The Feminist Bookstand: The Table Reshaping the Culture of the UCSD Bookstore

AJ Peterson/The Triton

Here at UC San Diego, a school with a very heavy STEM presence, those who are not a part of marginalized groups are rarely exposed to social issues without ethnic studies classes or disturbing events.

UC San Diego’s short but rocky history has been shaped by issues of race, gender, and class. Many dismiss the obvious misogynistic, anti-black, xenophobic rhetoric often displayed on campus as “examples of upbringing” or “the way it is.” These issues are embedded in the culture of the campus.

The University House of the Chancellor was built on native Kumeyaay land; the Women’s Resource Center served as a club on campus for 22 years until plans to open an actual center were approved in 1995; the Black Resource Center only opened in 2013 after racially motivated events on campus forced the university to recognize anti-blackness on campus. The discrimination and oppression faced by certain students of this campus cannot be encapsulated in one article. It can, however, be addressed by increasing daily exposure in common areas around campus.

Enter the Feminist Book Stand, a table in the UCSD Bookstore featuring a collection of books on feminist theory and women’s issues. According to Oxford Dictionary, feminism (noun) is, “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” In other words, the radical notion that women are people. Feminist theory has developed over time, evolving from its suffragist origins in the late 1800s which only included black women for labor purposes, to the feminism we see today that highlights issues of misogyny, masculinity, and women’s sexuality.

Of course, there are still problems with feminism on a structural level; intersectionality is a challenge, as feminist platforms often focus on cisgendered heterosexual white women. Intersectionality has not been a major point of media focus until recently, especially after the post-inauguration Women’s March. The Feminist Book Stand and the “Highlighting Underrepresented Voices” table, which includes authors of color and authors who fall under the LGBTQ+ spectrum, serve as soft sources of encouragement to help people find resources to educate themselves about the plight of the modern person.

Alexiss Rivas, Maddy Gillette, and Sydney Reck, employees of the UCSD Bookstore and the people who created the table, explained its importance.

Amarachi Metu (The Triton): Why do we need feminism on this campus?

Alexiss Rivas (AR): Why wouldn’t we? Everyone should be a feminist; it’s absurd if you support social justice and don’t support feminism.

Maddy Gillette (MG): To me, feminism is about [elevating] women – and nonbinary/gender nonconforming folks – so they have the same opportunities as men in our society.

The Triton: How can we at UCSD be better at cultivating spaces that spark conversations about issues like this?

Sydney Reck (SR): People in places of power need to use their power to take charge and cultivate spaces that spark these important conversations. Marginalized and vulnerable people have been trying to get their voices heard already, and campus institutions like the Bookstore should be using their prominence to help those voices be heard.

The Triton: Why is having books written by authors who identify as women important?

MG: Even now in 2017, fewer books are published by women than men every year – the number goes down further when you look at women of color, transgender women, differently-abled women, etc. I hope that by making the books more visible, we can help promote those stories and promote women authors.

SR: Women have been writing for centuries, but have not always received credit for their work. To have an entire table featuring writers who are women is the least we can do give exposure to authors who, historically, have often been overlooked.

AR: Women In Science, for example, is a book that has given insight to what we don’t learn in school; many people don’t know how much women have contributed to science.

The Triton: Will this table stay in the bookstore? Do y’all have plans to expand and include tables about other issues?

SR: As long as people are still interested in this topic, it will stay. I hope it stays for a very long time, and I hope people continue to educate themselves on women’s issues. As for other issues, we have regularly put up tables that highlight other underrepresented voices.

MG: This table most likely be up for a while longer, since we’ve had many positive reactions. However, we try to have diverse tables. We always welcome suggestions for books to put on these tables; let us know at the Book Information Counter on the first floor of the bookstore!

Books are a forgotten art form that shape understanding and education. If you are interested in these books, but don’t want to pay for them, check out the library in the Women’s Center, the Critical Gender Studies library, and the Raza Resource Centro’s library, or the books available at Geisel.

Amarachi Metu is a Arts and Entertainment writer for The Triton. She can be reached at ametu@ucsd.edu.