“The Empowerment Project”
is a documentary, directed by Sarah Moshman and produced by Dana Michelle Cook, to showcase women in varied careers and provide alternative images to those of mainstream media, which often depict the female gender in detrimental ways. It was shown at The New Parkway Theatre. Esther Pearl of Camp Reel Stories, introduced the film with one of her campers, Annika.
I was thoroughly moved by the project: the rawness, the vulnerability, the honesty and the unfinished journey. It is easy to talk backwards once we already achieve things, but to speak from the heart of the matter, when things are still unsure, takes courage.
The film opens and closes with an important question:
What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?
Here is a truncated version of my list:
•Go to law school.
•Travel to South America and Portugal and learn Spanish and Portuguese.
•Make my own family.
•Tour the US and anywhere else I felt like- collecting women who get it and collaborating with them.
•Ask my brothers and sisters what their lives are like.
•Email Eve Ensler. Thank her and ask her if we can talk.
•Speak to everyone.
•Leave my apartment when I am crying.
•Make enimies of haters daily.
•Fall in love when I don’t need it to hold me together.
•Believe in my story.
First I asked myself why I wasn’t doing these things. Then I remembered the advice of the senator Jan Schakowsky from The Empowerment Project, who said, “I think women tend to undervalue their experiences…” and lightened up a bit.
Next, I thought of all the women I know and how I have let state lines be the rationale for a lack of collaboration (See Annie Lewandowski and Theresa Wong for proof that this is not truly a boundary) or temporal lines explain away why I can’t incorporate the same intensity or passion for writing, people, foods, or learning, as if it is only safe to give it all you’ve got for a certain incapsulated period of time.
In The Empowerment Project, the pain and struggle that often served as the impetus for something profound starting, felt especially honest. From alcoholism, to miscarriage, to heart failure to a lack of encouragement in the areas of success.
I was struck by the ways in which these women defined SUCCESS. None were exactly the same or patterned after the typical ways we often see it defined for us:
“Figure out what you love and do it. If you are successful, even better” –Ellen Rakieten (Oprah’s producer)
“What I’m most proud of has nothing to do with flying-“ Sandra Clifford (Corporate Pilot)
“When you do something radical…the burden of proof is on you” – Mina Bissell (Scientist who has contributed to Breast Cancer Research)
“When you make a decision like that (to do what you love) the whole world conspires to help you”-Teri Farhrendorf of Pink Boots Society
“You have to find passion in your life…and it may not be in your career.”-Mary Nguyen, Owner of Parallel 17 in Denver
“I think I live by being bold and naïve” Katherine Darnstadt, Architect and Owner of Latent Designs
“The most important interview I will do is with my mom” –Sara Moshman
A Girl on the Run participant said that the program let her be “the boss of her own brain” – Molly Barker, Creator of of Girls on the Run
“I love to empower women to feel good. And I think that makes me a feminist.”- Style Expert, Lauren A.Rothman
“You don’t have the luxury of being average…if you choose to be a pioneer.” –Vice Admiral Michelle Howard– 1st (African American) Woman to achieve 4 stars in US Navy
“So normal to be floating around” –Dr. Sandra Magnus, Astronaut
“Insecurity…these things still plague me..I use them now more constructively” Nana Meriweather, Miss USA and founder of The Meriweather Organization
“I’m right where I want to be- for now.” –Vy Higginsen, writer and director of “Mamma I want to Sing”: the longest running, black, off-broadway musical in the history of American theatre
Follow-up for READERS:
1. Go see this movie! Take your friends, your co-workers, your mothers, your daughters, other people’s kids, any female identified woman in the world who will go into the theatre with you.
2. Make your own list answering the question: What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?
3. Write out your own definition of success.
4. Send these to us! We will post them.