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Stand Up, Get Up: A Change Makers' Playlist

Aerin Fogel, Founder of Venusfest, Toronto’s only feminist music festival.

Once a year for over a century, we’ve had International Women’s Day (IWD), a recognition and celebration of women’s rights. In many ways it is also a signpost that there are still gaps in our awareness and collective understanding if we still need just one day a year to remember the rights of women the world over.
International Women’s Day can be a day that we remember to remember, every day. The women on the front lines fighting for justice and equality, the women who have changed the laws of labour, the women in unsafe places who haven’t yet found safety, the trans women and non-binary people who continue to fight for space and peace, the young girls still awakening to the world, our elders who have paved the way with courage, and to the particular and astounding quality of strength that lives in all women, everywhere, no matter their circumstance.
Today can also be a day to remember that the labour movement is part of a capitalist economy that has left many vulnerable members of our communities in the shadows, and has been built on the land of the First Nations. How can we move forward from here, continuing to take clear measured steps towards true equality on all levels?

Dolly Parton, “9 To 5”

This song might as well be the soundtrack to women’s labour rights. The beauty of International Women’s Day is that it lets us look back over the different generations that have taken up this torch, see what has changed, what has yet to change, and the women who have shared their voices at each point along the way.


Buffy Sainte Marie, “My Country Tis Of Thy People You’re Dying”

Buffy Sainte Marie has been sharing protest music and poetry since long before I was even alive. Though this song was written decades ago, it continues to be a moving reminder of how Canadian history has been built on stolen land from First Nations communities. It seems impossible to consider the progress of labour rights without this foundation.


Valerie June, “Workin’ Woman Blues”

This is a stunning dedication to the sacrifice many women have made to join the labour forces. It often meant the loss of other life joys, just as many women had previously not had the joy to choose to work a traditional job.


U.S. Girls, “Woman’s Work”

While Valerie June sings about a choice between roles, Meg Remy pays an eerie homage to the women who tried to do it all. The very pressure of perfection and the expectation that women can be everything to everyone becomes a source of undoing for so many, and how easy it is to forget that we all came from the warmth of someone’s womb.


Austra, “Future Politics”

The title track off Austra’s last record, Future Politics, is a commitment to something yet to be. We’ve come a long way but the only way to move forward from here is with a political landscape that can truly account for the lives of every individual working to thrive together.


Charlotte Day Wilson, “Work”

I love the flexibility of this track, which could just as easily be understood in context of an intimate relationship as it could in the context of our world. The beautiful video captures women and gender-fluid people of all ages and sings of the possibility for us to make things work together.


Nina Simone, “Four Women (Cover by Berklee Black Lives Matter)”

This is a beautiful version of Nina Simone’s moving song, “Four Women,” told from the perspective of four different women though the generations, living in varied forms of enslavement. Women have not and continue to not be equal between races, and it is essential for us to hold racial equality with the preciousness of gender parity.


Sleater-Kinney, “Modern Girl”

One of my favourite Sleater-Kinney songs questions what it means to be a “modern girl” and the Westernized concept of happiness that leaves out the beautiful stormy complexity of what many women really experience.


Fiver, “Rage Of Plastics”

Simone Schmidt of Fiver has had many music projects through her long-standing career, and she has always been devoted to telling the stories of the underbelly of our culture. “Rage Of Plastics” is a song from the refinery floor, where “making this living just brings about dying,” and where the dedication of labour workers runs to the pockets of a “narcissus fund.”


Emel Mathlouthi, “Kelmti Horra (My Word Is Free)”

Good luck trying to watch this without ugly crying by the end. An absolutely stunning rendition of a prayer for all beings, everywhere, to be free.


Other LiisBeth Playlists:

Activism & Action Allied Arts & Media

Honouring Labour Day: A Playlist That Pushes Boundaries

Aerin Fogel, founder of Venus Fest


Labour Day is upon us, and summer sure seems like a blur. To ease you into the fall and help you reflect on the labour movement’s important role in advancing women at work, LiisBeth is pleased to bring you this amazing playlist curated by Toronto musician and Venus Fest founder, Aerin Fogel.

Venus Fest is a one-day festival held at Artscape’s Daniels Spectrum building on September 30 with a lineup and staff composed entirely of women, genderqueer and trans people. Ticket prices are based on the honour system and range from $37 to $52. More than 40 musicians are involved.

“The festival has a lot to do with healing and creating spaces where we can come to celebrate and be joyful together,” says Fogel. “I don’t think it should be a novelty that women and non-binary people can come together to do that.”

In her 10 years in the music industry—her new band, Queen of Swords, will release an album on September 17—Fogel saw the need for greater diversity in Toronto’s music scene. “I noticed trans women, women of colour, and women in general had a hard time getting their work out,” she says, adding that connections are everything, and while the Internet has made it easier to get material out, it has also made it more challenging due to increased competition and noise.

Fogel says that as a feminist, her leadership style is open, collaborative, and not top down. The festival is entirely structured around the artists’ interests and fair pay for everyone. Strengthening this community, creating opportunity, and fostering connection is what it’s all about.

Weaves, “Shithole”

With the raw and honest power that singer Jasmyn Burke wields so well, “Shithole” shares the unraveling of an identity. The relatable struggle of adapting and discarding different personas makes this track a standout from Weaves’ debut record, and it places Burke at the forefront of indie front people.

U.S. Girls, “Damn That Valley”

Influenced by Sebastian Junger’s book War, “Damn That Valley” explores the anger and distress of a young widow whose husband died fighting for his country. As always, Meg Remy is able to locate the powerful emotions of an individual lost in the greater context of political and systemic restraint.


Phèdre, “In Decay”

Known for their intensely erratic and psychedelic pop, Phèdre brings us this vivid NSFW mixture of lovers in decay, in colour, in goop, and chains. Singer April Aliermo holds down an active role in countless Toronto community initiatives. With Daniel Lee, she brings a joyful and liberating live set.


Y La Bamba, “Libre”

On her fourth album Ojos Del Sol, Y La Bamba creator Luz Elena Mendoza returns to themes of searching, metamorphosis, shared humanity, and a faith that is greater than just religion. “I am thankful for all of my hardships. They have guided me to find rest in my soul time after time, over and over again,” Mendoza says. “Libre” is about universal love and about resting in freedom from chaos.


Lido Pimienta, “Agua”

Lido Pimienta has built a steady empire with her powerful words, poetry, and voice of strength and justice. “Agua” speaks about water as a basic right of all beings, and the hope and innocence that lies in our younger generations to carry a brighter torch into the future.


Madame Gandhi, “Her”

Known originally as the drummer for M.I.A. and the free-bleeding runner at the 2015 London Marathon, Madame Gandhi has quickly launched an explosive career with a mission to celebrate and elevate the female voice. “Her” is inspired by Margaret Atwood and was released while Hillary Clinton was still in the running to become the U.S. president. It’s an ode to female leadership.


Austra, “I Love You More Than You Love Yourself”

In this video, singer Katie Stelmanis takes on the complex story of Lisa Nowak, former NASA astronaut who experienced a psychological break and was charged for the resulting course of events. Austra’s third album, Future Politics, envisions how we might lean into a more utopian iteration of our world, while songs like this account for the distance we still stand from our utopia.

DIANA, “Born Again”

This is a line we need right now in our world: “Now’s the time for believing / Lay your hands on me I need healing / Born again tonight.” Front woman Carmen Elle has used her platform in DIANA to share her vulnerable struggle with anxiety and its relationship to her work as an artist. Time and again their songs let music be a moment of healing and a way to connect people through shared experience.


Emel Mathlouthi, “Ensen Dhaif”

After her music was banned in Tunisia when it spurned its own revolution during the Arab Spring, Emel Mathlouthi brought her magnificent force of healing and truth to New York for the release of the album Ensen. The video for “Ensen Dhaif” explores the revolution from varying states of oppression, be they circumstantial or internally imposed.


Ice Cream, “Material”

This standout from the debut album Love, Ice Cream show the molecular pop duo assembling supplies for a ladies’ weekend at a casino on the moon. Like the album, “Material” confronts the narrowness of a plastic culture while managing to embrace some of its edges.

Venus Fest is still looking for sponsorships. Contact Amy Saunders for more information.