Ep 21 League Induction: Ericka Hart

Ericka Hart was inducted in Episode 21: Bras & Boobs Take 2 (7:30 mins)

This week we have an incredibly bad ass woman to welcome into our League of Extraordinary Women. Ericka Hart is a sex educator, performer, and queer activist. At only 28 years old, Hart was diagnosed with two types of cancer in each breast and she went on to have a double mastectomy. When Hart was going through the process of reconstructive surgery to reconstruct her breasts, she and her surgeon struggled to find reference images of Black women’s reconstruction. This lack of visibility really struck a cord with Hart and she made headlines when she appeared topless for the first time at the Afropunk Music Festival in 2016 with her reconstructed breasts and mastectomy scars on beautiful display. Of the decision to go topless to this event, Hart says, “I wore my chest out because I wanted to raise awareness, but I also...still feel really sexy with my body this way, and I want to be received as sexy, not just as a survivor.”

Since then, Hart’s image has become one of the most recognizable among cancer survivors and definitely the most prevalent image of black women with mastectomy scars. Hart participated in a gorgeous viral photoshoot with photographer Joey "Islandboi" Rosado and make-up artist Moshoodat, in which she poses topless with highly feminine, very joyful imagery like flowers, pink backgrounds, and yellow body paint. Her Instagram often displays her naked chest proudly, whether in stylized photoshoots or simple photos taken at home by her wife.

Recently, Hart went topless again to the Women’s March in New York and gave a passionate speech for inclusivity in feminism, calling out feminism’s long history of ignoring or excluding the stories of cis and trans women of colour, non-binary people, sex workers, women with disabilities, and indigenous women.

Hart uses her body to advocate for visibility and awareness of black women with cancer and her sharp mind and empathetic heart to advocate for all marginalized groups. Welcome to the League, Ericka Hart. We are so proud to honour you today.

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Ep 19 League Induction: Lauren Vázquez

Farrah Khan was inducted in Episode 19: Women and Weed (9:16)

We are honoured to induct Attorney Lauren Vázquez into our League of Extraordinary Women. Vázquez is the badass behind Fired Up Lawyer, a team specializing in helping cannabis businesses navigate the sometimes murky legal world of weed. She's also a social entrepreneur who has worked for over a decade to end cannabis prohibition and advance alternatives to the failed war on drugs. Vásquez served as a Senior Advisor and Statewide Organizer for the Prop 64 campaign. She has advised numerous cannabis companies and organizations and has worked with cities and counties for years to develop local licensing for cannabis businesses. Plus, she’s a Professor at Oaksterdam University and previously served as the National Deputy Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. We'd like to thank this extremely busy and very inspiring woman for her work in the community!

Ep 18 League Induction: Berta Cáceres

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Berta Cáceres was inducted in Episode 18: Ecofeminism (17:43)

We are proud to induct Berta Cáceres into our League of Extraordinary Women this week. Berta was a brave human rights and environmental activist from Honduras, which is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. This past March 2nd marked the one-year anniversary of Berta’s assassination, one day before her 45th birthday.

Berta was a member of the Indigenous Lenca group and in 1993 she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). She, along with hundreds of other environmental warriors in Latin America, was targeted for her fight to protect her communities from companies, including Canadian ones, who want to build mega projects such as mines and mega-dams on Indigenous lands.

According to a 2009 report commissioned (and then suppressed) by the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), Canadian companies were responsible for 34% of the high-profile violations in the mining sector of the previous 10 years. This included targeted assassinations, persecution of activists and union leaders, militarization of entire communities, massive displacement, and environmental devastation.

Eight suspects have been arrested for her murder, but no one has been brought to justice. Due to the lack of transparency in the case, several protests and petitions have called for an independent investigation. The Honduran government denies involvement, despite Guardian reports that “one of the suspects had been appointed chief of intelligence for elite special forces” and that her name was “on a hitlist passed to US-trained units by the Honduran military joint chiefs of staff.” According to a report from Democracy Now, two of the suspects were reportedly trained by the U.S., which sends tens of millions of dollars to Honduras each year.

If you’re in the U.S. and you would like to help, please support the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, a bill proposed by Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson in March to suspend funds from being made available to Honduras for the police or military human rights violations cease. For decades, U.S. funding has been destabilizing the Latin American region, so this bill is a step in the right direction.

If you’re in Canada, write to your local MP with your concerns about the Canadian mining industry and the lack of international oversight to ensure human rights and the environment are protected everywhere. And denounce our own country’s support of the post-coup Honduran governments since the widely denounced November 2009 elections.

Shortly before her death, in 2015 she was given the Goldman Environmental Prize, the highest international recognition for environmental activists. Today, we remember and honour Berta’s fight to protect her land and people. For her four childen, her indigenous community, countless others around the world, and us, she is a true hero. Rest in power, Berta.

Ep 17 League Induction: Farrah Khan

Farrah Khan was inducted in Episode 17: Self Care and Self Love (23:54)

This week, The League of Extraordinary Women is inducting Farrah Khan, a strong woman who has endlessly fought for the rights of others who have experienced or are experiencing violence. Through the use of art, education, counseling, and community development, Farrah Khan has heroically worked to raise awareness on gender-based violence over the past 17 years. She began her fight as a teenager and has continued to speak out on both physical and sexual violence towards women. She is the definition of inspiring.

Khan is the co-creator and editor of the graphic novella Heartbeats: the IZZAT Project that focuses on the resiliency of young women who have experienced or are facing family violence. Izzat is another word for honour, and has been used to justify violence against women. The Izzat books are now used in educational settings in both Canada and the U.S.

Khan’s approach to fighting gender-based violence is both captivating and unique in her use of artistic videos and crafts. Her art includes writing for graphic novels and magazines, short films, and a stop motion video titled Five Things. Khan’s love of writing also brought her to co-write and create the website and guide Use the Right Words. The site discusses how sexual violence is portrayed in the media here in Canada. Additionally, because Khan is clearly a modern day superhero, while working at the Schlifer Clinic back in 2015, she created Outburst! , a project for young Muslim women that addresses violence against young girls.

After her years at the clinic, she was hired at Ryerson University and we are grateful to say that Khan is currently working right here in Toronto. She is currently a Sexual Violence Support and Education Coordinator and offers education, training and support in response to sexual violence on campus. A few members of ToFemCo are current or former students at Ryerson, and have been fortunate enough to witness the amazing things she has done at the school first hand.

All of the aforementioned projects here only scratch the surface of all the amazing things Farrah Khan has accomplished. So it is no surprise that Khan has received several awards, some of which include the Urban Alliance on Race Relations Community Award, and the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

We are very proud to officially induct Farrah Khan into the league, and anticipate all the great things she will do in the future here in Toronto, and around the world.

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Ep 16 League Induction: Roxane Gay

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Roxane Gay was inducted in Episode 16: She-roes (31:57 mins)

It was only a matter of time before Roxane Gay became part of our League here at TOFemCo. Her remarkably funny and popular book of essays, Bad Feminist, was the first selection for our book club, and we all share an absolute love for her and her writing.

Roxane Gay was recently hired as the first black woman to write for Marvel and since then has done a spin off of Black Panther titled World of Wakanda with fellow artist and writer Yona Harvey. As a new comic book series, World of Wakanda revolves around the world of two black queer women, Ayo and Aneka, who are part of an all-female fighting force. Ayo and Aneka are also lovers, and former bodyguards to Black Panther, the first black superhero in mainstream American comics, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and first appearing in 1966. Gay is helping to create the image of the black, queer AND female hero. She is making leaps and bounds in the world of literature and now in the world of Marvel, and is designing a future where millions of little black and queer kids can hopefully, one day, see themselves represented equally.

Recently in an interview with online magazine The Rumpus, Gay was asked about characters in her new book Difficult Women and how their race did not appear to be discernible. She responded, “why do you assume their race isn’t easily discernible? Probably because you assume, like most people, that whiteness is the default. Let me be clear—whiteness is not the default in my fiction.” Yeah, she’s pretty badass.

As mentioned recently on our blog column 'This Week In Feminist News', in another moment of bravery, Gay decided to terminate her book deal with Simon and Schuster when they made the terrible and misguided choice to sign with the racist and all-around terrible Milo Yiannopoulos.

The examples Roxane Gay has set in her career are not moves you see very often. It is evident that these choices are not about money or fame, but rather a genuine drive to empower and represent other women and people of colour. She is in many ways our hero and part of what makes us better feminists. 

We can’t wait to to see what else is in store from Roxane Gay, and we are so honoured to now officially induct her into our League.

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Ep 15 League Induction: Phoebe Robinson

Phoebe Robinson was inducted in Episode 15: Black Girl Magic (8:15 mins)

The next inductee into the League of Extraordinary Women is the lovable comedian Phoebe Robinson. Phoebe Robinson is known best for her wildly successful podcast 2 Dope Queens.

She’s also been making audiences laugh with her podcast Sooo Many White Guys and her book Don’t Touch My Hair: And other things I still have to explain.

Her book is a collection of hilarious essays that reflect her experiences being a Black woman in America. It includes tips like “How to Avoid Being the Black Friend.” And has a handy list of “The most important half-black people that you need to know.”

Phoebe tackles tough subjects that make us think, all while keeping us laughing. And for that she deserves recognition.

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Ep 9 League Induction: Angelina of ALBinWonderland

Angelina was inducted in Episode 9: Cosplay (35:53)

This week in the League of Extraordinary Women, we are inducting Angelina aka ALB aka Alb In Wonderland. She is a young woman, illustrator, and blogger that lives right here in Toronto. She is a jack of all trades taking on modelling, acting, art, writing, and YouTubing. I was first introduced to her through YouTube as a compelling, insightful Feminist Geek with amazing hair.

Her video “Fake Geek Girls” takes on misogyny in the geek world and thoughtfully examines why geek culture can be hostile to women. Another video titled, “Story Time: I was paid less than my assistant” is about the time she had a job as an art teacher and her male assistant who was less qualified made more than her - tell me the wage gap isn’t real, I dare you. But she doesn’t only tackle sexism, many of her video feature her unabashed love of comic books, Sailor Moon, and pop culture. She has clever makeup and hair tutorials that are informative and feature her amazing cosplay outfits. Her personal stories are the highlights of her channel because they are bold, insightful, and vulnerable. She shares her experiences and lessons learned in ways that are accessible and interesting. I highly recommend that everyone checks out her YouTube channel Alb In Wonderland (all one word)!

Another thing I love is that she is so unapologetically feminine. Her videos are a carefully crafted pink universe that I never want to leave. Being a feminine geek can be difficult because of how much of a boys club it can be. When you are a woman looking for a place in a man’s world, it can be easy to lose some of yourself. That’s why, to me, her pink hair isn’t only beautiful, but it is also a fuck you to every guy who dares question her cred. She is kind of like the best friend I always wanted because she can take down the patriarchy and do a perfect cat eye. Angelina, you have definitely inspired us here at ToFemCo and we think you are extraordinary. We admire your strength, your individuality, and your creativity. Please keep on fighting for women everywhere who just want to read comic books and play DnD.

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Ep 8 League Induction: Mandi Gray

Mandi Gray was inducted in Episode 8: Blaming the Victim (27:48 mins)

Today in the League of Extraordinary Women we will be inducting Mandi Gray. She is a graduate student at York University doing her PhD in Sociology. Years ago she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student and decided that her best course of action was to report him to the police. She pursed the case for the last two years through the criminal justice system and on Thursday July 21, 2016 the judge came to his decision. He decided that this man was guilty of sexual assault and moreover, that Mandi was a very credible witness as are all survivors of sexual assault. This case was groundbreaking not only for its guilty verdict and the judges’ statement but also because of Mandi Gray herself.

She asserted herself in claiming legal rights that are afforded to all survivors but are often overlooked and dismissed by judges, lawyers, and juries. She was openly critical of her interactions with the police who shamed and dismissed her. She battled rape culture openly by being herself and asserting her worth as herself. Even when the case was supposedly won, she took time to comment on how her own privilege and how the process served to dis-empower and destroy her. She said, “I am tired of people talking to me like I won some sort of rape lottery because the legal system did what it was supposed to do. My experience is regarded as a demonstration of the progress in sexual assault cases in Canada. I am expected to feel good because a few people within the system believe me. If we are told to be grateful for receiving the bare minimum, and that we should simply allow for social institutions to further oppress us and violate our rights, I am incredibly concerned. Accepting things simply as they are because it could be worse is the antithesis of progress.” I could not agree more with that statement and it is important to keep that in mind because her fight and our fight are not over.

More recently in an appeal case the rapist was let out on bail because the judge was seen as prejudiced against men. As if there could possibly be such a thing. Additionally, she is taking York University to task over their insufficient sexual assault policy. Mandi, you are one strong woman and we here at ToFEMco greatly admire you and your work on behalf of survivors. We know how hard this work is but it is important to know that we believe you. We believe all survivors.

Twitter | Silence is Violence | Slut or Nut

Ep 6 League Induction: Witches of Bushwick

The Witches of Bushwick were inducted in Episode 6: Bitchcraft (31:47 mins)

Hey, it’s Hermione and as the resident witch of this podcast, I could not be more excited to introduce our newest inductees to the League of Extraordinary Women. TOFemCo is a collective and this week, we’re inducting another amazing collective that inspires us in a major way, The Witches of Bushwick. Founded by best friends Christina Tran and Anne Alexander, the Witches started as a monthly party, a place for awesome, creative women to meet other awesome, creative women. Now, they’re technically a production company, producing events and platforms for artists in their community, but more importantly, they are a coven, a creative collective of mostly, but not exclusively women artists of all kinds.

Artists affiliated with the Witches include hip hop duo Dark Sister, fashion label Chromat, and trans poet, artist, and DJ Juliana Huxtable.

As for what being a witch means to them? In Broadly’s feature on the group, Christina Tran muses about the definition of a witch, saying, “If it’s just a person who is trying to find this cognizance between themselves and the earth and their role in the universe, yeah, we’re witches.” In another interview, she says , “Witches are known as the outcasts, the others. And I think there's a female connotation to it, and a connotation of empowerment, which is cool. It's the darker side of empowerment.” As a non-white, queer, alternative woman, Tran relates to feeling like the other and recognizes the creative potential of occupying that space and of seeking out other others to collaborate with.

At its core, the Witches of Bushwick are about women coming together to support each other in all their wonderful, creative, intelligent, witchy ways, and this is something we can all get on board with.

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Ep 4 League Induction: Felicia Day

Felicia Day was inducted in Episode 4: Geekquality (46:30 mins)

This week on League of Extraordinary Women we're inducting Felicia Day. I first became aware of her for playing a potential in season 7 of Buffy but what I find impressive and extraordinary is her creation of her own webseries and business enterprise. When she decided to write a pilot for a tv show, she decided to write what she knew: World of Warcraft. She was a major gaming addict. When pitching the pilot though she was told she’d have to take out all that weird gamer stuff to be commercially viable.

She decided “fuck them”, she’d do it herself and air it on this new youtube thing. Her and a handful of friends got a crew together and filmed the first season on their own. Felicia wrote, starred in, produced and marketed it. And it was a huge success!

Now producers were interested! But they didn’t believe that she could have possibly written it because girls don’t play video games. They were condescending assholes who also wouldn’t let her have creative control or could guarantee that she could continue to play the character she created, Codex.

Once again she told them to fuck off. They started crowdfunding the second season with only a paypal button since Indiegogo and KickStarter hadn’t even been invented yet. Shortly after they were approached by Xbox who were interested in funding it while keeping it the same and letting Felicia do her thing.

She did not relent until she got the deal she wanted. This was HER project and she would not be pushed out. The Guild continued for a total of 6 seasons. The final season aired on the newly started Geek and Sundry, which was a huge premium YouTube channel which is pretty much a network started by Felicia w/ Kim Evey and Sheri Bryant. This channel had additional nerdy original content created by Felicia and friends. Forbes said it could “blaze a trail for the future of network television”.

Even though both The Guild and Geek and Sundry are hugely popular and successful, or probably even because of this, she faces criticism from mostly men who call her a fake booth girl with no geek cred. Cause she’s a strong woman who creates her own future and paves the way for other geek girls. And we can’t have that. Bullshit. Keep doing you Felicia, you’re inspiring.

Website | Youtube | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

Ep 3 League Induction: Peggy Ann Walpole

Peggy Ann Walpole was inducted in Episode 3: Women & Homelessness (42:30 min)

This week on the League of Extraordinary Women we'll be inducting the heroic Peggy Ann Walpole. In the 1950s Peggy Ann worked as a nurse at St Mike's hospital in Toronto with women experiencing abuse, poverty, addictions, and varying mental health issues. What was particularly wonderful and unique about Peggy's service is that she asked herself where these women were going once they left the care of the hospital.

As demanding as the life of a nurse can be her empathy reached beyond the hospital walls. Dealing with her own personal health issues, laying in a hospital bed around the age of thirty, Peggy made it her goal to put her concerns into action by opening a drop in space for women to feel safe. Women didn't have to enroll or qualify to visit.  Peggy simply wanted a place for women to drink tea, have a snack, or even just share conversation. In an old skid row Atlantic Hotel with four chairs and one table,  Peggy gave woman their first place to feel free of stigma, to feel safe, and to share experiences with other women. Only around a year later it became an overnight crisis center that included ten beds. Peggy had around fifty regulars that went on to get jobs or jobs training and started their lives off in a better place.  This was such a new and beautiful outlet for women that until then never existed.  It truly emphasized the power of a good meal, a place to stay, and what happens when women are free from discrimination.  

Peggy did not stop there! Today a red brick mansion in Toronto on Pembroke Street offers housing, addiction services, a learning center, and most importantly a safe space. Rightfully so, Peggy was honoured with the citizenship medal.  Sadly in February 2006, Peggy peacefully passed way back where all her hard work began at St Mike's hospital in Toronto.  What Peggy did for woman is too heroic to describe in words. She was a strong badass woman who dedicated her life to others and continues to change and better the lives of women in Toronto today.  Thank you Peggy.  Thank you for being a superhero.

Ep 2 League Induction: Kathryn Borel

Kathryn Borel was inducted in Episode 2: Reconciling Art with Shitty Celebrities (18:50 mins)

Our first inductee to the League is Kathryn Borel for her bravery in publicly speaking against the workplace harassment she experienced while working with Jian Ghomeshi at the CBC. For those who are unaware, Borel had accused Ghomeshi of inappropriate behaviour when they worked together at the popular radio show Q. Or, rather, when she worked for him at the CBC. Ghomeshi was cleared of his last remaining charge after signing a peace bond and publicly apologizing to Borel, but the defense made it clear he was not admitting guilt.

Kathryn, thank you for your honesty and your bravery in coming forward and fighting the good fight. You’re a star and we believe and support you and all victims of sexual assault.

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