Women and LGBTQ-focused flea market expands to Bok Building

Courtesy of House Cat

The third local installment of the Feminist Flea Market and Craft Fair returns to Philadelphia on Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Since its last iteration at Underground Arts with over 1,650 attendees, the market has since expanded and will take place this year in South Philly’s Bok Building. Rebecca Aronow of the event production company House Cat created this flea market specifically for womxn, trans, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people. 

“The Feminist Flea is inherently a space for LGBTQ+ people largely because so many vendors and attendees are a part of this community,” Aronow said. “So much of what is sold is in support of queer people and queer spaces.”

A $5 cover charge provides access to more than 100 local vendors selling art, clothing, jewelry and more. The entrance proceeds will benefit the local organization Women Organized Against Rape. Women in Transition, creators of the Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline Collaboration, which now offers empowerment counseling for women, will lead introductory courses in self-defense once an hour.

Within this woman and LGBTQ-centered craft space, vendors and attendees have made meaningful connections with each other, both from selling their products together and by meeting patrons, many of whom they first connected with via selling their items online.   

“I primarily sell at flea markets, which are just white men, pretty much, over their 30s,” said Keiko El, who sells vintage clothing via Knooks N’ Krannies. “It can be really off-putting, especially being a woman of color and being queer. Having a flea market in a space like this where you can meet like-minded individuals who you feel safe around is important.” 

Aronow started the flea market on the heels of having hosted similar events when she was in college at Penn State; there, she also donated proceeds to local women’s organizations. When she worked at Underground Arts in Philly, she felt compelled to diversify the venue’s offerings by suggesting events that would attract more women and the queer demographic. 

“I’ve always been really passionate about designing different art forms in support of feminism,” Aronow said, adding that a clear message is essential. “The vendors who are applying to vend, the people who are deciding to come, all share the same sentiment and feelings and find the same things important.”

Vanessa Dunn sells her jewelry at Feminist Flea through her business Xenia Studio.

“Because I hand make everything at my house, by myself, the markets are the best way to go out, engage with the community, meet new customers and have these face-to-face interactions,” Dunn said. “I do a lot of online sales, and you really don’t get any of that.”

Following Aronow’s example, Dunn plans to contribute some of what she makes to organizations like WOAR.  

“It is incredible and actually inspires me,” she said. “Next year, I want to work on donating a percentage of my profits to a similar organization or maybe one that Feminist Flea has worked with.” 

Aronow chose to donate proceeds to WOAR in part because she previously volunteered for their hotline, which provided her with first-hand knowledge of what was needed to keep the organization operating successfully. 

Quinn Pellerito, WOAR’s LGBTQ education coordinator, said the flea market is “explicitly” for artists who are not cis men, which makes WOAR an excellent choice for the market. 

“Basically, the people who are most affected by sexual violence are the people represented making the art, and [funds] directly will go to WOAR, which is serving a feminist cause,” he said. 

WOAR allocates much of its donated funds to ensuring those in need of WOAR’s services can reach its offices.  

“One of the barriers to getting to Center City to receive care and receive treatment is transportation,” said WOAR Executive Director Monique Howard. “Although we are in the center of the city, and we’re above Regional Rail, it doesn’t mean people have the means to get here.”

Since its first installment, Feminist Flea has brought in upwards of $8,700 for local organizations dedicated to helping women.

Both El and Dunn emphasized that Feminist Flea is the only local flea market that they know of that centers women, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming folks, and LGBTQ people. 

“I feel good about selling my pieces to people who are like me, and becoming more of a community with those people in Philadelphia that I may not have met at another flea market,” El said.