by Meredith Maslich
The theme of 2017’s International Women’s Day is #beboldforchange. And leaders are calling on everyone to “help forge a better working world — a more inclusive, gender-equal world.” And that has inspired me to write this blog post and share some of what has been going on behind the scenes at Possibilities Publishing Company over the last few months. Not because I think we’re particularly special but because I think we’re not. I think the things we’ve been wrestling with are fairly universal.
Possibilities Publishing Company is a woman-owned and woman-run business, and we all identify as liberals, progressives and feminists. So, not surprisingly and to put it mildly, we were disappointed by the outcome of the election. Aside from concerns about legislative changes, I worried about the type of culture shift that could occur under a president who has a public record of gross disrespect for women and stated political intentions that would, in my opinion, work against the interests of women (among many others).
As a business owner, I had an obligation to take a step back and look at the ways in which this new administration might affect my ability to do business. (I would have done that if Hillary Clinton had won — it’s standard operating procedure.) And I realized that the biggest impact, at least in the short term, was likely to be distraction. The day after Election Day, I had a meeting that had been scheduled weeks before to discuss a potential strategic partnership, but everyone was still processing the result and so focused on what impact it might have on their businesses and personal lives that nothing productive was accomplished. As this pattern repeated for the rest of the week, I realized that I was losing hours of my day to hand-wringing and spinning worst-case scenarios — on my own and with others.
And that’s when I became conscious of the fact that almost my entire team is made up of women. My company has grown slowly, and I hadn’t lifted my gaze in a while to take it all in. We are a woman-run business, and that is no small thing, especially in the current climate.
My next realization was that my team was as distracted and worried as I was, and if I didn’t pull our attention back onto running this company, we were going to fail. The reality of a small business is that the difference between staying open and shutting down can be a single good or bad quarter. We had a small window to get it back together or we were going to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of disaster.
So I sent an email message to my team (we’re all virtual or I would have called a staff meeting and fed everyone comfort food) and told them that our most productive act of resistance was to keep working. When women are in charge of the means of production, when women have economic influence and independence, when women have the ability to create jobs for themselves and for others, that is a fundamental act of resistance against the forces that seek to control our lives.
What if, instead of spending hours voicing our fears and painting more detail into our what-if scenarios, we used that time and poured that emotion and vision into our work? What if we seek to accumulate financial resources and established audiences so that when we have a clear target or a clear point of resistance, we are ready to move? What if, instead of worrying about what might happen to our rights and our bodies, we seized the means to protect ourselves?
And from that discussion we brainstormed ways in which we could use our work to make a difference while acknowledging the fact that being a woman-owned and woman-run business was in itself an act of resistance.
One outcome was our decision to use the theme of “Turning Points: Stories about Choice and Change” for this year’s anthology contest and to donate a percentage of the profits to the ACLU.
Another outcome was an acknowledgment that literature has played a pivotal role in every cultural evolution in history, and now is no different. Books provide information, inspiration, and platforms for new ideas. And we have the opportunity to be part of that effort.
I am wearing red today in support of A Day Without A Woman, any money I spend will be at woman- or minority-owned businesses, and I am working today because this is a woman-owned and woman-run business, which means working is an act of resistance.
In the words of our author PJ Devlin, “Persistence and tiny steps can move forward with more power than tanks.”
Meredith Maslich is president and CEO of Possibilities Publishing Company. She is also on the faculty at Story District, where she has been teaching the art of storytelling for almost ten years.