In Montreal, every lesbian and her ex is down with Meow Mix. No, not the cat food (though that might be true, too), but the pretty-much-monthly dyke cabaret and dance party. Created in 1997 to provide space for emerging female DJs to develop, Meow Mix has grown into a sexy night of entertainment, excitement and eye candy, drawing out hundreds of “bent girls and their buddies” to the beautiful and historic Sala Rossa.
Miriam Ginestier is the brains behind this “inclusive extended family affair.”
“I started the night with my then girlfriend Irene because I wanted to go dancing somewhere with my straight, gay and lesbian friends,” she says. “We both hated club music and most clubs were not broadly welcoming. At the time, lesbian bars often had a women-only policy.
“I was pretty discouraged by the dyke scene. I just couldn’t relate to it culturally. It seemed too small and incestuous to have a vibrant sub-culture of its own.”
So Ginestier set out to create a night that “caters to a mixed bag of artists, rebels, and misfits with eclectic musical taste.” Artistic and general director of 303 and a performer, filmmaker and DJ in her own right, Ginestier has channeled her initial discontent with the scene into a side career organizing cultural events for the lesbian community. She has promoted bands, organized same-sex tango classes, and created various events for DiversCité. Ginestier is perhaps best known, however, for the ever-popular Meow Mix.
Shows range from loosely curated cabarets (think dance, drag kings and circus acts), to special nights featuring avant-garde guest artists from Toronto, New York, San Francisco and even Berlin. At the end of each show, audience members hop to their feet to push candlelit tables out of the way, fold up chairs, and make room for the dance floor. Local DJs provide the beats and ladies of all ages get their freak on until the venue closes.
When she first started Meow Mix, in the dark pre-email age, Ginestier had to come up with a unique publicity plan. She distributed flyers, made phone calls, and even left messages on women-seeking-women phone dating services. These days, Ginestier promotes Meow Mix through a monthly email newsletter.
“I think it’s less politically correct than it used to be,” she says of the dyke scene, “but maybe that isn’t the case with the university crowd. People are taking more artistic risks and being more playful. And of course there is a new abundance of genderqueer work, which is great. The most interesting thing though, is the speed at which things change in the queer community. It’s really exciting.”
Ginestier calls Montreal’s lesbian community, “Different. I like to talk about this endlessly with friends. The Montreal dyke scene is vibrant and full of contradictions — peculiarly ahead of and way behind developments in neighbouring lesbo communities.”
Putting together queer events like Meow MIx comes naturally to Ginestier. “Queer culture and artistic experiences have impacted me profoundly. Through my work, as much for myself as others, I strive to create a sense of community. I want to inspire people, make them laugh, reflect. It is no fun being an outsider if you are totally alone. We have to connect to each other in order to create change.”