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I recently purchased and am about finished reading Manifesta. I picked up this book because I have always considered myself a feminist yet realized I did not know much about the movement...its past, present and future. I am a 23-year-old female studying photography in Chicago. I have lived around and now in Chicago my whole life and I love it here.

Manifesta has been extremely informative for me and inspirational. On page 91 you mentioned the Riot Grrrls hosting teach-ins and skill-sharing workshops and that gave me an idea! I just recently started bicycling thanks to my wonderful man friend. I bought a nice road bike to get around the city yet I knew nothing about maintenance and repair. I would go into the shop I bought it at to ask questions to the male workers and was treated like an idiot (you would think spending a grand on a bike would result in excellent customer service, but not if you are an uninformed womyn.) I was referred to a womyn's group called Cyclesis, they host womyn's only bike workshops and other events. This I liked much better. I can ask my questions and get answers from knowledgeable and patient women without feeling shot down. I liked this safe feeling that a group of women can provide in a learning environment (or any really).

I also worked at a camera shop for about 8 months here in Chicago. There I had to deal with sexual-harassment, not in a physical sense, but in a verbal one. I didn’t know as much as the older employees there, but they hired me on part-time and knew that it would be a learning experience for me. They neglected to teach me anything and stuck me with cleaning jobs and inventory in the back room instead of teaching me how to sell stupid lighting equipment. I would always ask as many questions as I could and read the material, but just felt too stupid and nervous to try to use that knowledge because of the environment I was in. I dressed like a boy because I didn’t want these pigs telling me I was pretty...they don’t tell each other that so why me? My manager told me once he would spank me...I told him (in front of the customer that was there when he said this) "Never f***ing talk like that to me!" They laughed, this is funny I suppose. I wouldn’t show up for work most of the time and I was still not fired. I finally quit. That job is my biggest regret...I would have loved to taken them to court. Unfortunately I did not document anything and have no precise recollection of my dealings with these people.

Anyway....getting to the point. These very uninspiring, spirit-killing, learning environments have left a mark on me. When I saw your brief mention on page 91 of the skill-sharing workshops, something sparked in me. I want to do this! I can trade my knowledge of photography, photoshop, etc. for anything else. I want to create an environment where womyn can attain any skill even if it is just learning something to complete a small project that they have. I want something not like the bike shop or the camera shop, meaning a safe, open, comfortable and welcoming place for learning.

I have not gotten my website yet, but I will be starting to put that together this week. It will be a site where womyn can create a profile for themselves and in that profile they will be able to list skills they have and skills they want, also blogs for each one or a message forum. This way people from all over can find others in there area to trade with, not just in Chicago. Ain't the internet grand!? I don’t want to completely exclude men, however, I would like to include them...something like skill-sharing workshops for womyn (and men who wish to further the knowledge of womyn and further there own with the help of womyn). I feel I don’t want to leave them out completely because if they are open to feminism and have skills they want to share to help better a womyn than why not?

I was explaining this idea to my boyfriend, and he is totally gung-ho about this idea. I posted an ad on Craigslist.com to see what any responses would be like. My boyfriend and I were reading the responses and one womyn loved the idea and wanted to learn how to grill and cook (he loves to cook and grill) and he said, "Oh! I could teach that! but I am not a womyn". I want to include him too him and other men that may feel genuine about this idea. After all we should be equal right?

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you and Jennifer for writing Manifesta and thus giving me the inspiration for this project. I will send you the site when its up and running if you are interested.

Thanks Again!



It took me some time just to digest everything in your note, all of which is great and so totally inspiring. A few things immediately came to mind...there is a great feminist bookstore in Chicago, Women and Children First, and they can probably help (as in provide space and perhaps other infrastructure things) for you.

Also, there use to be in Chicago a "pink pages" or something like a yellow pages specifically for women owned businesses. This seems like a more 3-D and more practical aspect of that, but you might want to see whatever happened to that. Also, in Grassroots, which became a sort-of follow up to Manifesta, Jennifer and I profile WERISE, a feminist arts collective in NYC, and it's this exact model, but specifically for women in the arts. That might be a good model and I'm sure they would also love to know about your ideas. And I know there is some famous quote along the lines of this, but it's very common that good things come from bad times. I think it inspires us to want/demand more, and to no longer see others as the answer, but us.

Thanks again for sharing, you have really inspired me and I know that others will be inspired, too. Have fun, and certainly include your boyfriend. Men have lots of offer.

- Amy