Women's Lib: Laura Wise Talks Feminist Collectives
Networking at the intersection of womyn and women.
Laura Wise is carving out feminist spaces for women in Los Angeles. She set out to create these much-needed spaces by founding the feminist collective HER/LA, an organization that brings women together through community and culture.
Last year, HER/LA’s first pop-up festival sold out weeks in advance. (Yes, you read that correctly—weeks in advance.) The festival, which featured art, fashion, and live music, brought together a collective of like-minded women looking to connect, discuss modern feminism, and have a good time.
By day, Laura is a professional therapist specializing in LGBT affirmative therapy. By night, she’s an experienced event planner, creating large-scale gatherings that benefit pro-social causes. In addition to HER/LA’s pop-up festival, she has created successful social occasions for organizations such as the Lesbian Center and AIDS/LifeCycle.
The Kind tracked down Laura to discuss festivals organized by women for women, the state of feminism in Los Angeles, and what’s next for HER/LA. (Hint: You’ll want to pack a tent!)
The Kind: Tell me more about HER/LA. What inspired you to start the LA-based feminist collective? And what exactly is a feminist collective?
Laura Wise: HER/LA is a small group of people, mainly friends and people who I am inspired by, that work to produce large-scale events for the feminist and female community, in and around Los Angeles. It's a great platform for artists to display their talents and for women to connect with other people that care about gender equality. A lot of people that come to HER/LA events are creative, feminist women who want to be surrounded by like-minded people.
We are the anti-mean girls,
the new wave riot grrrl,
who believe in the power of women supporting other women.
The Kind: You've mentioned that HER/LA's first pop-up festival sold out weeks in advance. What does that say about the climate of feminism in Los Angeles?
Laura Wise: I have noticed that my generation of feminists are more queer-minded. Movements change and evolve, and I think HER/LA is reflective of what feminism is today among my generation. Women are hungry for events like these, and I am attempting to meet that need. There is clearly a desire for more safe spaces where gender equality can be not only discussed, but celebrated.
The Kind: How does HER/LA's festival differ from other festivals, like Michigan Womyn's Festival for instance?
Laura Wise: Our last event was a week-long local festival consisting of things like empowerment workshops and yoga, ending with a celebratory evening of music. Because our event was so successful, I've decided to create a weekend-long camping experience for women. I hope this festival will meet the needs of all of the women who were displaced when Michigan Womyn's Festival closed in 2015. The main difference will be that HER/LA is, and always will be, trans-inclusive. We already have some amazing artists on board, and we hope that other feminist and artistic communities will join us.
The Kind: How would you describe the relationship between feminism and the LGBT community? Is it growing and changing?
Laura Wise: As a lesbian, it is very clear to me that the struggle of LGBT people and the oppression of women are closely connected. If our society truly believed that men and women (and everyone in between) were equals, LGBT relationships would be accepted, and women would experience a world where their ideas and voices were just as important as any man's. It's all connected. In fact, all oppression is connected. That is why understanding the concept of intersectionality is so important to any young person who cares about social justice. Google it!
The Kind: In addition to feminist event planning, you're also a therapist. How does your background in psychology influence HER/LA and your activism in the LGBT space?
Laura Wise: As a therapist, I understand the effect that trauma of oppression can have on an individual. I am passionate about empowering women and LGBT people in a society that doesn't. This shines through in most of the work that I do. I know that building community is an essential part of any social movement, and I am excited to be creating more space for that process to occur.
The Kind: What's next for HER/LA?
Laura Wise: Our weekend-long, festival, camping event near Los Angeles in 2017. I hope to see you there!
Each week "Women's Lib" checks in with amazing ladies and we make them fill out a feminist Mad Lib.