At what point in your life did you consider yourself a feminist? Was it an event or a process?
I spent a lifetime rejecting all labels and then this year, as my fortieth birthday was approaching, I began exploring what it means to be a feminist. Anyone that knows me personally, or is aware of my work, has probably always identified me that way. I recently walked out of a film shoot with a producer who said she was so happy to have located a young, Black, female feminist to interview for her docuseries and it hit me - the label fits. Being a feminist is about your values and how you live your life.
Who most influenced your awareness of your feminism?
I have always had a love affair with literature, so writers like Alice Walker and Tony Morrison have played a large role in my awareness of feminism. I also had a strong matriarch. My great-grandmother Goldie was a serial entrepreneur and multiple home owner, which was unheard of in her era. She was fiscally savvy and she never took no for an answer, despite her position in society. I grew up hearing wild stories about how she worked around her husband's sabotage to grow her businesses, save money, flip homes, become a landlord and build her dream home. So, if feminism is about exercising your right to access the same opportunities as men, Goldie smashed it.
In what ways has your feminism informed your life choices?
Feminism is the reason I do what I do. If I were not convinced that I deserve the same opportunities as my male counterparts, I would not have entered the male-dominated film industry. I am fighting for the same projects, workshops, fellowships and funding opportunities as anyone else. It also informs my personal lifestyle. I have been very open about my experience with divorce. If I did not believe I deserved a better quality of life - regardless of my gender - I would still be trapped in a bad marriage. I do not feel that a woman has to be in a relationship with unequal partnership. I do not feel that women have to be married, unless they want to be. I am not a traditionalist.
In what ways do you share your feminism with others?
I am a longtime advocate of feminism. It is a value that is translated through my work as a writer and filmmaker. As I share my personal experiences with other women, I am also sharing feminist ideals. I was a life coach years ago and I attracted clients who were aspiring female entrepreneurs. I grew to hate it because in the 21st century, I still heard women say things like "I want to pursue this opportunity, but my husband won't let me." There is nothing cute about that. I could not stay silent, or tell those clients what they wanted to hear. The reality is - if you do not have dominion over your life and your body, you do not have anything. You have no power. Being powerless in our society can leave you dead.
Describe your vision of a feminist world.
A feminist world has women represented at all levels of leadership. A world with corporations without a "glass ceiling" for women, an entertainment industry that is equally inclusive of women, women represented at all levels of government, health studies that cater to the needs of women and a world-wide culture that is not misogynistic. We live in a world that is unsafe for girls and women due to gender-based prejudice and hatred. A feminist world is a safer world for girls and women and those that strive to protect us.
How I Define Feminism:
Feminism is a movement to ensure equal rights for women. Period. Now, it has extended to include those who identify as women, because it is necessary to be that specific. You do not have to be a woman to be a feminist. You just have to be decent human. President Obama announced his position during his address for The United State of Women. He said, "This is what a feminist looks like." I happen to be a woman who shares those ideals.
Shanon Lee is an American Writer, Journalist, Activist, Filmmaker and Media Personality that has been featured on HuffPost Live, The Wall Street Journal and Real Simple. She is the writer, producer and director of MARITAL RAPE IS REAL, a short film that raises awareness for survivors of sexual assault.