No. 520, Sep 30, 2004

Girl Nerd Free-For-All

From Punk Sewing to Dancefloor Antics

In the Summer of 2000, a group of women in Olympia, Washington organized the very first Ladyfest, it was a week long festival of women-focused music, art, workshops, and performances. Ladyfest organizers worked to create an updated version of Riot Grrrl, a fierce underground, feminist movement that many considered dead, or outmoded. Regardless of the names they chose, and the communities they came from, Ladyfest was a way of bringing hip feminist girls, boys and everyone else, together to find common interests.

Since the first Ladyfest event, new versions have sprouted up across America and made their way to Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Germany, and Indonesia. Each new festival grows and changes along with its co-ordinators. This year’s Ladyfest Toronto is organized by a spunky, and enthusiastic collective, who are so excited that they are practically handing out guarantees the fest will be great. Amongst the dozen or so collective members is Emily Zimmerman. Zimmerman put out the initial call to anyone who might have been interested. The response was much better than she expected resulting in a large collective, with many different skills to share. She says, “it’s like having an in-house focus group, more organizers means less burnout.”

Although this year’s Ladyfest Toronto has a large musical component, it also has equal servings of film and video screenings, workshops, and even a craft and zine fair. According to Zimmerman, it is “a full-on celebration if girl nerdiness.” There is huge amount to take in over the three days Ladyfest runs. Co-organizer, Amy Leigh insists that if anyone can only make it to one event, it should be the opening night kick-off party at the Gladstone, featuring music by Carolyn Mark, Ratsicule, Cougar Party, spoken word performance, DJ’s, and more.

If you are more of a workshop type of person, there are plenty to attend. From the bizarre to the crafty, there is plenty of space for Ladyfesters to take on new projects. There are more standard workshops such as sex toys 101, sewing, (rest assured, “sewing doesn't have to be cute; it can be punk rock”) and body awareness. If you are looking for something a little different, you can check out the sword dancing, recycled T-shirt underwear, hand-made film, and punXercise workshops. Overall, they tend to be more on the creative and artistic side, than the political. This decision was based largely on the submissions the collective received. Zimmerman is pleased with the line-up and says that she hopes it will “bring out people who might be put off by political discussion with strangers.”

When looking through the list of events, it is easy to see how important diversity is to the Ladyfest collective. By extension, Ladyfest also emphasizes inclusivity. Collective member Amy Emel, sums up what Ladyfest means to her, saying it is “a celebration of being a woman and what that entails. It’s such a positive thing, all of us coming together under the same premise.” The collective explicitly states that their use if the term ‘woman’ includes people who are “past, present or future woman-identified and/or bodied.” And though the event is women-run, all are welcome to attend.

Event planning and fundraising for Ladyfest has been an ongoing project since May. Since forming, the collective has held a vegan brunch, two yard sales, and even hosted a boy-centric evening called Gentlemen Fest. Ladyfest is a non-profit event, and all the money raised will benefit the Culturelink (Culturelink.net) Newcomer Youth Centre, and their programs for newly-Canadian women.