S1 E11: Woman and Those Changing the World: Asha Dahya, Today's Wonder Women


Wonder Women - original

[00:00:00] Section: Podcast introduction

[00:00:00] Overdub: Hello, welcome to The Story of Woman, the podcast exploring what a man-made world looks like when we see it through her eyes. Woman's perspective is missing from our understanding of the world. This podcast is on a mission to change that. I’m your host, Anna Stoecklein Lau and each episode I'll be speaking with an author about the implications of her absence - how we got here, what still needs to be changed, and how telling her story will improve everyone's next chapter.

[00:00:34] Section: Episode level introduction

[00:00:35] Anna: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the final episode of the season. I am so happy you are here. I thought what better way to end it than by celebrating women and all of their amazing strengths and achievements and how no matter the obstacle put before us, we continue to show up in the world and fight to make it a better place for everyone.

Because for too long, women have either been denied participation or their contributions to the world have been overlooked, forgotten, or contributed to a man. And while we have come a long way, you won't be surprised to know that this isn't a new problem.

This is a bit of a tangent, but I recently learned a French woman called Christine de Pizan who in 1405, so 600 years ago, wrote a book of stories about famous women throughout history that was called The Book of the City of Ladies. And she did this because she recognized that women's contributions had been overlooked and she thought that it was quote "about time, the female sex was protected and defended." So she thought it was about time in 1405 and here we are 600 years later still fighting that same. But my guest today is helping to change that. Asha Dahya is the author of Today's Wonder Women: everyday superheroes, who are changing the world, which is a compilation of 50 female identifying people who saw something they didn't like about the world, decided to do something about it. It's as inspiring as it is informative. So for anyone looking for a little inspiration in their life, maybe you feel a bit stuck in your career or personal life or considering making a big change. This is a great book for you. And one of the everyday superheroes in this book was also featured on this podcast. You might remember Farida D who writes about Arab feminism. That was actually how I found her was through this book. So if you haven't already go back and have a listen to episode four.

Asha Daya is an author, TEDx speaker and founder of girl talk HQ. She has spent the last 16 years creating, producing, and hosting content for different networks where she focuses on reproductive rights, gender equality, and the representation of women in media and in our conversation today, Asha and I talk about a few of these women, including one who's tech company in the last year has taught over three times as many women and young girls to code as the entire UK university undergraduate system. No big deal. We also talk about the conditioning that occurs from a young age that teaches girls to wait for prince charming, to save them. And some ways that we can all start to unlearn. We talk about the need to define what success looks like for ourselves instead of going after what other people tell us success looks like.

And we talk about how we can start to show up as our true, authentic selves and be our own superheroes. All of the quotes you will hear read during the interview are taken directly from her book today's Wonder Women.

I hope you come away inspired to take up space, use your voice and be the hero in your own story. Because that is exactly what you are. All right. Enjoy.

[00:04:02] Section: A word from this episode's supporter

[00:04:04] Anna: This episode is supported by The Know, a new media company you really need to know about. Do you find the news totally overwhelming and negative, but you also don't want to turn a blind eye to important issues? Then the no was made for you, their daily newsletter tackles the biggest issues of the day in an informative yet easy to read way.

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[00:04:47] Section: Episode interview

[00:04:48] Anna: Hi Asha, thanks so much for being here today. I'm so excited to chat with you.

[00:04:52] Asha: Thank you. so much for having me Anna I'm excited about this.

[00:04:55] Anna: Yeah. So we'll just jump right in. I know that women have been making contributions to society for as long as it has existed, you know, despite our systemic oppression and exclusion, women have written and created and discovered and invented for as long as men have. But we know a lot more about what men have achieved, you know, because they've gotten to participate more fully, but also women's contributions have gone unrecognized or relegated to the footnotes of history, or even credited to a man who came along and made the same contribution a year later. So your book is helping to change that it's a collection of stories, essays, and interviews that celebrate women and female identifying people who are on the ground doing the work, breaking barriers and changing the status quo.

So to start, could you tell us, how did you get the idea for this book and what story were you trying to tell and writing it?

[00:05:55] Asha: Yeah, absolutely. Well, to tell you how the book came about I have to tell you how my blog Girl Talk HQ came about cause that's kind of where it came from. So girl talk HQ, I started a blog series called Today's Wonder Women, and I ended up getting a book deal from that, a book agent found me a couple of years ago and contacted me, but the idea for that series and even the blog came about, it would have been 2012.

I was living in LA, I'm still living in LA, but I was going through a divorce. , I was at a crossroads in my career. I had just left my very fairly large, conservative evangelical church, had no idea where my life was going, but one thing that I really wanted to send to myself with was a community of women and like-minded women that had gone through some stuff that I had gone through. You know, I was about to be 29 and found myself going through a divorce thinking, this was never in the plan. And so I started this blog as a way to find a digital community. You know, my background is in TV, hosting and producing. And so I thought, while I'm figuring out my career, while I'm trying to get my life back on track, let's just do something creatively. And I was drawn to finding stories of everyday women like me who were going through things, but also who are achieving great things and breaking barriers. And it just kind of grew from there.

And that seed I remembered had been planted in me long ago when I would see the movies that my mom would watch about incredible women breaking barriers. The magazines that I would read as a kid, you know, in Australia, it was Dolly magazine and Girlfriend magazine like Cosmo and all of that here in the United States. But I would rip out all these interviews with, you know, there's all the celebrity stuff and the makeup and the beauty stuff, but every now and then there would be an interview with just an everyday woman, an activist or an organizer or someone who had defied cancer or done something really incredible.

And a couple of years ago, when I went back home, I was going through my old journals and school books and things like that. I found a massive big folder where I had collected just a ton of these interviews that I've ripped out from magazines and kept over the years. So for me, the idea of being drawn to stories of incredible everyday women was a seed that was planted long, long, long ago.

And I had forgotten about it. And I think going through a divorce, being at a crossroads in my career really triggered that, "o let's go back to finding out who I really am." So I started GirlTalk HQ. It has evolved over the years to becoming, you know, a site that really is focused on every day women whose names you don't know, but you should. Then I started a specific interview series on the blog called Today's Wonder Women where women could submit their story and be featured on the blog.

And from there it got the attention of a literary agent and he said, "Hey, have you ever thought about writing a book?" And I was like, no, but keep talking. And yeah, I guess the rest is history kind of thing. We put a proposal together and within two weeks we got two different offers from publishing houses. I was like, what? Okay. I guess this is something I'm meant to do. And so that's how Today's Wonder Women was born. Both the book and the original idea.

[00:09:28] Anna: That's amazing. Do you think that that's a sign that there's a gap to fill out there and people are starting to recognize that, that you had multiple publishers jump on this type of idea so quickly?

[00:09:39] Asha: I think so. I definitely feel like I'm in that zeitgeisty moment where the culture is really craving more stories of women, more marginalized folks, underrepresented people who haven't been allowed to share their stories, who haven't been given the space or the opportunity. So I am so thankful to have an opportunity to take advantage of this moment, for sure.

[00:10:00] Anna: So why every day superheroes? Why is that important? As opposed to, women like Gloria Steinem are Oprah.

[00:10:08] Asha: Right. I think there's incredible value to looking at the stories of famous people and the Gloria Steinem's and the Oprahs. And I think there is a point where an everyday person can look at someone, especially like Oprah, you know, she's a billionaire, she's been doing her thing for decades. It can be so hard to maybe see yourself reflected in that journey. Whereas when you look at someone who's just starting out and just launched her network, or just launched a magazine, or has an idea for a magazine to represent people that look like you or me, it becomes a moment of, oh, that's me. Oh, I could do that. Oh, if she's doing it well, I can do that too. And so I think that's really why I wanted to focus on the everyday people whose stories are just as inspiring as people like Oprah and Gloria Steinem, but they don't have maybe a massive platform yet. They've been doing incredible work in their communities, in their industries and so I think it's really important for me to also see myself represented in the stories that I share so that it comes from a place of authenticity.

[00:11:15] Anna: Yeah, makes sense. I mean, I can only relate to Oprah with so much, so I think to make it a bit more accessible, it's good to be able to see yourself reflected in a more everyday people. It would be a dream to be able to see myself reflected in Oprah.

[00:11:29] Asha: Totally.

[00:12:50] Anna: I want to talk about a few of the themes that stood out to me throughout the book. And I once heard, to go back to Gloria Steinem, I think I heard this from her, but I'm sure others have said it, but that all too often with the women's movement and the push for equality and giving women of boys, women are portrayed as victims who need to be saved.

And, sure we are negatively impacted as a result of our gender, but the movement is about women refusing to be victims. It's about standing up to those systems that put us on the receiving end of discrimination and violence, and saying that we won't stand for that. And your book captures that so well. Was that a conscious effort to push back against that victim narrative?

[00:13:35] Asha: I think so. And you know, I think a lot of the idea of women, they just see themselves as victims or feminism, it's just about playing the victim card. A lot of that comes from, maybe anti-feminist narratives that don't like the feminist movement and want to damage it and use that as a way to disparage what feminists are doing, what women's rights activists are doing.

And so I think it's important to go back to the root of why women become activists or become speakers or make change. And I love that Gloria Steinem quote, I hadn't heard that before, but she's absolutely right. And that is what I tried to do with this book, show that there are so many women in these stories who have had some horrendous things happen to them, and if they never ended up doing the things that they did, that's also okay.

You know, healing is so important and healing is not a linear thing and we don't owe the world anything if we're going through things like trauma or something really difficult. But to show that if you do have opportunity to use your pain, your trauma, your experience, as a way to bring other people in and make them feel less alone and supported, I think that's a really beautiful picture that I tried to paint.

So, you know, when I interviewed Fraidy Reiss, who was the founder of an organization fighting child marriage in the United States, I always have to make sure that it's not some far-flung country out there that people often think when you think of child marriage in the United States, she was a victim of forced marriage at a young age.

And she could have, you know, she ended up escaping that situation, thankfully, and she's okay today. And if she never founded her organization, the fact that she is safe and healthy is enough, but she knew that there were other women like her and, young folks that needed someone to help them and advocate for them. So she used that pain and that experience to help others. So I think, you know, the word victim can be very loaded and triggering in a number of ways, but I just want to remind people that it's okay to go through what you've gone through and not have achieved the Nobel Peace prize afterwards, okay. You just gotta be where you are in your journey and, you know, find comfort in other stories and other people's lives that can perhaps help you along your way.

[00:16:04] Anna: That's a really good point. It doesn't have to be creating an organization and tackling child marriage, but just getting yourself out of that situation. For people who perhaps want to change their conditioning, because it is true that as women we're taught from such a young age that if we're unhappy or unsafe, we just need to stay put and wait for someone to rescue us. You know, look at every fairy tale, it's a girl or woman that needs to be saved by a boy or a man. It's never about her taking ownership. Rapunzel didn't fasten her hair to the bed and climb down the tower herself. She had to wait for a prince. So, when women are so conditioned in this way, for those who perhaps do want to be their own superhero, as you say, what is something that you think people can do if they agree with the sentiment, but don't quite know where to start or how they can begin to unlearn this conditioning?

[00:17:02] Asha: Yeah, that's a, I mean, that's a complex question and answer, and hopefully I will give enough of a good answer, but you're right in that it is a lot of conditioning and it starts almost from birth. You know, the images that we see as as young girls, the prince charming, rescuing the poor helpless woman on screen and almost every major Hollywood movie where there's a male protagonist, he's rescuing this poor helpless woman and she couldn't have done it without him, obviously that is changing. But those messages happen from such an early age that it becomes very, very difficult at times to unlearn that as adults. So I think it really does start with, what do we focus on every day? What kind of stories do we read? What kind of news do we consume? What kind of movies and books and literature and how much of all of that points us in a very skewed and narrow idea of gender representation. So It is really about unlearning that and there's so many ways to do it. And I think storytelling can be a very powerful vehicle to dismantle the harmful norms.

[00:18:11] Anna: I agree completely which is why I'm such a big fan of there's this book over here in the UK called Gender Swapped Fairytales. I don't know if you would have heard of that.

[00:18:21] Asha: I haven't, but now I want to read it.

[00:18:23] Anna: Yeah, it's amazing. It was written by a couple who identified this need for their daughter, but it's just as much for little boys as it is little girls, because it takes all the fairytales that we're familiar with, Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk, and it just swaps the one who needs saving and the one who does the saving. So the titles are like Handsome and the Beast and Jacqueline and the Beanstalk. And you have princesses in shining armor and King's longing for a a

[00:18:49] Asha: I need to buy that.

[00:18:50] Anna: I highly recommend it for anyone with little ones. But yeah, I think stories like that can perhaps help as well.

[00:18:58] Asha: Yeah.

[00:18:59] Anna: And then of course, on the flip side to all of this conditioning, we know that boys and men are taught from these same fairytales to see themselves as saviors of girls and that they're forbidden from admitting if they themselves need help. So what do you think these types of stories of women can provide for men?

[00:19:20] Asha: Yeah, that's, uh, that's also a loaded question, but it's good because it's something that I have been thinking about a lot. I have a four year old boy and a two year old girl, and we love to read books at night. But he's at an age where I can really see he's understanding the idea of gender and concepts of who does what and what, how things work in the world. And so I've been very conscious, even telling him stories like, I'll look at the construction workers instead of the construction men, or look at the construction men and women over there, look at the teachers. Whether in the illustrations or in the story, they are men or women, I make a conscious effort so that he knows men and women can be whatever industry or career you want. And so I've seen him, I've seen that reflected when he says to me "and mommy, what did the men's and ladies do when they go on there" and I was like, oh, good job, Frankie, good job. They learn it from such an age and it, it really is how you model that to especially young men. And I think it's really important because I really want him to know that he can be his own hero, yes, and also my daughter, Zoe can be heroic, but then also it's okay to feel sad and emotional and not be able to fix everything and communicate with your words.

So I love the push for empowering women, but I think coinciding with that, we have to also bring in the young boys, and the men to be like, this is your fight too, this is all of our movement. This is a movement to better all of humanity. You know, when, when women benefit, everyone benefits. So I think that push you know, among feminists and women's rights activists to encourage men to not think it's weak to admit failure or admit that you don't know what to do and you need help, like you said, and be emotional. I think that push is so, so important. You know, we see so many horrendous examples of toxic masculinity that has kind of plagued the world throughout history, whether it's someone like Hitler or someone like Donald Trump, or, you know, these awful, awful male leaders, you kind of can't help, but wonder, what would have happened if those men had been taught something completely different from a young age, you know?

[00:21:40] Anna: If they had had Gender Swapped Fairytales...

[00:21:42] Asha: Exactly. If Donald Trump had Gender Swapped Fairytales, maybe he wouldn't such have chip shoulder...

And, you know, there are plenty of men in the stories that are featured in these women. They talk about their partners and their sons and their colleagues and I think it just really underscores the idea that equality is not a zero sum game. There is room at the table for all of us, and there is enough opportunity and space and platform for everyone's stories to be shared. I think it's just about how do we find that balance? So I hope the men reading this book will see themselves or their loved ones, their mothers, their sisters, their daughters, their friends, their colleagues reflected in these stories and also be inspired to know that they can join the fight. They can join the women in their lives to help them be heroic and change the world.

[00:22:35] Anna: We almost need a men's version of this platform and book as well. Not because necessarily need a bigger platform, but a lot of your stories are about how women are overcoming gender expectations. So what if we had a swap for gender expectations for men and they could write stories about times they showed vulnerability or shared their feelings. That'd be something to be celebrated.

[00:22:57] Asha: Yeah. There's a really good documentary called the Mask You Live In, and it was made a few years ago, but it really was about unpacking toxic masculinity and harmful gender norms that are thrust upon boys from a young age and showing these amazing male activists and speakers and leaders who are really trying to change the culture for men in America, all different ages, all different ethnicities and backgrounds. It's a really great movie.

[00:23:23] Anna: Thank you for the recommendation. Switching gears here, I want to talk about the definition of success for a minute. This was another theme throughout the book. And for you, I know you started in a very objectively successful career working for big platforms like Disney, ABC, MTV, among others, you said you were making great money, having a very successful career, but then you kind of became bored and disillusioned and decided you wanted more out of life. And I think that this is very common for many of us to strive, to be successful by society's standards, whatever that means for our specific profession, that we can forget what success looks like by our own standards.

And I think that this can be particularly worse for women because success has been defined, you know, by men. And we've kind of trained our minds to think of success in a really certain way- getting ahead, climbing the corporate ladder, becoming CEO, this set agenda of tick marks that are often defined masculinity and even whiteness. Could you talk to that idea? Do you think that there is one traditional definition of success? And if so, how did you measure success in the stories that you chose to share?

[00:24:39] Asha: Yeah that's a good question. I think the idea of success, I mean, even the word itself is very loaded because we automatically think of the male defined version of it and even not just the idea of success, but who created the systems that lead to that very specific type of success is important for us to unpack and look at.

There was a show on FX on Hulu here called Y: the Last Man, it was very dystopian, future driven. The idea was based on a comic where one day set in like present day America, all of a sudden, all of the men suddenly die and the women are left in this futuristic America walking dead type situation to rebuild the world.

And what does that look like? And I was reading a Twitter thread that I know this is a bit of a tangent, but I was reading a Twitter thread that the executive producer had written about what the show is about. It's not just about killing all men. She said it really is about gender and underscoring how infrastructure of this country is so gendered. It is created by men, for men from the way that our prison system operates from education to the corporate world. And you see that with the lack of paid leave in America, the lack of childcare support, the lack of support for women after they have babies to go back into the workforce.

So when you think of success, we're already starting on a bit of a back foot as women because the whole ecosystem and infrastructure that allows for people like, you know, and Oprah is a, is a complete anomaly, but when you think of people like Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, the system allows for people like that and wants people like that to become successful. People like Oprah are a complete anomaly. The system is not designed for Oprah's to flourish and become who she is, especially because she's a Black woman. So when you think of success, there's this systemic dismantling that needs to happen, which is its own mission front, but then there's also the internal, that we need to dismantle, like why do we have to be successful to be considered valuable or worthy in the world? You know, and I think the pandemic for me personally, has really allowed me to analyze, like, who am I? Who am I, if I'm not Asha the achiever, writing a book and releasing that and being on a podcast, you know, all the things that's like, am I worthy regardless of all that stuff and am I still considered successful?

Those are conversations that I'm glad we're having more of, and I also think that for a lot of people and for me on some days getting out of bed and brushing my hair and having a cup of coffee and getting my kids out the door to daycare and feeling like I've done a good job, that's successful. You know, I think there's this hyper capitalistic notion that success means money, power, being a CEO, owning all these things, having incredible wealth. But I think if we just, shift our thinking a little bit, that'll really change the world in a lot of ways. So I hope that all made sense, that was, that was my storytelling hour.

[00:27:46] Anna: Complete sense. And I couldn't agree more, you know, I think definitely on a systemic level, but especially as individuals that we need to define our own definition of success and then go after that, instead of going after what society tells us success is, and what society tells us success is, maybe some people do genuinely want to go after that...

Um, ...but to be able to come up with that as a decision on your own and...

[00:28:15] Asha: And I mean, that's all the women in this book, they defined success for themselves. They figured out who they were and what was meaningful to them. And the range of success, quote, unquote, that you see in the book is such a variety. And I hope people are encouraged by that.

[00:28:30] Anna: I definitely was. That's why that was an ongoing theme that stuck out for sure. And there was a nice quote from Sarah Moshman, who is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker. And she said, "sometimes you climb the ladder of success to find it was on the wrong wall."

[00:28:44] Asha: Yeah.

[00:28:46] Anna: All right. I want to get into the book and some examples. The book is broken down into eight sections from leadership and activism to arts and women defining the odds and disrupting the status quo. To start with the leadership section, you said in the introduction, you talked about how our default image of a leader is male. Could you tell us what you meant by?

[00:29:10] Asha: Yeah. I mean, if I asked you in three seconds, come up with three names that have changed the world in say technology, who are you going to come up with? Steve Jobs? Mark Zuckerburg? Bezos? Right. You know, why aren't we thinking of all the women who are doing incredible things? And so that's kind of what I wanted people to be challenged with when they see this, it's like, oh, she's a leader. Oh, she did that. Oh, Yeah, that's this is what leadership looks like. It's not just a one size fits all. You don't have to be a crazy billionaire. You don't have to create the biggest tech platform in the world. You can be changing the lives of people in your community. You know, leadership isn't about, look at me, I'm the best. I'm going to create out all this wealth. I'm going to hold all the resources and goods and you need to look up to me. It's, I'm going to show people by my example, I'm going to live by example. And in that I want people to see that as leadership. So that's what I hope people will get out of reading that chapter and seeing the incredible women and what they're doing.

[00:30:16] Anna: I certainly did. And when I read that default leader sentence in the book, I thought about an activity that I'd done before. I've got a fun activity for all of our listeners. If you put "cartoon leader" or "cartoon CEO" or even "cartoon professor in Google images, see how many are women I have done this.. and it is not good.

Or ...people of colour absolutely. Yeah. It's all one color and one gender. And I think that's a pretty good example of the default image, what Google shows us when we search that.

[00:30:48] Asha: Yeah.

[00:30:49] Anna: Do you want to tell us about one of the women who are changing this and taking the lead?

[00:30:54] Asha: Yeah. Well, when you said take the lead, it made me think of Gloria Feldt who is she's incredible. She has started an organization called Take the Lead where she really helps women redefine leadership, helps them step into their power and access resources that help them along their way.

But she has a fascinating journey. She was a teen mother, she's Latina, and she really had an uphill battle, in the way that she describes being able to finish college for starters. I believe it is less than 2% of teen mothers end up getting a college degree by the age of 30, because there is just little to zero support for teen mothers. There's a lot of stigma and there's a lot of judgment, but there's not a lot of support along the way. She was able to really, really battle through it, and it took a long time, she ended up getting a degree. She ended up climbing up the, you know, the corporate ladder in the world. She is the former CEO of Planned Parenthood. Now she runs her own company.

And one are the things about her that I really love is, you know, I was asking her about the fight for reproductive rights and this was a couple of years ago and I wrote this, it was end of 2019 that I interviewed her and reproductive rights was still under attack in the United States then. And I asked her, you know, during your time at Planned Parenthood, how did you approach this issue and how did your company figure out how to fight back?

And she said to me, well, actually I think one of the best things about making change is not this idea of fighting back, but fighting forward, if you want to see progress, fight forward, you set the terms, change the landscape. Don't just respond to what people are doing out there. And I think this is something that I think about a lot and I think it's something that you can apply to any sort of aspect of your life. How will we fighting forward? Like, yes, there's a lot of bad things happening out there, but there's always ways that we can move forward and change the status quo, change the situation, shift the conversation, and shift people's perspectives in that process.

So she's been a real inspiration to me and I love what she's doing now. She's written a few books and really using her personal story and a professional experience to really activate other women, knowing that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you've experienced in life, there is a seat at the table for you and you are a leader, no matter where you are at. So yeah, she's awesome.

[00:33:15] Anna: I love that fighting forward, that that makes so much sense. And it really focuses...

[00:33:19] Asha: Isn't it mind blowing? It's like, Yeah, why are let's fight forward!

[00:33:24] Anna: I mean, it's the only direction you can go. So it makes sense it focuses you on moving forward and not dwelling on the past and...

[00:33:33] Asha: Bad happen when you try to go backward. It's it's never a recipe for success.

[00:33:39] Book excerpt: Gloria Feldt: "The most important thing a woman in a position of leadership can do is to nurture, mentor, and sponsor other women into leadership – to teach women to create a new paradigm for how we think about power. The male model has been a belief that resources are always finite, that there is a pie and if I take a slice of it, there’s less for you. In truth, if I help you and you help me, both can create more of everything: more wealth, more innovation, more pie all around!”

[00:34:16] Anna: And then I want to talk about the art section as well. So why is it important for women to be represented in creative industries?

[00:34:24] Asha: So arts and creativity is always been very specifically near and dear to me because that's the industry that I come from. It's what I've always wanted to be involved in. And I think no matter who we are, we are, we watch movies, we watch TV, we're influenced by entertainment and media, and our culture is shaped by the narratives we see on screen.

So who's writing the scripts, who's creating the TV shows, who's creating these characters and playing them on screen really has the ability to allow us to think about how we see gender, how we see power, how we see success, all of these things that we've been talking about. So creativity is a very powerful vehicle to allowing people to either see themselves or not, to give people power in the world or not, and to give people a voice. So I think creativity is, is just as important as politics, activism, leadership, all of these things.

[00:35:20] Anna: To pull it other quote from the book, the documentary filmmaker, Violeta Ayala, I hope I'm saying that right...

[00:35:27] Asha: Yeah, she's awesome.

[00:35:28] Anna: She said "the media is the most powerful tool in terms of controlling people by telling the same narrative." And I mean, we already gave the example of fairytales. I hope this, it seems that this is changing, but we have seen how women often get portrayed through the lens of how men see them as the damsel in distress, the sidekick, the girlfriend, not being allowed to have full, complex and real characters, you know, once again, not being allowed to be the own heroes and their story.

So and that's just for women, obviously with minorities and other marginalized groups, it's the same thing. So I was going to ask if you think it's been getting better, but you did put some stats in the book about out of the top 100 grossing films in 2018, women represented only 4% of the directors which is not great...

[00:36:14] Asha: I there are some years where it takes up a little bit and then it goes backwards. So essentially the status quo is kind of the same. We are seeing change, but what's really gonna push for monumental change is seeing women in all positions, not just on screen, but also the heads of studios, they heads of TV networks, the funders, in all sorts of positions and that that's not just to say across the board, all women are great. I've got to champion other women. There are some that don't, we're just as complex as anyone else, as men as well. But I think there is a general idea that the more varied type of leadership we see in Hollywood specifically, and in the filmmaking world, people of color, people of different genders, people of different abilities, I think we will see more representation and like Violetta Ayala said, she's awesome. I love her. She's such a powerful activist and uses her camera and her voice to really speak truth to power and all our documentary films have been like that. But yeah, you know, the media can be the most powerful propaganda tool on the planet and has been for so many people in different countries and different eras. It really is about how you change who's in power.

[00:37:28] Anna: There's something else in that section that said only 13% of living artists represented in galleries in Europe and north America are women, which made me think about something else that I read recently that said less than 5% of the artists in the modern art section of museums are women, but 85% of the nudes are women. And I think that stat might be slightly outdated, but it just stood out that that is so true, that it's a lot more likely for a woman to be featured as a nude in the gallery than as a painter.

[00:37:59] Asha: Right. Maybe those stats are changed a little bit, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's generally around the same number and it just goes to show how much women have been seen as tools or objects or their bodies have just been seen as something to look at rather than something that we own and that we have control over. I mean, in 2021, there are still so many countries where women are fighting for the right to determine what we want to do with our bodies and our lives. And because women's bodies were never, they were never our own. They were always under the control of men, of people in power.

And so I think it really is telling, and also pretty much assumes that the majority of women you're going to see an art galleries would be nudes, but that's what we have to change, you know, who has access to autonomy and power over themselves. And that gets reflected in our art and culture. So, yeah, one of the women in the book, Indira Cesarine, she owns a gallery in New York. It's called The Untitled Space and she is really making a conscious effort to promote primarily female artists, but also non-binary artists. They're also men in there as well, people of color underrepresented, but it really is a feminist space.

The exhibitions that she puts on and that she curates really has been focused on the female gaze and women's voices. And what women want to say through art, because a lot of the art world is still very white, very male, and very skewed toward a specific type of audience, but everyone loves art and all different types of tastes should be catered to, and for her, she wants to project a very specific, you know, a very intentional, I should say, very intentional feminist lens into that world unapologetically. And it's really great. I've loved all the exhibitions and I constantly promote the work that she's doing on GirlTalk HQ, but having her featured in the book was a no brainer.

[00:39:46] Anna: Ooh, The Untitled Space. I'm going to go there the next time I go to...

[00:39:49] Asha: Yeah. It's like a blank canvas. Like what do you want to put in that space and yeah...

[00:39:54] Book excerpt: Indira Cesarine: "I think it’s important to look at historical narratives that we may have taken for granted, but are equally embedded in our culture and have had lasting impact. In 2019 I presented an exhibition, titled “Eden,” that investigated the story of the Garden of Eden. Aside from the gender stereotypes, role of subservience, guilt, and blame it has placed on women, the story of Adam and Even has positioned women as “inferior” to men since the beginning of time. I felt it was time to take a look at this story from a feminist perspective.”

[00:40:33] Anna: Love it. All right. So one more section in the book that I wanted to go over today was the women entrepreneurs. And you start with some really incredible stats that make me feel like this section is a total success story. You write that every day in the United States, women start 849 businesses. That's incredible. And then you said that a report from 2018 showed that the number of women owned businesses grew 58% from 2007 to 2018. And more specifically, the number owned by Black women grew 164% making Black women the only racial or ethnic group with more business ownership than their male peers. That's incredible.

Yeah. Yeah.

But of course there's a catch.

[00:41:19] Asha: Yes.