Home > Yes/No > Makers: Choosing to Change the Story

Makers: Choosing to Change the Story

Miriam Hawley, Co-Founder, Boston Women's Health Collective, featured in the Makers project from AOL and PBSI have no choice.”

We all have experienced a time when that sentence felt immutably true. Most of us have said it out loud more than once. But, the longer I think about it, the more I come to see that we almost always have a choice. It’s just that some choices are tougher than others because they seem to conflict with the story we believe we’re living.

As I watched Makers on PBS, an assertively present-tense celebration of trailblazing American women, it occurred to me that the phrase “pro-choice” can be seen as much more than a label describing someone’s position on reproductive rights. For the women featured in this film, pro-choice is a way of being; a way of saying, “We are willing to take bold action, even when it’s uncomfortable or scary, to challenge the prevailing norms in this story we’re living together.”

And the word “we” is important there.

In Sheena Iyengar’s brilliant research on how our feelings about choice are shaped by culture, she examines how Americans’ insistence on the primacy of individual choice is not always as liberating or effective as we might think. She suggests we might benefit by borrowing a little perspective from cultures in which it’s understood that, “when two or more individuals see their choices and their outcomes as intimately connected, then they may amplify each other’s success by turning choosing into a collective act.”

Therein lies the power of the women’s movement in America. Paradoxically, the individual choices that these (sometimes accidental) activists make are rooted in a fundamental value of interdependency. Rather than settle for constraints on individual choice imposed by hierarchical power structures that diminish us, they choose to change the story to one of greater equilibrium.

As Gloria Steinem observed in an interview on the PBS NewsHour, “This is transformation we’re talking about; to get to societies in which, as we once were, we are linked, not ranked; in which the paradigm of culture is the circle, not the pyramid.”

Is there an “I have no choice” experience in your life that you can courageously transform into a “we have a choice” moment?

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  1. February 27, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Excellent , Vicky..really enjoyed this!!! working on some transformations! thank you

    • March 3, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Hi Margaret! I don’t know if you have access to PBS in Italy, but I understand the Makers documentary is available on itunes as well. It’s a great piece of work. I hope you’re getting lots of visitors these days.

  2. March 2, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    “linked, not ranked” — let’s live that story, Vicky. Thank you for your wonderful writing.

    -Judy

    • March 3, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Yes, Judy, I loved that, too. When Gloria Steinem says “linked, not ranked” and describes a cultural paradigm based on “a circle not a pyramid” she uses her hands to illustrate these points, creating very concise and memorable images to express the kind of transformation we’re working towards. Good stuff.

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