Barak Goodman shares what he learned while working on MAKERS: Women Who Make America
Note: MAKERS.com is a dynamic digital platform produced by filmmakers Dyllan McGee, Betsy West, and Peter Kunhardt, developed by AOL, showcasing hundreds of compelling stories from women of today and tomorrow. This historic video initiative features exclusive access to trailblazing women – both known and unknown. The broadcast premier on PBS: February 26, 2013 from 8pm-11pm.
I’d like to think that as the only man on the MAKERS production team, I changed the direction of the project, but I doubt that’s true – or at least not the whole truth. I was changed far more by MAKERS than it was changed by me.
Though I considered myself a feminist before the project began, I had little real understanding of how far women have come in the last half-century. My own mother, as I remembered, had marched confidently from an elite education into a fulfilled professional life. But when, in the course of the project, I asked her about her life (for the first time), she disabused me: “I traipsed after your father for years, scraping by in a lot of low-level academic jobs, working part-time and taking care of you and your siblings. It was far from a fulfilled professional life.”
“How much did Dad help?”
“Not much. I had to draw lines on how much I would do. My mother-in-law expected me to cut his toenails. I said, ‘no way!’”
Sometimes, it only takes a small turn of the kaleidoscope to completely change one’s perspective.
Ordinarily, I try to keep a critical distance from subjects in my films – a nice way of saying that I’m pretty jaded after doing this for 25 years. But I found myself genuinely moved by the women my colleagues and I interviewed for this project. Far from the angry, shrill stereotypes I’d been led to expect, they were invariably introspective and touchingly funny about their own experiences. If few of these women faced the physical danger experienced by civil rights leaders, nearly all of them had had to defy the conventions of their time and completely shed one identity for another. That clearly required enormous courage, but that they could laugh about those experiences now and see some of the absurdity of their struggle was an unexpected delight. When Letty Cottin Pogrebin, for example, remembers how she handed her husband tracts of literature to explain why she would no longer do the dishes, one can’t help but smile along with her.
The experience of talking to these proud and strong women certainly sensitized me to the ongoing struggle for women’s rights in this country (not to mention around the world). The fight is far from over – that much is obvious. What was less obvious to me is how progress in that struggle starts within each one of our homes and households. “The personal is political” certainly has taken on more resonance for me. And even if my household is still not a perfect 50/50 split, I’m quite certain there are more dishes and groceries in my future.
Barak Goodman is the Senior Producer and Director on MAKERS: Women Who Make America and the writer and producer of Hours 1 and 2. Goodman is co-founder of Ark Media, an independent documentary film production company located in Brooklyn, New York that produces historical, cultural and public affairs documentaries. In recent years, Ark Media has been nominated for an Academy Award, a duPont-Columbia Award, an RFK Journalism, a George Foster Peabody, a Writers Guild Award and won a National Emmy.
–Photo credit: Brian Virgo, AOL