Looking for a place to buy gifts for Valentine’s Day made by local, marginalized artists? The Feminist Flea has got you covered. Organized by local event company House Cat, the Flea will be hosting its second virtual flea market this week February 1-7. There, from the safety of your own home, you can look through selling vintage clothing, beauty items, ceramics, teas and more from more than 60 vendors.
The market features artists marginalized by gender, such as women, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming folks, and gives priority to those who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).
This aspect of the Flea creates a strong sense of solidarity among artists according to Nicole Saltzer of Nicole Saltzer Design and Illustration, who makes all graphics for the market.
“Taking part in Feminist Flea connects me with a truly diverse pool of artists and small businesses that share community forward ways of thinking,” Saltzer says. “The connection feels even stronger even though it’s been taking place behind a screen. I admire every single vendor for what they do.”
In addition to helping local vendors sell their wares, the Flea will be donating all suggested $3 entry fees from shoppers to the Philadelphia Red Umbrella Alliance (Philly RUA) and Project SAFE’s Philadelphia Sex Worker Relief Fund to help sex workers whose incomes have been impacted due to the pandemic. (During its first virtual marketplace held over Small Business Saturday in November, the Flea raised more than $7,000 for Philadelphia’s community fridges.)
To get a better idea of the event and what the event will entail and how it will work, Grid spoke with Rebecca Aronow, founder of House Cat.
This interview has been edited for length, clarity and style.
Shop the marketplace starting today at feministflea.com.
Is this the first Valentine’s Day Feminist Flea? What inspired you to organize it around the holiday this year?
This is actually the second “Valentine’s Day” Feminist Flea! The second ever Feminist Flea was on Feb. 2nd at Underground Arts and it was a totally wild experience. Over 1,200 people showed up, which I definitely wasn’t expecting, so it was jam-packed inside with a line down the block. Multiple vendors completely sold out. It was amazing.
After our first virtual market a couple months ago a lot of vendors asked for the next one to be around Valentine’s Day, so even though it was a big time crunch I wanted to make that happen.
The event is being held virtually—why did you decide to hold it remotely and how does the virtual marketplace work?
To me, it was never an option to host this event in person during a global pandemic—no matter how many precautions we could try to take. So back in March of last year when we had to postpone our Spring market, which was supposed to take place at Bok, I immediately started working on making something happen virtually.
I didn’t want to just put the whole event on pause, especially because I think people need and deserve to feel a sense of community and to make money or be able to survive doing what they love during a pandemic, when there is little to no government assistance.
The Virtual Marketplace is going to work a little differently than our November market. This time, we have over 60 vendors, many of whom made items specifically for this event. As you can imagine, there’s lots of very cute heart-themed stuff!
You’ll head to FeministFlea.com and be able to shop from those vendors right on the site – there are over 300 items so you can just endlessly scroll for a while!
All items come with free shipping too, which I know are always magic words to me. We ask that people pay at least $3 to shop by either paying through the site or entering to win some raffle bundles. 100% of proceeds from the entry fee and raffle bundles will go to Philadelphia Red Umbrella Alliance and Project SAFE’s Philadelphia Sex Worker Relief Fund.
Feminist Flea works with small business owners and artists who are marginalized by gender, including women, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming folks, with priority to makers who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. How does this shape the kind of unique products the Flea offers?
Because artists and small business owners are coming to this market with many different identities and experiences, the work that they bring feels really unique to each person. I always love meeting the person behind the art and getting to know them a little bit. It’s something I really miss from in-person markets!
It’s always awe-inspiring seeing the amount of creativity that everyone has and the unique ideas that they come up with. So many products are things you would never get from some big-box store like Urban Outfitters, unless they were stealing it from an artist themselves!
What kind of Valentine’s Day merchandise can folks look forward to? Anything sassy, particularly Philly, or fun?
Modest Transitions has what she calls “Give a Heart”, which are mini hand-dyed fabric hearts that include a plantable note that will grow into beautiful wildflowers. She also has lavender-scented, heart-shaped Mini Eye Pillows that you can cool or warm and rest on your eyes.
BabeCorps has a BFF Choker Set, which is the classic two halves of a heart and is just so tender.
Meg Potoma Studios made some Social Justice Candy Heart Valentine Card, and each candy heart says Community Care, Housing 4 All, Universal Health Care, Decriminalize Sex Work, Living Wages 4 All and End Capitalism.
There’s also lots of plants from Cactus Cart and Philly Phlora available for local Philly pick-up, and we of course have some Gritty stuff for anyone who’s into that Philly dude and wishing he was their valentine.
Let’s talk about the collectives this event is raising money for. The Flea is donating all its virtual “entry fees” to the Philadelphia Red Umbrella Alliance and Project SAFE’s Philadelphia Sex Worker Relief Fund. Can you explain why you chose these groups and what kind of work they do?
I’m quoting this from their social media and websites – Philly RUA is an “all volunteer collective dedicated to ending stigma and violence toward sex workers through labor organizing, advocacy and decriminalization” and Project SAFE is “a mutual-aid based harm reduction organization for women, queer and trans people involved in the street economies of Philadelphia. Since 2004, [they] have been arming [their] members with information and materials to reduce the harms created by the criminalization of drug use and sex work.”
Both Philly RUA and Project SAFE are worker-led. Philly RUA has been doing a lot of organizing throughout the pandemic, having raffles to raise money for their fund, going live on Instagram to talk about and educate folks on the impacts of SESTA/FOSTA [Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act/Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act] on sex workers, whorephobia and more.
Project SAFE is still offering their many mutual aid services, with COVID safety and precautions in place, including distributing harm reduction supplies, opening their community space on weekends and more.
There are many reasons why I wanted to raise money for the Philadelphia Sex Worker Relief Fund this time around. Two of the big reasons are that sex workers, due to the criminalization of sex work, are especially hard hit by the pandemic and deserve our support. Now and always.
Also, sex workers are often excluded from “feminist” spaces. People who identify as feminists who are not and have never been sex workers are frequently out in the world telling people what sex workers should do with their bodies and what will make them safer, and I wanted Feminist Flea as a platform and community to be able to push back against that and create a space that fully supports sex workers in all of their agency and power.
How do the missions of these organizations tie into the mission of Feminist Flea?
I think of Feminist Flea as a community-first space, and I think that both Philly RUA and Project SAFE embody that as well, making sure that the people they’re supporting are leading those efforts and have a real voice in the org’s structure and backbone.
I believe that we’re all trying to create a sense of community and mutual care while prioritizing people who are especially marginalized and living at the intersections of various marginalized identities. I admire these orgs for caring and centering folks’ autonomy and safety, while also recognizing the systemic issues that people have to face every day and fighting back against those systems.