2 min

Punk feminists can too be ladies

Ladyfest is anything but demure and prim

Credit: Mike Perriccioli

Don’t let the name fool you.

Ladyfest Toronto will be anything but demure and prim. Instead the weekend-long, all-ages event, featuring spoken word and musical performances, DIY workshops and an arts bazaar, promises to be the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for the Bust generation – two jam-packed days of radical young feminist networking, socializing, dancing and baking.

“First of all,” says Ladyfest organizer Shannon Mitchell, “It’s a showcase for the talents of local women. And it’s for a good cause. All the proceeds are going to Interval House, a shelter for abused women and children. So it’s an all-around way to support women. We want the people who come to Ladyfest to leave here inspired – to start their own band, or to organize an event of their own.”

Mitchell and her two fellow organizers Amy Sampson and Cheryl Steele were inspired themselves when they attended the first Ladyfest in Olympia, Washington in 2000. Held only once, that original event has spawned dozens of similar festivals around the world – the website offers event planning tips – all sharing a spirit of grassroots punk feminist sisterhood.

The Toronto Ladyfest is in its second year and this year’s line-up of performers includes Skarlet O’Hara, The Plath, Squad 416 Radical Cheerleaders, Mariko Tamaki, LAL, Rocket Tits, Trish Salah and Caroline Azar. Meanwhile, the workshops run the gamut from fat activism and culture jamming to alternative menstrual products/ politics and silkscreening.

Siue Moffat, a “continually unemployed, but always working” Toronto activist, will be leading a vegan baking workshop. “A lot of women are going vegan and thinking they have to give things up,” she says. “This is not so. I’m all for indulging.” She adds that she’s hoping “to meet some smart sassy grrrls who’ll share their skills, confidence and inspiration – and eat some vegan key lime pie.”

Ottawa-based musician Jennifer Jane Whiteford is a Ladyfest veteran. She helped organize Ladyfest Ottawa in July and her all-girl punk band Sophomore Level Psychology will be performing at Ladyfest East in New York in September.

In Toronto, she’ll be performing her solo acoustic “feministy country” show. “It’s nice to bring country music to people who like punk,” Whiteford says, “because country and folk music were originally performed with the same political intentions as punk music. All of them are ‘music of the people.’ It’s nice to remind people who might be cynical that country music isn’t all just like LeAnn Rimes.”

She adds that the appeal of an event like Ladyfest is that it “allows women to meet and interact with women who are a lot like ourselves. It is important for us to have fun and feel like we’re not alone before we go back to doing the hard work. I’m most looking forward to hanging out with my best friend’s little sister Lauren. She’s the coolest teenager in the world. She’s very politically informed and very out as a radical feminist in her high school, which isn’t really a hotbed of feminist activity…. It’s great to see young women getting politicized and it makes me happy to see them find a community.”

Ladyfest takes place Sat, Sep 7 and Sun, Sep 8 at Kytes (466 Bathurst) and at Raging Spoon (761 Queen West). Weekend passes are $20. For more information, go to