Fem: Tell us about your interview series, Conversations with Her.
Nicole Belanger: Conversations With Her is a bi-weekly interview series profiling women and their powerful stories. The series was created to shine a spotlight on the every day lived experiences of women, in the hope that it might make those who read them feel a little more seen, and a lot less alone. No topic is off limits — we’ve covered everything from invisible disability to professional anxiety to pregnancy loss — if it matters to the woman being interviewed, we’re going to talk about it.
The individual profiles are written in a narrative style (as opposed to a strict question and answer format) so that it feels a little more intimate, as if you are eavesdropping on a conversation among friends.
F: How do you hope to foster the empowerment of women through personal storytelling?
NB: Like I mentioned, the goal of the series is to make women feel a little more seen and a lot less alone. I really believe that when a woman speaks the truth of her experience, she becomes pure possibility for those around her. She illuminates new ways of being and seeing ourselves that we may not have otherwise considered.
Whether it’s an initiative like Project Diane’s #RewriteTheCode documentary highlighting the experiences of black female founders in tech, or Femsplain’s community-sourced storytelling platform, visibility plays a key role in empowering women. As the old saying sort-of goes, it’s hard to be what you can’t see. Although stories alone can’t fix everything, or dismantle institutional barriers to empowerment, they are a powerful tool for changing conceptions (including our own) of what it means to be a woman.
F: What do you think these interviews can teach us about the experience of being a woman navigating through the world?
NB: That we are all incredibly complex beings who bring a unique set of experiences, identities, needs, and desires into every single situation we enter, and that we need to do a better job of creating media that portrays us as such. If we have better, more diverse representations of womanhood in popular media, maybe it won’t seem like such a stretch to consider the wide variety of “female” experiences when discussing social and policy issues like the wage gap or access to child care.
On a more personal level, I think these interviews show that no matter how sure you are that you’re the only one out there whose ever experienced/felt what you’re going through, there is always someone else out there who knows what it’s like. And when you’re going through hell, knowing someone else made it through that same hell and got out on the other side can make all the difference.
F: The intersection of gender with other various issues explored in your series highlights the need to view stories through a multilayered lens. To that end, why is intersectional feminism important to you?
NB: Feminism’s ability to be relevant and useful is directly correlated to how intersectional we are willing to be in our analysis. That said, I am very aware of the fact that I am still a “baby feminist” (credit for the term goes to the hosts of Call Your Girlfriend) when it comes to taking an intersectional approach to my feminism and I’m learning a lot every day. So right now, within the context of this particular series, taking that “multilayered” approach that you referred to looks a lot like a lot of listening and letting the women that I profile steer our conversations, particularly when we’re talking about an experience or identity that is not my own
F: What do you want readers will gain from learning about these women’s stories?
NB: That within each woman lies an endless well of possibilities. That even though you might feel alone or isolated by an experience, you rarely ever are. That, if you look to the women around you, someone will inevitably be able to light your way on a path they have travelled themselves.
Nicole Belanger is a writer, speaker, and media maker with a deep love for women’s stories. She is the creator of Conversations With Her, an interview series profiling women from various walks of life sharing their powerful stories in an effort to make the rest of us feel a little less alone. She is at work on some new projects this summer, so stay tuned for updates at nicole-belanger.com and on Twitter @nskbelanger.