Thunder Bay

Woman's bookstore collective contemplates new space for feminists

Taina Maki-Chahal of the Space of Our Own Collective says feminists help bring progressive change to the city

Collective member says feminists help bring progressive change to the city

Taina Maki Chahal is a member of the Space of Our Own Collective, which is looking to create a new space for feminist creativity and politics in Thunder Bay. (Taina Maki Chahal)

The Thunder Bay, Ont. collective that once helped guide the Northern Woman's Bookstore says it's now working to create a new space for feminists in Thunder Bay, following the store's closure late last year.

Bookstore owner Margaret Phillips, who died in November, created the Space of Our Own Collective around ten years ago, in part to help keep the bookstore's values alive when she could no longer do so, said collective member Taina Maki Chahal. 

Though many feminist bookstores have closed down over the years, Maki Chahal believes Thunder Bay still needs a place for feminists to gather because feminists help bring progressive change to the city, she said.

"We're looking definitely at asking hard questions and challenging and doing something about oppressions, whether it's sexism, homophobia, racism, classism, you know, all those things – Islamophobia," she said.

"Feminists have so many roles today, so how can we provide a place and a space where we can contribute as well as help others?" she said.

Maki Chahal told CBC that, while she can't speak for the full collective, which is still contemplating the precise form a new venue might take, she envisions, "some sort of feminist space where women in all of our multiple diversities can get together to hold events, to do poetry readings ... a place where women can just hang out together and share ideas."

That space might differ from existing services such as the Northwestern Ontario Women's Centre in that it might focus more on creativity, art and politics than other services do, Maki Chahal said.

There are no immediate plans to get back into the business of book selling, she added, noting that such a venture would require a new physical location, new relationships with book distributors and money for staff.

The collective did, however, inherit the bookstore's existing inventory and sold books at this year's Pride celebrations.

It's available to sell books at other events if asked, Maki Chahal said.

Anyone interested in joining the collective can contact members through the Northern Woman's Bookstore Facebook page.