A number of years ago, I attended a conference on women in Canada entitled, “Gather the Women.” I was very interested in going, but I had a niggling thought that kept coming back in the middle of the night. I just knew that it would not be a gathering of women, per se, but a gathering of 95% white, Western, middle income women, with a few women of color and a few women on the financial edge sprinkled in. I began to admit to myself that I was sick of attending conferences with names like “Gather the Women,” when they should have been called, “Gather the middle income, white women, and have a conversation that can’t possibly express the interests of Women (big W), without truly including women of color and women who would never even have heard about such a conference in equal measure!”
At the last minute, I decided I would go if the conference coordinators would allow me to present a video montage of faces of diverse women I’d photographed, to remind us all that we have to include these types of voices in future conferences. They agreed. So, I quickly pulled together photos from my desk-top and threw them together with a great piece of music I loved called “Full Woman,” by Rachel Bagby.
At the conference, the montage was shown on a large screen at the end of the first day, and the response was overwhelming. Women were weeping in the audience, and many came up afterwards to thank me and shared with me how and why they held themselves back from being their full selves, and how painful it is. It also started important conversations about why these sorts of conferences were so exclusively white, and middle class. Questions were raised and many answers came from few the women of color and economically disadvantaged women in the audience. It was a rich experience.
After this first showing, I realized that I needed to redo the montage more seriously. I felt called to actually go to the different countries to make portraits of women that reflected the power and diversity of women I wanted to convey. My plan was to create a broader version and then give it away for free to any women and girl serving organization world-wide who would have the capacity to show it to their constituents. At that time, there was no such thing as Vimeo. I imagined I’d have to send DVD copies all over the world through the mail! I’m thrilled to say that since January last year, the montage has been downloaded on Vimeo over 36,000 times and viewed over 18,000 times, and thousands of women and men have shared it.
I believe that the abominations we are witness to and sadly so many of us experience in our lives — the horrific rapes and murders, endless wars and tortures, senseless destruction of the bio-sphere and nature, dowry burnings, sex trafficking, breast ironing, domestic violence and hatred of all things female can and would end if we, as a human species, would just wake the fuck up and pull together to birth the new paradigm that Riane Eisler describes as the shift from domination to partnership; if we could just co-create together, all of us, the Great Turning, Joanna Macy talks about; if we could just transform this broken system that is hurting all of us and honor women, nature and all life forms, and shift from “power-over” to “power-with” — from domination to partnership and cooperation; from greed to generosity; from self-hatred to compassion.
I know that love has to start from within. My prayer is that all women discover the full woman they are inside, and that all men honor women and honor themselves as whole human beings. We all got here through the body of a woman and if we all want to stay here and live well on this beautiful, miracle of a planet, we all need to realize that the qualities of the feminine are not gender specific, but principles that combined with the most honorable qualities of the masculine principle are what’s going to save us.