When I started Bad Girls Club, I wanted to construct a space free of toxic masculinity, misogyny, and ego—a safe-space for female-identified creatives.

I also wanted to combine the entertaining, social, and dynamic aspects of a party with the meaningful, contextual, and interpretive elements of an art show.

More than anything though, I wanted to contribute to a necessary re-signification of female subjectivity and feminist discourse—one in which notions of self-love, sexuality, and independence are investigated because they are undeniably linked to our struggle and success as feminists, as women, and as artists.

The result was the Bad Girls Club, an art show/panel talk premiering in Toronto featuring 28 female-identified artists ranging from ages 19-65. I asked some of the featured artists about why this show, and these topics, are so important to explore as women.

—Ariella Starkman

As a woman, modern love impacts (in some way or another) my notions and experience of self-love, independence and sexuality for both myself, and other incredible female/feminist friends in my life.

Simply put, I see “modern love” as something very hectic and fast-paced, with traces of unaccountability (I can admit to being on both sides of that behavior). Self-love is basically a permanent life goal for me. With the freedom to be however/whoever we want, the challenge is then finding one’s place in the proverbial modern sun, and how we allow society to influence our standards and ideas of sexuality/self worth etc.

I think there is general social acceptance/expectance of sexualized behaviours/demeanours with woman which obviously is fine when you make the choice to participate, but becomes kind of problematic when you just don’t want to play it like that.

I think modern love is both skewing and enabling my notions of self-love, independence and sexuality in many facets of my life #modernlove #modernlife #modernstruggle.

There are so many incredible female artists out there. Perhaps, other emerging female artists can relate to the fact that living in a male-dominated art world creates a necessity to step out of familiar roles.

For me personally, I tend to politely word my calls for submissions, I ask for my needs to be met during gallery installs, and I tend to ask for permission for things—women need to just stand up and state their needs. Don’t ASK, TELL. I mean, that’s scary as hell but how else can we compete with what’s generally considered a male trait?

There’s a lot of hate out there (mostly cowardly online anonymous hate), so to give female creatives safe-spaces to share and contribute dialogue (and create a space for constructive criticism) around their work is an acknowledgement of an outstanding gender imbalance.

At 19, I reached feminist puberty. All of a sudden, I realized that everything I was experiencing in my romantic and sexual relationships were seriously flawed.

After many nights spent crying my body weight in tears, I reluctantly saw the personal disappointments, frustrations, and failures as symptoms of an inequitable and patriarchal society. Since then, I’ve trained myself to seek experiences related to love, sex, and relationships with a combination of autonomy, meaning, and intimacy that is informed by my feminist consciousness.

So now, I see practicing self-care, manifesting self-love, maintaining independence (without defaulting as emotional caregiver), and authentically communicating your sexual needs and desire as some of the most basic and revolutionary principles of feminism. Plus it helps to stay the hell away from people and partners who don’t vibe with that sentiment.

Male gallerists have been really receptive to the concept and motivation behind Bad Girls Club. The skeptical side of me wants to say that it’s because they know in order for Toronto’s art scene to thrive, solidarity is superior to competition. On the other hand, I’ve experienced some institutionalized misogyny that really bums me out, that signifies that women are meant to be the muse, not the creator.

I believe that safe-spaces for female creatives offer an opportunity to publicly denounce sexist oppression and subvert dominant male power structures. Plus, it is where we can create our own empowering and subversive meanings, coalescing as an example of the multiple identities and potentialities that feminism represents.

I think it’s inherently feminist to prioritize a community-based love in order to gain independence. When you have a solid group of people who love you, you are then able to love yourself, and if you love yourself, it will attract the right kind of people.

I’ve been lucky to have a group of female cultural producers in my tight knit group, which has kind of made me a bit naive when it comes to men in the art world. Most of the times I have been in shows, in the press, or have had opportunities to speak on panels, or curate, it has been because of my female connections. Because of this, I’ve never felt the need to adhere to any other agenda, and can be true to my politics and aesthetic.

The few times I’ve had to work with men, I am careful to only expose myself to people I know and have friendships with so that I don’t have to defend or adjust my practice. This may sound separatist to some, but I see it as a way of protecting myself and my art by showing with, and to people that I feel are my audience and peers—a safe space of sorts.

Having a safe-space to share and contribute, and create a dialogue around our work is essential to me, and most women I know. As young artists we are already apprehensive about our practice, and I don’t think it’s necessary to expose yourself to a space or group of people who may have the intention of silencing you.

That being said, a safe-space to me doesn’t always mean a “nice” one—you should definitely feel comfortable enough to open up, and share—but, it should be a diverse space and a challenging one in order to grow and bounce off of one another.

Currently I’m living in Florence, Italy where I’m doing my graduate studies in Art Conservation. The entire faculty, my colleagues and advisors are women. So, if the present moment is all that exists, I do not live in a male-dominated art world. I do, however, specialize in conserving art that is often damaged because of patriarchal disasters, and learning to undo 19th century restorations that were predominantly executed by men.

So although men still occupy much more space in the art world, I do believe the tides are changing and an equilibrium is slowly emerging as more and more women are reclaiming their role within the art world and holding incredibly important positions in the art world.

It was during my undergraduate studies when I realized the necessity of female safe-spaces. The innate resilience and inclusiveness of these communities act as a disarming mechanism; I am safe to discover my own voice as a feminist, face my own fears and share in communal strength.

At the root of these “spaces” whether it be online, or IRL, is compassion, acceptance, fire & love. When these elements are sincerely palpable, all inhibition dissolves and we can confidently question, collaborate and create in a constructive way. As I get older, I notice I rely more and more on these female safe-spaces because they allow me to feel closer to my universal body and its cycle, widen my perspectives, feed my brain and all the while fulfill my duty as a human to help others become what the intend to be.

I believe that the closer we are as “women” the more inclusive the world will become.