Can print-on-demand and self publishing help feminists today continue the legacy of the suffragettes & the women’s liberation movement? Deborah Withers considers the potential
I have recently set up a publishing and information initiative, HammerOn Press, to publish my book, Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory and empower people to self-publish their own work, through giving workshops and providing resources. I want to share with readers of The F-Word some of things I have learnt along the way and how I think my adventures in self-publishing relate to the history of feminist publishing.
For much of my activist life I have been involved with do-it-yourself (DIY) politics, and the publishing cultures they engender, such as zines and blogs. I see zines and blogs – which have shaped how contemporary feminists connect and communicate with each other – in continuity with publishing books. I don’t think I’d have ever considered self-publishing my book, which is a creative and popular re-interpretation of my PhD thesis, had I not been involved in DIY networks.
HammerOn is a queer and feminist initiative, but it also links to a wider tradition of DIY cultural production. I am doing what people were doing in the late 1970s, but with books rather than records. Although feminism inspires me, I think economically it was a DIY/ punk ethic that pulled me through and said “yes, you can do this.” Living in Bristol helps because there is a lot of support for alternative/DIY cultures here (for example, a feminist, queer vegan co-operative cafe).
Self-publishing provides an alternative for people not wishing to engage with the mainstream publishing industry, which of course is structured massively by capitalist market logics (what sells essentially is what gets published). There are massive barriers for voices that challenge the norms of society to overcome before they’re seen as viable, publishable. The answer to this is: take it into your own hands and publish your work (either in a zine, blog or a book).