Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Gender Block: writing’s on the wall

Starchild Stela's radical softness

Hillary Di Menna


Growing up in a low-income household in a small Quebec town, Starchild Stela passed the time drawing, “It was one of the few things I felt I received validation for,” she says. As a teen she started to graffiti and moved to Montreal where she has been working since. Within the last five years the artist says she has become more dedicated to her art, a mix of soft and bright colours—with feminist messaging. The artist often refers to it as “radical cute culture” or “radical softness.” Feminist messaging is incorporated in her artwork with mottoes such as, “I believe you,” and “unapologetically feminist.”

The mix of art and feminism in her work is organic and can’t be disassociated, she says. “My work comes from my heart and guts,” she adds. “I started to explore feminism and anti-oppression politics while I was processing traumatic gender experiences. It helped me understand trauma in a larger context.” As her understanding of feminism evolves, so does her work. Stela’s earlier work was a nod to how much she loved 1980s and ’90s manga as a teen. Now, she says her work—with its soft, luminous imagery—reflects her personality as an adult.


“I also want to dedicate myself a bit more to radical softness,” she says. “I would love to co-organize a radical softness art show, and maybe a pop-up gallery for a month.” She has a strong interest in community building and is  excited to collaborate more with friends and other artists. Like with hosting art-making workshops as therapy for survivors of sexual violence: “I’m interested in focusing on my experiences with coping with trauma and art-making as survival.”

A former This intern, Hillary Di Menna is in her second year of the gender and women’s studies program at York University. She also maintains an online feminist resource directory, FIRE- Feminist Internet Resource Exchange.



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