Feminist Passport: Your travel guide to Minnesota

You want to see the world, but sometimes the world is an unfriendly place. That’s why HelloGiggles is bringing you Feminist Passport, a guide to all of the most inclusive hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, and sights to visit on your next big adventure. Because travel should be for everyone.

Minnesota isn’t necessarily known for its bustling feminist scene. But for a state whose flower is the Showy Lady’s Slipper, (like…what?) it is surprisingly progressive when it comes to certain aspects of women’s rights. Here are some of the things I recommend checking out if you’re in the North Star State.

1Attend the Women’s Debate Institute in Sandstone, Minnesota

Timing is everything. During my latest trip, I was in town for the annual Women’s Debate Institute. This organization has existed since the ’90s and was created to combat the sexism (and, over time, racism) that is dominant in the debate world. Traditionally, wealthy, white males created the norms and procedures for this academic activity. This included the use of exclusionary gendered language, belittling women and trans debaters, and homogeneous reproduction of harmful, sexist practices.

Each summer, the WDI hosts a tuition-free empowerment camp for girls and trans youth of color. Witnessing the dozens of emerging activists who were able to express their hopes, fears, and demands on the patriarchy in a safe space was absolutely breathtaking. The retreat-esque debate camp is unlike any other across the country, and WDI’s board is made up of 100% women and gender non-conforming debaters. The WDI hosts its annual summer event at the Audubon Center at North Woods, which is a non-profit that offers hiking tours, animal walks, a high ropes course, and more. The bonfire at the end of the retreat was the best part.

2Immerse yourself in West African culture and cuisine

It may not look fancy on the outside with its simple red “OPEN” sign and modest decor, but Chef Bea Karngar is the owner of a flavorful restaurant called City Afrique, and you should make a reservation the next time you’re in Minneapolis. As one of the many women- and immigrant-owned businesses in town, it was up pretty high on my list of places to visit. The chef is a Liberian entrepreneur who started off as a caterer and now offers some of the finest West African food this side of the Mississippi. The fish platters are very affordable and each serving will fill you right up. This visit was the best part of my North Minneapolis portion of the trip, just don’t make the same mistake I did and try to eat there on a Sunday—they’re closed!

After a nice, hearty meal at City Afrique, try to catch the women dancers of the Titambe West African Dance Ensemble. I got to see the Togo Atsia (a traditional women’s dance) during one of their public performances, and it was fantastic. I didn’t know this at the time, but the Togo Atsia is organized by the women of the community. Traditionally, the Togo Atsia is a time when women speak up about issues that impact them. It is somewhat analogous to a town hall or congressional assembly—but more effective. The company also performs other African dance styles with a largely female cast.

3Support the Minnesota Women’s Press

As you may have guessed if you read my Las Vegas Feminist Passport piece, I love women-owned collectives. The Minnesota Women’s Press, a print and online publication, is especially impressive, because after all these years (it was founded in 1984) the magazine has remained women-owned. What started off as a bi-weekly print paper back in the mid-’80s is now a thriving hub of opportunities, events, and musings from a diverse group of women with something to say. The mag’s list of events runs the gamut, from voting registration events to trauma-informed counseling to open conversations about race and white supremacy. Thanks to the vision of creators Mollie Hoben and Glenda Martin, the publication also has a directory—it’s how I found most of the women-owned businesses on my list. If you’re a woman with a business in Minnesota, getting into the directory is easy: Email [email protected] or call 651-646-3968.

4Break a sweat at Solcana Fitness & Wellness

One of the things that sucks about most chain gyms is that there’s no sense of camaraderie, especially for women and LGBTQ people. You may see the same set of people over and over again, but no one really talks to each other. Instead, you have a bunch of people on treadmills zoning out to whatever music is playing in their earbuds. Solcana Fitness & Wellness in Minneapolis is different. It’s a “queer-friendly, social-justice minded, feminist gym designed for folks of all fitness levels and backgrounds,” according to its website, and it encourages members to find their “family” at the gym. Solcana also brings together its members to collect supplies for homeless Minnesotans.

As one of the few LGBTQ-safe spaces in Minneapolis (there’s a strong history of homophobia in Minnesota), Solcana is an important feminist monument—but don’t think fitness is just a side dish to that social-justice entree. Solcana offers one of the most intense CrossFit classes. Even though I was late for the 6:30 a.m. class, I definitely got a workout that woke me up. The drop-in rate for the class was reasonable ($20) and every body size was truly represented. I felt just as comfortable with my love handles jiggling around as the most fit person there. No one ogled or catcalled me, and the staff was very encouraging without being judgmental. It’s the sort of place you want to be if you like feeling good about yourself. Take a class there the next time you’re in Minneapolis.

My time in Minnesota was eye-opening. Aside from the beautiful panoramic views of nature, it was a blessing to witness intersectionality in its many forms. It gives me hope for the future. So don’t just walk aimlessly around the Mall of America when you touch down. Take yourself on a feminist tour of this lovely state.

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