Friday, October 29, 2004

Feminist Bookstores

Amp's post that included his wish list reminded me of an important issue -- Feminist Bookstores.

Feminist bookstores (along with other independent bookstores) are closing at an astronomical rate. At the moment, there are just over 50 feminist bookstores left in the entire country, and more are closing every year. Large corporate chain stores and web-based stores are growing larger, and local independent booksellers are being forced to close their doors.

Feminist bookstores have long been an important part of the feminist community. Most of these stores offer far more than "just" books. They also serve as resource centers and gathering places for community groups. They often host a number of events -- from book readings to support groups to local activist meetings and a myriad of other types of events. My local feminist bookstore, for example, just hosted a class on "how to draw comics" led by local comic artist, Nik Arnold (you can also buy some of her artwork at the store). If the bookstore were to close, we would lose a lot more than a place to buy books, we would be losing one of the cornerstones of the feminist community.

The three main arguments I usually hear about using on-line or large chain stores rather than feminist bookstores are convenience, selection, and price.

Convenience: many feminist bookstores also have web shopping and shipping available. It really isn't any more difficult than buying your book at amazon or Of course, one of the nice things about and is the ability to design a wish list -- but you can always use one of these sites as a wish list, but enourage people to buy the book at a feminist bookstore.

Selection: most of these bookstores feature feminist books, for obvious reasons. But that doesn't mean that they can't order just about any other book you want. If you don't see what you want in the store, just ask for them to order it.

Price: as a smaller store, it's true that these places can't offer as many discounts. They aren't buying in bulk the way larger stores are. One thing you can do is see if there are any volunteer opportunities -- by volunteering a mere 6 hours a month at my local feminist bookstore, I get a 20% discount on every purchase. In addition, most of these bookstores also sell used books. And, in the end, one should think about where their money is going. I realize that there are some people out there who really, really cannot afford to buy anything but used books, and the selection of used books may be greater at or But for those who can afford it, isn't it worth it to spend a little bit more on preserving an important part of your community?

The Feminist Bookstore Network has an up-to-date list of feminist bookstores around the country (and Canada). When websites are available, those URL's are also given. Check to see if there is a feminist bookstore in your neck of the woods -- and if there is, consider supporting it. If not, consider supporting one in another area that has web shopping available.

Friday, October 22, 2004

It's beginning to look a lot like donation time

In the next month or so, many people are going to begin giving and making donations to various charities, food banks, and shelters. As someone who works in a shelter, and therefore gets the donations to the people they are intended for, I'd like to make a few suggestions when you're deciding what to give.

Now, let me start by stating that donations are always needed and always appreciated. If the only thing you can afford to give happens to be listed in this post, by all means, give it anyway (with a few exceptions).

I should also state that every place you may be thinking of giving a donation to probably has different needs, so it's always best to check with them to see if they need that particular donation. Most places even have their "wish lists"(or something comparable) on their websites. Keep in mind that most of these places may have limited storage space, so having "too much of a good thing" is simply not always possible. If one place doesn't need your donation, another place might need it.

With that said, here are some (very general) guidelines you may want to think about when deciding what to donate. [NOTE: If you are donating to a food bank, these guidelines won't necessarily be the same, I'm talking more about donating to shelters or other such programs.]


  • The vast majority of donations we get come in during the holiday season. While there are a few (very much appreciated) people who will give donations throughout the rest of the year, most of the donations we live on throughout the year are given to us during November and December. So milk, eggs, cheese, fruit, and meat are always appreciated -- but we also need things that are still going to be good next October.

  • If the expiration date has already passed, please don't donate it. I know Kraft Mac & Cheese never really goes bad. And I know the people who use the donations are often in a desperate situation. But no one really wants to eat Mac & Cheese that was supposed to be used by May 2001.

  • Mac & Cheese and Top Ramen can be good food -- they last a long time and they're cheap. But people like variety. Try to be a little different when thinking of donations. When everyone gives the same thing year after year, it leaves people with very little choice and very little variation in their meals. Their lives are already in crisis, we shouldn't force them to eat such a limited menu on top of everything else. And, btw, milk and butter may be hard to come by in these situations, so boxed Mac & Cheese will only get someone so far.

  • Sugar is good -- it can be used on cereal or in coffee or what have you. Flour, not so good. Let's face it, these people are in crisis, most of them are not going to be baking. Besides -- in order to bake, they'll also need milk and eggs, and the proportion of flour to eggs and milk is incredibly skewed.

  • Speaking of coffee -- coffee and tea are always good. Those are probably the most used donations we get. Also considering adding some non-dairy creamer to that list.

  • Canned goods are a good donation. But again -- variety!! Most people don't want to eat canned beets every night.

  • Baby formula is always good. But, maybe mix it up with different types of formula (I don't know why, but we seem to get an exorbinant amout of soy formula). Also, other kinds of baby food would be nice once in a while.


  • Used clothing is always good. It doesn't have to be trendy or expensive. But please, stained clothing and clothing with holes is really not needed. Women in crisis are not going to want to sit down with a needle and thread and mend clothes; nor are they going to want to walk around with stained clothing. And please, always wash the clothes before you donate them.

  • Socks and underwear: always needed, rarely given. Now, used socks are okay (so long as they don't have holes in them). Used underwear -- think about it -- would you want to wear underwear that has been previously worn? EWWW! Also, if you are donating to a women's shelter, think about donating women's and children's underwear; we really don't need men's underwear.


  • Stuffed animals can be okay, but please, they should be new. We really can't use someone's childhood boo-boo bear.

  • Games are even better. Or play-dough. Or paint sets. Things that older children can actually use.

Most importantly, think about donating at other times of the year. We greatly appreciate the huge number of donations we get during the holidays. But by summer, it's slim-pickins.

UPDATE: Now that I'm here at work, there are a few other things I thought of, and figured I'd go ahead and them here, since I'm sure that most shelters around the country are also in need of similar types of products.

Things that we are always in desperate need of, but never (or rarely) seem to get them as donations:

  • African-American hair care products (shampoo & conditioner made for A-A hair, straightening or curling products, etc.)

  • Toiletries, such as tampons and pads, deoderant, toothpaste, toothbrushes

  • Gift cards for grocery stores, Target/K-Mart/Wal-Mart, etc.

  • Movie passes

  • Passes for the zoo

  • Bus tickets

  • Cell phones (even without a service plan, they can be used to call 911)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Quote of the Day

This morning, while going through an unbelievable number of canned goods, I was listening to KBOO which featured a talk with my idol, Arundhati Roy. The entire thing was worth listening to -- and made even the most mundane task (like sorting canned goods) bearable. But there was one quote that really stood out (this is paraphrased from memory, but it's pretty close to verbatim):

Deciding whether to vote for Kerry or Bush is sort of like choosing a laundry detergent. Whether you choose Tide or Ivory Snow, they're both owned by Procter & Gamble.

Friday, October 15, 2004

More fun with Yes on 36

Now on to the "serious" arguments in favor of Measure 36.

Sure, there's the just plain funny arguments, such as this one from House Majority Leader Wayne Scott:
The ACLU Will Demand More

If measure 36 fails, there will be mass confusion over the definition of marriage in Oregon. The ACLU will surely force costly litigation on the state and school districts demanding that same sex marriage become a normal component of school curriculums. Teachers will be forced to teach sex education to middle school children based on the new interpretation of marriage in Oregon.
But the best part is how the same Wayne Scott sums up his argument (emphasis added):
It is important to affirm what we all thought was already in the Oregon Constitution—marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one man
Typo? Or Freudian slip?

What would you do with an extra $2000?

I can think of a lot of things I would do with that kind of money, but satire would not be one of the first things I'd think of. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your views), M. Dennis Moore did think of it.

Moore wrote 4 arguments "in favor" of Measure 36 for the voters' pamphlet, at $500 a pop. In fact, his entries are the first 3 and the second to last entries in the voters' pamphlet.

Here are a few samples (all emphasis in original):


The Bible says that marriage is for procreation. God made Adam and Eve, and Adam and Eve made Cain and Abel, not an empty nest.

Marriage is for procreation. If you're not pro-Creation, you're anti-God. And once a marriage has been solemnized, sex is serious business. The solemnity of sex must not be abused for sinful pleasures. Sex is for procreation, not recreation. And marriage is for breeding purposes.

Therefore, it should be Oregon public policy that

  • Homosexuals may not marry.
  • Infertile persons may not marry.
  • Men with vasectomies may not marry.
  • Women with hysterectomies may not marry.
  • Post-menopausal women may not marry.
  • Persons planning to use birth control may not marry.
  • Non-virgins may not marry (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).
  • Inter-racial couples may not marry (Deuteronomy 7:3).

And couples who fail to conceive within two years ought to have their marriage licenses revoked.

Additionally, the Bible says that

  • Divorced persons may not marry (Luke 16:18).
  • And if a man dies without leaving a male heir, it is his brother's responsibility to impregnate the widow (Genesis 38:6-10). If he refuses, he shall be fined one shoe (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

    This is the sacred word of the Lord, steadfast and unchanging.

    Traditional morality must become Oregon public policy. All of it. And the older the tradition, the better. The separation of church and state be damned. In order to protect the sanctity of marriage and the sacred institution of heterosexual procreation, unequal treatment and discrimination must be legislated consistently against all persons who cannot or will not breed as God intended. It is God's will that we multiply and fill the Earth and finally subdue it when the population explosion self-implodes. Praise God!

    Love is not good enough a reason to marry, because marriage is only for


(This information furnished by M. Dennis Moore, Defense of Heterosexual Breeding Coalition.)

This one is my favorite:


Frightening new unprecedented social changes are threatening old traditional values. And these attacks on tradition have been escalating--for millennia!

First there was Original Sin when Eve disobeyed God! Then the Flood! Then Abraham abandoned the traditional practice of human sacrifice! Then Jews instituted the modern covenant of circumcision! Then Moses brought down from Mount Sinai a bunch of new-fangled Laws on stone tablets! And later Jesus abolished them and preached instead the radical new Golden Rule!

Polygamy fell out of favor! Women were no longer mere pieces of property belonging to men! Next these uppity women demanded the right to vote! Families could no longer own slaves! Prohibition saved the family from destruction by Demon Rum! The nineteenth-century extended families on American farms were destroyed by the 1950s social engineering of the "Leave It to Beaver" suburban cookie-cutter nuclear families! Blacks refused to ride in the back of the bus! Women demanded equal pay for equal work! Single parents demanded respect! Gays and lesbians demanded an end to hatred and oppression! Flower children protested traditional mass-murder warfare and genocide! Divorce skyrocketed! The silence surrounding child abuse was broken!

Frightening social changes continued! And then the religious right began a righteous backlash! First they accused gays and lesbians of being promiscuous! And when this failed, they began accusing them of having long-term committed monogamous relationships and wanting to get married!

Where will it all end? After 6,000-some years of frightening attacks on old traditional values, will history never cease to unfold? Will God never stop throwing all of these radical social changes at us?

My friends, there is a simple answer. All you have to do is


It's really that simple!

Now, which one of these radical social changes will this measure turn the clock back to? Oh, come on, let's just


(This information furnished by M. Dennis Moore, The Beaver State Defense of Beaver Coalition.)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Abuse is sooo funny

Last night I was watching the last bit of Last Comic Standing. Or rather, it was on in the background, but there was one bit that really got my attention.

Now, I've never actually seen the whole show, but I think I got the gist of it -- stand-up comics do their routines, the show picks clips of their "best" parts as a "reminder" at the end, and people can call in to vote.

Now, I would assume that the producers pick out what they deem as the best/funniest part of the comics' routines as the "reminder" of who these people are. Which is partly why I found this one particular clip so appalling.

I don't know the guy's name, but he was talking about some kid (a boy) who was crying and saying he just wished his dad would stop hitting his mom. The "comedian" at this point says [paraphrased], "So, I looked at the boy and asked him, 'so, does your mom mouth off to your dad a lot?'" Cue laughter. And there was laughter.

There was no laughter from, though. I just sat there stunned. Do people actually find this funny? Yes, I know there are misogynists who like to "joke" about abuse in the Father's Rights Movement. I just never thought I'd see this sort of thing held up as "great comedy" on network television. I guess I'm just naive.

But I'm also appalled and disgusted. And not only at the misogynist comedian, but also at the audience who laughed, and at the producers (or whoever) who chose this clip as the "best" part of the routine. (I suppose it's possible that this was the least offensive part of his routine -- all the more reason to be appalled that this guy could become a finalist.)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Legalization/Decriminalization of Prostitution

In a recent post, Amp wrote a side note about prostitution:

In particular, I like this new law, because it focuses on punishing johns (in my opinion, prostitution should be decriminalized, but being a john should be a frequently-enforced felony).

In the comments to that thread, a few people have objected to his statement. Amp, himself, has not [yet] responded to these comments, but I thought I would. It should be noted that I am not, in any way, speaking for Amp, but rather, for myself.

In the past, I have been torn on the subject of legalizing prostitution. But the more I read on the subject and (more importantly) the more I work with women in the sex industry, the less torn I become. I definitely lean towards being opposed to legalization. I do, however, strongly agree with Amp about decriminalizing prostitution and prosecuting the johns. And so does the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women:

CATW favors decriminalization of the women in prostitution. No woman should be punished for her own exploitation. But States should never decriminalize pimps, buyers, procurers, brothels or other sex establishments.

There is an excellent article written for CATW by Janice Raymond which pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject. The following is simply a summary of the arguments. To read the reasoning of the arguments, you'll have to read the whole article.

The following arguments apply to all state-sponsored forms of prostitution, including but not limited to full-scale legalization of brothels and pimping, decriminalization of the sex industry, regulating prostitution by laws such as registering or mandating health checks for women in prostitution, or any system in which prostitution is recognized as "sex work" or advocated as an employment choice.

As countries are considering legalizing and decriminalizing the sex industry, we urge you to consider the ways in which legitimating prostitution as "work" does not empower the women in prostitution but does everything to strengthen the sex industry.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution is a gift to pimps, traffickers and the sex industry.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution and the sex industry promotes sex trafficking.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not control the sex industry.It expands it.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases clandestine, hidden, illegal and street prostitution.

  • Legalization of prostitution and decriminalization of the sex Industry increases child prostitution.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not protect the women in prostitution.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution increases the demand for prostitution. It boosts the motivation of men to buy women for sex in a much wider and more permissible range of socially acceptable settings.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not promote women's health.

  • Legalization/decriminalization of prostitution does not enhance women's choice.

  • Women in systems of Prostitution do not want the sex industry legalized or decriminalized.