Shameless Issue 26

Shameless Issue 26

(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 26, the Fashion issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine. )

Every year or two, we have an issue that goes the way of this one; it just feels impossible to get out the door. Life/school/work gets in the way, contributors disappear, a piece needs a last-minute re-write; everything that can go wrong seems to to do just that. Scrambling together to make this happen then becomes the work of an entire community — friends (and friends of friends) writing, drawing and even sewing at the last possible minute, and people I’ve never met before showing up to my house very early on a Saturday morning to help proof and send this to the printer.

It seems only fitting that our first issue of our tenth year of publishing would exemplify both the challenges and the love and community that comes from doing something in such a grassroots way. That’s kind of the nature of an indie magazine — one run entirely on volunteer power — it’s a real team effort (a team that includes a huge community of supporters!). While chaotic at times, I can’t help but feel humbled by and grateful for everybody who makes this possible.

In all the chaos of getting-it-done, I had almost forgotten about the content of the issue itself. Reflecting on it now, (just) ahead of a looming print-deadline, I’m brought back to late last year when our editorial team shared snacks (as we tend to do) and talked about the role of fashion in our lives. That’s where this issue came from.

Even the lightest piece of clothing can carry the heaviest weight. A simple t-shirt is made up of the threads of nature, labour, struggle and resilience through colonialism, capitalism and globalization. It’s then re-imagined in our wardrobes to signal culture, style and politics, to reflect our personalities and to subvert or challenge stifling norms. Fashion does this in the most personal of ways — on our bodies — leaving us with a lot to unravel.

No matter how you look at it, fashion is political. Whether you’re talking about troubled histories (p. 14), cultural appropriation (p. 24) or awareness-raising (p. 6), there’s no getting around the political and cultural significance of what we choose to wear (and how we choose to wear it). But, we’re particularly excited about this issue because fashion can be fun, too (especially when you figure out how to own it, work it and flaunt it!). In this issue, we start by reclaiming fashion for bodies of all sizes (p. 13), abilities (p. 40) and budgets (p.7). We explore the ups and downs of fashion-as-expression (p.10) and keep tabs on people who are re-imagining the industry as a whole (p.18).

It’s a small start into a big world, but with it, we hope to start some exciting conversations that make us think critically and feel great while doing it.

Yours Shamelessly,


PS: Check out the new for our fashion blog series featuring staff and contributors talking about the significance of their favourite pieces of clothing!

AuthorSheila Sampath
Shameless Issue 25 Comp FINAL_Page_01.jpg

(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 25, the Love and Relationships issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine. )

I’ve been editing Shameless for three-and-a-half years now, and this letter, by far, has been the hardest for me to sit down and write. In working on this issue, I’ve come to realize that love and relationships aren’t things that we can talk about in abstract ways, because we experience them in such concrete and deeply personal ways. Relationships are loaded (everybody has strong opinions about how things should be), scary (they require honesty, trust, vulnerability and optimism), political (we carry and share our identities, histories and trauma with us all the time) and they are, by their very nature, incredibly diverse (we each experience and understand them so differently). I have had a hard time writing this, because I can’t write a letter that speaks for us; it’s just too deeply personal.

So much of how I talk about myself is in relation to the people in my life: best friend, partner, co-conspirator… the list goes on. These words hold weight because they define so much of who I am. It’s my community that has helped me shape my politics; my friends, lovers and chosen family who have shaped my well-being and sense of self; and my collaborators and co-conspirators who have nourished and fostered my creativity. It’s hard to separate myself from these people (and, I wouldn’t want to!) because they are an essential and central part of the person I’ve become.

I carry these relationships, and the love that comes from them, around with me every day, and I navigate the world with them in mind. They guide the fun I have, the things I make, the work that I do. They allow me re-focus my politics and activism so I can move beyond the urge to dismantle everything that’s bad in the world, and towards building something better, something beautiful.

That love and beauty has always been something that I’ve tried to bring to Shameless, and I get those things from working on it, too. Every issue allows me to explore ideas in new and wonderful ways, through the eyes of so many people — the editors, writers and artists that make this project happen. Those ideas, in turn, challenge the relationships I have with myself and my politics, and strengthen the friendship and solidarity we — at Shameless HQ — have with each other. I feel so lucky to work with people that I love, so much, on a project that I also love, so much, and to be able to use this as a way of forming new relationships with you, our readership.

When the topic for this issue came up at our staff meeting, we’d never had a livelier discussion or exchange of ideas. A lot of the pieces you see here came from a desire to expand on the narrow and rigid definitions of love and friendship that are most often given to us in movies, music and popular culture. For this issue, we’ve focused on our relationships with our selves (p. 18), our chosen and biological families (p. 24), and our bodies and our partners (p. 28). We explore grief (p. 12), nostalgia (p. 38) and agency (p. 13), and, with all of this (and more!), we only begin to scratch the surface.

As you read this issue, and the accompanying blog series on, it’s my hope that you feel the love that went into putting it together, and join in the conversation and dialogue to help us dig deeper and explore the most radical topic we could have chosen: love.

Yours shamelessly, Sheila

AuthorSheila Sampath

(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 24, The Sports Issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine. )

When the Shameless editorial staff first proposed a sports issue I started having flashbacks to gym class: the thanks-for-trying Canada Fitness certificates, never being able to catch anything ever, the pain in my chest every time I tried to run. Coming in last, getting picked last, hiding my body in the change room. Letting everybody down. I dealt with the trauma back then by learning to fake cramps through pretty much any physical activity. Eventually I decided that I’m just not a “sporty person.”

The best part about being an adult is that you can drop extra curricular activities that you really, really don’t want to do. And I was quick to drop sports. For well over a decade, I didn’t set foot inside a gym, I didn’t run (unless it was away from something, or toward an ice-cream truck) and I insisted on only riding my bike in the most leisurely way possible just to make it clear that I wasn’t treating it as a “sport.”

So, when confronted with sports (the concept) again in a Shameless editorial meeting, my first instinct was to see if I could fake a cramp out of this whole thing.

While I’ve grown accustomed to letting my team down in gym glass, the stakes felt different now that there was a team that I love and care so much about. If there were ever a reason to unpack and confront my discomfort, this was it.

Engaging with sports though a Shameless lens was a game-changer. I started to see that my apparent lack of skill with sports had less to do less with living in a body that doesn’t always work the way I wish it would, and more with engaging with sports in a way that didn’t always work for me. I started to understand that a part of being on a supportive and amazing team is that you have collective strength behind you as you try new and scary things. As I read articles about all the great things that sports can offer, when they’re done right, I felt inspired and decided to up the ante: I started boxing.

I’ll spare you the details of my uphill battle with the early days learning a new sport (short version: it wasn’t pretty, but was pretty hilarious), and just say this: it’s been amazing. I feel as though I found something that works for me in a space where I feel safe and supported. It feels great to replace the lack-of-control that comes from chronic pain with the feeling of empowerment that comes from my mind and body working together as a team. (And, I’m not going to lie: punching is super (super) fun.)

Working on this issue gave me the strength and perspective I needed to confront my bad feelings about sports, to step out of my comfort zone and into a boxing gym. And working with an amazing team here at Shameless gave me the strength and perspective I needed to approach this issue with an open mind. I learned from team Shameless, that sports are just like anything else: when they’re done right, you can become a part of something larger and more meaningful. And when you have folks who meet you where you’re at, challenge you and support you, you are simultaneously uplifted and humbled by a sense of freedom, accomplishment and community. I’m still a long way from doing more than three push-ups at a time, and a long way from wanting to become our regular sports columnist, but I’ve passed the initial hurdle of giving-it-a-go and I have everybody on our team to thank for that.

So, thanks to every member of team Shameless, here’s our sports issue. In it, we confront racist mascots (p. 14), get up a vogue (p. 17), build our own teams (p. 18), draw connections between skateboarding and social justice (p. 24) and find ways of finding the best sport for you (p. 33). We breakdown how the media marginalizes female athletes of size (p. 15), the economy of sports (p. 28) and the ins and outs of fantasy sports leagues (p. 41).

I am proud of what this issue represents: the product of our team working together to make something, and I am grateful for the impact this process has had on my own life. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Yours shamelessly, 

AuthorSheila Sampath

(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 23, The Justice Issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine. )

I can’t remember the first time someone told me that “life isn’t fair,” but I know that I’ve heard it too many times to count. It’s hard to remember a month in my adult life where I haven’t had it said to me, and, in the process of sitting down to write this letter, I realize that it’s entirely likely a month hasn’t gone by when I haven’t said it to someone else.

When I reflect on these three words and unpack their implications, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable with how many of us talk about fairness and how we understand our relationship to justice. “Life isn’t fair,” means that we understand right and wrong, that we understand justice, but that we have also grown to accept the sad reality that our day-to-day lives are often affected in ways that are inconsistent with these values. The statement suggests a push for complacency and acceptance, because that’s just how things work.

I am tired of hearing these words. I am tired of saying them, too. Yes, life isn’t fair, but also: yes, itshould be. And: yes, we can imagine a fairer world when those three words are used to start a conversation, not end one.

We hope to start that conversation with this issue of Shameless. In it, we ask important questions about our justice system and whose interests it serves (p. 18), we advocate to replace systems of punishment with those of community-led restoration and healing (p.28), and we provide a breakdown of how to affect the laws that affect us (p. 24). We challenge the policing of our classrooms (p. 10), our bodies (p. 13) and our closets (p.40), and we explore justice as it relates to the environment (p. 16) and our access to food (p. 38). With this issue, we hope to start a conversation about justice that can be used to challenge a culture of complacency and, in turn, fight for a fair and just world.

Yours shamelessly,  

AuthorSheila Sampath
(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 21, The Education Issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine.)

The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom with all its limitations remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labour for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom. — bell hooks

While putting together Shameless’s education issue, I had the chance to think about my own relationship to learning, both in and out of the classroom. I went to public school, then to university, then to college. And in each of those spaces, I had the opportunity to learn a lot. I took classes in science and grammar and history. I learned how to submit assignments on time and raise my hand when I had answers.

I’ve been out of school for a number of years now, and in that time I’ve had to unlearn a lot. I’ve since negotiated how to balance textbook science with intuition, English grammar with debates around the politicization of language, and capital-H History with the herstories we embody every day. While I still know how to submit assignments on time (a bit of a requirement when running a magazine!) I have since learned to raise my hand when I have questions; I have since learned that real answers are complicated and are few and far between.

Education for me, then, has become less about diplomas, degrees and course credits and more about the ongoing process of learning and unlearning, imagining and reimagining, failing and trying again. Education is just as much about the conversations we have over meals and the ways we share our stories as it is about assignments and tests. It’s about listening, and while it can and does often happen in the classroom, it also happens everywhere, and this process lasts a lifetime.

I continue to learn a lot from working on Shameless: from my fellow staffers, our wonderful writers and artists, our readership and our community. After every editorial meeting, I return to my work with newfound energy and perspective, and with every issue we produce, I continue to feel grateful for sharing this process of learning with you.

It’s with this spirit that I’m proud to present our education issue. In it, we explore alternative education models (p. 18), break down the Québec student protests (p. 24) and study up on Aboriginal education (p.28). We debate single-sex schools (p. 10), give advice on challenging your teacher (p. 12) and imagine an education designed for a better world (p.48). This issue just skims the surface. We hope to inspire you to continue the dialogue and to take control of your education, regardless of where you’re at, to make it work for you, to create your own paradise, your own possibilities and your own freedom.

Yours shamelessly,  


AuthorSheila Sampath
(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 21, The Health Issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine.)

What do we talk about when we talk about health?

Most of the ways that we talk about health have to do with our bodies. But the true meaning of health runs both much deeper and broader than that. Systems of health operate on every level; from the cellular to the personal, relational, familial, community and state level. And, what’s most interesting about these systems of health is how they function and rely on one another. It’s hard to maintain mental health when we are not living in a healthy nation state. It is hard to build healthy communities when we don’t have healthy relationships. When health on one level is compromised, health on every level is compromised. The fragility of it all is both terrifying and amazing.

Health is complicated. There is a lot to think about when we just want to feel better. We may start with ourselves, but accountability usually needs to happen on many levels: we need to be able to count on our families and friends to support and take care of us, we need to be able to rely on the state to provide us with access to equitable health care, we need to feel empowered to take care of ourselves and the people and communities around us.

That empowerment starts with knowledge of our own bodies and the systems that affect it. What resources are available to us? What services are being denied? We need to know what we have to appreciate it and what we still need to demand and advocate for.

That’s what we hope to accomplish with this issue of Shameless, our health issue. In it, we talk about health on personal, societal and state levels as health relates to mental health (p. 18), disability and the media (p. 28) and reproductive justice (p. 24). We give you a breakdown of your rights in your own medical decisions (p. 13), talk about environmental toxins in your makeup (p. 16) and give you a how-to on self-care (p. 33). We hope that with this knowledge, you will feel empowered to take ownership of your own health, to ask questions, make demands, and think critically of what we talk about when we talk about health. We hope that this will allow you to take care of yourselves, and, in turn, us all.

Yours shamelessly, 

AuthorSheila Sampath

 (Originally published on

Earlier this week, I was a guest on TVO’s The Agenda. For those of you outside Ontario (or without a television), The Agenda is a nightly current-affairs program, engaging in debates and discussions about politics, culture and society. (Note: video will be online soon; in the meantime, audio can be found here)

I was contacted by a producer of the show, Allison Buchan-Terrell, who invited me to be a guest panelist. As I understood it, the reason for doing this show at this time stemmed from the release of, and backlash against Naomi Wolf’s new book Vagina: A New Biography, and was meant to be a conversation about where the feminist movement is at, and where it is going (i.e. “feminism’s future”).

I had a great conversation with Allison on the phone. I explained that I hadn’t read the book, nor did I intend on reading it (my reasoning for this is below), and when she asked me why, I talked a lot about how I view feminism as being at arm’s length from sex, certainly from biological sex. My feminism is about deconstructing patriarchy, and, to do that, you need to acknowledge that patriarchy rests on broader structures, like colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. I told her that I didn’t see how a book about Wolf’s vagina plays into all of that, and I’d rather continue to focus my organizing around these more fundamental power structures. I was assured that my voice was valuable in that space; the book was only being used to provide broad topics of conversation: biology as destiny, sex and sexuality, privilege and diversity in the feminist movement, and who or what is feminist.

Before I go further, I should say that I believe the Allison had the best of intentions when setting this up. When we spoke, I talked about my own focus on anti-racist, trans-inclusive, queer-positive, class-based, sex-worker-positive feminism rooted in principles of self-determination and historical materialism. I said that without leadership from its most marginalized members, a movement will only ever replicate the broader systems of inequity it’s trying to eradicate. She asked questions and listened. I believe that listening to the experience of others is central to feminist work (again, more on this later).

I was excited to rep my awesome magazine (go Shameless!), to be an intersectional voice, and to talk about what inclusive feminism means to me — not so much in the context of a book that I didn’t read — but in the context of doing community-based work and producing meaningful media. At the same time, I also had my reservations about the show: for one, I’ve held a bit of a grudge against Steve Paikin after his classist comments post-G20, and, more generally, I have a wariness of the culture around liberal #canpoli discourse, which tends to debate politics in very comfortable ways that still support dominant paradigms and violent and racist ideologies (i.e. talk about issues within a broken system without challenging the system itself).

My discomfort around this political space was precisely why I felt like the panel was an important thing to do. Voices like mine are often excluded from the conversation because there is a culture of elitism and a very real lack of safety. I am not a cultural critic nor am I a celebrity feminist. I am a young woman of colour, and a survivor of sexual violence. I work very hard to live and breathe feminist principles in very real ways. I do this work by necessity, as it is a part of my own process of decolonization and survivorship.

My feminism isn’t centered around Naomi Wolf’s vagina

Here’s the thing about Naomi Wolf’s vagina: I just don’t care about it. Wolf was never an important feminist to me. I appreciate that The Beauty Myth was and is a very influential text to a lot of people that I admire and respect, and total props to her for writing it, but understanding beauty as a social construct and as a product of patriarchy (and colonization) was always pretty central to my own survival, and that understanding just happened to come from other places. I was ten years old whenThe Beauty Myth came out; at that time, I read Sassy, idolized TLC and Salt ‘n’ Pepa (after a bitter breakup with NKOTB) and I was learning about the social construction of beauty through my own experiences with pretty severe gendered racism. Years later, I developed most of my politics within the anti-violence movement, and in anti-oppressive spaces by listening to, learning from, and working side-by-side with my sisters at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multi-Cultural Women Against Rape (an organization all y’all should find ways of supporting). My political career as a feminist managed to largely avoid Wolf (until she made these unfortunate comments last year — what. the. hell.).

So when this book came out, I just didn’t give it much thought. And the more I found myself reading about it (for reviews and excerpts, click hereherehere and here), the more grateful I felt that I’d never put too much faith in this woman in the first place. The excerpts, quotes and descriptions of the book are literally jaw-dropping, and I’d rather save my cash for bell hooks’ new book, and I’d rather save my time to continue the work I’m doing on my own (total shameless plug here).

In other words, it’s just not worth my time: I’ve never wanted to build my feminism by bringing other people down, and I feel strongly that my energy is much better spent focusing on the things I feel areimportant and meaningful. It’s with that spirit that I went into Wednesday’s discussion.


I’d only met Steph Guthrie about half an hour before the live airing, and didn’t see or hear the other panelists until we went live. While I’ve been following Minna Salami’s blog for a while, I’ve not read any of Erica Jong’s twenty-two books. Like Wolf, she was never a part of my feminist trajectory, though I do respect the impact she’s had on a number of people. I was excited to “meet” her.

While I don’t believe in a universal feminism (more on this below), I do believe that as we have these conversations we should be able to rely on a shared set of feminist principles. These principles include acknowledging privilege (and adjusting your own interactions accordingly), respect (in the most basic sense of the word), and an understanding that we have a lot to learn from each other (and so it’s sometimes helpful to sit back and listen). I was disappointed to see that these principles weren’t a part of the feminist politics of some of my co-panelists. In a space where we’re meant to be talking about how the political plays out in one of the most personal of body parts, it only makes sense to think of how our personal interactions with one another are also, in turn, political.

For these reasons, I have a lot to say about how the conversation unfolded. But, more importantly, I feel I need to address some of what was said.

“Naomi is a controversial figure, she wants to be a controversial figure. The other problem is, she’s very pretty, and she has always had men in her life, and women in her life, and she is a sexual object. And, as long as you’re young enough and zaftig enough and pretty enough to be a sexual object, other women hate you. And God help you when you bring out a book. And if you bring out a book that says that you’re multiply orgasmic and that you enjoy sex to the fullest, you are just loathed … the hatred of women against women is on of the major problems in making feminism stick.”

Now, that’s a beauty myth if I’ve ever heard one. I don’t even know where to begin deconstructing this statement. It perpetuates a dangerous and inaccurate stereotype that women, by our very nature, are a bunch of catty b*tches who can’t stand seeing success or happiness in one another. It undermines the concepts of sisterhood, of personhood, decency, love and support upon which community-based feminism is based. And it’s scary because instead of opening up space for the very real criticisms of Wolf’s book, it dismisses, divides and silences. Never mind strong, articulate arguments: haters gonna hate, right? Actually, no. 

That being said, I think there is an important conversation to be had around how patriarchy functions in divisive ways, and how this often results in a culture of competition among women and girls. One of the first things I felt I had to do as a self-identified feminist was acknowledge and challenge this tactic in an attempt to overcome it. But without context and analysis, all a statement like that does is say that Wolf isn’t accountable to her feminist community for the things that she says. It’s insulting to critics like Jacklyn Friedman and Laurie Penny (who are hella lovely, by the way), it perpetuates the very beauty myths Wolf herself once wrote about, and it assumes that all of us want to look like able-bodied, femme-identified, zaftig white women. Trust me: we don’t.

On a more fundamental level, sexual objectification has nothing to do with beauty, in the same way that rape doesn’t have anything to do with attraction. Both have every bit to do with power. This reminds me, actually, of an experience I had at an American Apparel store many years ago, when an employee tried to force himself into my change-room while I was trying on a shirt, and then kept trying to grab at me after I came out. When I called and spoke to the manager, she said, “you should be flattered, you must be really pretty — a lot of girls are really into him.” It’s a dangerous attitude to take towards experiences of violence, harassment and objectification — it’s not okay.

“… you have to assume that an intelligent reader will have read Germaine Greer, Betty Friedan, etc., and will see that feminism is a process and that many different thinkers — Adrienne Rich, of Of Woman Born — many different thinkers have applied themselves to these issues.”

I think the only assumption we should be making here is that intelligent readers have diverse feminist trajectories. Many feminists of colour (who are also intelligent readers) have found these works personally irrelevant, because they don’t speak to our unique experiences of colonization and violence, and our unique experiences of sexuality and exoticism. An intelligent reader is not always a straight, white, 2nd-wave cis-woman. In terms of important feminists texts, I strongly recommend the works of people like bell hooks, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Himani Bannerji, Vandana Shiva, Rozena Maart, Andrea Smith, Sherene Razack and Dean Spade; the fiction and poetry of Lee Maracle, Dionne Brand and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha; and the art of Erin Konsmo, Cristy C. Road, Alison Bechdel, and my dear friend Coco Riot.

Looking for a good place to start? Try Jessica Danforth’s Feminism For Real: Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism and, challenge the notion that feminism began during the enlightenment or in a Marxist class war — we have to start looking at feminist history beyond just white history.

“… women are so angry about their own starvation. A woman who can’t have orgasms is not going to like the fact that Naomi Wolf does. A woman who’s vagina is not responding the way Naomi says her vagina is responding is going to be enraged! These are starving people at a feast! Starving women!” (Note: I wish this were a joke)

and, later:

“… [women] don’t get sex. They’re afraid of sex because sex can put you in a terrible miasma of need, and nobody is talking about that — the fact that good sex can make you so needy, so addictive that it almost crowds out everything else in your life. And women don’t want to do that anymore, they fight against it — and I completely understand that — it is difficult when you become so addicted to a lover that you don’t want to do anything else. That is difficult, and the nature the nature of female sexuality when it flowers makes you sometimes behave that way”

These statements (among many other similar statements over the hour) had me floored. We all just need to get laid, right? For any of us who’ve been told we’re “too uptight” and “just need a good f*ck” when we’ve tried to call out sexist, racist and homophobic behaviour, hearing this come from another woman, and — get this — a self-identified feminist, is disgusting. It’s reductionist: it centers women’s needs solely in vaginal sex and, terrifyingly, then suggests that the solution to all our problems lies in the penis. It feeds and fuels rape culture — you know, the same culture that produced a “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian” video game and later, rape threats directed towards my fellow panelist. This misogyny has been used to fuel sexual violence against queer and gender non-conforming women and trans people, it’s what’s yelled to me from cars when I walk down the street and muttered to me on the subway.

Contrary to some of the statements made during the show, not all women have vaginas, and those who do don’t always like to have sex with men. And women who have sex with men aren’t always interested in penetrative, vaginal sex. And, at the risk of sounding crass, those of us who are interested are stillnot vacuous holes, waiting to be filled. What. the. hell. It’s probably a damn good thing the camera wasn’t on me when these statements were made. Eye rolls for days.

“I think we can all be feminists and we can all push the definition of feminism and make it bigger and bigger and bigger until all women are feminist — that’s my goal … and men, as well.”

While I agree that there are multiple feminisms, and space within the movement for conversations, for the movement to actually achieve anything, we have to build from a set common assumptions and understandings, and we have to be able to do this with some conviction. We need to be able to agree on a trans-inclusive, anti-racist feminism and we need to be very careful not to replicate broader systems of inequity by having the movement lead by its most privileged members. We need to look to our Indigenous sisters, to women and trans people of colour, to queer-identified folks, to women with disabilities, women without (immigration) status, working class women, sex workers and migrant women. We need to look to the people who are hurt the most, not just by patriarchy as we understand it — as a product of the state and of capitalism and of misogynistic culture — but also, by misogynistic feminism, a term I never thought I’d have to use before Wednesday.

As for what is and isn’t feminist: the fact is, that’s a messy and pretty problematic question, and I wish Steve Paikin had listened when I, and other panelists, expressed as much. No, I’m not the feminist police. All I can do is find ways of living the feminism I want to see, and re-adjusting as I ask questions and, yes, listen to the answers. I can only continue to work to find ways of destroying and re-imagining the very systems upon which patriarchy situates — focusing on broader issues like violence, economic and environmental injustice, racism and sexual and reproductive rights — all the issues that we visit, and, more importantly revisit here at Shameless. As a feminist, I can deconstruct these issues through a gendered lens, but it’s an incomplete analysis to just end there. I do believe we should work to a universal feminism, one that is inclusive and intersectional, one that perhaps can start with sex and gender, but should never — ever — end there, and one that doesn’t, and will not ever centre itself in Naomi Wolf’s vagina.

It’s my sincere hope that the next time The Agenda (or any mainstream media) revisits “The Future of Feminism” as a topic for discussion that it is done in a way that allows for the nuances and complexities it requires (and hopefully without the Is this Feminist? quiz-show segment at the end). In the meantime, there’s always Shameless


AuthorSheila Sampath

(Originally published on 

Outside my work with Shameless, I run an activist design studio called The Public. This March, I was proud to be a co-facilitator of the Fight Like a Girl Activist Training Job, hosted by Newcomer Women Services Toronto. Fight Like a Girl was a two-week paid job in which twenty-four young women came together to talk about racism, forced marriage, gender-based violence and bullying, learn about media literacy and creation, and kick some serious ass with newfound Wendo skills.

The program was the brainchild of Maya Roy, Executive Director of Newcomer Women’s Services. Every morning, the girls had Wendo training, and in the afternoons, I had the privilege of working with them to develop their own campaign, Use Your Voice, designed to combat gender-based-violence and build self-esteem. On our last day together, I was joined by Ronak Ghorbani, Sarah Feldbloom, Natalia Saavedra, Sidra Mahmood, Victoria Barnett and Sarah Mangle who each facilitated hands-on sessions in social media, podcasting, poster-making, web design and zine-making, bringing the campaign to life. The results were pretty amazing.

The week was a fantastic one for me — I ended up learning so much from the girls who participated in the group and felt lucky to get to work with each and every one of them. One of the participants, Mehad Taha, 15, shares her experience:

Our Experience at Fight like A Girl By Mehad Taha

Hi my name is Mehad Taha and I am 15 years old and I applied for the Fight Like a Girl activist training and job because I wanted to understand my rights.

During the week of March break, I had the opportunity to meet different girls from around Toronto, with different cultures, and beliefs. On the first day of our job we had icebreakers so we could get to know each other.

The girls and I spent our mornings with Wendo instructor Deb, so she could teach us how to defend ourselves from people who try to harm us. She taught us self-defense moves like the Wendo Fist, theEagles Claw, the Hello and Goodbye and many more. We also learned we can walk outside with confidence, and if anybody tries to harm us, we know how to break their noses. Nobody can take our confidence away from us.

In the afternoons, we spent time with Sheila Sampath, who is the editor of Shameless magazine and works at The Public. We had conversations about ways we can feel good about our gender, our personal choices and our identities, so we can feel more comfortable and confident about ourselves. The girls and I talked about how it feels to see people talking about us in a bad way and how it can hurt us, we also talked about how we can avoid that problem and just ignore it. Sheila had asked us how we want to be seen, for example, a confident, independent girl/woman/lady/person that wont take crap from people!

Sheila gave us some of the tools to help us make our own campaign we called “Use Your Voice.” We wanted to encourage others around the world use their voices to defend themselves and never let others judge them. One of the great things about our job was that we were able to express ourselves to each other and be open about our feelings knowing that no one would judge us for who we are. We recorded podcasts, we made zines, some pretty posters, a website for others, and a social media campaign as well.

The person who organized the Fight Like a Girl Activist Training Job was Maya Roy from Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto. Before I joined the program, I thought about what the job was going to be like and how many girls where going to join. I thought I was just going to learn how to do yoga, that men can’t control us and would have to blog about what I did after. It was more then that. We got to do different workshops and make new things around our environment and make a website for younger girls.

Highlights included learning how we can build our strength and confidence. I learned Wendo moves from Deb who taught us how to defend ourselves and how to act when some one makes us feel uncomfortable. The one important thing I learned was that every girl is strong in her own way and we are all independent and we don’t need people to take care of us or call us different names. With my next job, I am hoping to be an independent person who can solve problems and protect myself and others.

I hope the program will find a way to continue so all of us girls who joined could teach a new generation of girls how to defend themselves and use their voices. I want all young people to know not to allow others to abuse you or tell you what to do or become. Because you control your own lives and know that you have the power to protect yourselves and have your rights.

Click here for photos and media links.

AuthorSheila Sampath

(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 20, The Money Issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine.)

Late last year, we published our first-ever labour issue, sharing stories of working people in an effort to create solidarity, community and dialogue. The issue looked at different kinds of work, how work is affected by other social identities like gender and status, and explored the challenges of finding ways of working with dignity, fairness and respect.

If wage labour is the heart of the capitalist machine, money is its lifeblood. As working people beat tirelessly on, they create surplus value that flows through the system, bringing just enough back to keep the system going.

It’s only fitting, then, that this issue of Shameless explores the nature of that lifeblood, figuring out how money works, the forms it takes, and the ways in which it flows from the veins of a capitalist system in and out of our lives.

We have a complicated relationship with money because money is a complicated thing. A dollar is never just a dollar. It represents different things to different people and its value changes over time. And, thanks to credit, it turns out you don’t even need to have a dollar to spend a dollar (though you might need to find two dollars to eventually pay one back). The one thing that is clear is that our forced dependency on money is central to survival under capitalism. Money is synonymous with access: to education and healthcare, food and shelter and to political power. The access that money grants and denies us sustains and reinforces inequities, class immobility and the broader system of capitalism and wage labour. Our economy is a mess, and isn’t working for 99% of the population. It definitely isn’t working for me.

There are a lot of ways to begin dismantling a system and building a new one, but while we take to the streets, create new co-operative structures or produce our own, totally radical independent media (hello,Shameless!), we also need to find ways of surviving. That means taking control of our money so it can stop controlling us.

And that brings us to this issue. In it, we give you some of the tools you need to manage your dough (p. 18), do what you love (p. 12) and live on a budget (p. 33). We challenge consumerism (p. 28), fight the fitness industrial complex (p. 17) and eat well on the cheap (p. 38). And, just so you know you’re getting your money’s worth, we’ve thrown in a pull-out poster and visual guide to making it as an artist (p. 26). We hope that with the tools, ideas and stories in Shameless, you can make ends meet so that you can focus on building a happier life and a healthier system.

Yours shamelessly,

AuthorSheila Sampath

(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 19, The Labour Issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine. )

On November 2, 2011, Oakland went on strike. In a formidable display of solidarity and support, workers across the city united in opposition to oppressive government policies, industry exploitation and state violence.

At home in Toronto, I watched while an estimated three thousand protesters successfully forced an operational halt to the Oakland Port. I was moved when I saw local businesses shut down in solidarity and I cried when I saw hundreds of school-aged children carrying crayon-coloured “Occupy our future” placards. The messages of anger, frustration and solidarity were echoed in Occupy and Decolonize protests across the world.

When workers are able to shut a city down, we are reminded of the power of labour. In the same way that we work to support our causes, our families and ourselves, we are, everyday, supported by hundreds of fellow workers: workers in the public sector who educate us, keep us safe and keep us healthy; workers in the private sector whose labour is sewn into the clothes we wear, assembled in the computers we use and written in the books we read. Labour is embedded in every product we consume and every service we rely on.

The production and consumption of wage labour is a necessity under capitalism; a necessity made even stronger by the growing income gap and increase in privatization. However, pervasive austerity measures, the normalization of contract and precarious or unpaid work and global and migrant labour divisions make it harder than ever to earn a living with dignity and respect. These government and industry policies disproportionately affect already marginalized groups of people: the working class and poor, women and trans people, migrant peoples, (dis)abled peoples, people of colour, Indigenous peoples, and, significantly, youth. Under a system of global capitalism, these policies fuel the income gap and contribute to a cycle of deplorable workers’ rights.

We spend a lot of time working, training to work, thinking about work, looking for work and recovering from work. While work has come to shape so much of our day-to-day lives, we need to start thinking about ways of using our work to shape the world around us. While work has come to define so much of who we are, we need to start finding ways of defining the terms of the work that we do. With this issue of Shameless, our labour issue, we hope to use our work to encourage you to think critically about your work.

In this issue, we feature workers speaking about unions (p. 18), internships (p. 24) and sex workers’ rights (p. 28). We bring you stories about tree planting (p. 8), workers going green (p. 16) and young women farmers (p. 38). We help you learn your rights at work (p. 12) and consider the labour that goes into the clothes we wear (p. 40). By sharing these stories of fellow workers, we hope to facilitate a dialogue around what it means to work with dignity and respect, and to facilitate solidarity among working people that allows all of us to collectively speak up for all of our rights.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our volunteer staff, writers and artists who continue to work tirelessly bring these issues to you. Shameless is a labour of love and we hope that with it, you are able to find love in what you do.

Yours shamelessly,


AuthorSheila Sampath
(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 18, The Politics Issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine.)

I’ve never felt disillusioned by the role or the intent of the Canadian government. That’s because I’ve never believed it works in my best interests, or in the best interests of most people I know. Still, from the time I turned 18, I did my best to make it work: I voted. I worked for a major political party. And I even came a breath away from running for one myself (note: never share empanadas and dissent with a party organizer).

But those were acts of desperation. I’ve known for a very long time now that I live and work on stolen land. I know that our country exists because of the genocide of Indigenous Peoples, that Canada continues to exist because of ongoing colonization. I know the ways in which government fails Indigenous Peoples and continues to create huge disparities among settler populations along lines of race, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, status and class. My acts of political engagement within the system come from a belief that I can be empowered to make a change, and that any change has got to be an improvement on what we’ve got.

For those of us who engage with party politics, this past year has been particularly exhausting.Shameless HQ is in Toronto, and 2010–11 brought us three disappointing elections. Now, in the name of austerity, we face threats to social services, the arts and economic and food security — things that make up the social fabric of a society. It hurts.

When things get this bad, I am especially grateful for other kinds of political engagement. I came into my current life via community organizing, crisis counselling and by exploring the intersection between art and radical politics. I am grateful for community: for groups like the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multi-cultural Women Against Rape, who have organized 31 years of Take Back the Night, forthose who took to the streets during the G20 in Toronto last year, and for those who identify with the 99% and continue to resist as I write this. I am also grateful for Shameless.

Shameless has become a community to me: a community within itself, and a community that extends beyond the amorphous walls of “Shameless HQ.” When Jack Layton passed away and I needed someone to talk to, there was a Shameless editor equipped with sushi and insight there for me. When the experience of reading Feminism for Real totally rocked my understanding of what it means to identify as a feminist, there was a group of editors, writers and bloggers around to take that journey with me (stay tuned for our very first Shameless Book Club podcast). And, when we as an editorial staff struggled with the enormity of putting out a “politics” issue, there was Erin Konsmo (Métis/Cree Indigenous feminist artist and change maker), who provided invaluable support and guidance that saw this process through. I am grateful for Shameless because this community provides us with ways ofmoving beyond desperate acts of political engagement and empowers ourselves to produce the kind of media that we want in an effort to create the kind of world that we want.

As a reader, you are a part of this community, too. The most basic building block of dissent is dialogue, and we hope to promote that with every issue. As you flip through the pages, read about Indigenous Sovereignty (p. 18), question the system that we’ve got (p. 23) and challenge what Canada is doing abroad (p. 29, and check out the feature online here). When you’re done, I invite you to join the community that’s become so important to me: write to us, continue the conversation and empower usto produce the kind of media you want, to create the kind of world that you want.

Yours shamelessly,

AuthorSheila Sampath
(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 17, The Language Issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine.)

This March marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. To honour the occasion, The Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente got her hate on and wrote a scathing letter to Canadian feminists. The message: it’s 2011 and feminism is irrelevant. Get over it!

Shameless blogger Emma Woolley fought back. On our newly re-launched and fresh-faced blog, she brought forth the kind of sass that does us proud — the smart, articulate kind — the kind that takes a pretty bogus argument and challenges it, point-by-point, until the only thing you can possibly do after reading it is take to the streets, rally, march and celebrate the 100th International Women’s Day with more gumption than ever.

This year is Shameless’s seventh anniversary, and my fifth year with the organization. Admittedly, it hasn’t always been easy. Working for an independent magazine means a lot of deadlines and responsibilities. It means barrages of emails and lots of long days and late nights. But I re-discovered, after reading Wente’s article and Woolley’s response, that words are powerful. They have the ability to anger and to inspire. The words that we write, edit and publish here at Shameless have that potential as well. And, navigating that potential and doing my part to keep Shameless alive has grown to become my own act of feminist resistance.

The power of words, the power of language: that’s what this issue is all about. In it, we learn the meaning of the word stud (see “Sexy. Sef-Assured. Stud,” p. 28), and question the true meaning of justice (see “Justice for Girls Makes the Case,” p. 24). And we explore the ways in which we use language to resist (See “The ABCs of Words: An Activist’s Toolkit,” p. 18), reclaim (see “What is a Bitch,” by Shameless Wire grads, p. 10) and reflect (See “This is About Having an Accent,” p. 48). With that, I leave you to eagerly await this issue, these words and this feminist act.

Yours shamelessly,

AuthorSheila Sampath
(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 16, The Music Issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine.)

Earlier this year, we released a new mandate and, with it, we sent out a call: we are Shameless, and we are putting together a team of people devoted to grassroots publishing, each with a commitment to anti-oppression and inclusive feminist politics; each with time, vision and a desire to work many (many) hours to bring this unapologetic alternative magazine to young women and trans youth. Three times a year.

Admittedly, it was a tall order. In all honesty we expected, at most, a handful of applicants; we anticipated having to extend the call or combine roles to cope with a poor response. Instead, we got tons of amazing, talented feminists with great politics, awe-inspiring experience and boundless energy, all wanting to work together to take what we as an organization have built over the last six years to a new level.

In a couple of weeks, our new Shameless will be hitting the stands, and I couldn’t be happier. From concept to completion, the issue is a reflection of the voices and politics of our new staff. In it, we explore the relationship between pop and politics, the history of body-shaping under-things and the unfair ways in which young women are targeted in public awareness campaigns about sexting. We reunite with our old friends from the Miss G_ Project, and make new friends with Linda Manzer andMaylee Todd. We introduce three new columns to the magazine: green scene (exploring environmental issues), she said/she said (a face-off between two teens taking opposite sides of a debate)and a comic by our dear friend and long-time contributor, Coco Riot.

This is the new Shameless. Welcome.

Yours shamelessly,  

AuthorSheila Sampath
(Editor's letter from Shameless issue 15, The Cycling Issue. Originally published in Shameless magazine.)

When I joined Team Shameless as art director in 2006, I couldn’t have predicted the impact the magazine would have on my life. Shameless gave me more than an opportunity to flex my design muscles: I became part of an amazing community of inspiring feminists, each with stories to tell and endless energy with which to tell them. That’s just one of the reasons that I was excited to step into my new, additional role as editorial director at Shameless.

Watching our organization grow over the years has been nothing short of amazing, and I’m looking forward to even more exciting projects and experiences ahead.

Since our last issue, we’ve drafted a new mandate, welcomed some new editors to our staff, brought in a new web team (with a site overhaul in the works) and restructured the way we work to better reflect the anti-oppressive values at our core (stay tuned for ways you can get involved). In the midst of this, we also assembled an interim staff of truly shameless women, who, in addition to their roles as board members, writers, educators and editors, took on the extra work of putting together what I think is a fantastic fall issue, currently on the presses. Once you get a hold of it, be sure to check out our masthead and send them a little “thank you” for their dedication, hard work and that endless energy I mentioned earlier.

This coming issue (expected to arrive mid-September) is the first of many that will strive toward our new vision. In it, we bring you a chorus of bicycle bells, the voices of our sisters at AQSAzine and options for life beyond high school. We explore rape culture, the intersection of race and feminism and the etymology of the word “cougar”. And, to tide you over until the winter, we give you the tools you need to surf the web in style, make a mean eggplant lasagna and fly a kite. Be sure to take advantage of oursubscription sale before the month’s end, and I hope that you enjoy our fall issue as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together for you.

Yours shamelessly,

AuthorSheila Sampath