Questions on Scholarships, Access, & Sustainability

(Or, How do we as a community develop a feminist economy that values the research, teaching, and study of feminist scholarship?)

If you are reading this, it might be because you are someone who has asked about scholarships OR you are someone who has asked about contributing money or other resources to Feminism School in order to increase access for more people while sustaining my own labors.

When I started Feminism School, I originally had an honor system scholarship fund—it served Native American and Indigenous people, women of color, and also people who were financially marginalized.  

The past 20 years, until officially launching FS (early 2020), I have also mostly given my body of work away at low cost or pro bono. This is because, by and large, people were not willing to invest in feminist learning in a way that actually balanced my energy and labor. And my goal was to help the injustices in this world! My goal was not to care for myself in a sustainable way. I was never motivated by money, and I assumed I could just keep sacrificing, more and more and more...until my body broke down.

As you can imagine, that was severely off balance! Feminism School as a body of work and teaching has cost more than $100,00 to build, implement, and offer (this includes student loans, business loans, loans to my friends and family, money that I made and quickly reinvested in building FS). It also cost my life energy of 20 years of devoted research (mostly unpaid, some low-paid), 5 graduate programs of investment, and uprooting myself many times to move to those graduate programs.

This has been a 20-year labor of love!

And, I have never done any of this on my own. Community has been the only way for me, and it is why I talk about our power in feminist community ALL the time in my courses.

I am now in my 40s. I live with autoimmune conditions and physical pain. I also live with the debt that it has cost to build my body of work. I have had to totally re-think what a feminist economy even means because more years of sacrifice feels impossible and, frankly, disempowering for a woman like myself who has given her life to empowering other women.

Running Feminism School is EXPENSIVE. I take a very small fraction of a salary for the money FS makes. Most of the profit goes right back into the business, or paying down the investment of building the business, or paying the 35% in taxes that New York demands. 

In short, FS is not yet sustainable for my body. Not even close. And I absolutely know other women in business experience these very same challenges, and that is why I have written this page for those who want to think together about what it will actually mean to support women's intellectual work in this world outside the university system.

I thought being anti-capitalist was giving away my labor. I was wrong. And I don't want to set that example for other women.

So I have spent a lot of time wrestling with questions of sustainability AND access. A lot.

I want to set an example of how we can have more honest, less stigmatized conversations about money, resources, and building a feminist economy, and what it truly takes for most of us (without wealth from families or partners, or jobs that value our labor) to build a body of work that truly challenges the status quo.

As someone who has never had very many financial resources, but who does have an incredibly important resource—20 years of devotion to studying feminist foremothers—I am deeply aware that money is not the only resource, or even the most important resource to put in circulation to build a better world.

At the same time, I am aware there are people with a surplus of money—and one way they can change the world is, in fact, putting those resources in circulation. 

If you want to take classes at Feminism School and live month-to-month, with no extra financial resources, or if you experience an exchange rate that makes it impossible to pay for our courses, I have typically honored the resources people have to give that are not money.

But, I am also currently revamping  how I will offer scholarship funds and exchanges, in order to create greater sustainability.  I hope to release the new scholarship fund in early 2023. 

(I am also re-assessing the energy it has taken me the past 8 years to run many, many fundraisers to support many women—and what is sustainable going forward. Fundraising for other women has always been a key component of my work as a feminist.)

When people take my courses and truly show up to the depth that is there, they tend to use my ideas (my intellectual property) to build huge areas of their own work, teaching, and businesses. They take my 20 years of research and accelerate their own learning! 

And that is why I do what I do—to accelerate this work in the world.

But it is also energetically and materially important that my body of work is recognized in some way, even as I fully understand what it is like to pay tuition and then not have enough food to eat—and I don't want that reality for anyone. I don't want people sacrificing at the level that I had to—but I also want FS to be sustainable so that the power of these resources I have built can fully go out into the world.

I desire to finish my 4 books in the next 2-3 years—which is the single best way I can distribute my body of research in accessible ways to people without financial resources. But this does mean that people who take my courses at Feminism School commit to the sustainability of the mission of FS! If I am not fairly paid for my work at FS, I will never be able to do the truest work I am called to do—as a feminist writer.

This is where things get very exciting—using our own felt limitations to realize we have abundant riches in feminist economies that exceed that narrow rules of capitalism.

Through developing an economy of exchange, I have collaborated with incredible women all over the world—and we have created truly innovated models of what it means to develop a learning space at Feminism School that could support access for more people AND one day support my having access to paying down my debt and having a stable place for living, working and writing.

That said, here are some general tips on how I think about creating a feminist economy:

1) If paying any money at all would interfere with your access to food and housing, then my goal is to develop ways FS can actually fund YOUR research and study. We are piloting this now with one feminist researcher, providing a stipend for a year. It is my goal that FS will be able to support women around the world do their own research because I am passionate about supporting women who give their lives to preserving women's knowledge within their own cultures. I value the feminist scholars and artists who do this labor and activism.

2). If you do have access to stable housing and food,  but still live on a tight budget, then usually sliding scale + payment plan + bartering your skills is the best path forward! This is where we get to be imaginative and re-think and re-name the values of capitalism. I love this part! In 2023, I will be releasing more details on this approach to scholarships.

3). If you are a philanthropist or someone living on or benefiting in your business from intergenerational wealth, I invite you to consider redistribution of resources in a meaningful way to support the study and teaching of feminist scholarship outside the university. I know from my 20 years of labor, that our various cultures still do not see the value of preserving women's knowledge—so  those with financial wealth have an important role right now, too. One step you can take is to offer to pay the tuition to Feminism School courses  or workshops for women in your community who do not have your financial privileges. 

Want to talk further about building a feminist economy at Feminism School and being part of this vision? My very favorite thing in all this world is collaboration and imagining old and new ways toward collective power and supporting every single person to live their gifts and calling in the world.