The first time I attended a Tokeativity event, I knew I wanted to go back. I’d been to gatherings at the same venue, all of which were wonderful, and I’d been to women-centric cannabis industry events too. But there was something unique about this evening, and it wasn’t hard to name: Tokeativity was a women-only space. Explicitly, unabashedly, defiantly. And that was thrilling.
Co-owners and curators Lisa Snyder and Samantha Montanaro have intentionally built an events series that is women- and cannabis-focused, and absolutely no men are allowed. Because that matters – we women are actually quite different, they contend, when we can connect and communicate without a patriarchal influence. Tokeativity appeared on the scene at a time when so many women were seeking friendship, community, and an outlet for the unrest, anxiety, and frustration they’d been feeling since the election. It’s become a touchstone that we return to because it offers us a space to find refuge, to resist the negativity in the world, and to refuel among likeminded ladies.
Did I mention there’s weed?
We recently talked with Lisa and Sam about the birth of Tokeativity, the need for collaboration among women, and how more women can benefit from the experience they’re creating. Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Jenn Lauder: Will you tell us the story behind Tokeativity? How did this dynamic duo come together?
Lisa Snyder: I went to a Women Grow event in November of 2015, and I heard Sam telling somebody that she was an event planner. I had done events in the past and I missed that, and then she introduced herself and I grabbed her card. I had been thinking about doing feminist events again and I didn’t know where to do that, and I wanted to combine cannabis but I didn’t know how to navigate that space.
In December, I found Sam’s card again, and I decided it’s time to write her. I wrote all my ideas, and then I just pushed send and released the outcome and was thinking, I just don’t know what’s going to happen. But she wrote me back and was like – Yes! Let’s talk. When I met her, I had gotten Tokeativity.com and all the social media because I thought it was really cool and exciting. Toking and activity. And when I said it, she totally lit up. When somebody else was excited about it, it suddenly gave it more power.
Samantha Montanaro: My entire adulthood I’ve connected with women. Growing up in the Midwest, there was a lot of feminine competition and pettiness, but I never subscribed to that. I didn’t ever want to be a part of it. So, I started hosting dinners in Chicago, just more and more ladies’ nights at my house. For a long time, that was something I created space for.
When I moved and I was thinking about launching Prism House – and it wasn’t cannabis focused yet – I hosted my first ladies’ gathering with six random women I had met. These women who are now important in my life, but I’d just met them then. Cannabis was legalized in July, we started doing cannabis events, and come the end of the year, I’d done a ton of different things. But I had yet to do a ladies’ cannabis event.
That’s why when I saw Lisa’s email, this was on my list already, this was high priority. She had so many great ideas and they were in line with what I had been thinking. Lisa’s done a lot of feminist events and I wasn’t comfortable in that space. But I am a feminist and I had navigated the cannabis consumption event space, legally and physically. It was a match made in heaven.
JL: And it seems like you tapped into something that was so needed, like you tapped into a moment where this was ripe to blossom.
LS: Women’s space is hard to find. You release little onion layers of yourself when you’re in a women-only space. It’s like you can find more parts of yourself and allow others to see you for who you truly are. And especially with the landscape of the change in power that we had at the beginning of the year, I think women were ready – straight women, in a new way that I had never experienced because I don’t identify as straight – were like oh my god – they were ready for something.
They were ready to be empowered, they were ready to talk to each other about how fucked up everything is, how much misogyny there is in the world that they didn’t even see before. I actually thought there’d be a lot more queer women coming to Tokeativity, and when I learned that there were a lot of straight women, I knew there was something they needed. I knew that I could provide the space for it and Sam could provide the physical space for it and that we together could do these things and make a moment for women.
“The more feminist and cannabis gatherings that are happening, the more good that’s going down in the world.”
JL: How about the response you’ve gotten from participants – women who have been in your space and have participated in what you’re creating?
LS: It feels good, but it’s still crazy that there are women who have never experienced being in a women-only space. I mean they may have gotten together with their girlfriends here or there, but there’s always patriarchal energy. We need to get away from that thinking if we’re going to actually move forward. And in order to get away from that thinking we have to be in spaces where we don’t have that focus. Because no matter if you have the most feminist man on the planet, they still grew up in the patriarchy, with that privilege. I think that women didn’t know that they needed that until the change in power. It was a motivator for us – for women – to seek it out.
JL: There’s also something ancient too, like you’re bringing women together around herbal medicine, around plant medicine.
SM: Around herbal medicine, around art, around activities – it is so indigenous. I’ve been reading more about how women, with their cycles being synced, would go into a hut together and just be together and I’m like, god I would love that! It is something deep down that most women feel the need to fill in some way. Especially with cannabis happening at the same time, with this feminist movement, with this female plant, it is fascinating and exciting. And I do think it’s cosmic – there’s something that’s right in general right now, and then with Tokeativity – it’s felt divine, like this is supposed to go now.
JL: From a participant perspective, it feels very easy to be there, it feels like a space that’s easy to enter. So, I almost wanted to ask, is it that easy to pull off?
SM: [Laughing.] I think we make it look easy. It’s a lot of moving parts always.
LS: That’s the way I want women to feel: easy, comfortable. Safe: we use that word, and it’s what we try to instill in the space as we’re setting it up. I think it’s a combination of Sam’s positive energy and intention there and my positive energy and intention. The two of them just come together and they become something.
SM: I enjoy setting up the actual physical space, the interior design aspect, the flow. That’s something I’ve learned from doing so many different things in my space and in other spaces. I can walk in and see okay about this many people can fit in here at tables, and Lisa has great organizational intuition with people. Having them know what to expect and having them arrive and it does go as they expect. Any volunteers or people we work with, our goal is to have them want to do it again, and I think that’s been the case with everyone we’ve worked with.
JL: Speaking of people you’ve worked with, there’s a real spirit of collaboration around Tokeativity events. Is that purposeful?
LS: I think that Tokeativity has the power to transform competitive energy into collaborative energy. And I think together we’re more powerful, we can do more things when we all show up. If we’re helping to lift other companies up or other women up, I would hope that they would be supportive of us too.
SM: I think something important to remember in cannabis is that there’s more than enough to go around. Two people can be doing the same thing, but it’s never going to the same because they’re two different people and they bring different energies. So, you can be doing a cannabis feminist gathering, and we will support you! It doesn’t feel competitive when you can clearly see that nobody can bring what you’re bringing because you are an individual. Our collaboration is its own thing that nobody can replicate.
People can go ahead and do all sorts of things, and more power to them! The more feminist and cannabis gatherings that are happening, the more good that’s going down in the world. But there’s so much room for support. It can feel competitive sometimes and we all get those twinges of competitiveness. But you can be inspired by others and continue doing your thing and still be lifting them up. That feels better in the end, and I can guarantee it’s going to make your company more successful when you have that genuine true intention behind what you’re doing.
JL: Do you feel like there’s an element of upending the patriarchy to this idea of cooperation and collaboration over competition?
“And that’s what I hope – when someone leaves a Tokeativity event they’re going to go kick so much ass.”
LS: For thousands of years, it’s been engrained into women that they should be quiet, should be this, should be that. It’s only been in the past hundred years that we’ve been able to vote.
SM: My son was reading a book, and I want to say it was like 1894, and we got into a whole long discussion about how women weren’t allowed to wear pants! It’s only been 100 years that we could even wear pants!
LS: The patriarchy wins when they divide people, and the way that they divide people is to take away resources or to make it seem like there are less resources. You feel like there’s less resources, and you’re scrambling to make sure you do have resources, which is where competition comes from. It’s set up to separate, and we combat patriarchy when we combat that energy and try to collaborate with each other. Because we all are different and we all have resources that we can bring to the table to make the whole pie bigger and bigger and bigger.
JL: Is Tokeativity doing that? Is there a ripple effect of women who come to your events and are then empowered to live their dream or their bliss or their journey a little more deeply, a little more presently?
SM: Yeah! For sure! At this point, there have been new business partnerships, new friendships, and new choices of what we’re spending our money on. Women spend the money. There is so much power that has not clicked for women: our buying power. We’re the decision makers in the household despite the patriarchy – how money is being spent, what groceries are being bought, what medications are in the household.
There’s been a lot of great things that have happened so far, but I think the friendships are so important. Women come with one friend, they have their one lady friend that they like to get stoned with and they hang out with a whole bunch of guys who like to smoke weed. Then they come and they’re like, “Holy shit I just met 50 new best friends!” It’s so awesome.
LS: I love seeing a group of women and they obviously never knew each other before but they’re passing a joint around the circle and suddenly it’s “Bye, I got your number, see you next time!” I love that so much. And the business relationships that have been formed. Casey Wiser of Wandering Spirits is a great example. The first time she was supporting us, she got a 12-week gig for her company.
JL: How do you build on this? What’s next for Tokeativity?
LS: We’ve scheduled all of our socials through the end of the year.
SM: We have a couple great workshop ideas for the end of the year as well.
LS: September 8 is our Tokeativity Social Harvest Moon theme. And October 21 is out Witchy Woman Tokeativity Social. November 17 is Back to the 90s. And December is our Holiday Soiree. And we’re going to be doing a ‘how to publish your book’ workshop with Microcosm Publishing. It’s directly with the co-owner, Elly Blue.
SM: I’m excited about this because I think being published is something a lot of women think about. Writing or doing art, even from a research perspective. I have a great idea for a children’s book that I didn’t know what to do with sitting in my studio. I haven’t done anything with it, because I have no idea how to go about publishing it. So that’s going to be a fun workshop.
LS: And then we’re working on expanding outside of Portland. Details TBD.
SM: We would love to help other women start Tokeativity in their own cities and offer resources and support. We’ve noticed how much this has been needed here, and we’ve heard from people in other cities that there isn’t anything quite living up to the kind of feminist events they need. So, we’re looking for women across the US and beyond who are in the right place in their life with the right skill set to be able to pull it off in their city. We want to create a business model for Tokeativity that is sustainable and has the bigger picture in mind. The person running it is able to help cover some of their stuff and they’re helping us create a larger movement of feminism within cannabis. That’s the whole point of it, bringing women in to help empower each other.
I love that quote: Empowered women empower women. It feels so very true in our daily life. When I’m feeling empowered and I talk to another woman, they’re like okay I’m literally going to go home right now and kick so much ass.
LS: And that’s what I hope – when someone leaves a Tokeativity event they’re going to go kick so much ass.
SM: Or feel empowered enough to reach out to that woman friend who’s going through something that they haven’t been able to hold space for. Just keep moving it forward, continue to build each other up. We all need it, I know for myself that I constantly need to be refilled with it. Our society drains that energy. So Tokeativity creates a space that literally fills us back up and we go out in the world and we carry that with us. How can we create something bigger that has a little more momentum so maybe it doesn’t drain so much in between? That’s a goal for sure.
JL: How can we help create something bigger?
LS: We have a Facebook group that women can add themselves to and their tokin’ lady friends….
SM: And Lisa’s been saying: job alert, housing alert, or whatever. Something I love is creating the space for women to make choices. Within this safe space that was created they met this person, and then they can choose that outside in the not safe world. When you’re working with your accountant who’s a lady that you’ve met at Tokeativity, it reinforces that same empowering energy.
LS: And you end up immediately getting your needs met instead of having to put a Craig’s list ad up or asking your extended network. A lot of the jobs and resources in the cannabis industry come from within, knowing somebody. It’s still old school mentality when it comes to that kind of stuff. And that’s always my hope, that we can all know each other beyond that one place where we met once. I want it to feel like a family. I’ve always been creating little families wherever I go.
SM: Cannabis is the connecting factor in all of it. Yes, we’re all women, but we’re different demographics, different backgrounds, different age groups, different races, different religious affiliations, different day to day lives, different jobs. We get into that space and it’s like, “Oh you smoke weed too? Oh my god, I love you!”
LS: We’ve also started offering partnership opportunities.
SM: I’m proud of our sponsorship package. We know that the reach is extremely valuable and we have an engaged audience. Our intention is not to exploit that; our intention is to fuel our ability to do more and to reach more women.
LS: We have women who have been coming back again and again and again.
SM: And they’re making the choices to go to the dispensary, to buy the cannabis. They make these choices through the connections they make there. Can I please know someone that I’m buying something from? Our goal is to be successful businesswomen, to empower women by showing you can love what you’re doing and be able to pay your mortgage or buy a house or to pay your rent or put food on your table.
Sponsorships start at $25 – you can sponsor a minority or low-income woman to come to an event – up to a full event sponsorship for $500. It’s affordable, and we accept any business who wants to support our mission. It’s going to come from a simple place of our values and goals being in alignment.
LS: We especially want to support women-owned and partially owned businesses. For male-owned businesses, there’s an additional question on the application about equality and how they’re incorporating that.
One awesome way to support is to support the scholarships, to get more minority and low-income women access. It’s such a great exchange, of even just donating one ticket. Being white women in this place, we have to remember and know that we have this privilege and use it for good. I also want to encourage women to apply.
SM: We realized we do need to create a space for men to be able to support this. But if it’s not in alignment, we’re not going to partner. We have a strong foundation of ethics around what we’re doing and that’s never going to change. We’re going to continue to attract businesses that care as much as we do, and anyone who doesn’t is probably going to be too intimidated by our lady badassness.
Upcoming Tokeativity Events:
- Fri Sept 8, 7-10pm – The Tokeativity Social: Harvest Moon
tokeativitysept8social. eventbrite.com (Save $5 with code: splimm)
- Sat Oct 21, 7-10pm – The Tokeativity Social: Witchy Woman
- Thurs Oct 26, 6:30-9:30pm – Tokeativity Workshop: The Art & Science of Book Publishing with Microcosm Co-Owner, Elly Blue
- Fri Nov 17, 7-10pm – The Tokeativity Social: Back to the 90’s
- Sat Dec 16, 7-10pm – The Tokeativity Social: Holiday Soiree
For Tokeativity scholarship information, click here.
For information about partnering with Tokeativity, click here.