The state of the nation as it stands isn't great. Everyday is filled with more and more of the same news stories recounting either instances of racial injustice and men becoming martyrs for using their platform (ex. the Black Lives Matter movement and the countless, unnecessary killings that spurred it, Colin Kaepermick being blacklisted for taking action against police brutality) or of sexual assaults and sex discrimination (i.e. college campus rape culture cases, the unfolding Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood). With so much going on, I wanted to make sure that I found a place in New York that could be both a safe space and an educational source for those seeking refuge from the harsh reality that we are living in. Fortunately, that place was found easier than I expected and far exceeded my expectations.
Located at 172 Allen St, New York, NY 10002 in the Lower East Side (in close proximity to the restaurant Sweet Chick which I will promote to anyone who will listen - the best chicken and waffles you might ever eat), Bluestockings is described as, according to Google, a "volunteer-run bookshop/cafe with titles, readings & workshops devoted to feminism & social activism" and I can testify that that is exactly what you get when you enter this space. Remixing Shakespeare a little, though it be but little, it is fierce.
Though this is unrelated to my original reason for visiting, the first thing I was struck by was the size. Of the 3 total bookstores I’ve visited so far, this was the smallest. But maybe I should say that intimate is a better word for it (especially considering there was a bookcase dedicated to diva cups and other feminine hygiene products).
But besides that, the atmosphere felt intimate for a different reason. There just felt like a sense of peace over the store. A sense of acceptance no matter who you were, who you wanted to be, or who you liked. There were a few people hanging around in chairs talking to each other and a few people browsing the store. There was a small coffee maker and people sipping on drinks while reading or holding conversations. I didn't think twice about if anyone had bad intentions or motives (something I often find myself asking when I got to the mall or to the movies). I can say that I felt no animosity or feelings of ill-will and in this day and age, to find a place where no trace of those feelings exist is sadly hard to do. But maybe the size is what generated the personal closeness I felt. Now closeness does not equate to complete ease. For while I felt safe and sound, I also felt overwhelmed and uneducated when I first walked through the door. Maybe this sounds weird, but I almost didn’t feel woke enough or feminist enough when I first went in there (though I believe that I am both). It's not like anyone jumped up to give me a pop-quiz on Gloria Steinem's middle name or Malcolm X’s birthday. But I still felt like I didn’t belong there because I didn’t know enough. Then I realized that I felt uneasy because I didn't know as much as I thought I did. I pride myself on my intellect, both academically and socially. I am the wokest (I think I just made that up but it sounded better to me than "most woke") person in my family and enjoy educating them on the subject. But Bluestockings made me realize that maybe I needed more education myself and I wasn't prepared for that hard truth. But it was a truth a I needed to know. That everyone needs to know. The truth that education doesn't stop. That you can always learn more in order to go out in the world and do more good for it. So I thank Bluestockings for putting that information in my face and inspiring me to keep on learning and keep on helping. And thank you for the merchandise because those bags and pins were amazing!