Since 2018, Rebecca Aronow’s mission in creating House Cat and the Feminist Flea Market and Craft Fair has been pure devise, what she calls “unique, community-oriented events that also support social justice” with the latter’s focus has been on highlighting artists “whose identities include womxn, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming while raising money for local sexual and domestic violence-related organizations.”
Who can argue with the power and beauty of that?
The next physical Feminist Flea, scheduled for March 28 at the Bok in South Philly obviously had to be canceled due to COVID-19 and the necessities of quarantining and social distancing. That said, House Cat and the Feminist Flea isn’t about to let a pandemic stop funding for a good cause. That’s how and why they decided to host a benefit on Thursday, April 30 through Instagram to support WOAR, Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence, a local nonprofit organization whose principal mission, is to eliminate all forms of sexual violence through specialized treatment services, comprehensive prevention education programs and advocacy for the rights of victims of sexual assault. Founded in 1971, WOAR provides much needed aid and services to victims of sexual assault. To participate in the auction next Thursday, (8 a.m.-11 p.m.) or for more information, visit Feminist Flea Market on Instagram.
dosage MAGAZINE and I spoke with Rebecca Aronow with the whys and wherefores of the Flea and the Cat.
A.D. Amorosi: In a mouthful, please tell me what House Cat and the Feminist Flea was started for, put in place to do, and what – in your humble opinion – what good they have done on its collective time on Earth?Rebecca Aronow: The goal of House Cat is to create unique, community-oriented events that also support social justice causes. I really strive to make every event as inclusive, representative, accessible and safe as I can. The Feminist Flea Market and Craft Fair was created with that same purpose in mind and quickly came to be House Cat’s largest event. It started as a place to highlight artists whose identities include womxn, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming while also raising money for local sexual and domestic violence-related organizations. Because this market has such a clear cause, the vendors who want to be a part of it as well as the people who come to shop are all so kind and ready to support each other, which has allowed the Feminist Flea to evolve beyond just a market into a really beautiful community of people that connect and support each other outside of the event itself. It’s been so nice meeting so many amazing people through doing this and seeing so many relationships come out of it. Beyond that, of course, I’m really happy to have a sustainable event that has already raised over $15,000 for local orgs over just four markets. To me, having spaces where people feel comfortable, seen, cared for and genuinely excited about what we’re all creating is truly what it’s all about.
A.D. Amorosi: The physical Flea scheduled for March 28th at Bok – canceled – a total drag. How quickly did you know/figure out that you could move forward as an online entity/auction – and what can you tell me about moving into Instagram territory?
Rebecca Aronow: The idea to have an online auction developed over time as it became clear that we wouldn’t be able to reschedule this market anytime soon. I had been thinking about ways to support the 120 plus vendors who were supposed to be there at Bok and also thinking about how to support WOAR, Philly’s only rape crisis center. These markets (not just Feminist Flea, but markets in general) generate a lot of income for a lot of people, so it was important to me to try to find alternative ways to continue to give them a platform to share their work. We also raised over $6,000 for WOAR at our last market, so having to postpone this was hard in terms of not being able to give WOAR that money right now.
A.D. Amorosi: How did this conversation move forward?
Rebecca Aronow: I was talking to Crystal (of MamaMoon Vintage), one of the market’s repeat vendors, after I decided to cancel the event, and we were spitballing about creative things to do with the other vendors in light of the cancellation, and what came to be many many more cancellations. In that conversation came the Vendor Sessions idea, which just had the simple goal of giving artists a space to share their work, story, process and whatever else they wanted to share. Like I said before, I feel so lucky to have so many incredible vendors who choose to be a part of this event, so whenever ideas like this come up a lot of people are always there to hop on. These sessions ran on Instagram every day from March 18th through April 11th and were so great to watch. You can access all of these sessions on Feminist Flea’s Instagram. It was pretty seamless because of how easy everyone is to work with and because of how quickly everyone was willing to get involved.
I was looking to organize a Feminist Flea online event that would support WOAR, and Nicole Saltzer is who pushed me to really get something going. Nicole reached out about the auction idea and custom shirt design and I immediately felt so excited and started working on it with her and WOAR. It was perfect timing too since April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, so everyone was again on board really quickly. Luckily, we already have a small Instagram following, which is constantly growing, so the infrastructure is already there to make the auction happen.
A.D. Amorosi: I should ask, as an artist/maker/creator, do you have time to contribute to the auction?
Rebecca Aronow: I take photos, but I’ve put that aside for a little while now, so I won’t be contributing anything to the auction. Maybe next time!
A.D. Amorosi: WOAR, the Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence, has been around for a minute – four decades worth – how and why did you come to partnering with them/benefitting their cause?
Rebecca Aronow: I’ve always been really passionate about supporting sexual violence organizations, so when I moved to Philly WOAR was one of the first orgs I came across when searching for places to donate show proceeds to. One of the first House Cat shows was a WOAR benefit at World Café Live and the relationship really just grew from there. I eventually started volunteering on the WOAR hotline and just last month began working for them full-time, so I also see firsthand everything that they do to help the Philadelphia community. The work they do is so deeply important. This city needs WOAR.
A.D. Amorosi: What can you tell me about hooking up with painter/muralist Nicole Saltzer for a limited edition SAAM t-shirt? What those conversations between you were like about needs/shared ideas, etc.?Rebecca Aronow: Nicole was a vendor at the very first Feminist Flea, and she began doing all of the design work for the market when we made the move to Bok last year. She’s been instrumental in growing the Feminist Flea – she designed the logo and all of the recent artwork for the market – and I just love her work so much. Like I said above, she came to me with this idea and I really just trusted her to come up with something great. We both wanted the design to be based off of the current poster design, since it’s such nice artwork, and also since it didn’t get to see the light of day as much as I would’ve liked given the event’s cancellation. We’re still hoping to use it for the next market, whenever that may be. I’m so excited for how the shirt turned out and so excited to share it with everyone! I’m picky with the clothing I like to wear, and particularly the t-shirts I buy since I have accumulated many over the years, and would 100% buy this one.
A.D. Amorosi: Are there items you can point to in the auction that you are most curious to see sold – have added to the Feminist Flea’s profile?
Rebecca Aronow: I know this is a little bit of a cop-out answer, but all of the items that have been donated are amazing. That said, Ugh Cara, Why donated two tote bags that she described as “the collaboration no one asked for – My Chemical Romance and Betty Boop.” That really made me laugh, and the bags are really cute. Hello World Tarot also donated a virtual tarot reading, which I think a lot of people probably need right now. I’ve been having trouble sleeping, so when I saw Nicole Rodrigues was donating a zine “about the anxieties that go through your head before you fall asleep”, I definitely was a little jealous of whoever was going to end up with it.
A.D. Amorosi: Final words? Parting glances? Something I missed? Something you need to impart?
Rebecca Aronow: I just can’t stress enough how important it is to support local businesses and artists right now as well as social justice orgs and movements going on in the city. Even if you don’t have the funds to financially support there are a ton of ways to help, like sharing posts from your favorite artists and businesses, spreading the word about the many injustices going on right here in Philly and committing to continue doing this work once the world settles down a little bit. These inequalities and struggles aren’t new, they are just amplified right now. There are also many networks of mutual aid in the city where you can offer and/or receive other forms non-monetary of support. Beyond WOAR, which provides so many resources to survivors of sexual violence including their 24-hour hotline and individual and group counseling, there are many other orgs that I have been supporting right now. A big one is Philadelphia Community Bail Fund. They are trying to end cash bail in our city and are working very hard to get people out of prison right now so they don’t die in there from this virus. Our city is not doing enough and it has already cost someone their life, so, as always, community funds are the ones having to step up. Women’s Medical Fund (WMF) helps provide funding for abortions in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Abortion is thankfully still considered essential healthcare in PA, but abortions have still become even harder to receive during this crisis. WMF is always in need of more funds, especially right now. A few other amazing orgs are Project SAFE, Women in Transition, Women against Abuse, Juntos, Shut Down Berks Coalition, Books Through Bars and Project HOME. This list only skims the surface, but they are all doing incredibly important work, so please help them in whatever ways you can!