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Women of Cannabis: An Essential Exhibition


Women in the cannabis world have long been overlooked and underappreciated. The Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum hosted an exhibit dedicated to the wonderful women who have shaped the cannabis industry. From innovators to consumers, the exhibit celebrates successful women at the forefront of cannabis culture.

We Are Mary Jane: Cannabis Women‘ was exhibited in 2018 at The Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum in Amsterdam. Exhibition curator Simone Badoux and guest photographer Maria Cavali spoke to Sensi Seeds about their influences, experiences and explorations as women in the world of cannabis.

In this video interview, Simone talks about her motivation and inspiration for the creation of the exhibition, her training in gender studies and her personal experience as a woman working in the cannabis industry.

Simone Badoux has been working for the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum since early 2017 as Deputy Director. At that time, she co-curated the exhibitions “The Pope Smokes Dope” and “Cannabis Kitchen”. These were major hits in Amsterdam and Barcelona and appeared at festivals in Spain and The Netherlands.

© Floris Leeuwenberg

Simone was responsible for the initial concept of “We Are Mary Jane: Women of Cannabis”, the museum’s first exhibit highlighting the women at the forefront of cannabis culture. As Simone mentions, finding a single woman to represent all of the women in cannabis for the exhibit graphics was an impossible task. The use of the plant itself as the main graphic represents the inclusivity at the heart of the exhibit’s message. Femininity comes in all shapes and sizes.

Women’s Empowerment and the Cannabis Industry

The exhibition was launched at one of the most exciting times for women’s empowerment: the fourth wave of feminism. This movement was fueled by a focus on justice for women, enriched by the inclusion of gender nonconformity, and used the previously unavailable communication channels of social media to spread its message.

© Floris Leeuwenberg

A stroll through the museum and gallery would suffice to demonstrate that until now, women have been sorely underrepresented in the cannabis industry. This exhibition was intended to rectify this historical inaccuracy.

The world of cannabis – its cultivators, consumers, aficionados, breeders, historians, researchers and innovators – can be considered a microcosm of society. The patriarchal control of economic power is visible in both, with the women interviewed at the exhibit all mentioning the traditional roles of men as vendors, whether in coffeeshops or informally. If we are serious about normalizing and legitimizing the cannabis industry, this imbalance must be corrected.

In any business where women are the focus, it is imperative to listen to and amplify the voices of women themselves. Rejecting the dominance of the male gaze, internalized sexism and patriarchal assumptions, the curators of the exhibition have taken great care in their portrayal of women within the cannabis community.

Women, whether by choice or lack of opportunity, have historically remained in the background. However, a change is happening. If we want to encourage our daughters to pursue cannabis-related careers, we need to show them positive role models. As the saying goes, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

The seeds of coffeeshop culture were sown by women

The consensus seems to be that as cannabis legislation changes to create an increasingly legal and therefore safer market, women feel confident to come to the fore. This is particularly visible in United Statesinvolving more women in leadership positions in emerging cannabis companies than in all other industries combined.

The legacy of this is also visible in Europe. Women like Mila Jansen laid the foundation for the coffeeshop culture that defines Amsterdam and the Netherlands to this day.

© Floris Leeuwenberg

The “We Are Mary Jane: Women of Cannabis” exhibit showcases the accomplishments of the leading players in the cannabis industry today and the four-thousand-year history (or history, if you will) of women’s experiences in cannabis material.

The Multifaceted Power of Women Who Use Cannabis

Maria Cavali was the photographer behind the striking portraits of female smokers in coffeeshopsfeatured in ‘We Are Mary Jane: Women of Cannabis’.

Unlike Simone Badoux, Maria Cavali does not identify as a feminist. Her views on women’s potential to empower women are partly informed by the fact that she recently became a mother and the difficulties in balancing parenthood, work and family life. Her portraits manage to capture the strength, mystery and rich, multifaceted power of women who use cannabis.

The takeaways from this exhibition are many and varied. Whether it’s a new insight or a positive affirmation of how women have shaped the cannabis industry throughout its history, the ‘We Are Mary Jane: Women of Cannabis’ exhibit encouraged an embrace of femininity in all its forms.

Four Cannabis Women, four different voices

Mila Jansen

Cited as a recognized influence by women across the cannabis world, Mila Jansen is a heroine for many. Opening its shop in Amsterdam in 1965, Kink 22 became a teahouse and social center two years later. It was frequented daily by those who wanted to share cannabis and gossip.

After spending fourteen years in India traveling, working and raising her family, Mila then returned to Amsterdam. She went on to invent the Pollinator and Ice-O-Lator hash-making systems. These have revolutionized the house and small scale hash making. It’s not for nothing that she’s known as ‘The Queen of Hash’.

A friend of Sensi Seeds and the Dronkers family for many years, Mila possesses a bold and beautiful spirit combined with a knack for practical innovation. She also has one of the most infectious laughs in the cannabis industry.

Shiva Maniotidis-Spaarenberg

Shiva Maniotidis-Spaarenberg has been the driving force behind various cannabis-related events for over a decade.

She organized and facilitated prices for cannabis cultivation, presented by the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum to individuals and groups who have made outstanding contributions to the acceptance of cannabis in all its forms. Previous winners include former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Dries van Agt, the Global Commission on Drug Policy (represented by Richard Branson) and everyone’s favorite ferryman, the late Mr Nice, Howard Marks.

Shiva was essential to the inauguration of the Hemp Gallery in Amsterdam and the official inauguration of the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum in Barcelona. She reconciles her career with her family: her husband, their four children and two dogs. She is a shining example of the modern working woman.

Rosalinde Bierings and Odiah Jagroep

Rosalinde is one of the women photographed by Maria Cavali for the “We Are Mary Jane: Women of Cannabis” exhibition, and attended the opening with a group of friends, including Odiah. They both agreed to be interviewed without any preparation, and their spontaneity and sense of fun shine through when answering questions.

Did you attend the exhibition in person? Did you feel inspired by the women featured in our highlights of the exhibition? Let us know in the comments below.



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