Most practices of the Christmas season contradict my feminist values, the gendered narratives of Christianity conflated into the season of “giving,” with women carrying the burden of holiday shopping, cooking, and social coordination. Then there’s the “give and get”—giving a charitable donation in time to get a charitable tax receipt by year end.
For me, holiday giving and celebrating should not be powered by a capitalistic consumer agenda but by love, thoughtfulness, kindness. During the holiday season, winter solstice in particular, I focus on hope and gratitude for female* energies rather than the pinging of POS machines in shopping malls driving us into debt. Do our loved ones really want that? I don’t think so.
This year I endeavoured to find a way to engage with the festivities, in ways that make my heart happy. I visited three events featuring feminist makers and changemakers: the Made by Feminists Market at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel; Ottawa’s Feminist Fair; and the Indigenous & Ingenious Show and Sale in Toronto. You can check out their crafty arts online, as I am sure they will inspire you to new ethical shopping heights, as they did me.
Here are some of my feminist faves that are sleighin’ it!
This powerhouse family team walks the feminist talk! Sisters Sarai (22), Jahdiel (25), Kristine (27), and their mom, Carolyn, run SaSa Naturals, an ethical, all-natural approach to self-care that emphasizes the power of women’s bodies. The co-founders are incredibly knowledgeable about each product and ingredient as well as traditional hygiene and wellbeing practices of women around the globe. They source goods directly from female-run shea nut farms in Ghana and even visit regularly to ensure female farmers are being treated equitably and that plant-based products are produced sustainably and free from chemicals. Products include all-natural deodorant alternatives, delectable soaps, bath bombs, lip chap and Yoni steam kits (unlike Amazon’s selections, these vaginal cleansing kits use herbs that honour the sacredness of womanhood). By using traditional medicinal practices rather than chemicals, the SaSa team is building a sassy brand that reminds women that our natural selves are our true selves. Check out their Instagram pageto place orders that can be shipped to both Canada and the United States.
Kristen Campbell, an ecological restoration maven, founded her company almost two years ago as a way to make beautiful change in the era of climate crisis. She handmakes seed bombs—ethically sourced native plant species balled up in clay—that you can chuck at any barren patch during your morning walk or your own garden for that matter. Add rain, and flowers spring up. Bees and butterflies will love you, as native habitat springs from these flower bombs. Beautifying the world has never felt so therapeutic as hucking an enviro-friendly bomb of life to Mother Nature! An excellent gift for the outdoorsy, flower-loving, tree-hugging types in your life or for anyone who just wants to drop an f-bomb—and feel great about it.
Helena Verdier discovered a love for transformative upcycling while studying at Carleton University. Now 26, she has made a business of repurposing some of our favourite literature into works of visual and wearable art. She creates paper flower crowns, centrepieces, and floral decor, showcasing and selling her flower-power pieces on her Instagram page. Seeing Verdier’s artistry highlighted on the Feminist Twin’s page enticed me to make the trek to their Feminist Fair in Ottawa for their sixth annual event where I discovered plenty more feminist gift-giving ideas.
Remember those framed embroidery pieces hanging in grandma’s house, greeting you with cheesy, sentimental sayings, like “Home is where the heart is” and all that? Well, Claire’s (Claire ask us to not publish her last name) embroidery art is not that. The 30-year-old stitches radical, feminist ideas into her hoops such as “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle” and “Ovaries before brovaries” as well as slogans for the woke such as “If it is inaccessible to the poor it’s neither radical nor revolutionary” and “Hang on lemme overthink this.” She also draws on racialized voices for inspiration. From Serena Williams: “The day I stop fighting for equality…will be the day I’m in my grave.” Such soulful, gut-punching, and often hilarious affirmations gave me the most painful belly laugh—and sure to deliver the same kick to your pals. Claire ships her work straight to your door—and accepts custom orders should you know exactly what will tickle a friend’s feminist fancy.
At Indigenous & Ingenious, I visited Chief Lady Bird, an Anishinaabekwe artist who resists colonization through her mixed media prints, brilliant murals, skateboard decks and youth-focused projects that focus on Indigenous resilience, sex and body positivity, as well as calling attention to the importance of Indigenous women in our communities. She recently illustrated Nibi’s Water Song, a brilliant children’s book about Nibi’s quest to find clean water in her community, highlighting the need to listen to Indigenous voices and protect our planet for future generations. You can order Chief Lady Bird’s art on her Instagram page. She takes commissions for custom pieces too.
But the greatest gift I took away from my foray into these feminist fairs? The knowledge that every dollar we spend casts a ballot for the world we want to inhabit. One maker told me that the money she made at the event will help pay her rent this month. When we buy from our brilliant sisters, we are also giving a gift of survival and support in the fight to dismantle the patriarchy. Now, I can deck the halls with that!
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At first, I had to do a double take. Did I read that right?
In an article titled “Liberals Accused of Using Feminism as Political Weapon,” Rachael Harder, a Conservative critic for the Status of Women and former successful dog kennel entrepreneur in Lethbridge, Alberta, complained that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government were—get this—hogging feminism.
If you read the rest of the piece published in the Ottawa Citizen on May 7, you essentially learn that she is concerned the Liberals are doing too many good feminist things, leaving little room for those who define feminism differently. For example, “feminists” who are anti-abortion, don’t believe the pay gap exists, and believe equality is possible without also addressing equity.
Can a word mean anything you want it to mean?
These days, it would appear that the Progressive Conservatives (Canada’s official opposition party) are noticing that aligning one’s identity with feminism gets votes, and they desperately want access to some of that firepower. Some, invoking the Humpty-Dumpty principle of definitions, are suggesting that how one defines feminism is a matter of personal choice. Translation: even anti-feminists are feminists too. #AllFeminismsMatter
If you were old enough to watch the ERA debate unfold in the media in the 1970s, this attempt by anti-feminists to hijack feminism is probably making you feel like you just ate a bad brownie and saw Rod Serling sit next to you holding a cigarette.
Next stop, the Twilight Zone. Even Phyliss Schlafly, North America’s iconic and proud-to-be conservative anti-feminist who mobilized conservative women and successfully blocked the passing of the ERA amendment, is probably rolling over in her grave.
What is additionally odd about watching Canadian political candidates—and even corporate leaders of all stripes and genders—scurrying about to also be known as feminists is that, until recently, the very term was considered the other “F” word. To call yourself a feminist threatened your career and could clear the room like a bad smell. Several polls from that dark pre-2015 era showed that only a minority of Canadian women (ranging from 10 to 32% depending on the survey) and even fewer men identified as feminists.
But here we are just three years later and people are actually lining up to be pinned a feminist as though it’s an Order of Canada being bestowed. One survey even shows that today, there are more men identifying as feminist than women in Canada.
Think about that for a moment.
It’s great that the word feminism has been suddenly embraced by so many, so fast. But reductively, I say shame on thinly veiled opportunists looking to reduce, redact, and reframe a living movement whose proponents were, not too long ago, roundly vilified and socially punished, just to win today’s vote or sell products.
Some women died fighting for women’s rights. Thousands more died because they didn’t have rights at all.
Feminism. Not Just a Word.
Feminism is a 200-year-old movement justice and rights-based movement and here’s the kicker-an enormous body of work that, when translated at a societal level, imagines a safer, more inclusive world that can only be made possible by fundamentally eradicating gender inequality. There are many pixel level undertakings that make up its colourful landscape, but there is undeniably one shared photo of the goal.
Then as now, feminists of all genders across the globe continue to work hard to challenge, replace, and evolve systems and cultural beliefs that reinforce all forms of gender-based oppression. They are guided by a shared set of values that prioritize gender equality and equity, generosity, inter-independence, economic inclusion, intersectionality, and most importantly, agency.
The latter is key and implies a woman’s control over her own body, health, and right to determine her future.
If the candidate in your area, or anyone for that matter, doesn’t respect or speak about any of this, they ain’t a feminist. Don’t be conned.
THIS WEEK ON LIISBETH
When You Need Help As An Entrepreneur, Who You Gonna Call?
Feminist entrepreneurs with advancing enterprises are looking for two things: 1) help! and 2) the opportunity to support women-led enterprises that can provide that help.
That is where serial feminist entrepreneur Katrina McKay comes in. Her new enterprise, Uplevel Solutions, is an outsourcing enterprise for entrepreneurs. Think TaskRabbit, but with fair wage practices and a trained female staff that makes outsourcing hassle free. You can learn more about Katrina and how to level up here.
What Makes An Event a Feminist Event?
Event planning for the fall is in full swing for many activist entrepreneurial feminists. So the timing is right to ask the question: what makes an event a feminist event, that is, other than the subject matter or the nature of the community that gathers?
In this months’ refresh, co-producer of the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum and our newest contributor, Lex Schroeder (pictured above), noted five feminist event design practices that worked. Schroeder shares her insights and experiences here.
The 2018 Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum will be held on Sunday, December 2 and Monday, December 3, 2018 at Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas Street East, Toronto, ON. Save the date!
Off the Radar: A Special Report by LiisBeth for YOU!
Back in March, we set out on a quest to create a list of active women and other gender minority entrepreneurship support clubs, meetups, investor groups, and networking bands that do not currently exist on other mainstream lists. Why? Because here at LiisBeth, we receive inquiries every day from women and feminist entrepreneurs of all genders about where they can find support for ventures and startups that don’t fit the dominant mould of startups that are typically male-led, low-cap, extreme growth, or flip-it-to-make-it-oriented, which get most of the attention in today’s mainstream entrepreneurship ecosystem.
The good news is that this is changing thanks to dozens of initiatives by activist women entrepreneurs and investors looking to support and grow high, multi–bottom line alternative innovations and ventures. In a few short days, we were able to list over 100 amazing groups working across Canada to help entrepreneurs.
If you would like to download the Excel spreadsheet or add/edit the list, please visit our Excel spreadsheet on Google Docs here. Tell us and the LiisBeth community that you exist!
And if you appreciate the work that we are doing to surface the feminist and women’s entrepreneurship community, please consider donating $3, $7 or $10 a month via Patreon or our subscribers’ page. It will help us do even more!
The Ontario Election: Who to Vote For?
Last week, Toronto’s NOW Magazine called the election a “crapshoot.” And while all three candidates have legitimately icky unelectable baggage piled high on their backs, there are three questions that LiisBeth suggests you consider before heading to the polls:
Which candidate genuinely cares about advancing gender equity, inclusion, and innovation in this province?
Which candidate would you at least even mildly enjoy being stuck in an elevator with for four hours?
Which candidate even mentions advancing equity for Ontario women, and specifically women entrepreneurs in his or her campaign/platform?
To find out what initiatives, if any, each party has documented in its platform for the advancement of women entrepreneurs, we made the effort to reach out and ask.
The first to respond was Kathleen Wynne’s campaign team. And in less than an hour, they sent us an entire document—hot off the press! You can find it here.
Highlights for women entrepreneurs include the creation of an Ontario Women’s Entrepreneurship Association to increase women’s access and opportunity to scale up and expand ventures, and $500+ to support additional women entrepreneur programs and the advancement of entrepreneurship opportunities for girls in high schools. The document also highlights new investments in child care, elder care, and ending gender-based violence. Andrea Horwath’s NDP government is also committed to investing in child care and Ontario women.
To find out what the Progressive Conservatives, aka Ford Nation (led by Doug Ford), is planning for women, we decided to ask him directly via Twitter (see below) as he has yet to release a platform. We have not heard anything from Ford Nation yet (24 hours later), but let’s give them more time. At the moment of writing this newsletter, Ford has yet to reveal or articulate his platform, but we have some idea of how he views women’s rights by reviewing articles and his voting history.
As of today, we could find no up-to-date, post-March articles or news on Doug Ford’s initiatives related to women entrepreneurs—or women at all.
What about the NDP? We know Horwath is also committed to investing in child care in Ontario but were unable to find information regarding the party’s initiatives related to women’s entrepreneurship on its platform website. We did, however, find an initiative to revitalize the horse racing sector. Cool. But #odd
In our opinion, the Green Party and its leader Mike Schreiner would likely win question #1 and the “stuck in an elevator” question most of the time for a lot of people. Being stuck in an elevator with him might also be the only way we get to hear him talk given his unfortunate exclusion from the televised debate.
The Greens are often thought of as just a pro-environment party, but the Ontario Greens these days are smartly positioning themselves as a pro–social enterprise, triple–bottom line party. Uniquely, they support the introduction of a hybrid for-profit and non-profit legal form (like the U.S.-based Benefit corporation option). Like the Liberals and the NDP, they also support expanded child care and elder care support plus strategies to advance pay equity. At present, they do not have a specific program laid out for the advancement of women entrepreneurs.
Well, that’s our roundup regarding each party’s plans for women entrepreneurs. And if you feel there is any bias in our report, we admit that there is. #AnyoneButDoug
Now it’s up to you to go and vote.
In April, LiisBeth checked out Make Lemonade, the newest inclusive-yet-women-centred co-working space in Toronto, which opened in September 2017. The space was founded by Rachel Kelly, a 26-year-old Toronto gig economy entrepreneur who saw the growth in gendered co-working spaces as a promising new venture opportunity.
The space is fun, airy, and light. Its offerings are similar to co-working spaces in town. And the good news? It doesn’t exude that misguided “girl boss” sorority brand concept (unlike WeWork’s The Wing, a women’s co-working social club that opens in Toronto later this year).
As with all these spaces, it’s really not the decor or yoga classes that count, it’s about who’s in those spaces, the vibe, and the reflection of values held by the people who founded, occupy, and animate the space.
To see if Make Lemonade is your scene, check it out for yourself by signing up for a tour here.
Feminism and AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Meet Dr. Parinaz Sobhani (above), director of machine learning at the University of Ottawa and LiisBeth’s latest feminist-woman-in-tech crush!
Iranian-born Dr. Sobhani was the keynote speaker at the launch of Inspiring Fifty, a new award established in Canada to celebrate inspirational female role models in tech and innovation. Her talk, “Importance of Diversity in AI,” was both chilling and a call to action.
While the technology can overcome gender bias and risk of misused data, it will take the will and vigilance of humans to ensure that it does. We need a feminist-leaning watchdog organization in Canada.
Interested in being part of an initiative to start one? Email us and mention AI Watchdog in the subject line.
To hear part of Dr. Sobhani’s speech, click on the approximately seven-minute audio file here.
LiisBeth Is Hiring!
Eeek! Our little feminist media startup is growing so we need a little more help.
We are currently looking for a three- to six-month contract freelance newsletter editor. Ideally, the newsletter editor will be someone with exceptional writing, critical thinking, and research skills, have a women’s studies, journalism, or gender studies background, plus demonstrated familiarity with WordPress, MailChimp, and Canva or Adobe Photoshop. The workload is anticipated to be about 10 to 20 hours per month (less in the summer). The pay is $40/hour.
Since we have begun, we have published more than 125 articles, 37 newsletters, and provided fair wage income opportunities for more than 35 feminist-leaning freelance writers, editors, illustrators, and photographers.
Lots of groups are working on moving the dial for women. But we go beyond that. As a feminist organization, we work for economic, social, and political systems change. As a community of feminist entrepreneurs, we work to drive change through the power of entrepreneurship and innovation.
Preference will be given to applicants who actually read this publication. Duh.
If you are interested in joining our community in this capacity, please e-mail your resume and link to best writing examples to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 15, 2018.
WHAT WE’RE READING
This book covers important issues facing Indigenous people: violence against women, recovery of Indigenous self-determination, racism, misogyny, and decolonization. This new edition also covers Indigenous resurgence; feminism amongst the Sami and Aboriginal Australians; neo-liberal restructuring in Oaxaca; Canada’s settler racism and sexism; and missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada.
Okay, so the City of Toronto and Google’s Sidewalk Labs organization are working on designing an amazing new Jetson-like district on the Toronto Waterfront in an effort to explore what the city of tomorrow might actually be like. At present, the vision includes driverless cars. Once you read Elly Blue’s Bikenomics, you will soon be wondering why any vision of an urban future has to include cars at all.
AND FINALLY…IN CASE YOU MISSED IT!
This month’s uncommon find? Check out Feminist Economics Yoga, a fusion of yoga, capitalist, and feminist economics taught by Cassie Thornton, a yoga instructor, feminist thought leader, and activist artist from Thunder Bay, Ontario. According to Thornton’s website, she teaches kundalini yoga while also instructing students on issues related to money, debt, race, gender, and class. You can read her article over at Guts Magazine.
Kelly Diels, a Vancouver-based feminist marketing guru (our word, not hers) writes in her last newsletter: “For a long time, I’ve been encouraging the people I write for and the authors and entrepreneurs I work with to share what they truly know—even when it’s polarizing.” Despite its challenges, Diels believes you can succeed. Most of us know first-hand that mixing business with feminist systems change work is dicey stuff. Succeeding requires unique insight—and Diels has this in spades. If you are not following Diels’ newsletter, you are missing out.
The new anti-harassment Bill (C-65) is in its final stages. As a feminist entrepreneur, it is important to be up on the facts and the discussions. It’s not perfect, but its good. You can read the latest point of view on the bill (published by CUPE) here.
CAN’T MISS EVENTS
Black Women in Tech
Saturday, May 19, 2018
2:00 PM–4:00 PM
220 King Street West, Unit 200, Toronto
Cost: By Donation
I Love You Mary Jane: Women, Weed and Wellness
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
7:00 PM–9:30 PM
Shecosystem Coworking + Wellness
703 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Cost: $20. Register here.
Startup & Slay: Panel & Meetup With Diverse Female Entrepreneurs
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
6:00 PM–9:30 PM
180 John Street, Toronto
Cost: $45-50. Register here.
Financial Planning for Entrepreneurs: Learn About Cash Flow Management
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
10:00 AM–11:30 AM
111D Queen Street East, Toronto
Cost: $15. Register here.
The Big Push Expert Series: Best Hiring Practices to Increase Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Thursday, May 31, 2018
6:30 PM–9:30 PM
370 Dufferin Street, Toronto
Cost: $15–$250. Register here.
Walking Your Why: Discovering Your Values Perspectives
Thursday, June 14, 2018
6:00 PM–8:00 PM
School for Social Entrepreneurs
720 Bathurst Street, Toronto
Cost: $0-50. Register here.
That brings us to the end of our May newsletter. The next newsletter is scheduled for late June 2018. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook for updates, news, and provocative views.
You can also watch for new feature articles on feminist outsourcing plus more this month at www.liisbeth.com.
If you are looking for an easy way to support feminist entrepreneurs, look no further than considering a subscription to LiisBeth! We humbly remind you that subscriptions are $3/month, $7/month or $10/month.
If you would like us to promote your event, we are happy to do so if it suits our readers’ interests! It’s free for current subscriber donors; for non-donors there is a one-time donation of $25 per listing.
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Funds go directly towards paying writers, editors, proofreaders, photo permission fees, and illustrators. LiisBeth needs your love—and financial support.