Blog / activism

  • #WomanCrushWednesday - Katie Stelmanis

    The first thing you’d probably hear about Katie Stelmanis is that she sings and plays keyboards for the very awesome Toronto-based band Austra. Moody and dance-able, their critically acclaimed music has been going in the ears (and eyes) of many for quite some time now.

    If you follow Katie on Twitter, you’ll know how active she is in maintaining dialogues about feminism, misogyny, transphobia, and more. Yesterday Pitchfork released a piece she wrote, Op-Ed: Why Is Violence Against Women Excusable If It’s “Art”? that draws attention to rapper/a-hole Action Bronson being booked to play a free, headlining show at a public venue in Toronto as part of the North By North East Music Festival. He has previously released music glorifying gang rape and other misogynistic garbage, as well as a now infamous transphobic tweet that lost him a lot of fans.

    After the announcement was made that he’d be playing a free all-ages show at Yonge-Dundas Square apetition began circulating to have his set moved to a ticketed venue. Signed and supported by Katie, a decision was made a few days ago in favour of removing Action Bronson from the lineup that night. As far as I know so far, North By North East folks are still working on an alternative for people who want to spend money to see him.

    In her Pitchfork Op-Ed Katie writes,

    Many of us, beyond those of us who signed the petition, are tired of music that is blatantly misogynist and an obvious promotion of rape culture being supported by festivals and corporate institutions. The reactions to protests such as ours has a very clear message: that violence against women isn’t a real issue, these are just songs, we should all just “chill out” and “have a good time.”

    Our safety matters and it is crucial for the music community to understand the role it plays. This is not just about a song, and it is not just about Action Bronson, it is about the many ways that women, trans people, and women of color are made to feel they do not matter and they do not belong in the music scene. But we know the truth. And we will continue to resist.

    Big love to Katie for all that she’s putting out into the world. You can read her full Pitchfork piece here.

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  • #WomanCrushWednesday - Marie Southard Ospina

    Marie Southard Ospina 5

    It seems like every time I'm  on social media I see this babe pop up for another super awesome thing she's doing. Marie is a writer and size acceptance advocate, currently working as an associate fashion and beauty editor at Bustle and I always thoroughly enjoy her work. She's worn a low-rise bikini on a beach and documented the reactions she received and another time she sent out a photo of her makeup-free face to see how Photoshop experts would manipulate the image to make her 'beautiful'.

    Recently Marie participated in one of my favourite body positive projects, What's Underneath. In her interview she talks about how she became the activist she is today and her struggles with self-acceptance. It's definitely worth a watch.

    Honestly, she has accomplished so much in such a short time that anything I write here would inevitably be insufficient.  Please check out her blog and get lost in the mountain of challenging work she's done to advance the body positivity and beauty diversity movements.

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  • My Newest Project - BUSH Magazine!

    If you're a frequenter of the UM+ shop, you may have noticed recently that there haven't been as many new arrivals as there used to be. This past winter our studio went under some major renovations and I was unable to process and photograph new products. It was frustrating and out of my control, so I decided to switch focus and delve into a new body positive project that I've been wanting to do since I was a teenager. I'll continue to work on this AND the store once the studio is ready to go again!
    Over the last couple of years my friend Stina and I casually threw around the idea of starting a fashion magazine together. We were both growing apathetic towards mainstream media and were getting most of our style inspo from incredible people who aren't celebrated in the fashion world. It's so often the same roster of totally awesome bloggers and celebrities but Stina and I started to feel like it's time to mix it up a bit. We decided to release some media of our own and create a little positive community that supports humans of all bodies, genders, and backgrounds.  
    BUSH Magazine has a focus on personal style and creative people and we're so excited about the content that's already been completed for Issue One. It would mean so much to me if you'd watch our video and check out the campaign. I would love to hear your feedback and if you're digging it, sharing is always appreciated. 
    Thanks so much!
    xo Amarina
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  • #WomanCrushWednesday - Emma Sulkowicz

    TW: Sexual assault.

    When I saw Emma’s name go by in my Facebook feed yesterday I immediately clicked on the link to get an update on her performance activism piece. Emma’s story first started circulating online after she began carrying her 50 lb. dorm mattress with her, everywhere she went. A form of endurance performance art, Emma titled her senior thesis Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight), making a commitment to carry it until her alleged rapist was expelled from Columbia University, where they both went to school. She could accept help if someone offered to carry it with her, but she could not ask for it.

    Nine months later, Emma carried her mattress to her final classes and people started wondering if she would bring it to convocation and if she would be allowed in with it. Sure enough, @teoarmus tweeted this photo today:

    Because some people are the worst, Jezebel reported this morning that large posters featuring a photo of Emma and her mattress with the words “Pretty Little Liar” scrawled across it were spotted in some areas of New York City. A @fakerape Twitter account also appeared and has almost 1,000 followers and as of this this afternoon it is still active and asshole-y.

    Emma’s activism and art is important and necessary, if you would like a fuller description of her project you can watch this interview with her.

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  • Launching the Latest Ursa Major+ Project!

    About a year ago, my partner and I were going for one of our regular night walks and we started throwing around ideas for fun things to make, as we always do. We are both creatives and had up to that point worked relatively independently when it came to our art. We decided that night to work together on a comic, something witchy, a story that featured exclusively kick ass women. It was a project that we chipped away at sporadically until we finally gave ourselves a deadline this summer. That date came and went (oops!) but the momentum pushed us to finally finish it and we are SO HAPPY with the results. 
    In the process we applied for a table at the Hamilton Feminist Zine Fair, which sounded like the perfect place to debut our comic baby Where We Meet - we had some proofs printed and off we went. The fair is tomorrow and we're so excited to share this with all the rad Hamilton babes! We also did a little interview about our project which you can read here and if you're into it, take a look at what the other vendors are up to.  If you're in the Hamilton area come hang out with us and all the cool humans making great feminist art!
    For the Toronto-area babes, we will be selling Where We Meet and I will have all of my plus-size vintage at the next Fat GIrl Food Squad Pop-Up! Annnnddddd for everyone else, I'll be adding a little section to the store where anyone who is interested can purchase the comic and some other sweet stuff that I've made. More on that really soon!
    xo Amarina
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  • Get Personal with Me on Instagram!

    I'm going to be adding more personal style content and talking vintage and beauty with babes from all over the place here on the blog, but I'm also always posting up a storm on the Ursa Major+ Instagram account.  Swing by and see what I'm up to on the daily, get sneak peeks of new vintage for the store and check out some of the other projects I'm working on (plus selfies of course!).
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  • Out and About: The Politics of Fashion/Fashion of Politics Opening

    On a warm night in September, I had the awesome privilege of standing a foot away from two incredible Alexander McQueen dresses. I can now cross that off my list of shit to do before I die.


    There was a moment when it didn’t look like it was going to happen, a mix-up at the door meant my partner and I weren’t on the list to get in. A brief moment of panic turned to victory as the issue was resolved and we sauntered into the Design Exchange. The evening was a celebration of the new exhibition “ Politics of Fashion | Fashion of Politics ”, curated by Jeanne Beker (her debut!) with art direction from Jeremy Laing.

     Drinks were flowing and the most heavenly pumpkin spice mousse was being passed around as we watched “Proud To Protest”, a video installation that Gareth Pugh and Nick Knight had created with Amnesty International in response to the prejudice towards the LGBT community in Russia. It features members of the international fashion community wearing balaclavas and ripping them off in one minute video clips that you can watch here .

    After we heard from Jeanne Beker and the exhibition was unveiled, guests ran upstairs to get a gander at the show and it did not disappoint. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who can visit it during the run (it closes January 25, 2015) but we saw politically charged work from Stella McCartney, Jeremy Scott, Vivienne Westwood, Commes des Garcons and more more more.

    As a fat chick and a fashion designer in the early stages of my career (and since we’re talking about protest), I’m not going to say that I completely stand behind this industry. There are many problems with fashion and there is a lot to be angry about: lack of diversity in models, sexism, garment production, fat shaming, and environmental concerns to name just a few. Still though, there is inspiration in the activism featured in this thought-provoking exhibit and I’d recommend it to anyone with $20 and some spare time on an autumn afternoon.

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