Lana is a writer, creative producer, and story editor who has produced and directed countless videos ranging in subject matter from butter tarts to bionic hands, to her own book trailer. She grew up in Saskatchewan and has also lived in Banff, Montreal, and on a kibbutz. Her debut short story collection, Moving Parts (Arsenal Pulp Press) was published in October 2015.
Is it a novel? Long poem? A collection of vignettes? Leanne Betasamosake Simpson isn’t concerned with what you call the book. She did not set out to write a commercial novel with Noopiming: A Cure for White Ladies.
The Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg author, scholar, musician, and storyteller draws on Anishinaabe storytelling traditions, which don’t follow the construct of the Western narrative — protagonist, antagonist, conflict, climax, resolution. “I still wanted to tell a story in longer form with the characters that had come up with in (her earlier works) Islands of Decolonial Love and This Accident of Being Lost,” says Simpson. “I fell in love with these characters and carried them with me in my life.”
The result is a radically different kind of novel and unique reading experience. As Alexis Pauline Gumbs blurb: “The book is poem, novel, prophecy, handbook, and a side-eyed critique all at once.” Some pages have just one sentence or paragraph, which Simpson describes as, “very much a reflection of a contemporary Indigenous experience under colonialism where you have these pieces of yourself, pieces of culture, pieces of language and your sort of always trying to put them together.” The white space also allows the reader to take a moment to pause, reflect, think. Let the language and the story to sink in.
Relationality plays a large role in Anishinaabe storytelling and this book: everything that is alive has a spirit. The seven main characters in Noopiming appear and reappear as humans and non-human forms, such as geese, caribou and maple trees. They exist in a collective time and space in a constructed urban-settler world and natural spaces such as parks, the lake, the sky.
Says Simpson: “The book is very much about the present and building Anishinaabe worlds with whatever we have. I see that practice as being something that has been a beautiful form of resistance that so many Anishinaabe families have engaged in and so many women in my family have engaged in.”
A circular idea of time and space — versus a linear past, present, future timeline — is also something Simpson incorporated into the work. Circles and cycles are important in Anishinaabe thought and Noopiming is structured so that a reader can open it and start reading at any page, with any character.
Noopiming: The Cure For White Ladies is Simpson’s sixth book. She was the featured guest in January 2021, on The Fine Print, a conversation series with contemporary feminist authors hosted by Lana Pesch in the Feminist Enterprise Commons (FEC).
She writes in her book that “a new feminist movement” needs locations to debate new definitions and theories of feminism in good faith “to correct historical wrongs of mainstream feminism” and “create consensus that can move a diverse movement composed of many different parts towards the same direction.”
During the show, she said that various groups of feminists in Canada and around the globe are working for change and creating knowledge, but that fight is splintered. People are working in silos. Loreto argues that we need to come together to build an inclusive movement that has strength in numbers.
“Just as many feminists are doing, confronting white supremacy within feminist thinking and action is the greatest challenge that a new feminist movement must take on,” Loreto wrote. “We need a space and a structure to help navigate these debates that isn’t simply through social media or the academy.”
She argues that feminists need a place to meet and debate in good faith, find common ground, listen to and show compassion for each other. Such spaces allow activists to develop ideas, sharpen arguments and emerge strong as leaders.
Loreto doesn’t claim to have the answers or a solution, but she presents scenarios that require collective debate and discussion. She credits the immigrant labour movement as a source of inspiration of a model that is working. The Migrant Workers Alliance for Change is a collective of disparate workers who share values and are working together for fairness and change. Black Lives Matter, climate justice activists, and Indigenous Land Defender movements like Tiny House Warriors are also groups to watch and learn from.
For unfiltered political views and commentary, check out Nora and Sandy Talk Politics podcast. Nora discusses pressing issues of our time with Sandy Hudson. They dig deep and swear often, and tackle topics in a way you won’t hear anywhere else.
In an essay titled, Writing the Real, Catherine Bush writes: “Literature is an art of navigating between presences and absences, making the usually unseen visible and reversing disappearances large and small. Yet writers also leave traces of unacknowledged absences for others to notice. Whether or not it is on the page, the climate crisis imparts meaning: its presence or absence denotes something.” (Canadian Notes and Queries, Special Issue: Writing in the Age of Unravelling, Winter 2020)
Bush is the author of five novels, including Blaze Island (2020). The book was inspired by Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, and follows a father-daughter relationship on a fictionalized wind-swept remote Canadian island. The novel asks: How do you imagine a tomorrow when the present seems, whichever way you look, to be hovering on the brink of catastrophe? The novel follows a passionate climate scientist who experiments with weather engineering. This in turn raises larger questions about interfering with nature and the harm or good that may result.
Catherine joined us in the Feminist Enterprise Commons in October 2020 on The Fine Print, an author conversation series with contemporary feminist authors hosted and produced by Lana Pesch.
The show had a special bonus guest, Elizabeth Bush—yes, Catherine’s sister—who has worked at Environment and Climate Change for about twenty years. The sisters discussed our changing climate, what it will take to lessen our impact on the environment, and how Catherine personified the climate crisis in her novel.
And check out Elizabeth’s work in a major report called Canada’s Changing Climate Report which is available online to the public at changingclimate.ca. Elizabeth hopes that the report and the user friendly website for disseminating results will help contribute to the conversation among Canadians about climate change.
In September, LiisBeth associate editor Lana Pesch launched The Fine Print: a one-hour, author conversation series in the Feminist Enterprise Commons (FEC). The Fine Print explores the author’s process, purpose and what it means to be a changemaking writer.
In the first episode, Pesch spoke with social worker, activist, and writer Farzana Doctor about her new book Seven—an award-winning novel that explores the tensions between modern and traditional customs, specifically the ritual of khatna (female genital cutting).
Publisher’s Note: Interested in watching the entire conversation? Easy. Just join the Feminist Enterprise Commons here. Annual fee is $149 USD. In January, February, and March, The Fine Print will be in conversation with scholar, writer and musician, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson about her latest book, Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies; author, speaker, and activist, Jael Richardson about her new novel, Gutter Child; and Shaena Lambert, author of Petra.
INTERIOR. Emily and Lola clothing shop. Montreal. Summer, 2010.
LINDSAY TAPSCOTT (28), an unemployed University of Toronto English literature grad who recently moved to Montreal on a whim, enters the shop to drop off her CV. She is about to depart when the store clerk, KATIE BIRD NOLAN (21), aspiring actor working part-time to pay rent, calls after her: “Wait a sec, is your dad’s name John?”
Lindsay turns around nodding, and the moment becomes more surreal as Katie announces that her mom is Ingrid Bird, the woman who spent years travelling through Europe with Lindsay’s father, John Tapscott.
EXTERIOR. Six months later. Balcony of a Mile End apartment in Montreal. 1:30 a.m. A group of 20-something women are drinking wine, laughing, getting to know each other. Lindsay has moved in with two of Katie’s friends who needed a roommate. Lindsay and Katie discover they both went to theatre school, like the same movies. They laugh about their fluke encounter, as if they were kindred spirits brought together by the magic of Montreal. They joke about growing up listening to stories about each other’s parent, their travel adventures together. Three decades later, John and Ingrid have lost touch so it’s a fun surprise when Lindsay and Katie announce their chance encounter. Both parents insist they had a platonic relationship all those years ago.
Katie: “Can you imagine if we were long lost sisters?” Lindsay: “Ha! Sounds like something out of a film.”
Is That How Film Companies Launch?
INTERIOR. Next day.
Katie excitedly types on her laptop. She immediately calls Lindsay: “I have a ridiculous idea for a web series. Do you want to write it with me?” Lindsay, without missing a beat: “Sure. How hard can it be?”
FAST FORWARD three years to 2013. Katie and Lindsay are sharing an apartment in Toronto, dubbed “babe nation” by Katie’s boyfriend. They are writing and making short films on microbudgets of $2,500 or less, either crowdfunded or paid for out of pocket. They try out Babe Nation as the name for their fledgling film company as a semi-joke. But the more they use it, the better it sounds.
Babe Nation: It’s about their deep connection and friendship, their feminist values and work ethic, their off-beat sense of humour, and also their raison d’etre: to focus on women-centred stories and hack away at the disproportionate opportunities that flow to men in the male-dominated industry.
When actor Vanessa Matsui came to them looking for producers for her web series, Ghost BFF, they jumped on board. The tone and subject matter suited Babe Nation: a dark comedy about female friendship and suicide. They learned to raise “real money” by nailing the “Canadian film financing model” — a combination of government funding from places such as Telefilm Canada, Ontario Creates, and often tax credits, presales, grants, and advances. The budget for season one — nearly $250,000 — enabled multi-day shoots, higher production values and a hit show. The budget for season two of the series tripled, with funding coming in from the Bell Fund, Canadian Media Fund (CMF), and a sale to Shaftsbury Films and KindaTV.
Perfectionists by nature, Katie and Lindsay took the first few years to establish their brand and understand the types of stories they wanted to tell. Influences include author Zadie Smith and producers Christine Vachon and Margot Robbie. Katie describes their “brand” stories as “slightly left of centre but with a really strong statement.” Rather than sexy sleepover movies with girls in bikini lingerie, they produce stories for an intelligent female audience. Subject matter includes loss, depression, and belonging. Characters are three-dimensional — both strong and fallible, vulnerable and ballsy, sometimes despicable yet relatable. They are smart and funny, much like the producers. “For us it’s about attaching ourselves to projects that depict female stories the way women want to be depicted, not the way men have been depicting them forever.”
They also learned to trust the “weird particles” that surround their projects, the same energy that brought them together in the first place. And they established one abiding ground rule when choosing projects: Both must love the project to the point of obsession. “Producing is so hard,” says Katie. If you’re not obsessed with the thing, why would you do it?”
How to Fight Sexism in Show Biz?
CUT TO: CLOSE UP:Women in View On Screen 2019 Report. Analyzed data of funded projects finds, surprise, that the way to get more women in film and TV is to support more women producers. Calling it “The Producer Effect,” the report shows that a producer’s identity impacts who gets hired on a project. Women producers worked with more women on their team; women of colour producers worked with more women of colour; Indigenous producers worked with a far greater percentage of Indigenous women; men producers worked with more men. And male-produced projects received more funding.
INTERIOR. 2019. Berlin International Film Festival.
A large conference area bustling with industry types in stylish glasses, fashionable shoes, and egos that struggle to fit through the door.
CUT TO: Private meeting room.
The Babe Nation producers meet with an international SALES AGENT (55), bald, white, male. He stares at Katie’s chest the entire meeting. “I’m normally not interested in Canadian producers but you two look very exciting,” says the agent, his voice dripping with condescension.
Katie fakes a smile. Lindsay tries to tell the agent about their film. The guy cuts her off, his eyes now on Lindsay’s bright red lipstick: “Young ladies like you can have a very bright future you know.” Lindsay tries to continue her pitch but the guy interrupts her again: “I mean look at you. This is Berlin! This is the big league!” The two women read each other’s energy: Time to cut this short. “You’re right,” Katie says as they stand up to leave. “And we’re going to see more of the market now, thank you very much.”
CUT TO: INTERIOR. Meeting room. Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), 2019. Babe Nation has booked a meeting with another sales agent – also white, middle-aged, male. He’s running seriously late.
Katie paces the room: “We could have had another entire meeting with someone else by now.” Lindsay sighs: “Maybe two! One for each of our films in this festival!”
Finally, a SLICK DUDE IN BLUE JEANS saunters in. He wears a smarmy grin and a shirt unbuttoned at the neck, one button too low. “Well, hello there,” he coos, sliding his glasses to the end of his nose. “Babe Nation, isn’t it?”
This time, the women don’t waste another minute. “Correct,” Katie says, “and we need to be somewhere else.”
CLOSE UP:Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Screen Institute Changing the Narrative Report: 2020 Status of Canadian Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in Canada’s Screen-Based Production Section. The report suggests a disproportionate amount of funding goes to white creators, while BIPOC creators receive smaller amounts targeted at emerging talent. A lack of BIPOC professionals on selection committees for funding decisions is cited as one reason for the disparity.
Babe Nation took note, recognizing their own white privilege. While they have worked with a number of women of colour, the relationships were unplanned and coincidental. Says Lindsay: “When there’s a sense we’re not doing enough from a creator standpoint we push ourselves further to do more.” They signed the producer pledge to take immediate action to acknowledge and dismantle systemic racism in the Canadian film and television industry, by committing to radical change. For example, when considering a project now, Babe Nation has committed to thinking more critically about the storyteller. Women always take first priority, but they’re now diving deeper and asking, is this someone we haven’t heard from before? Is this a BIPOC artist who is short on opportunities, or a younger woman without a lot of experience? In terms of paying it forward, they are currently mentoring two young producers working on their first feature.
The Feminist Future: Exhausting? Exhilarating?
This year marks Babe Nation’s fifth as an incorporated company with substantial successes: two seasons of a major web series, two films at TIFF, two projects in advanced development, and four others in the works, including an adaptation of Bonjour Tristesse, Françoise Sagan’s 1950s controversial novel (it took three years to secure the rights) with Durga Chew-Bose writing the screenplay; and a feature by writer Alanna Francis about coercive abuse within female friendships.
So how are they handling the success? “Little sleep and a lot of anxiety,” Lindsay jokes. They are eager to hire more people, such as a junior producer and a business affairs person, but aren’t quite there, financially. A near goal is to score a studio deal so they can spend more time and energy in creative development instead of crunching numbers.
While the pair never set out to create a feminist company, they believe they grew into one as an extension of their own personal values. For writers and crewing a production, women are their first choice and often become lifelong friends and collaborators. To them, feminism is about equality, working collectively, and providing opportunities for people to voice their opinions in the creative development process. “We hear from the people we work with that our sets are an anomaly, which is equally lovely and horrifying,” says Lindsay.
Keeping their brand feminist-focused requires hands-on involvement in everything: chasing after scripts, optioning material, working on creative development with writers and directors, securing financing, marketing, and meeting with agents to sell their projects. “Our brand is as strong as it is because it is the two of us that have our hand in everything,” says Katie.
Still, their company name has raised eyebrows. How can Babe Nation be a feminist label? To the producers, the name is bold, tongue-in-cheek, even intimidating, invoking a place — a nation — where strong women unite, encourage and support each other. A place where women create generative work together, and tell stories that have gone untold for too long. But do they really want to be called Babe Nation when they’re 75 years old?
The two picture the scene, roaring with laughter.
INTERIOR. Cannes Film Festival. 2060.
Katie and Lindsay stand in the wings of a glittering silver stage. They lean on their walkers as they sip champagne. The ANNOUNCER says, “And now, please welcome, the recipient of this year’s lifetime achievement award for change making cinema, Babe Nation!” Lindsay peers at their company name, in big lights. “Did you really imagine we’d get here?” Katie pushes a grey lock from her face. “Yes, of course.” Lindsay releases the brakes on her walker. “Me too.”
Publishers Note:Babe Nationis a participant in Canada’s first feminist accelerator program for womxn in digital media, Fifth Wave Labs. The Fifth Wave is a year-round program offered by CFC Media Lab and its partners to support the growth and development of women entrepreneurs in the digital media sector in southern Ontario. All enterprise founders in the Fifth Wave community are selected for both their potential and commitment toward weaving intersectional feminist ideals of equity and fairness into sustainable and scalable business growth strategies. Fifth Wave Initiative is committed to 30% participation by members of underrepresented groups. The Fifth Wave is a LiisBeth Media partner.
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Pabari is an SEO copywriter, storyteller and digital marketing strategist who speaks five languages and runs her own consulting enterprise. She left the corporate world in 2008 to raise her child. She is a South Asian feminist entrepreneur with her own consulting enterprise and the founder of Tiffinday.com, an independent Canadian food business that specializes in delicious and healthy vegan South Asian stews. Tiffinday is a certified B-Corporation and conducts its business with respect to people and the environment. Check out how they measure their impact from an environmental standpoint.
Liisbeth recently had a chat with Pabari to get her thoughts on the importance of shaping the next generation of feminists, why we need to outlaw the word ‘mompreneur’ and how her unique business perspectives will add to the growing resources in the FEC.
LiisBeth: Why does feminism matter today?
Women play greater roles in childcare and caregiving. Our choices, whether they are professional, personal, financial or social, remain framed by this fact. It leads to a perspective that is drastically different from men, and feminism lends voice to this difference.
LiisBeth: How has feminism influenced your choices in starting Tiffinday and your SEO enterprise?
I left the corporate world to raise my seven-year-old child as a single parent; my employers were not open to flexible hours or remote working arrangements. International travel obligations would have required a live-in nanny to raise my son, and none of that was palatable to me, so I delved into entrepreneurship for flexible hours. I wasn’t working full-time in the beginning and I needed to supplement my income so I started a second business, a social enterprise called Tiffinday. It used to be a lunch delivery business, where I only worked from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., which allowed me to be home when my son came home from school.
Feminism directly influenced these choices because I remained determined to make the work fit into motherhood and not the other way around. Looking back 12 years, I am glad I did this. I never missed school concerts, sports meetings and parent-teacher nights. My son has grown into a well-adjusted, healthy, respectful, politically-engaged teenager and is now attending university to study biology. I take solace and full credit for this being my biggest and most successful life endeavour.
LiisBeth: What is the biggest lesson you learned when you transitioned from working in the corporate world to being an entrepreneur?
Working women tend to forget–or we try to justify or be apologetic—about our roles as mothers or caregivers. I’m not the mother of a young child anymore but I have an elderly mother who needs looking after. I’m 56 years old and when I look back, I see how much I tried to justify to my employers and the world that I need extra attention because I was woman. At this stage in my life it’s like…enough. I couldn’t care less. I’m a mother. I’m a caregiver. This is my life and everything needs to fit around my priorties.
I’ve just now learned how to not apologize for any of that. I want the younger women out there to appreciate what this means. Looking back, I was lucky that I made the decision to make my son a priority. We should take pride in our feminism and our roles as custodians of the social order of the world. I don’t think we should apologize for that. We should work with that.
LiisBeth: How did your decision to spend more quality time with your child influence him?
He is a feminist man. And there was no way he would have grown into that if I wasn’t an influence in his life. The next generation of men need to be raised with these values in mind. If you leave it up to men, they won’t do it. Women have to shape that.
He saw a single mom working really hard and he understood the injustices that happened in my life; how I had to work twice as hard as anybody else. He saw all of that and now he is a feminist man and I’m so proud of that.
LiisBeth: Are there any specific examples of feminist business practices about your work you can share?
I started Tiffinday as a social enterprise specifically to be a company for women like me who had children and limited time for work. The business is no longer what it used to be but it’s still a social enterprise. I have two sales reps and the first thing I said when they came on board was: I’m never going to ask you how many hours you work or when you work. This is the job; make your own hours and let’s see how it goes.
It’s something I would have loved to have heard from my boss when I was in the corporate space.
My concern is not about hours. My concern is if we are getting the sales, what are the barriers to success, how can I help.
LiisBeth: What were some of the challenges you faced as an entrepreneur? What systems or policies need to change to enable entrepreneurs in the future?
Through entrepreneurship as a woman and a mother, I encountered the detestable term “Mompreneur.” I no longer remain silent when I hear this term because it is offensive, and something male entrepreneurs do not encounter. These business ventures represent my main sources of income. Motherhood forced me to use my time productively, and both businesses make six-figure revenues each, today. They may not be million-dollar ventures, but they are profitable, and adding jobs and a tax base to Ontario’s economy.
I can give no thanks to the bankers and investors who labelled me a candidate of lower stature, perceiving me as someone who was pursuing a “hobby” or “side-gig” simply because I opted to work around the needs of my child. I want to see women stop using the term Mompreneur. I want financiers to understand that entrepreneurs do not grow successful enterprises from the hours they put in. I grew mine by working extremely smartly during the hours I had to invest in my business.
LiisBeth: Did you sacrifice anything when you made the change from working in the corporate world to entrepreneurship?
I sacrificed financial security at first, however we too often only look at the values we gain as financial. What I gained was the valuable time with my son. I’m glad I didn’t give up the love of being a mother for the love of being an entrepreneur. As much as I sacrificed something I gained something and I think women should look at that, and not ignore that. Balance the two and don’t apologize for it.
LiisBeth: What expertise and wisdom will you be sharing in the Feminist Enterprise Commons?
Search engines have been around since 1997. Google’s search engines started gaining traction in 2004, and I entered this field of marketing in 2006. Google changes its algorithm more than 600 times a year. It means nobody is a true SEO expert; continuous learning is the norm. Men dominate my field of marketing. Even though I know they are in learning mode, just like me, men tend to sell themselves differently from women. I can talk about some of this.
I pitch my SEO consulting services to new clients several times each month. 50 percent of the time, I lose to other (male) competitors. However, I normally see 75 percent of those clients return between 6 and 12 months later for a second opinion. Why? Because the person or agency they hired over-promised and under-delivered.
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