During 2014, I was being sexually harassed at my 9 to 5. As a result, I started to modify my behavior. The space I gave myself both physically and emotionally kept getting smaller and smaller, like I was slowly diminishing into nothing.
I felt isolated and unheard. So I rebelled. Not inside the walls of the company, but outside of them. I started my own feminist storytelling blog called Feminist Wednesday, which had a big purple beaver named Betty as its mascot.
Slowly and steadily I started to piece together my own feminist tribe to help me find my voice. I got the courage to quit my job, and I freelanced to pay my rent while I sat around thinking about ways to make Feminist Wednesday my full-time job. If only I had a product I could sell to our community, then maybe I could turn my passion for women’s stories into a business and make a little money.
While running Feminist Wednesday, my little New York network blossomed; I was meeting so many incredible women through the blog, and I finally had something to talk about at networking events. Through our Instagram accounts, I met an entrepreneur and business founder named Julie Sygiel and asked to feature her story on Feminist Wednesday. Julie and I became friends, and she started inviting me to hang out with the other female entrepreneurs she knew. I became obsessed with their journeys and stories, showcasing all of them on Feminist Wednesday.
After a deep dive on Google one day, I learned that women launch more than 1,200 businesses a day. Women just like me were leaving their unsatisfying jobs and building their own companies.
This narrative deeply resonated with me, right to my bones. As someone trying to make her own way in the world, I felt connected to the stories of female entrepreneurs. I felt seen by them. Hearing their experiences gave me permission to take up more space and heal myself of the harassment I went through in my career. And I knew if they could help me, then maybe their stories could help more people feel emotionally validated.
I’d studied documentary film in college. It had always been my dream to make a feature-length film, so I thought this would be the best format through which to share these women’s stories. That way we could see them in action. I called the entrepreneurs whom I interviewed for the blog and asked them to be on camera. Then I put together a Kickstarter campaign to fund the film. While the campaign was in full swing, I felt a rollercoaster of emotions.
I worked every day for 30 days. And because Kickstarter sends you a notification each time someone backs your project, I was addicted to checking my phone. The thing that kept me motivated and encouraged during that stressful time were the women’s stories. Each time I spoke to someone to share info about the Kickstarter campaign, she would open up and tell me about her journey, her experience, or her company. I was fueled by these women’s honesty and courage and determined to make sure they felt seen on screen.
Our Kickstarter campaign to fund the film went viral and raised $100,000 in 30 days. For the last three years, I’ve been producing, editing, releasing, and distributing Dream, Girl.
My day-to-day life revolves around sharing the film, planning our second feature, and meeting audiences around the world at Dream, Girl screenings.
My favorite part of being on tour for the film? Hearing other women’s stories. If you haven’t noticed, this is the thread that drives me. It motivates and inspires me. It keeps my feet on the ground, but my head in the clouds. It pushes me to work harder and do better. It fills me and magnetizes me to other incredible people.
I believe the only way we can have true equality is if we give ourselves permission to take up as much space as possible. On the screen, in politics, in the boardroom, and at home. And doing so means sharing your experience and telling your story. Without that, the world won’t know how you got there. Without stories like Julie’s or Mariama’s or Crista’s, I might still feel unseen, alone, and stuck at my 9 to 5.
Our experiences are a lot more alike than they are different, but we need to know the ropes in order to be able to climb.