On this page: Susan Hawthorne Margaret Thornton; Molly Hadfield; Edith
Morgan; Women's Health in the North
See also: Social Change
That was a peak in terms of feminist publishing and feminist artistic events. By 1995 when I went to the Book Expo America, I noticed that where there used to be about two hundred feminist booksellers and around fifty feminist publishers the numbers were dropping drastically.
I remember women starting to talk about Borders, Barnes and Noble and what was being called the superstores. What was happening was that the superstores were coming in and setting up shops around the corner, over the road and even next door, to the very best independent – many of which were feminist – bookshops.
What happened was: just at the time when bookshops needed to computerize their inventory to survive, right at that moment, the superstores came in. The superstores knew their way around and ordered every title the feminist bookshops had in. They had coffee shops, they brought in writers to do events. Big name writers and small name writers – there would be events at their stores constantly.
People stopped going to the feminist bookshops and so those stores collapsed. Just like that. That had a roll on effect on the feminist publishers. Although the feminist publishers did well for a while, what happened was that once the feminist bookshop went out the superstores no longer stocked the same inventory. As well as that, the superstores over-ordered so publishers thought they had a success on their hands, reprinted, and just as the reprint came in, they would get a big return from the superstore. In the publishing industry returns cost more than what is received for the original sales.
Suddenly the feminist publishers were also really, really struggling and not knowing what to do. This discussion went on for a number of years in America and I could see that the same thing would probably happen here. So I wasn’t terribly surprised when Borders set up their shop immediately opposite Readings bookshop in Carlton.
The book industry has gone through a revolution in the last ten years. First there was the computerizing of the inventory, and then there was the shift to digitised production processes – typesetting, cover design and later the internet, and now e-books – the whole lot. As well as that, there was the increasing power of the booksellers, particularly the really big chains. I think they have crippled the publishing industry all around the English language Western world. It is also having an impact in places like Germany – the number of German feminist presses attending the Frankfurt Book Fair has really taken a dive.
I think that as feminist publishers we are the canary in the mine.
On the plus side, there are a number of very small presses coming into existence and publishing a few things then going out of existence or doing things online. There are some good things happening but it very small.
At Spinifex we noticed a big dive in our books going into bookshops about three years ago. So we, too, decided we would reduce our publishing program. We are treading water, I guess, publishing only about four books a year, down from ten to fifteen titles five years ago. The word feminist creates such fear.
So we are now going into e-books, busily converting print texts into electronic texts. We have forty five books available as electronic books and you can go online and have a look at the first ten to fifteen pages. People can order print books or e-books. This is great, because if you can’t go into a bookshop and leaf through the entire book it makes it really hard to know what is there. Blurbs and reviews are no substitute for being able to open a book and have a quick read.
The more work we do in this area the more I think it is really important to do it. It creates a chance for people to buy or not buy wherever they are, Melbourne, Los Angeles or New Delhi. At least they know what is there.
... The idea of leadership
now actually suggests someone who can sack people. To make people do more
with less is seen to be somehow good.
This brings me to
a particular interest of mine in terms of work and how we see it in the
context of the change from social liberalism to neo-liberalism and how
that is impacting upon women. The focus is on - what is good for business,
- what is going to make money within a global environment, - how we are
going to make Australia more competitive, - maximising profits, - producing
New Knowledge workers for the good of the organisation and for
the good of the nation state.
The concepts of social
justice, equity and equal opportunity have fallen off the agenda altogether.
We find there is now a focus on a rather weak concept of 'diversity'.
The phrase used in organisations (public and private) is 'managing diversity'.
This is what managers do to try and make the workplace better for them,
to make workers more productive to try to get more out of them.
Remember the S11 demonstrations, when the World Trade
Organization (WTO) met at the casino in Melbourne? Our S11, not the recent
one! Now the big 'powers that be' are hiding away in the hills to have
This globalisation is a whole new thing. How should we
look at it? Isn't it just globalising wealth? What happens when the money
collapses, when they want to lock it all up from themselves? There are
plenty of struggles out there.
I have been protesting for over fifty years now. I had
better stop, I suppose, but, no, I don't want to stop. I am not going
to stop while I have breath in my body and a working head to think about
it all! . There have always been worries and struggles. It is just that
they come in a different package.
Nowadays you can't ignore such things as the World Trade
Organisation (WTO). It affects all areas. It certainly shows through in
housing, for example. Services for people are diminishing all the time.
There is an element of privatisation coming in to it
because the WTO is very clear, and so is our Prime Minister, that taxation
is killing our economy. Now we have voluntary taxation - some wealthy
people use devious ways to pay virtually no tax at all. This, I am sure,
is affecting us all. It will make services more difficult to obtain. You
will find that services which ordinarily would have been seen as important
and necessary, are now going to be diminished or those who have to use
it will be subject to massive intrusion into their lives.
We have seen what happens in countries where the WTO
is involved. People talk glibly about the WTO and free trade and how it
is going to help poor people. It is bullshit. You just see the tragedy
in the Third World countries now. This eruption of disputes and wars that
we now live with - I put it all down to that.
What is happening to banks and banking services is a
good example of privatisation. The banks want more and more and more while
decent jobs and services go down.
Health in the North
- The global issues seem so enormous ... I used to
believe very strongly that personal growth, political action and peace
begin at home and in the community. But I'm feeling that our impact is
minimal in undermining the huge monopolies and nuclear warfare.
Out of this came a fierce discussion on what could be
done at grassroots and community level to address these huge monopolies.
There is a limit to how much time and energy people
can commit to protesting about these huge, dominating powers that are
in the control of only very few, said one woman.
The culture created by such institutions (banks, media
owners and other multinationals) is one that infringes on the quality
of our everyday life as well as our ability to achieve global peace.
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