Publishing Womanifesto v. 1

DISCLAIMER: Four or five years of publishing have led to the process of writing this womanifesto. In those years, we have committed the very acts that we now decry here, such as selling in big book fairs, joining literary contests, or publishing works by men. We deem this womanifesto as a work in progress, like Gantala Press. Any final version lies on the ultimate fate of women in the future.

1. We are a Filipina feminist literary collective that seeks to decolonize, reclaim, and own the word “feminist.” We do this by redefining the term according to the socio-political-cultural-economic needs and conditions of the country today. We study by learning from and alongside women in communities; drawing from the wisdom of Filipina warriors, writers, and artists in history; and seeking interrelationships with the international women’s movement.

2. We find it necessary and inevitable to ground our work and vision in the struggle of peasants and workers. We continue to learn from the masses, especially women peasants and laborers, who steadfastly stand against violence, exploitation, and oppression. Our solidarity work is embedded in the struggle for genuine agrarian reform and national sovereignty.

3. We publish women’s writings and use women’s art in our books. The works of women peasants, laborers, and indigenous women shall be published before those of professional women or “women writers.” Single-authored works by women may be published provided that these also speak for oppressed and silenced communities.

4. We do not seek (nor are offered) the support of large institutions such as corporations, some government bureaus, or funding agencies. We do this to be free of the obligation to serve conflicting interests. We make do with very limited resources, resources that we have gained with our own labor or generously contributed by friends and allies.

5. We believe that the professionalization of writing further alienates the people from this supposedly creative, empowering act. Professional writing only serves capitalist endeavors. We believe that writing is for/by everyone, not just for/by those who studied it nor those who could make money out of it. As long as someone has written something, even if it is a graffiti or a Facebook post, she has already produced a text. She has, therefore, written. Our concerns and duty are beyond the question of whether she is a Writer or not.

6. We believe that a woman is the expert of her own story. We do as little editing as possible of our contributors’ works, especially works that are not by women who have had the privilege of going to school. We are happy to publish writings by women in communities in the original vernacular, rather than translate these.

7. We work with texts, not with Literature. “Literature” has always been defined by literary institutions including the academe or the market-driven publishing industry itself. Texts have been produced much longer than literature has been produced. Texts will remain even after literature is dead. This is because texts can be written — and read — anywhere.

8. We are suspicious of any kind of institutional validation. We have joined only two contests before, not for the prestige, but with the hope that we could use the prize money to make more books. We will probably not join any literary contests again, perhaps until the awards are bestowed by judges other than the usual men (and women).

9. We cannot afford to give out complimentary copies for review by literary tastemakers. Almost all of the published reviews of our books were unsolicited, and based on copies that the reviewers bought themselves, in support of the press. Blurbs do not have any value to us unless they are given by nameless readers or even “non-readers.”

10. We take pains to avoid enabling capitalistic institutions and perpetuating institutional oppression. For example, we would never pay an exorbitant fee to participate in book fairs that are being held in commercial spaces, especially spaces owned by corporations that are involved in labor disputes, or had displaced communities and driven the local bookstores (and other small ventures) out of business. We prefer to sell our books directly in small press expos and Sunday markets, or in local bookstores that, like us, struggle to survive in this economy.

11. We are completely and utterly non-profit. We always try to keep our prices the lowest possible. When pricing, we only make sure that the printing cost and some expenses are covered. We donate the rest of our sales to causes or to the communities from whom the books are drawn.

12. We believe in the democratic potential and capacity of collective writing. We see individual bylines and individual prestige as valueless and lost in the power of collective action. We strive to provide a platform for the people to speak. We are of the people.

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