Bold Insight: Sharing even one story in a new way can create a culture shift.

“Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.” 

Mary Oliver

When Elizabeth Warren announced she was dropping out of the race for President, to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Whoever your personal choice for the next president is, there is no denying that having a womxn in the White House is important for expanding one of the core tenants of a conscious company: gender parity. How can we expect companies to worry about the gender diversity in their organization, particularly in the C Suite, if we aren’t showing them that women are capable of running things — the most important thing, even — our country?

It’s an interesting irony of doing this work: in the week where I am feeling the most disillusioned by our culture, I am writing a series on Culture Shifters. Being able to balance the despair I was feeling with sharing the stories of amazing brands who are working to shift our culture to a more conscious place allowed me to keep moving forward. In January 2018, I was feeling a similar disillusionment, but with my own business and work more than the country in general. Someone had recently turned me on to the book “Proposals for a Feminine Economy” by Jennifer Armburst. When I started researching the author, I found her interview on Conscious Company Mediawhich is how I discovered Conscious Company Media!

That discovery led me to reimagining my own work and reaching out to start writing for a publication that created a great shift in my brand and energy. One of the things that shift resulted in was the creation of a brand — Needle Movers: 52 Weeks | 52 Womxn | 52 Ways to move the needle — with my sister, lee lee McKnight, and a talented illustrator, Meghan Elderkin.

The impetus for Needle Movers came from another single moment of inspiration in an overwhelming feeling of despair. Last summer I read a piece on Buzzfeed written by Amy Nelson, the founder of the Riveter. I had been following her for a while, as she is a wonderful example of a womxn running an amazing business — and getting funding for it. When I read what she wrote about the responsibility of a company to provide reproductive health to its employees when the government fails, I was so inspired by this real-world example of a company leading with their values and creating tangible world change. I had just written my first piece for Conscious Company Media about how we need to connect all the different facets of this movement for better business because shared identities create movements — and this felt like a shining example.

I was left with two questions:

  • How do we create a shared identity of hope rather than despair around our current political situation?
  • If Amy Nelson was bold enough to do this, who else is doing it that no one was talking about?

And so Needle Movers was born.

It seemed impossible for me to write an entire series on people who are shifting culture and not include Needle Movers. I reached out to lee lee and Meghan and asked them some questions about why they believe in what we are doing, why they feel it matters so much, and what they hope will come from it. Here are their thoughts.

lee lee McKnight, founder of The Perpetual You

One of the most important differences in modern feminism is our desire for the movement to be intersectional. Needle Movers is a shining example of the ways in which White women can make their feminism more inclusive. We’re making a conscious effort to provide a balanced look at all women–not just middle-to-upper class white ones. And we’re doing this authentically, because it’s important to us to learn about these women and to educate other women about these women —not because we’re trying to do something “woke.” When I wrote the feature on Flo Kennedy, I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of her and she was such a huge part of the movement or that one of the most common things written about her was her flamboyant attire.

We set the intention from the beginning to continuously look at the womxn we had chosen and be sure when you saw them on a page you saw women of various ages, ethnicities, economic backgrounds, sexual identities, and more. 

Additionally, our approach is consistent and genuine. We’re not wishy-washy and we’re not white washing anything. We’re tackling big problems head-on (like the absence of Black and Brown women among discussions of feminism by White women), and we’re also providing meaningful, engaging content that provides fodder for the discussions that need to be had around these problems. The womxn we have featured so far hail from music, publishing, art, activism, skateboarding, poetry, writing, science, education, entrepreneurship, comedy, documentarians, and more — and we aren’t even halfway through the 52 womxn we chose to include.

On a larger scale, Needle Movers is also innovative in its inclusion of women who haven’t necessarily been in the spotlight for their work; we’re broadening the very enlightening discussion about what women’s work is, what it looks like, and what its traditions are and have been. Yes, we’ve included well-known names like Ruth Bader Ginsberg and even started with Sojourner Truth, but we’ve also profiled less-talked-about womxn, such as Betty Reid Soskin and Peggi Oki

As part of my own journey forward, I have grasped on to self-education as an accessible and pleasurable way to expand my consciousness. Needle Movers allows me to learn about women — something I love to do anyway — and to share that education with others, which is one of the primary ways I, personally, am able to hold on to knowledge. I’m also glad to be working with other women I admire (including my sister!) and am enjoying the challenge of writing regularly — a habit I’d gotten out of over the past few years.

The reason I do it is all of these things and a much simpler one: if even one woman’s consciousness is expanded by something I have written for Needle Movers, I will be satisfied that the work I did for this brand was effective. In my opinion, that is how change happens: one woman at a time.

Meghan Elderkin, illustrator

One of the most important and unique parts of Needle Movers is that we give our readers a quick, easily digestible dose of feminism. The images are accessible and the articles are a really easy way to learn about some amazing women we might not have otherwise learned about. I think sometimes, despite their best intentions, some other brands can come across as overwhelming. 

The way that we receive information has changed so much over the past decade, and it can be tough to navigate the political and social landscape. One of the things that Needle Movers does best is make it easy for our readers to learn. Following the Instagram feed will give you quick bits of information about people who are creating change, and then you can read the full essays on the site to learn more about that person and how they can inspire us all to move the needle.

We are also saying there’s no guilt or shame in not having learned about these women sooner — zero judgement — but here they are now and the things they have done and are doing matter. 

Activism in art is incredibly important to me. Art has been and can be used as a very useful tool to comment on the world and work to change it. To have the opportunity to use my art to help educate people about some amazing women was something I couldn’t pass up. I hope that by using my artwork to highlight accomplishments of lesser-known feminists, more people will have access to these “sheroes.” 

Also, everything I do is for my daughters. Besides loving and supporting them, my biggest goal is to leave them a world that’s a little better than the one previous generations of women inherited. 

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One of the best parts of Needle Movers for me personally has been discovering how feminism and equal rights for womxn are viewed differently by different people. Having my eighteen-year-old daughter guest-write a post on Lizzo, for example, gave me a whole new perspective into the next generation. And the people who respond to the email each week and tell us why that week’s feature person resonated with them always bring up things I had never even considered.

I encourage you to join us and be amazed and surprised by the things you learn. For example, can you guess which Dolly Parton song has become an unlikely feminist anthem? We were definitely all surprised!

LaKay Cornell

LaKay Cornell is a culture critic, writer, speaker, and feather-ruffler. She is on a mission to change the way we create change. Using her unique combination of exciting anecdotes and enticing data, she positions her clients’ work in the context of the social problem they are solving. LaKay also writes, speaks and moderates discussions on Intersectional Feminism, the Language of Empowerment, and Womxn’s Entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit lakaycornell.com.
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