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Categories
Activism & Action

A New School of Writing

Sarah Selecky (middle) with teachers from her writing school.
(Photo provided)

 

Sarah Selecky distinctly remembers the feeling of being an emerging woman writer.

It was 2010. She had just published her first book, This Cake is for the Party. It was nominated for the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize soon after, generating a load of publicity for the little-known writer – and the small publisher, Thomas Allen and Son. Readers reached out to Selecky on Twitter, asking where they could buy copies of her book as it wasn’t widely available at big chains or local bookstores. 

Selecky decided to “open up the conversation” and tagged bookstores in a Tweet, asking them where readers could purchase copies.

That prompted a call from her publishers to say that the bookstores weren’t happy with the tweet or her challenging the hierarchy, suggesting, next time, she go through her publisher or agent.

At first, Selecky felt like she was being “smacked for disobedience.” But when she really thought about it, she realized she was just being herself and getting the word out. “I asked, am I doing something wrong, or am I doing something different?”

In her question, she found her answer. And it set the tone for much of the work she does today.

In 2011, Selecky audaciously launched the Sarah Selecky Writing School with one main purpose: to create a different space for new and emerging writers to learn the craft.

Start Small, Think Big

Selecky was an avid reader growing up—books by C.S. Lewis and Michael Ende—but the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene gave her the idea that maybe, someday, she could be a writer. In 2005, looking to find her “way in the world and make a livelihood,” she enrolled in the MFA program at the University of British Columbia, which offered one of the first optional residency writing programs at the time, allowing her to study from her home in Toronto.

But as a distance student, Selecky could not work as a teaching assistant at the university. That experience seemed crucial, as a way of testing whether she wanted to become a professor.

So Selecky started teaching small classes from her living room, and in teaching others, she learned more about herself, her future and her craft. “I would find that people would have a question about point of view, or a question about structure, and I wouldn’t know from my own experience so I would go deep into research for that.”

She appreciated the freedom to do things her own way—and doubted she would have as much as a professor. “My own experience of creative writing and the art of it went beyond what I saw was possible in an academic setting back then.”

As well, women writers she was reading, studying with or being mentored by—Natalie Goldberg, Lynda Barry, Zsuzsi Gartner and Karen Joy Fowler—questioned Selecky’s decision to do an MFA as they felt creative writing taught in institutions encouraged patriarchal storytelling.

They also championed the idea that women’s stories didn’t have to be about “romantic relationships with men and betrayals and affairs,” but could have women alone, at the forefront of their own journey.

School as a Feminist Conversation

As way of keeping that conversation going, Selecky consciously hired women instructors when she launched her school (presently,18 out of 19 are women) knowing that  teachers would help shape the stories students write.

She encourages students to rethink and reimagine the stories they read and are trying to write. “So much needs to change or be destabilized in order to open it up for different voices and different ways of seeing.”

That means taking on patriarchal storytelling—namely the constant rewriting of the “hero’s story,” says Selecky. That structure is often centred around a male character, documenting his journey of overcoming extraordinary challenges. These stories are not only prevalent in literature, but in every form of storytelling—from opera to film. “The architecture of our story is baked in through generations and generations of what we live and what we learn. It’s also a part of how we think and how we move our bodies through this world, who we are and who we talk to. It’s what we learn, what we consciously absorb and digest, and read and pay attention to and make and feel and listen to.”

Realizing that simply casting a heroine in place of the hero doesn’t exactly upset that patriarchal story structure, Selecky follows a writing process she calls “flow” or “embodied writing” and teaches her students that it’s not about pursuing the hero’s or heroine’s story or an idea of a story they think is good or publishable, but about writing a story that feels authentic to them, whatever that may look like. “An embodied piece of writing that is imperfectly written but perfectly felt, I think, is worth a lot.”

What does flow look like? Selecky’s second book, Radiant Shimmering Light, follows the lives of two women in business (listen to Selecky read an excerpt from the book here). It refuses the hero’s journey and the structure of protagonist and antagonist crossing paths; rather, the female characters work together to fight an “antagonistic force” that Selecky describes as an unsolvable dilemma in their lives. To resolve it, they have to leave this dimension.

“They could not solve the dilemma of wanting to live this life they loved, wanting to be successful businesswomen, artists, friends. They couldn’t resolve that in the structure they were moving in and so they left. And the question for one character is, does she die? And for the other is, did she lose her mind? The answer is, I don’t know, what do you think, and let’s talk about it.”

Embedding Feminism in Business

Like her writing, Selecky wanted to create a feminist structure for her business. “The first driving force was this idea that it’s a feminist act for a woman to be independent and financially solvent. I thought we need to stop undervaluing the arts, and we need to stop undervaluing feminized skill sets, which involve deep listening, observation, reflection and teaching. By bringing value to it, I thought it was a feminist act.”

And a gutsy one. Not only did the emerging writer create a writing school, but she did so online, back when platforms such as Zoom were years away and people did not exactly turn to the internet to learn, especially creative writing. But the venture proved successful because of what Selecky calls “growth at the speed of trust.” She pays fair and equal wages and strives to hire graduates of her courses, and they return to the school as teachers because they trust what the school stands for and what it teaches.

The teachers at her school play an important role in the decision making that takes place when it comes to the courses and the direction the school is taking. Selecky gives teachers the freedom to teach the Story Intensive course in the way that works best for them and their students, while following the established curriculum and syllabi, and also invites teachers to play a role in developing and modifying the curriculum each year.

Says Selecky: “This year we have Dr. Stacy Thomas as our mental health consultant because our teacher, Daphne Gordon, brought her into the community. Our lead teacher, Sonal Champsee, has been helping all of us to look into how we talk about writing and cultural appropriation. Teachers also choose new teachers — I ask them to advise me on who we should bring into our network as new TAs each year, based on their experiences with students and graduates.”

Selecky says a lot of her leadership style is based on what she learned from reading and re-reading adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy. One of the chapters that particularly resonated with her is about the role of people, team and community remind us of the common ground we share. “She knows she’s a good leader. And she knows she needs her people to help her see her blind spots. This resonated with me.”

In its ninth year this year, the school boasts more than a thousand graduates from its 10-week Story Course and around six hundred from the Story Intensive. More than 30 students have published books from the Story Intensive course alone.

With the school growing, Selecky strives to deepen her feminist practices. Four of five staff who manage operations, marketing and finance are women. Selecky participated in Fifth Wave Labs, Canada’s first feminist accelerator program for womxn in digital media. Created by the Canadian Film Centre’s (CFC) Media Lab, the program helps accelerate and sustain the growth of women-owned/led enterprises in southern Ontario’s digital media sector.

The mentorship proved valuable. “Feeling that we all want to create a society that flourishes for everyone—not just the founder, but everyone that it ripples out and touches. It’s moving to feel aligned with other womxn but also other womxn-led and women-supported businesses.”

The Next Chapter

The anti-Black racism protests following the murder of George Floyd and ensuing conversations prompted Selecky to reimagine the next phase of the school.

Selecky wants to attract more BIPOC instructors and students. Her latest hire – a student returning as a teacher this fall—is Darrel J. McLeod, author of the memoir Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age, and winner of the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction.

But the question troubling her is how to teach embodied writing while acknowledging that racialized trauma may prevent students from doing so. “One of the things that I’ve learned from meditative practices is that asking someone who has experienced trauma or is triggered by it to sit with it can actually make it worse. What I want to know is how much does an embodied writing practice move through the body, and is writing like talking or is it like moving? Or is it both? Because an embodied writing practice is about moving things through the body.”

To answer the question, Selecky started working with a somatic therapist to include trauma-aware, mindfulness therapy and body practices in her classes. Running her own school allows her the freedom to do so. “I would not be able to bring a somatics therapist into my university classes if I was a professor. So, I feel grateful for the opportunity, and I’m also aware I have a lot to learn because, in a writing class, if someone is experiencing racialized trauma, asking them to drop their armour and write expressively and freely—there’s an assumption that it’s a safe space, but they may not feel safe to do that.

“I think this is one of the transformative moments I find my school and myself in, where we can’t separate therapeutic writing from literary craft anymore. I think that is a false separation that has kept a lot of voices and a lot of stories out of the literary canon.”


Publishers Note:  The Sarah Selecky Writing School is 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. Fifth Wave Connect, the pre-accelerator program is currently accepting applications here.  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. 


Did you enjoy and find value in this article?  Please consider helping us publish more of them!  LiisBeth is an indie, womxn-led/owned media outlet.  We depend 100% on reader and ally donations.  Please consider a contribution today!

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Related articles

https://www.liisbeth.com/2018/02/28/reinvention-feminist-bookstore/

https://www.liisbeth.com/2017/03/22/enterprise-meet-feminist-business-standard/

https://www.liisbeth.com/2017/08/17/uber-feminist-enterprise/

Categories
Our Voices Transformative Ideas

What the EFF? Top Six Takeaways from the 2018 Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum

Left to Right: Chanèle McFarlane (Do Well Dress Well), Karin Percil, (Sisterhood), Rachel Kelly (Make Lemonade) and Amanda Laird (Heavy Flow Podcast)

On December 2 and 3, LiisBeth co-sponsored the second Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum (EFF) in downtown Toronto. The annual entrepreneurship conference brought together the growing community of feminist entrepreneurs to learn and share experiences around feminist business practice.

This year, the message was clear: connect and take action.

Taking action at the EFF

 

We’ll post a full roundup next year but here is a list of six action items to consider incorporating into your 2019 resolutions.

1. Type “Indigenomics” into a document. When the red squiggly line appears indicating a spell-check error, right-click then press “add word,” because the relatively new term is picking up speed in Canada’s lexicon. “When you talk about water and trees you talk about resources. When we talk about water and trees we talk about relatives.” – Carol Anne Hilton, Indigenomics By Design: The Rise of Indigenous Economic Empowerment.

2. Visit Kelly Diels for feminist marketing tools, tips, and resources. If you missed her at the EFF 2018, you missed out, but fear not. Diels offers workshops and coaching sessions where you can develop (among other things) a social media strategy and system based on her Little Birds and Layer Cakes, Social Media Workbook.  “If you hate marketing, it means you have a sense of justice.” – Kelly Diels, Feminist Marketing for an Emerging, More Inclusive Economy.

3. Build our communities. CV Harquail reminds us that we can build our collective path to the entrepreneurial feminist future by standing on and grounding ourselves in each other’s work. Every presenter, facilitator, and participant is doing work that we can build on — so let’s follow each other on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, refer to each other’s work, and celebrate our growing community. View the full list of presenters here.

4, Unplug and Read (okay two actions) Sarah Selecky’s new novel: Radiant Shimmering Light. It’s the holidays so not everything has to be about work. However, you may find your own takeaways in Selecky’s novel about female friendship, business, and online marketing that skillfully balances satire, humour, and truth. Selecky also credits Kelly Diels in her acknowledgments as the person who coined the term Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand and met Diels at the EFF, so maybe it is about networking.

5.  Decolonize your mind: Decolonization work begins with taking the time to critically examine how colonization has influenced your personal world view and sense of self. Sit down. Make a list. Check it twice. Then consider re-embracing cultural practices, thinking, beliefs, and values that are a part of who you are and where you came from, but were systemically dissed by the dominant culture. “If we want diversity and inclusion, we have to decolonize design so that the practice itself stops traumatizing our diverse students and professors.” – Dr. Dori Tunstall, Whiteness without White Supremacy: Generating New Models of Whiteness

6. Sign up for LiisBeth’s newsletter here and receive rants, downloadables, recommended readings, profiles, feminist freebies! and stay informed about LiFE (LiisBeth’s Incubator for Feminist Entrepreneurship)–a membership only feminist business practice “school” and learning commons.

In addition to the action items above, what else did EFF participants get from the conference? The five most meaningful leaves on the wall of inspiration sum it up best:

  • We all have something of value to offer
  • Nothing grows without sharing
  • Connected
  • Who knows what will happen!
  • #rise

Rooted in values that take good care of people and planet, feminist entrepreneurs are building justice into products and services, operating models, and relationships. In the process, we are building collective power to change the economy.

Join us.

Categories
Sample Newsletter

LIISBETH DISPATCH #47

Photo By Thais Ramos Varela

VIEWPOINT 

Creating a Feminist City: We Rise By Lifting Others

The other day, I came across an article written by the incredible Mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena Castrillo (elected in 2015) in which she wrote about Madrid’s commitment to “to promoting gender equality and fighting the continued discrimination which women face daily.” Then I did a little more research.

I was blown away.

In the article, Mayor Castrillo lists the plethora of innovative initiatives and programs that the Madrid City Council have underway to advance gender equity including “Spaces of Equality” which among other things work to legitimize women’s knowledge and provide them with a safe space to question gender roles defined by patriarchal society, and offering funded, extra curricular programming to “raise awareness and mobilize the population around issues of equality by disseminating the great contributions brought by feminism and implications around the concept of gender.” Not one to mince words, Castrillo goes on to say “Our society needs a breakthrough and profound transformation in this regard. The structural inequality between women and men takes many forms …[including] the alarming rise in macho attitudes among the younger generation. These forms of inequality require a determined and firm response from all of us.”

Let’s pause for a moment. Can you imagine the Mayor of your city even mentioning the word patriarchy at a Board of Trade luncheon or economic club? Or launching a new program to educate citizens about the contributions of its-heretofore mostly maligned feminist community? I can’t. I live in Toronto.

Introducing the Feminist City
There is a strong business case behind the idea that a Feminist City would produce incredible economic development opportunities – so why aren’t all city mayors rushing to become one?

And what if we could rank cities according to how desirable they were for women to live, work and play? What if this equated with sustainable economic growth for all?

If we could pinpoint and, hence, strengthen factors that would attract women and in particular, women entrepreneurs and investors, to move to a city, what might those factors be? Safety in all areas of a city, during day and night? A thriving diverse women-led entrepreneurship ecosystem. A feminist enterprise district? A thriving and well connected feminist community? A self-identified feminist Mayor?.

Sound attractive? We could call this The Feminist City.

Imagine the sign on the highway as you cross into city limits: Welcome to The Feminist City: We Rise by Lifting Others. Please Take Our Values Home.

Read more about the feminist city idea in the full VIEWPOINT essay here,

THIS WEEK ON LIISBETH 

100% woman owned and queer feminist lead, The Gladstone Hotel is located in Toronto, Canada

New ideas must use old buildings.” – Jane Jacobs

Artist, activist, and entrepreneurial feminist Christina Zeidler runs the Gladstone Hotel, Canada’s first B-Corp hotel. Lana Pesch visits the Inn With Agency that operates under an anti-oppressive feminist framework. Zeidler and her team are challenging the status-quo…one magic pony at a time. Read the feature story here.

Rivera Sun, author of The Dandelion Insurrection and workshop facilitator at the 2018 Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum

Solutionary Ideas From a Love-Based Revolutionary

Rivera Sun, author of the Dandelion Insurrection Trilogy, says she has fantasized about running away to Canada. Sun grew up on an organic farm in Northern Maine, but now lives in New Mexico–even further away!

Though oh-so-close at one time, Sun has never had the opportunity to check out our native land first hand. Until now. Sun arrives in Toronto on December 2nd by invitation to facilitate a workshop at the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum on how entrepreneurs and business leaders can leverage non-violent activism to drive systems change.

In this interview Sun says, “Change doesn’t just happen through protest. It doesn’t just happen – for regular people anyway – through calling politicians or senators. And it doesn’t usually just happen through buying the right goods as individuals. It happens when we organize. It happens when we look at the whole system, identify what’s holding us back, and starts when we begin working with others — and connecting our enterprises and organizations in ways that leverage each other’s strengths to drive the desired change.”

Check out more Rivera’s thoughts on enterprise-based activism on LiisBeth this month by clicking here.

It’s Campaign Season! If you think our advocacy for women and gender-non conforming entrepreneurs is worthy, or you find our content of value professionally, we hope you will consider contributing to our 2018 Patreon Fund Raising Campaign. Each online magazine refresh and newsletter takes a community to create and disseminate. We have 2000+ subscribers, but less than 30% contribute financially. We are open access and rely 100% on reader donations. Our impact is measurable. So if social justice and economic transformation are on your intentions and gratitude list this year, here’s your chance to donate to LiisBeth. 

Lana Pesch, LiisBeth Newsletter and Associate Editor, at the Made by Feminists GH Marketplace in the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom

FEMINIST FREEBIE! 
HOLIDAY GIFT FOR THE FEMINIST ENTREPRENEUR WHO HAS EVERYTHING!

Win the t-shirt that speaks for itself by being the first 2 people to TAKE OUR SURVEY TODAY  and drop us a note here when you’re finished. We’re on the home stretch but we still need a few more responses before we can publish results.

We sold a few of these at the FAC markets at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto last month and the first feminist entrepreneurship t-shirt is available for $32 here. Use the LiisBeth reader discount code LIISBETH10 for a 10% discount!

LiisBeth is not in the t-shirt business, which is why we partnered with Jamie “Boots” Marshall so you can #buywomenled. Marshall owns and runs Boots Tees, an online shop for her t-shirts, art, and other fun stuff. Her hobbies include: reading, board games, and fighting the patriarchy.

LET’S GO TO THE EFFs!  
CAUTION: FORUM MAY ADVANCE SOCIAL JUSTICE AND GENDER EQUALITY

The 2018 Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum in Toronto less than A WEEK away!

NEW ADDITION!  Lunchtime writing sessions led by Sarah Seleckyauthor and creator of Sarah Selecky Writing School.
Sarah believes good writing needs heart, consciousness, skill, and presence

What else? Three thought provoking foundational talks, three deep dive lab sessions, six 90 minute “think and do” workshops, two embodied movement classes, journaling and creative writing break rooms, a poster sessionreception and more!
Full speaker bios and session details here

Tix are still available!
$299 for ALL sessions // $99 for Students — For TWO WHOLE DAYS!  
Get your tickets here

ONE DAY PASSES ALSO AVAILABLE for December 2nd or 3rd

Read about our official transportation partner, child care support + local dog walking services below! 

SEE YOU THERE! 

Kids, Dogs, and Automobiles

Can’t get a sitter? Pooch need a pee? The 2018 EFFs has all your dog walking, childcare and local transport covered!

Jack Jackson of DoggyDatesToronto is available to provide dog walking services while you’re attending a session and ticket holders’ little ones can be left with Helm, Toronto’s leading babysitting app. Download the Helm app HERE.

Our official transportation partnerDriveHer is the new alternative & safe ride-sharing service dedicated to women by women. Uber for women but without all the deliquency. DriveHer’s priority is to help you arrive safely, comfortably and in style. Click HERE to download the ride sharing app.

LIISBETH FIELD NOTES 

Turning the Grey Tsunami into the Silver Economy

If you’ve got an hour to spare, the video above is 60 minutes worth of wisdom, advice, and inspiration from Helen Hirsh Spence and others about finding purpose post retirement.

She was a disruptor in the 60s and 70s and now she is disrupting in her 60s and 70s. The 69 year-old  started Top Sixty Over Sixty when she discovered seniors’ superpower: invisibility. Unless you’re wearing Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility, feeling unseen can erode a person’s confidence and be damaging. Spence wanted to create something that would undo that damage. Top Sixty Over Sixty is a platform to celebrate, educate and amplify the positive impact of older Canadians. “We should be maximizing and growing the potential of older people and seeing them as an asset as opposed a detriment,” says Spence. “It’s about a change of mindset.” And entrepreneurial opportunities for Boomers abound in areas like housing and transportation, health and well-being, education and learning, fashion and design.

The site houses articles like Best Before Dates are for Products Not People, dispelling commonly held myths about ageing, entrepreneurship and generational differences, like:

  • older people are less reliable in the workforce

  • you can’t train older people

  • older people are taking jobs away from young people

Spence developed the ReSet program which is a series of modules that focuses on reducing ageism, helping older adults redesign their future and also increase their entrepreneurial mindset to facilitate better multigenerational teams. “In a youth obsessed culture very often we’re looking at the frailty or older people, not their energy.” The program was supported by Ontario Centre of Workforce Innovation and Ryerson UniversityOut of 48 participants, 44 were women, and people like Vicki Jasperse (also in the video up top), jewelry artisan/entrepreneur, gained validation from the course to understand that she was on the right track.

Spence is in the process of evaluating next steps and is following her own consult: “Contrary to what you thinkthere’s nothing that stands in your way other than your own mindset.”

Good advice at any age.

Francesca Da Costa

Welcome Francesca Da Costa! 

LiisBeth’s new Advisory Board Member is Director Of Philanthropy at The MATCH International Women’s Fund. She is a fundraiser, diplomat, community advocate, entrepreneur, volunteer, foster parent, and foundation builder. Francesca believes we all have the power—and responsibility—to make our communities a better place for all. As a former intelligence and security officer for Global Affairs Canada, she has lived in and traveled to over a dozen countries. It is these experiences that have formed the foundation of her career and a desire to “do more” and we are thrilled to have her join the team.

We are still looking for two additional directors to join and diversify our board. If you, or someone you know is interested in advancing entrepreneurial feminismwe would love to hear from you! Drop us a email here outlining your interest.

From the UK’s The Poola 7 minute video from author and brand communications maven Mary Portas about five ways to improve your working life and your sense of yourself. The tips are taken from her new book Work Like a Woman and include being vulnerable in a confident way and supporting other women.

From left to right: MP Arif VeraniHeather GambleMinister Mary MgPK Mutch

Last month in Ottawa, we gifted Minister Ng with one of our signature t-shirts. She was pleased with message and promised to wear it the next time she announces more funding support for Women Entrepreneurs.  

Lana’s cat, Neil

NEW! LIISBETH STORY VOTE

We’re stunned with how many good queries come to LiisBeth and sometimes it’s hard to know what readers want. So we thought we’d do it the feminist way and ask you directly! 

Below are the top 3 story ideas we’ve received recently:

1. The Duality of Entrepreneurial “Struggle Porn” and Unseen Women’s Labor from a business owner in the gaming industry
2. Portrait of Swedish Feminist Party leader Gudrun Shyman
3. Women are the backbone of Africa’s labor force but lack of opportunities, gender-based violence and policies reduce their ability to advance. Why a conducive environment for African women to thrive makes sense.

VOTE HERE on the one you want to read most.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

AND THE WINNERS ARE…

Recipients of last month’s FEMINIST FREEBIES:

Tickets to the Move The Dial event went to:
Golnaz Golnaraghi, Toronto, ON

WE Connect conference pass was won by:
Golnaz Golnaraghi, Toronto, ON

3 signed copies of Gender Physics went to:
Alyson Nyiri, Wroxeter, ON
Heidi Phillips, Santa Barbara, CA
C. V. Harquail, Chicago, OH

ARE THERE MORE COPIES TO WIN?
YES! We still have three signed copies of Betty-Ann Heggie’s new bookGender Physics! The first three people to do the energy evaluation quiz (that under a minute to complete) and send their response (including their address) to: publisher@liisbeth.com will receive the next three copies. FREE! Old school in the mail! (unless you’re at the EFFs)

WHAT WE’RE READING 

Financialization not only refers to the incredible power of the financial sector over economics and politics, it also refers to the creep of financial ideas, metaphors, narratives and measurements throughout society and culture more broadly.  Examining a wide range of examples and case studies, this book argues that, at the same time as popular culture and everyday life are increasingly saturated by a financial idiom, the financial sector as a whole is more deeply invested than ever in everyday life and culture writ large. From the security culture of Walmart to children’s play with Pokémon trading cards, from the hype around the “creative economy” to the economics of austerity and precariousness, this book seeks to reveal financialization at work where we might least expect to find it. In an age when seemingly imaginary financial assets determine the fates of whole economies, this book suggests we take the idea of “fictitious capital” seriously as a way to understand the power of finance, and what might be done to stop it.

Where are we right now? With feminism and all that? There was the vote. We got the vote, which was lovely. Then there was work, and the pill, and sexual liberation, which was all great, and today there’s #MeToo, and Beyoncé, and something else – something like a sinking feeling: a realisation that these might have been a series of battles won, rather than the war promisedMeg Wolitzer’s 11th novel sympathetically satirises this complicated landscape of contemporary feminism, while also pressing knowingly against these bruises. ” – Eva Wiseman, The GuardianThe Female Persuasion (Penguin Random House) deals with female mentorship, power, ambition and how a single encounter can forever change a person. It’s a story about an intergenerational female friendship encompassing
ideas of influence, ego, and loyalty in Wolitzer’s signature wise and witty style.

Wolitzer’s social commentary can be as funny as it is queasily on target.” The Wall Street Journal

AND FINALLY . . . IN CASE YOU MISSED IT!

  • On Nov 5th, the Canadian government revealed a list of seven “alternative model” venture funds who will receive some piece of $50M in federal venture capital money which they in turn, can invest in companies. Great idea. The only problem is that only one of the funds is woman-led (Pique Ventures, Vancouver B.C.). All the other recipient venture firms are male dominated. And tech/STEM focused. Not very alternative in our books. We say to Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Minister Bains-good initiative overall. But uncreative, status quo perpetuating selection criteria. #patriarchy

  • Our book recommendation from last month won the Governor’s General’s Award for Fiction! Sarah Henstra’s The Red Word was among the seven English language books announced in November. Listen to Henstra on CBC radio here. (12 minute segment)

  • Do Women’s Networking Events Move the Needle on Equality? The short answer: yes. Author Shawn Achor wrote this article in the Harvard Business Review full of stats about the power of connection, and it’s not just about gender. (See you at the EFFs!)

  • Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is everyday, but especially this past week, on November 19th, following the WEDO Summit (Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization) at the UN in New York City. See who attended the summit here.

  • Nearly 9.1M firms in the US are owned by women and generate $1.4 trillion in sales. Celebrate #ChooseWOMEN on November 28th, by joining the greatest movement to empower women in business. Click here to join

  • In a recent survey, The Girl Guides of Canada found out what teens in Canada really think and how girls start to experience gender inequality at age 11. The good news is by having these tough conversations, girls can get the tools to grow their confidence and reach their full potential. Read the full report here.

That brings us to the end of our November newsletter. You’ll see a website refresh and newsletter mid-December, 2018, after we come up for air post-EFFs.

Did you read something of value in this newsletter?

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LIISBETH DISPATCH #44

Image by Alexey Kuzma
VIEWPOINT

STARTUP INCUBATORS ARE FAILING WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS-SO LET’S FIX IT.

In my line of work as a program consultant, I am often hired to help startup incubators and innovation spaces rethink how they attract and more importantly, retain more women entrepreneurs; In Canada at least, their public funding support is increasingly dependent on doing so.

Turns out, marketing only to women, tossing in a few pink bean bag chairs, and offering free tampons and perfumes in newly labelled gender-neutral washrooms doesn’t cut it. Neither does creating women-only startup programs embedded in co-ed spaces with programs that reinforces the patriarchal status quo. They sound good at first, but soon after the program starts, women entrepreneurs end up feeling ghettoized and stigmatized.

They end up frustrated. They leave. And they don’t come back.

Today, only 16% of incorporated enterprises in Canada are women-led and women majority owned. Reports show that participation in co-ed incubator spaces runs between 5 and 30% on average. Yet women start businesses at a rate of 20-30% higher than men. Studies showed that in spite of the extra baggage, women-majority owned businesses out-perform their male counterparts on several metrics.The fact is, ineffective programs for female founders is costing Canada alone billions of dollars of lost economic opportunity.

What economy can afford that?

Many people leading co-ed entrepreneurship and innovation incubators acknowledge the still growing body of research that confirms again and again that women face additional barriers as entrepreneurs thanks to gender-bias in our financial systems, sexism, and the realities of biology in an economy designed to privilege people who can delegate caregiving and don’t need time off after physically growing and finally squeezing a new eight to ten pound human out of their bodies–not to mention then feeding them exclusively via your boobs for months after.

In fact, the people running incubators witness examples of the many barriers first hand. They have VIP seats in the stadium when it comes to observing how women experience and must navigate entrepreneurship differently to succeed. They also see how women of colour, indigenous women, newcomers, and those working two jobs to make ends meet. They experience additional challenges.

So why are they having so much trouble figuring out how to help women founders, and their enterprises, flourish?

The answer is in knowing “how to get through a gateless gate“.

This article could help get you started. 


THIS WEEK ON LIISBETH

Woman Is Wolf to Woman

From a psychological and philosophical perspective, mental health counsellor, Maria Basualdo discusses the critical need for women to unite and work together. “…activism is the only way women can bring about transformation in ourselves, not just socially and politically, but by refusing to be wolf to women in our mundane realities.

Sounds like an obvious idea. But why doesn’t it happen?


Ria Lupton (middle), LiisBeth Contributor and friends at Montreal Startupfest 2018

Montreal Startup Fest 2018

New Contributor Ria Lupton got an “inclusion” ticket to Startupfest 2018 in Montreal last month. So we asked her to writing a story about her experience as a participant in a program dedicated to “…connecting entrepreneurs from diverse communities to equal opportunities.”

Ultimately, we wanted to know if to find out if things had improved since we last wrote about this tech-fest now in its seventh year.


https://youtu.be/MTaTnyN5vxU

Fallen Men of Thrones

I knew that billionaire motivational speaker Tony Robbins and I were not aligned in many of our beliefs about how the world worked. But he sure knew how to whip up mass hysteria.

In the video above, you will notice that his euphoric fans represent a diverse, mostly-male-but-good-helping-of-female crowd looking to be primarily…reassured. They are told that if they work hard, remain disciplined, clean, goal-focused, and believe in themselves, the world is theirs to exploit—despite the various systemic oppressions they face.  Blaming something other than yourself for your state in life is not part of Robbins’ creed. “Just Say Yes! And presto, you are halfway there!”

Come on. Who doesn’t love a message like that?

But then came Robbins’ #metoo moment where he showed incredible ignorance about the powers that shape the lives of women in the workplace. He apologized. But that wasn’t enough for Kelly Diels.

Kelly Diels, feminist marketing consultant

This is Diels, a feminist marketing expert, who is writing a new book about the female empowerment brand says “…when our most cherished self-help leaders, spiritual teachers, coaches and empowers-of-women are waving the same flag as an MRA, let us agree it is a red one.”

In her free-online-chapter of her upcoming book, Diels critically interrogates the female empowerment brand and highlights the dark role that motivational speakers—mostly male but also many female—play in advancing this dangerous opioid-like narrative.

If you are attending a conference with a motivational speaker as a keynote in the next few weeks, you might want to read this before you go.


LIISBETH FIELD NOTES

Don’t You Want Me

global photography project showcasing the beauty and resilience of disenfranchised LGBTQ people with their rescued dogs. The coupling of compelling and personal images with accompanying narratives and a celebratory flair, the aim is to show that individuals of all stripes have the shared ability to transform their lives when they are given love and the question of ‘who rescued who’ becomes universal, no matter how you identify.

The project kicks off soon and is currently seeking subjects in Toronto, Brighton UK, and NYC. To participate get in touch here.


Feminist Economics Yoga in Thunder Bay

Cassie Thornton isn’t a healer, she’s just really angry. She is also an artist, an activist, and a kundalini yoga instructor who lives and works between Thunder Bay, Berlin, and Oakland.

In short, Feminist Economics Yoga is combining feminized practices and values like care, health and reproduction with a challenging but accessible yoga practice that focuses on breath and movement. It is designed to heal the nervous system, spine and brain—all areas affected by the experience and challenges of living, breathing, and working in today’s world.

Practicing feminist economics yoga is a way to remind yourself to check in with what you’re experiencing and see what parts you might want to break up with.” – Cassie Thornton, Feminist Economist

You can help fund production of a new series of yoga video tutorials that aim to help heal our social and economic wounds and move forward collectively by visiting Cassie’s Kickstarter campaign: Let’s Break Up w/ Capitalism!

She is planning a Feminist Economics Yoga workshop is in Thunder Bay later this fall. For more info go to: www.secretchakra.net


Aspen Ideas Festival 2018

Is the Backlash back?

From the Aspen Ideas Festival…Good Feminist, Bad Feminist — Who Gets to Decide?

The beauty of feminism is that it’s always growing and changing and that we allow space for it.” – Tarana Burke, Founder of #Metoo Movement

If you have an hour on your hands, take the time to watch this panel talk. It will change your perspective. The star of the show in our view was Brittney Cooper, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University.  She is also the co-founder of the edgy and widely read Crunk Feminist Collective blog. Her new book, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower is available now!

Hang on to your hat for this one. [90 minutes]


Joyce Lee, Founder, herPossibility

Summer Camp for Little Girls with Big Dreams

Joyce Lee is the founder of herPossibility, a summer camp for girls ages 8 to 14 that focuses on empowering youth to be confident and creative leaders.

The camp will have hands on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) activities to help girls develop their empathy and growth mindset, generate creative ideas, and build self-confidence in group settings.

This year we’re supporting a group of refugee girls that are new from Syria. And seeing them be able to speak their truth and be themselves is wonderful,” says Lee who encountered a lot of tech bias when she attended the University of Waterloo. “I was always that shy girl in the corner and having that experience really made me want to do something about it.”

Camp runs August 13 – 17th, 2018 at Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre in Toronto.


You gotta give Svetlana Ratnikova (pictured here hugging the woman in the foreground), founder of Toronto’s Immmigrant Women in Business network a bow.  She knows how to energize a group-in a whole hearted and dare we say, uniquely Russian way!  LiisBeth attended their last event. The quality of the talks were high. And you have to love the fact that the event was opened up with a toast to the opportunity to be in Canada.  If you are a entrepreneur looking to experience global feminism in one room, we highly recommend you give them a try.


WHAT WE’RE READING 
Radiant Shimmering Light by Sarah Selecky

Sarah Selecky thanks Kelly Diels in the acknowledgements of her debut novel, Radiant Shimmering Light. “Diels coined the term “Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand” and confronts the subject deftly on her website,” says Selecky. The same could be said of Selecky. The novel is bursting with sparkle and satire, earnestness and colour. The story follows Lilian Quick, a struggling pet-portrait artist who reconnects with her estranged cousin, Eleven Novak, who runs a hugely successful women’s empowerment program called Ascendancy.

Through sharp insight and detailed, entertaining prose, Selecky examines the interconnectedness of art, commerce, and entrepreneurship in a timely resurgence of online feminism.

How We Get Free, edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

The Combahee River Collective Statement was written in April, 1977 but is as relevant today as it was then. It has been referred to as “among the most compelling documents produced by black feminists”. This is one of intersectional feminism’s foundational texts.

The Statement itself has four separate chapters: The Genesis of Contemporary Black Feminism; What We Believe; Problems in Organizing Black Feminist; and Black Feminist Issues and Projects. The published book adds on to this; It includes interviews with original members of the collective.

The writing is eloguent, inspiring and clear as glass. Anyone looking for a good example of a manifesto–or deepen their understanding of intersectional feminism– need look no further.


AND FINALLY…IN CASE YOU MISSED IT!
  • CIX is seeking female entrepreneurs!
    Canada’s highly curated startup investment conference is looking for more submissions to the Top 20 program from female entrepreneurs across Canada as applications in the demographic are low. The summit runs October 22-23rd in Toronto. Apply here.
  • The Honourable Bardish Chagger, P.C., M.P., Minister of Small Business and Tourism announced the launch of an $8.6 millioncompetitive process to create a Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub to accelerate the accumulation and dissemination of data, knowledge, and best practices regarding women entrepreneurs. Read the news release or find out about the application process here.
  • LiisBeth Founding Publisher Petra Kassun-Mutch will be speaking about feminist business practice at the upcoming MJBizConINT’L  Women in Cannabis Wednesday, August 15th at George Brown. MJBizConINt’L attracts more than 2,000 attendees and 125+ exhibitors from around the world will meet to discuss the role of the cannabis global marketplace.
  • NEW! The Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa released a report about benchmarking small and medium enterprises as suppliers to the Canadian government. The report provides new insights about gender of ownership, innovation, international trade, and firm performance.

CAN’T MISS EVENTS

Fall is coming! And oh la la! The list of events worth putting on your learning journey calendar is getting longer:

UN Women – Metro NY Chapter: Summer Info Session in NYC
Join the Metro NY Chapter of the U.S. National Committee for UN Women for our semi-annual info session. Learn about their all-volunteer organization and network with other like-minded gender equality warriors! Refreshments will be provided.
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018
6:30 – 8:30 PM
WeWork
300 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10016
USA
Cost: Suggested donation: $10
RSVP here.

Networking and Inspirational Leadership Event
A new IWB (Immigrant Women in Business) Chapter in Bradford is hosting an exclusive, private gathering. IWB welcomes all, and is especially important place for immigrants. (All genders welcome). Saturday, August 25th, 2018
4:00 – 8:00 PM
CU Optical
157 Holland St E #4
Bradford, ONTARIO
Cost: FREE
Register here.

Venus Fest: A Canadian Music Festival Celebrating Feminism in the Arts
September 20–22nd, 2018
Opera House
735 Queen Street West
Toronto, ONTARIO
Cost: $77 for a three-day pass.
Get tickets here.

Anti-Oppression for Artists + Cultural Producers
This workshop for artists explores the language, theories and practices of anti-oppression in depth. Participants will have access to a plethora of digital and print resources to continue their learning journey beyond the scope of the session. Wednesday, September 26th, 2018
6:00 – 9:00 PM
Wychwood Barns Park
B Current Space
76 Wychwood Avenue
Toronto, ONTARIO M6G 2X7
Cost: PWYC – $55
Register here.

B-Corp Champions Retreat in New Orleans
The annual gathering of mission-driven leaders of the B Corp community focused on collective action and continuous improvement. Open to all employees of Certified B Corps, Impact management partners, nonprofits and academics, and other members of the ‘B Economy’.
September 25 – 27th, 2018
New Orleans, Louisiana
USA
Cost: $400 – $1095 + fees
Register here.

Power the Economy: Growing Women Owned Businesses in Canada
WEConnect International in Canada will host its signature annual event, Power the Economy, for women-owned businesses, multinational corporations, senior government officials, and partner organizations supporting the growth of women’s entrepreneurship across Canada.
October 26th, 2018
Beanfield Centre
105 Princes’ Blvd
Toronto, ONTARIO
Cost: $199
Register here.

The 2018 Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum
November 10 and 11, 2018
The Gladstone Hotel
1214 Queen Street West
Toronto, ONTARIO
SAVE THE DATE!
Ticket information coming soon.


That brings us to the end of our August newsletter. The next newsletter is scheduled for September 2018. 

We are looking for speaker and workshop proposals for the second annual Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum planned for November, 2018. For guidelines, visit the website.

And just one last reminder. If you are considering a way to support feminist entrepreneurs, or help connect women-led initiatives and communities, look no further than cbecoming a subscriber to LiisBeth! We humbly remind you that subscriptionsare $3/month, $7/month or $10/month.

We are now on Patreon!

Funds go directly towards paying writers, editors, proofreaders, photo permission fees, and illustrators. Building a more just future requires time, love—and financial support.

Enjoy August.  Summers are so short!