DETROIT, MI—In the basement of the Cobo Center, on the banks of the Detroit River, lies Social Justice City, a strangely empty cluster of vendors and the people you pass on the street brandishing clipboards for petitions to sign, gathering together in a rich tapestry of commerce, activism, and t-shirts that cry FEMINIST AS FUCK.
What I was expecting was a bustling, overproduced, swag-filled event hall, full of vendors and women shoulder to shoulder, signing petitions and conversing with each other about how precisely they would dismantle the patriarchy, mobilize, and exact change.
On the way to the Social Justice City, one passes through the Art Gallery, located in the grand and quite nice atrium in the middle of the Cobo Center, full of light and space. Per the programming brochure I clutched tight in my sweaty palm, the Gallery is a collection of “intersectional artwork from over 70 US-based, femme-identifying artists exploring women’s rights, anti-Muslim bigotry, immigration/migraton, American identity prison reform and more!”
My tolerance for this kind of art is low, but I thoroughly enjoyed my brief stroll. There was sunlight; it was quiet. Women took pictures in front of some of the works and I ate a snack pack of Oreos pilfered from the food table as if in a fugue state. Had I my druthers, I would’ve laid down amongst the large murals and fallen asleep, but I pushed through. Onward to the Social Justice City.
The men at the convention have been few and far between, save for the cameramen I saw in the press room and a stray photographer. Here are the first men, (wo)manning a booth at the Women’s Market for feminist (AF) clothing line The Outrage.
I’m relieved to say that my expectations for what the Social Justice City would look like were not met; if the Village was empty, that means everyone was at the panels, learning. Most of the booths were full of feminist apparel: shirts, tote bags, tank tops and the like, emblazoned with a variation on “I’M A FREAKIN FEMINIST GUYS” in various sans serif fonts. A turn down another aisle revealed a lane of local vendors from Detroit, including a lovely vintage clothing stand that I considered stopping in and another booth hawking various international textiles, market bags, and floppy pants.
I have not yet been moved by Mother Capitalism to purchase anything, but I did leave with some delicious potato chips and a NRDC Action Fund bandana.
Perhaps it will be more bustling tomorrow! Or maybe everyone will be at the panels, learning. We will see.