At the very end of MAKERS, a documentary chronicling the modern American Women's Movement, Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo!, says, "I don't think I would consider myself a feminist. I certainly believe in equal rights. I believe that women are just as capable, if not more so, in a lot of different dimensions. But I don't think I have the militant drive and the chip on the shoulder that sometimes comes with that."
If someone had followed me with a camera during my college and early career years (thankfully, that didn't happen), I would have been caught on tape saying the exact same thing. But if I'm being completely honest, I really didn't know the story of the women's movement until I started work on MAKERS eight years ago.
I was raised to have it all and be it all and though I'm modest, I might dare say that I have come pretty close. 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 assemblies. In other words, long before Sheryl Sandberg was encouraging women to lean in, I was heeding her advice.
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 girl, went to college, got married, had kids and just assumed this is how my life would be and how it has always been. It wasn't until I listened to the stories that are a part of MAKERS that I realized how these choices were privileges by any other name and that there was a lot of work that went into my being able to access them.
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 the freedoms I had, I was also saddened that not everyone has been able to realize those same ambitions and that the hard work of many women still goes overlooked.
I would like to say that 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, I have realized that as much as it was professionally successful, it was personally transformative. I realized that 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." (If you ask feminist Robin Morgan, she would say the same, only a squirrel!) While they are both right and I agree you don't have to label yourself a feminist to help women in this world, there is some sense of gratitude I feel towards what they have done to make me free to be... me.
MAKERS airs tomorrow night on PBS.