Thursday, December 17, 2009

save the toronto women's bookstore.... or else.

there are a lot of really special things about the city of toronto.

there are a lot of parks, it's a relatively safe city, it has a lot of good places to eat and drink, it has roasted marshmallow ice cream at greg's, some good schools, and overall it's not the worst city to live in for awhile.

but there is one feature of the city that is genuinely 'toronto' and genuinely awesome: the toronto women's bookstore.
located at harbord and spadina and founded in 1973, the TWB is one of the largest not for profit feminist and humanistic bookstores in canada

the TWB was opened to provide a space for women but also a space where people could find books written by women and about women's issues.

a lot has changed since 1973 and as feminism changed so did the TWB. you don't just find books by "women" at the TWB, you find books and resources by and for all people.

the TWB actively promotes anti-oppression and feminist politics and their mission statement is "to provide books by women writers, especially marginalized women, including women of colour, First Nations women, lesbians, other queer women, working class women, disabled women, Jewish women, and other groups of women."

unfortunately, the TWB is in serious risk of closure. over the past two years they just haven't been able to make enough sales to sustain the store

partly to blame: the recession. being any business is hard in a time of recession, but being an independent bookstore with an actively political mission is even harder.

more than the recession, the indigo-ization of book-buying has hurt not just the TWB, but most indie book stores.

in fact, the big mega store trend has hurt pretty much every indie retailer, from music to clothing.

usually you can get things cheaper through a big chain, but what you sacrifice in doing so are your politics in a lot of cases.

sure, you can probably get that copy of the communist manifesto at chapters-indigo, but you won't find any books criticizing zionism. they might carry feminist books, but they're union-busting/labour law breaking ways of operating are anything but feminist.

i, for one, don't want to shop at a bookstore that carries The Game in the women's studies section(dear chapters-indigo, we hate you.)

eff and i are both students--women's studies students. the TWB is conveniently located near the university of toronto AND oise. when i first moved to toronto to start my MA the bookstore was one of my favorite places to kill time between classes. not only was it convenient, but the TWB carried the course material for my classes, which gave me a reason to go there and also exposed me to events, resources, and a community.

the TWB is a crucial link between community activism/politics and academia.

as robyn bourgeois, member of the board, wrote to us today about her own experience at the TWB:

"The Toronto Women's Bookstore is important to me because it is my home away from home. I came to this city in 2004, and the TWB was one of the first places I connected with because, not only could I get my reading materials, there was a strong sense of inclusive community, political activism, and a general commitment to make the world a better place. As an educator, I believe it is INTEGRAL that academia bridges itself with community - makes knowledge accessible to everyone - and TWB makes this happen. It's one place where you'll find academics, activists, frontline workers, and "regular" people working together to make this world a better place."

the TWB is more than just a toronto landmark. it's one place that hasn't given up on politics and isn't afraid to identify with a radical mission. it's a living, breathing reminder of why bookstores and books are the first targets of fascist governments: because books, and people who read books, have the ability to spark revolutions and change lives.

so, we obviously need to save the TWB.

here are five things we can do:

1. Spread the word - let people know about the TWB situation and how they can help

2. Volunteer with TWB - "volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization" and they always need help.

3. Go to a fundraiser. Swagger is donating $1 from each ticket sold to the TWB. Event is on facebook: here.

4. Donate!! You can make an online donation HERE through pay pal.

5. Use christmas/holidays as an excuse to shop at the TWB. we all spend way too much money this time of year, might as well spend it saving a bookstore.

so do all of these things. NOW.


Anonymous said...

For years I've witnessed TWB take a lopsided position against Israel while turning a blind eye to the injustice of it's hostile neighbours to their own civilians. What was once a great bookstore and voice for women has become shrill and biased. I for one will not be sorry to see it close it's doors.

Anonymous said...

Israel. Palestine. How we respond to the atrocities committed by both parties and fight for peace. It's probably the most divisive issue for activists today.

But I don't think that we should let those disagreements divide us. Regardless of your political stance, the TWB does a lot of good work. Maybe I'm being naive but I'm not going to let my differing opinions from the TWB regarding Israel stop me from seeing the fantastic community-building and outreach they do.


Anonymous said...

At least the TWB is upfront about its politics.
The pro-zionism of indigo/chapters(combined with their massive donations to zionist groups) doesn't stop me from shopping there if i really need to. However, they aren't exactly transparent about where their politics lie unless you really go looking.

The TWB, at a minimum, should stay open because there needs to be a diverse representation of political affiliations and beliefs available to people--so that THEY can make the decision about where they shop.

Avi Grand said...

I am a committed, observant Jew who has purchased an interesting piece of Jewish literature every time I've gone to TWB - books that I haven't been able to find anywhere else in the city ("The Colour of Jews" "Flying Camel" "For What Tommorow" "Surprised by God" and others). TWB is committed to carrying works by writers whose voices are pushed to the margins. Non-zionist or anti-zionist voices are strongly marginalized in most Jewish communities, so it only makes sense that TWB also has a number of works critical of the State of Israel. I'm deeply concerned about the future of TWB and hope it can find a way to sustain its place in Toronto.

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