it. And they like it that way.

I'm super not interested in wasting my time on un/anti-feminists. I don't want to convert them. They will see the light on their own some day (or not). I'm more interested in supporting other feminists. In working to make the societal changes we need. In lifting the voices of the marginalized. Feminist podcasts, feminist books, feminist designers... I'd much rather do the work that keeps me optimistic, no matter how tough it gets.


Posted July 2nd at 9:49pm