Provincetown is, for so many of us who live outside and far away, and for some who live in town, a refuge, a second home, A Place to Be Who We Are. And, we find ourselves in all the wonderful places that Provincetown has to offer: Beech Forest, Race Point, Herring Cove, The Fine Arts Work Center, any local B&B, Gallery 411, Farland, and, of course, Womencrafts. Womencrafts, I believe, is the center of Provincetown because this shop offers a space in which all can be free. In particular, women are free to be fully human and to express themselves as such. The items that one can purchase in Womencrafts are made by women who are artists and activists who through their work change the world for the better. And the people who work and run the shop are those who, everyday, labor to ensure that women and all the vulnerable can be free so that we can all live in this world and flourish.
As a lower class, white, gay man who has lived all of his life in the rural Upland South and the rural Middle West, I find Womencrafts to be an absolute necessity. The conversations that take place inside the shop offer time and space not only to those who are threatened by imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy always, to borrow from bell hooks, but to those who function in places, like Provincetown, that are in some ways free for people to be who they are. The difficult and the hilarious fill the shop where we must find each other.
Womencrafts is a feminist home. Had I not walked in to Womencrafts years ago and found works by the great lesbian playwright Jane Chambers and spent hours chatting up Michelle about everything in the world, I would not love and understand Provincetown as a second home. To know the wonderful people who run Provincetown’s most important shop– a place where, to quote the great black lesbian feminist Audre Lorde, we “transform silence into language and action”– is both a necessity and a privilege.
Michelle shares about Billy:
Featured here, is Billy Clem, a professor from the suburbs of Chicago. He wandered into the shop four years ago while taking a Fine Arts Work Center poetry seminar. He bought obscure lesbian plays and had me in stitches about student loans. Since that time we have tried to send each other love letters that will be worthy of publication upon our deaths, leaving people guessing about this lesbian/gay male affair. We visit, chat, tease, and explore the beauty of Provincetown together. After a day of fun and friendship, he fell back into the role of shopper- reminding me of all the relationships that started with a conversation across this counter. It was leaning on this counter that he told me about the seriousness of his health concerns 2 years ago. I’m grateful for all the time we are afforded and for openness we’ve shared since our first chat. May I never assume people want to be left alone, and always imagine the next conversation may lead to my next deep love.