By: Hannah McCasland
2 November 2017
This is a post about the personal experiences and interests that led me to get involved at Women in Cities International and how this relates to a project I help out with, love, and wholeheartedly support, the podcast Rebelliously Tiny by Ambivalently Yours. It’s also a call to support the podcast by sharing our Kickstarter and/or donating so that we can make a second season!
Montreal is the first city I have ever lived in for more than a few months at a time. I grew up in a very small town where you really have to drive everywhere even to shop for basic groceries. In Montreal, I fell in love with walking everywhere. I found it was pretty easy to get around, and that I felt safe, much safer in a city than I thought I would as a kid accustomed to living in a rural town.
Not that there isn’t sexual harassment and other gender based violence in rural towns, there certainly is, but moving through a city as a woman also means experiencing street harassment. My new awareness of street harassment angered me, but it also led me to start paying attention to all the ways women were resisting. Women resist in a million ways, including by continuing to move through the city. In the street art covered Montreal, I became particularly interested in how women were using art to comment on and challenge harassment in public spaces, in the spaces they were experiencing this harassment.
Montreal streets are full of art by local artists such as Swarm, Starchild Stela, Lovestruck Prints, and so many more that covers light posts, windows, and brick walls with signs like “F**k your male gaze” and “no more cat calls” and other feminist messages. Seeing these signs furthered my interest in and love for this use of art to challenge sexual harassment, raise awareness, and simultaneously comfort women passerby, and I started following these artists online. This is how I came across the work of Ambivalently Yours.
I met Ambivalently Yours after following her amazing feminist, kind, comforting, inspiring work for over a year, when she put out a call out for some help on projects she was working on. When we met, she mentioned her idea for a podcast. I was so excited, because I love podcasts, and I immediately shared my enthusiasm for the project.
We started off by sorting through the many, many messages AY receives online. We chose some that would cover a variety of topics, such as feminism, body image, sexual, gender, racial identities, mental health, growing up, sexual assault, toxic masculinity, and more. We called the podcast “Rebelliously Tiny” because it was to be a place where people could talk about their struggles that were both impossibly large but also rebelliously tiny; where we could discuss intimate experiences and larger systemic issues with no expectations to do so in any “right” way. With the amazing support and space of Oboro, artist run center in Montreal, we recorded 9 episodes.
Somewhere along the way, AY told me that I should be one of the guests on an episode. “Nope,” I thought. I was nervous and hesitant to be in an episode myself, although I agreed with AY that it was important to put forth who we are and where we are coming from right from the start. Part of me felt self conscious, I felt like all of the other guests were so talented. Part of me was embarrassed, shouldn’t I be taking up less space as a cis, able bodied white woman? I felt that I did not need to put my voice out there; those with similar positionalities to me take up too much space. And this was not the goal of our podcast, the goal was to have conversations that are often ignored, belittled, hidden, deemed unimportant.
I’m glad we did the episode to put out there who we are, and it ended up being an opportunity to explore these struggles of reconciling our feminist and anti capitalist ideals with the practicalities of living in a capitalist city. One of the messages AY received was about being at a point in your life where you have to make decisions, but about feeling unsure and not knowing how to move forward. When I had read this question, I simply commented “me too” because at the time, as a 4th year undergrad, I felt exactly that way. My unknown future, desire for the security of a career but also to just work on creative endeavors resonated with others. Many people who listened to the episode, recent grads themselves, responded that they had similar feelings.
In the episode, I asked Ambivalently Yours to talk about her experiences, and for some advice, on navigating making money but also making art and/or doing feminist work. This issue has been one that has been present for AY for years, and it was just starting to be one for me as someone about to graduate and need full time work, but also someone who is passionate about feminism, media, art, etc (basically everything that does not make money).
Now, the team at Rebelliously Tiny is grappling with this issue again as we try to raise funds to support a second season of the podcast. We got such phenomenal, kind feedback and support for the first season, and we have so many ideas we want to try out, that we are determined to make a second season. However, we also need resources to make this happen. We want to pay those that collaborate with us, and we want to produce the podcast at Oboro again. In turn, we decided to launch a Kickstarter to make it work.
A recent post by Ambivalently Yours speaks to much of how I feel about this struggle to want to make art but also need resources to do so, and to value your own time and energy, very articulately, and also to her personal experience as an artist:
“As I try to raise money for the Rebelliously Tiny podcast, a project that means the world to me… I keep struggling with the concept of making money as a creative and/or independent person. I say “concept” because it is hard to make a living from creative work. Especially if you are doing a job that looks “fun”. Most of the time people just want to pay me with exposure or not pay me at all. I have to work part time and run a shop and do a lot of contracts on the side in order to support any of the creative work I do. I’m happy to do it. I know that making art is a privilege that a lot of people don’t have. But it does weigh down on me sometimes. I hate having to ask for financial help. I feel guilty asking people for money for art, even though we live in a system where it’s impossible to create work without it. I still feel undeserving sometimes. Do you ever feel this way? How do you deal with these feelings? Can we talk about it?”
There’s also my feeling that I should be pushing myself to value my time more, and to expect money for my time and what I produce. This is all complicated by anti capitalism, by gendered perceptions of work and pay, and by perceptions of what goes into making art.
I was inspired by feminist art that was public and accessible in the form of street art in Montreal. In a way, that inspiration led me to Women in Cities International (WICI) because it made me think so much about safety in cities, who gets to move freely and easily, who feels welcome in this supposedly “public” space, who has the “right to the city.” WICI’s research shows that street harassment and sexual violence cause danger and harm, limiting women’s mobility and in turn their capabilities and the ease with which they are able to take advantage of the opportunities cities can offer. In turn, I think it is so important to continue and support this feminist art and these conversations. Podcasts are another format that is accessible, public. Many women listen to podcasts on their commutes through the city, and I hope Rebelliously Tiny provides some of the comfort and inspiration to others that feminist art and podcasts do for me.
Check out our Kickstarter page for more details on the project and our first season!
Please consider donating to/spreading the word about our Kickstarter to fund season two!
**All images and videos by Ambivalently Yours**