In Other Words, Feminist Bookstore Satirized on Portlandia, Is Closing

From BookRiot:

The legendary Portland feminist bookstore and community space In Other Words, which has been satirized on the show Portlandia as the bookstore Women and Women First, has announced it will be closing at the end of June, after 25 years. They were founded after the closure of the feminist bookstore A Woman’s Place. The decision came about from a variety of factors.

In Other Words released a statement about their closing, which included the following:

“Some reasons for the closure are increased expenses and the lack of funds, volunteers, and board members. This is a cycle of In Other Words as an organization, and also the cycle of community spaces in capitalism. IOW periodically discusses closing because of a lack of money and people. This isn’t sustainable, especially emotionally, for the people who come here and work to provide this space as a resource to Portland Feminist communities. Even if funds poured in, and masses of people showed up in response to this announcement, we would not continue our tenure here.”

. . . .

“We cannot continue because we know reform does not work. The current volunteers and board members stepped into and took over a space that was founded on white, cis feminism (read: white supremacy). It’s really difficult, actually, impossible, for us to disentangle from that foundational ideology.”

Link to the rest at BookRiot

PG had not thought about a person’s or a group’s “privilege” preventing them from doing anything at all. You may be so privileged that all you can do is sit in a corner and eat gruel.

PG immediately thought of an Ouroboros.

This ancient symbol represents a variety of concepts, but most often, something like eternity or eternal life.

For PG, it has also represented self-destructive and self-hating thought and behavior, a creature turning on itself.

As many visitors to TPV know, during the first decades following the Soviet revolution in Russia, Stalin carried out a wide range of campaigns to wipe out disfavored groups – Kulaks, Jews, counterrevolutionaries, the intelligentsia, followers of Leon Trotsky and other previously-approved Communists.

PG suggests that many of the anti-privilege campaigns he sees today are reminiscent of the attacks on disfavored groups in the Soviet Union during the 1920’s and 30’s. If you were a Kulak, a peasant wealthy enough to own a farm and hire labor, you were irredeemable because of your identity and stripping you of your farm and money was not an adequate solution to the problems you presented to those in authority.

Stalin ordered the “liquidation of the kulaks as a class” in 1929.

“In order to oust the kulaks as a class, the resistance of this class must be smashed in open battle and it must be deprived of the productive sources of its existence and development (free use of land, instruments of production, land-renting, right to hire labor, etc.).That is a turn towards the policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class. Without it, talk about ousting the kulaks as a class is empty prattle, acceptable and profitable only to the Right deviators.”

Under later orders, all kulaks were assigned to receive one of three punishments:

  • to be shot or imprisoned as decided by the local secret political police
  • to be sent to Siberia, the North, the Urals or Kazakhstan, after confiscation of their property
  • to be evicted from their houses and used in labor colonies within their own districts

Even if a Kulak was an enthusiastic communist, the taint of land ownership was too strong and employment of others was too great to save him from punishment.

37 thoughts on “In Other Words, Feminist Bookstore Satirized on Portlandia, Is Closing”

  1. I’m not sure everyone will see the link you are making PG.

    Allow me to try to make the link… What the Soviets did (and Maoists and Nazis for that matter) was to cast collective judgment, collective blame. Individual merit or ideology or action didn’t matter. You are blamed just for being X, not because you did anything.

    This sort of rhetoric can be seen in that post when whole race/gender groups are judged collectively. Judged as bad, judged as good, judged as weak or as victims. The identity blame game.

    For those of us who have fallen down the rabbit hole of mid 20th century history, the ideological parallels to the mid century despots and genocides are horrifying.

    It all starts with real societal problems, but then starts the collective judgement of the Kulacs, the Jews, the cis white patriarchy, whoever you want to scapegoat for all the problems of the day. Once you can convict a person on their identity, boom, the train derails and the heads roll.

    I am optimistic though, because right now it is generally straights and whites and males that are blamed. If a small group gets blamed, it gets uglier quicker.

    • i agree with you joe, particularly since it’s immigrants and the LGBT lobby that cause most of the problems in US.
      Something should definitely be done about them, people who dont like american values should be removed from the country immediately.

      • Lol Anon.

        Surely there are some 4chan threads for you to troll. You’ll find internet warriors there to do battle with.

        EDIT: Comedy is hard on the webs. Meh.

    • To bring it closer to home, it wasn’t long ago in certain parts of the US that black men were judged collectively. So when a crime was committed, and social justice was demanded, literally any black man would do.

      The parallels aren’t exact, and I’m not trying to get too political here, but I think it illustrates the thinking.

      I love the Ouroboros metaphor as well. Society eating itself. I wish they taught this is schools more, I didn’t learn about the Kulacks and Gulags until after getting my bachelor’s in History. Maybe we don’t like to study it because it shines a light on just how bad humans can be to each other with just a little push in the wrong direction. 🙁

      • I didn’t learn about the Kulacks and Gulags until after getting my bachelor’s in History.

        The French Revolution came before that, and is an excellent example of a revolution eating its own.

        • Oh good one.

          That’s the origin of the ‘heads will roll’ saying, right? I had a professor who joked they killed all the rich people, then all the smart people, then they started killing the pretty people and that’s when they stopped. Ha.

          The Spanish inquisition is another version, the ‘hidden conspiracy’ type, a weird notion that tends to define group judgment movements. Witch hunting. Invent a demon, then destroy it. Could be immigrants, could be jews, pick your demon.

          I like to study older instances of us (as humans) going off the rails, when you point out modern stuff it can get so political. Like a competition. Blah. You can’t win the internet.

          Hutu/Tutsi stuff in the 90’s is another horrific example. That stuff is hard to read.

        • Has any revolution ever ended well?
          France, Russia, Iran…

          I can’t think of any where the people didn’t end up worse than when they started. (Depends on your views about the Glorious Revolution.)

          Of course, the word does get bandied about a bit too, ahem, liberally these days, getting applied to civil wars and secession movements… but even then few actually succeed in improving the human.

  2. Yeah, it sounds more like they couldn’t generate enough interest in their products to earn enough money to stay open. I don’t know that relying on volunteers is a good business model.

    • I’m surprised it kept going so long, it wasn’t in the best location for that sort of business but it’s hard to know since that area has changed so much.

      I just looked at it on google street view (I think it’s called that) it’s been forever since I’ve been in that area (like 10 years) but I’m sure I visited it. I visited every bookstore in town at least once. If they were doing a prison book program in the mid 2000’s I for SURE spent time there (I did social work and was active with prison libraries).

      Sad times.

      • Ha! I did visit it, in its old location on Hawthorne! We did art showings there, or my friends did.

        I thought it was called In Other Worlds, not Words. Dope!

  3. ‘What we’re doing isn’t popular enough to keep us in business.’ Seems to be their problem, though they seem to want to blame someone/something else for it.

    Hmm, a bit like B&N when I think about it …

  4. If you look at their website they aren’t so much a bookstore as a political rallying point. Holding meetings and such. A community center.

    They are only open as a bookstore, it looks like, 12 hours a week. Friday, Sat and Sunday afternoons.

    Interesting plan. I’ve never seen a place call itself a bookstore but mostly be a community center for far left politics. So that makes sense they were about donations and politics if their goal was about that, and not about moving books.

    Like here is what you are agreeing to if you want to shop at the store:

    • O_O I think I see part of their problem, and it has nothing to do with capitalism. Who wants to shop at a store where you agree to being confronted or kicked out for committing any of a number of vaguely-defined offenses including “Oppressive, abusive, or reactionary language and behavior of any kind”?

      Seriously, it reads like a parody, but they really mean it. O_O

      • Kyra,

        I agree with you that part of their problem has nothing to do with capitalism.

        OTOH, part of it does, when they say in their first point that “capitalism is bad”.

    • HA! I need to get a t-shirt made …

      “I’m the ‘trigger’ your mama didn’t know to warn you about!”

      • Ooh, that’s a surefire best seller. Especially with a snowflake background/motif.
        I’m surprised nobody is selling it.

        Might get you a beating in some circles, though.

  5. It’s a tough time for all booksellers that aren’t primarily/exclusively(?) focused on selling books.

    The moment you take your eye on the ball you’re lost.
    Next thing you know, it’s hit you on the head and bounced over the wall for a homerun.

    It doesn’t matter if the wandering focus was promoting literature, building community, leading boycotts against competitors, or promoting an ideology or a religion. It’s the lack of focus that kills you.

    If the market zigs when you zag you’re done.

  6. Haha.

    This topic, for me, is a squirrel hole. I tend to fall down into them. I just spend 2 hours on wiki pages of revolutions, genocides, etc…

    Peace out peeps. Gotta sleep.

    Thanks for the interesting things PG.

    • Er.. Sorry about this, but if you’ve found something on genocides, I’m currently searching for information. Could I ask you for some links?

      Take care. And thank you, wether it can be or not.

      • I was mostly looking at the Rwandan one.

        I was also looking at Kosovo, Darfur, and Cambodia under Pol Pot. I was about to look at Zembabwei and what’s about to kick off in South Africa as well, that’s when I hit the breaks.

        Squirrel holes! They can eat up my entire day if I’m not careful.

        I find group blame turning into genocide to be one of the major themes of the 20th century, and it a decent lens in studying the period. As long as that’s not the ONLY lense you’re looking through, lol, that’ll drive you nuts!

        Don’t go too deep Ferran! Depression lies down that hole.

        • Thanks. About par with mine, although I’ve getting into the Armenian genocide and [I don’t know if gentiles can use the word, but it’ll do] the Shoah, lately.

          It’s a macabre little list.

          Take care. Thank you.

          • Have you looked at the War of the Triple Alliance?


            “It particularly devastated Paraguay, which suffered catastrophic losses in population: almost 70% of its adult male population died, according to some counts, and it was forced to cede territory to Argentina and Brazil. According to some estimates, Paraguay’s pre-war population of 525,000 was reduced to 221,000, of which only 28,000 were men.”

            Humans are really good at genocide. There’s a reason we’re the last hominids. 😉

              • No, it isn’t quite the same. But the results were equally deadly. 90% losses certainly changed the demographics and genetic make up.

                • I was sort of aware of the event. I might visit the aftermath sometime later. I’m more interested in stories of recovery than the chaos itself. Regarding genocide, for example, I’m more interested in those that somehow escaped than in the atrocities themselves. Among other reasons, I’m not convinced (not by a LONG shot) we’ve seen the last of it, not even in current Western society, and I think it offers lessons, both moral and practical.

                  Take care

                • I would tend to agree we’re not done with genocide.
                  Right now the Rohinyas look “perfectly” positioned for it.
                  Others, too.

                  I also wouldn’t rule out another brutal land war like Iran-Iraq coming pretty soon. Possibly as an expansion of the current messes, possibly a new one in Africa, Eastern Europe, or Southeast Asia. It’s a dangerous world out there.

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