I just launched a digital video and broadcast initiative, MAKERS: Women Who Make America. The entire project took eight years to get off the ground, which in itself is a Lean In moment, but oddly, not my defining Lean In moment.
If someone had followed me with a camera during my college years (thankfully, that didn’t happen), I would have been caught on tape saying, “I’m not a feminist, but…” At the time, I didn’t really know the story of the women’s movement. Yet, I was raised to have it all and be it all and though I'm modest, I have come pretty close to hitting that mark. I have a job that I love, a husband who shares the household chores equally (if not more) and two young boys I get lots of help rearing, but who also have both their Mom and Dad present for most school functions.
In many ways, this was just how I imagined it would be. I grew up watching That Girl and Mary Tyler Moore, and I can still recite most of Free to Be You and Me. I spent my early years in New York City never feeling restrained as a woman, went to college, got married, had kids and assumed this is how my life would be and how it has always been. It wasn't until I listened to the MAKERS stories that I understood where these privileges came from; I was a product of the women's movement without even knowing what the women's movement was.
As I compared notes with my peers, I realized I wasn't alone. As much as I was emboldened by my freedoms, I was also saddened that not everyone has been able to realize those same ambitions; the hard work of many women still goes overlooked.
I would like to say I embarked on MAKERS for exactly that reason, but the truth is, I embarked on it because I am a filmmaker and I thought it would be a good story. But as the project has come to a conclusion, as much as it has been professionally successful, it has been personally transformative. I realized it's easy to sit back and believe in change, but not stand up for it; standing up takes effort and risk, and that can be uncomfortable.
Shelby Knox, the young feminist organizer, says at the end of the film, "I don't care if a woman calls herself a turtle and she's doing pro-equality work—the work is being done." While she is right, and I agree you don't have to label yourself a feminist to help women in this world, there is an incredible sense of gratitude I feel towards what these women have done. We ask every interviewee, “Are you a feminist?” The answers are fascinating and complex. But mine is very simple. I’m leaning in and telling the world, “I am a feminist!”