Bechdel Tested Creator Erica Shiner in Toronto.
I first met Erica Shiner briefly at her Bechdel Tested Event, Pretty in Pink. She had gathered together an esteemed panel of fashion experts to discuss current feminism issues and how that effected their work in their respective fields. It was only later through direct messages on Instagram that I found out that she was a hardcore astrology pro! After having a quick photo shoot at my favourite winter bar, Swan Dive (owned by her sister!), I got to pick this triple-fire sign’s mind (Leo Sun, Sagittarius Moon, and Leo Ascendant). She blew me away with her astrology knowledge, professional drive and feminist ideals! Read more about this real life Wonder Woman below.
Erica, what do you do?
I do freelance communications for unions, not-for-profits, and political organizations. I specialize in copywriting, social media, and creative digital campaigning. I also sometimes run for office and publicly battle misogynists.

What inspired you to start the Bechdel Tested event series?

I joined the board of the Revue Cinema in 2015. I had recently created and championed a viral campaign that made international headlines; that got me engaged in feminist activism and the series was a natural extension of that. My career path lead me through several male-dominated, macho industries and I wanted to do something to bring women together in fields where women are marginalized or challenged (turns out that is most arenas!).

The panelists of Pretty in Pink L to R:  Photographer Renata Kaveh, Fashion Editor Odessa Paloma Parker, Fashion Stylist Tricia Hall, Erica Shiner, Fashion Designer Catherine Adda and Model Agency Owner Nafisa Kaptownwala. Photo by Akemi Liyanage.

What’s your favourite Bechdel Tested movie? 

One of my recent faves is Mustang, which we launched the series within April 2016. Some older, formative feminist faves are Antonia’s Line, Girlfight, and The Legend of Billy Jean. Also saw some very interesting, lesser-known gems at TIFF in recent years: Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari, In the Crosswinds, and Mountain.

What do you have planned for Bechdel Tested this fall?

I’m so excited to be launching the new season with a fun partnership: we’ve teamed up with the IFOA (International Festival of Authors) to focus on women in writing on October 29th and we’re screening A Quiet Passion with Cynthia Nixon. We haven’t announced all of our panelists yet but you heard it here first that award-winning author Farzana Doctor will be joining us and I’m so thrilled about that! Upcoming themes for this season are Religion in December, Politics in February, and Cycling in April. Also, stay tuned for some overdue branding including a new logo!

How did you first get interested in astrology?

My hippie mom raised me on it. I actually used to practice semi-professionally and studied at the Centre for Psychological Astrology in NYC in my early twenties, but my interest has fallen to the wayside over the years. Even when I was teaching myself the intricacies of birth charts I maintained a skepticism throughout. But when I started doing readings for people I hadn’t met, the uncanny accuracy of my interpretations was too much for me to doubt. I still have an inner dialogue about it that wrestles with the lack of a rational explanation, but that’s probably just my Mars in Gemini!

How do you feel astrology benefits people?

I think one of the most valuable things about astrology – in depth, not sun sign-oriented – is that it provides a system of interpretation for our psyche and how our personality is shaped and influenced by outside themes and events, and how we can grow and change within this framework. I’m particularly interested in Jungian astrology and the ways that Jung based some of his core theories on the basic tenets of the zodiac.

How difficult is it to learn about astrology?

I’d say that like anything, it’s easy if you have a natural inclination and possibly very challenging if not. Some people get very into the math of it, others delve into the history, and probably the majority focus on the psychological theory. There are loads of resources online, but I urge anyone delving into it to avoid cookie-cutter approaches. Every chart is completely different and you can’t accurately separate out any particular aspect or placement without weaving it all together as a whole.
Erica Shiner at Swan Dive in Toronto
Tell me a little bit about your past life as an Astrologer! What was your favourite part of practicing astrology?
My favourite part about reading charts was the challenge and excitement of honing in on each individual’s deeper psychological issues and life themes, as well as offering constructive solutions on how people could counter elemental and energetic imbalances and break unhealthy patterns. I loved being able to offer insight into people’s childhoods and personal histories that served to overcome ongoing difficulties and point them in a healthier direction.

How would you describe your personal style?

Regal Chameleon. I love using fashion to dress for a part, but not necessarily in a big, theatrical sense. I was very into acting as a child and love to use clothes to transform into a particular part of myself for any given outing or event. That’s the chameleon part. The regal part is that I love big shoulders, rich colours, and attention! My lizard-print DVF trench is probably the best marriage of these two elements of my personal style. When I wear it I feel flashy and incognito at the same time.

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