Ottawa’s Feminist Fair – All You Need to Know

*In this article, there will be discussions of sexual violence and rape*

Calling all self-identified feminists, crafters and everyone else living in Ottawa. The 5th annual Feminist Fair, organized by the Feminist Twins (@FeministTwins on Twitter) is coming up on November 4th 2018. Local vendors and shoppers will be gathering at Makerspace North from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. There will be a wide variety of vendors and items for sale. With the holidays approaching, this is a great event to get some shopping done before the stress kicks in.

Plus, if you wanted another reason to come out to this amazing event, all proceeds will be donated to the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC). Established in 1974, the ORCC adopts a feminist approach to their work as they support and empower women, gender-fluid, non-binary, and trans survivors. Services offered by the ORCC include; counselling services for survivors, a 24/7 crisis line (613-562-2333), public education activities and so much more.

The incredible organizers of the Feminist Fair, Jenna and Kayla from Feminist Twins, sat down and answered all our burning questions about this event and shared why this event means so much to so many in our city!

HCuO: Tell the readers of the University of Ottawa’s Her Campus a little bit about yourself! (Names, pronouns, passions, interests, guilty pleasures, whatever you would like!)

Kayla “Spag” Spagnoli, uses she/they pronouns. Used to be a funeral director and embalmer before getting into feminism. Grew up on an apple orchard. Likes to do stand up comedy, crafts, and video games.

Jenna: My name is Jenna, I also use she/they pronouns.  I’m a graduate student at Carleton University, in the Master of Social Work program. I spend a lot of time going to the gym and trying new activities.

We both love horror movies and our pet peeve is when people say that Ottawa is boring. 

HCuO: The Feminist Twins have been involved in Ottawa based feminist work for quite a while now. How did you and your twin first get involved in the feminist community?

K: I got involved because of Jenna mostly; she wanted to start volunteering at Planned Parenthood Ottawa and so I wanted to, too. We then thought it would be cool if we started a microblog about volunteering and activism opportunities in Ottawa. At the time, we called it “Above Ground Promotions” (a funeral saying: every day above ground is a good day). A year later we came up with “Feminist Twins” which suited us much better (I think Jenna came up with the name, but Jenna says I am the one who came up with the name. I guess we will never know!)

J: I was encouraged to make a Tumblr account when I was 23 and it hugely influenced my worldview and exposed me to the basics of feminism. I still really value that method of teaching (through social media, using accessible language and easy to relate to examples) because feminism should be for everyone and not just something seen as only academic.

HCuO: Where did you get the idea to organize the Feminist Fair? Did you ever expect it to grow into what it is today?

K: I was influenced by the Punk Ottawa Flea Market’s very DIY style and charity component, and “Not Your Grandmother’s Craft Fair” which I never went to, but appreciated their name.  The first year we did it, was at Pressed on Gladstone, and I knew right away after the event that we needed double the space. I don’t think I necessarily thought it would grow into this. I am happy to see that the Feminist Fair has influenced other events!

HCuO: What makes the Feminist Fair different from other Ottawa craft shows or fairs?

K: Basically the fact that we try to make it as community-based as humanly possible; for example, we have no entry fee, or if someone does donate, it goes towards a local Ottawa Charity (this year we are splitting it between ORCC and future FT events because we don’t have government funding.)

J: What it comes down to is our goal is to create a community-driven event that people feel like they can attend and meet like-minded folks and learn more about women and queer led businesses and non-profits in Ottawa

What it boils down to is that we plan the Feminist Fair each year in a “people over profits” mentality. We really want people to attend, regardless if they can donate or make purchases. We also don’t pay ourselves for the work we put into the Fair (which is probably about 10-15 hours each of us per week, in addition to our jobs/school).

HCuO: This year you selected the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre to be the recipient of the fair’s proceeds. Can you tell us why you chose this (great) organization?

K: This year we had local initiatives and organizations apply, and we (along with our amazing steering committee) voted.

J: Something we have done differently this year is that we realized we needed to expand the voices behind the Feminist Fair, so we have an amazing steering committee. They help us make any big decisions, like who would be the recipient of the Feminist Fair funds this year. It was a hard decision because we had seven non-profits and community groups apply! We also know some of the staff and volunteers at the ORCC so we know first hand the amazing work they do.

HCuO: There is a societal shift taking place thanks to the #MeToo, #TimesUp, #IBelieveHer, #WhyIDidntReport, and other conversations regarding consent and sexual violence. What do you feel the biggest advantages are to this shift? Do you have any concerns or worries that some issues are being left behind?

J: I think some of the biggest advantages of the emergence #MeToo hashtags etc would be that we are seeing people talk about their experiences related to sexual violence. Of course, there are many, many people who still can’t talk about their experiences for a multitude of reasons, but the fact that we are seeing more conversations about it will hopefully lead to law and policy changes, and maybe even changes to the criminal justice system (here’s hoping!). At the very least, some women are getting validation and support for sharing their experiences. So many times, women think that they have to have been raped to experience sexual violence. These conversations are showing us that sexual violence happens on a continuum, and happen way more often than we think. I worry society will get compassion fatigue, and they will become apathetic to this issue because they have heard about sexual violence so much, or that if laws do change, they won’t be intersectional and only benefit some women (which is true now, but I am afraid it will get worse). I think about women of colour, indigenous women, women with disabilities, and sex trade workers. Will they ever see the same level of justice as young, white, able-bodied women?

HCuO: Anything else you would like our readers to know?

J: Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that the Feminist Fair would be as big as it has been, and I am so lucky to have so much support. It is very motivating and makes events like these worthwhile. So thank you to everyone who shares/supports/attends the Feminist Fair (or any of our other events)! We also love collaborating on events so please feel free to reach out to us ([email protected]). Additionally, I hope that Ottawa will increase accessibility efforts because it is very hard to find accessible and affordable venue rentals which people may not know unless you are an event planner. It’s either one or the other and that’s really unfortunate. I think as a city and the capital of Canada, we can do better.

K: I second what Jenna said about collaborating, and the hardship of finding accessible and affordable venues. Also, these events only happen because people come out and support them, and engage with us! I am always so humbled when strangers recognize me as “one of the twins”.

I would also like to see us invited to speak at different events outside of Ottawa and bring more people outside of Ottawa to speak at our events, in 2019.

You can check out the Feminist Twins on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by checking out @feministtwins or by visiting their website here

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