Do We Really Need a Feminist Press?

From Huffington Post:


Yes, we do.

Founded in 1970 by Florence Howe, the Feminist Press is an independent, nonprofit publisher with an illustrious history. In its earliest years, a husband legally could rape his wife, a pregnant woman could be fired for being pregnant, abortion was illegal, and workplace sexual harassment was rampant and accepted. In this environment, Howe recovered “lost” literary works by Zora Neale Hurston, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and others to show the toll of sex discrimination and the complexity of women’s lives — and also to give voice to what was possible. At the time, the Feminist Press was radical and cutting-edge: no one else cared about these literary treasures that are now on every feminist intellectual’s bookshelf or e-reader.

But in 2013, when many authors writing in print on feminist themes — Toni Morrison, Hanna Rosin, Sheryl Sandberg — are courted by mainstream publishers, what role does the Feminist Press still serve?

With a new publisher and executive director, Jennifer Baumgardner, the Feminist Press is about to become more relevant than ever before. Baumgardner intends to expand beyond the traditional mission of publishing — producing books and delivering them to readers. Her goal is to transform the Feminist Press into a nerve center for feminist work that includes books as well as grassroots activism.

Baumgardner, born the year the Feminist Press was created, is the author of six books, including Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics and Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future, co-authored with Amy Richards and a staple in gender/women’s studies curricula. She is also the documentary filmmaker of I Had an Abortion and It Was Rape. Her newest work, forthcoming in October, is We Do! American Leaders Who Believe in Marriage Equality, an anthology edited with Madeleine Kunin, former governor of Vermont. Baumgardner has been the keynote speaker at over 250 colleges and universities. Together with Amy Richards, she created a feminist lecture agency, Soapbox Inc., which has become a cornerstone of feminist intellectual life. (I have been fortunate to be dispatched by Soapbox to college campuses across the country to speak about my own work.)

I first met Baumgardner 18 years ago, when she was an editor at Ms. and I was a freelance writer. She quickly rose to become a central figure in third-wave feminism.

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