Posts Tagged girl empowerment

DARE TO BE YOU – Interview with Marianne Schnall

Author and activist Marianne Schnall has a new book out, DARE TO BE YOU. It’s a collection of motivational quotes from some of the amazing, trailblazing women she’s interviewed over the years …  an impressive list of people. I had a chance to interview Marianne recently about her book and her hopes for empowering young women coming into their own.

Dare to be You

Interview with Marianne Schnall

HMC: DARE TO BE YOU is such a lovely collection of quotes – almost like a daily affirmation book. Is that how you intended it to be used? If not, what was your vision?

MS: I love the idea that the book could be used as a daily affirmation book! It most certainly can be used that way – there are so many potent messages in the book that may resonate with readers for different reasons. My vision is that this book and its content would be used in whatever ways best serve those who read it – to find guidance, insight, encouragement and inspiration.

HMC: What’s the origin story for this book?

MS: I always knew I wanted to do a focused book for girls because so much of our sense of who we are, our self esteem, our development of our voice and our vision for ourselves happens early on. There are so  many harmful messages routinely hurled at girls from our society and the media, I wanted to help counteract those messages with some positive ones! More than ever we need women and girls to come into their true selves and power, to be emboldened to follow their dreams and callings, to be leaders and enact their influence and creativity in the world – both for their benefit and the benefit of the world around them.

Quotes from Personal Interviews

HMC: Do all of the quotes in this book come from women you’ve interview personally?

Yes, all of the quotes are from the wide range of incredible women I have had the good fortune to interview over the past two decades who span different backgrounds, industries, and perspectives. From Oprah to Melinda Gates, Natalie Portman to Jane Goodall, Maya Angelou to Anita Hill and so many more. I have spoken to so many amazing women who all have so much life wisdom to share – not only from their accomplishments, but in all the challenges and hurdles they had to overcome.

HMC: Any favorite stories from an interview you did for this book?

MS: There are so many it is hard to single any out! Gloria Steinem is someone I have learned a lot from through our many interviews, but she is also an important personal mentor to me. Whether reminding me to “ask for what I need,” or to take a pause now and then to acknowledge and own my accomplishments, Gloria has shared many wise insights with me in our conversations and interviews. She is someone who I have always admired for her trailblazing work, for her inclusive leadership, for her generosity of spirit, for her humor and curiosity, and for her tireless and fearless commitment to making the world a better place for all. And she is still doing it!

On Feminism

HMC: I loved the section on “Understanding Feminism.” It’s amazing to me that in this day and age, it’s such a loaded term. Are we still so embroiled in old stereotypes of the angry bra-burning woman that we can’t all embrace the concept without fear of reprisal?

MS: There are still so many misconceptions about what feminism is, but I do think the concept is being more widely embraced in a more mainstream way by women, and increasingly by men who realize that they too benefit from gender equality. It is hard to take issue with the dictionary definition of feminism which is quite simply, “the political, social and economic equality of the sexes.” I also think as the movement evolves to become more inclusive and intersectional with other identities and movements, more and more people are feeling like they can align with its objectives and values.

(For another look at evolving attitudes toward strong girls and the power of words to shape attitudes, read this post from MUF contributor Mike Hays)

Dare to be You

HMC: Your sections on women seeing themselves as leaders and resisting negative media messages is also a powerful statement in this election season. The idea of the “unlikeable” woman candidate is frustrating… were there any “outakes” you can share with us from your interviews that touched on this subject?

MS: Yes, a lot of people I interviewed talked about this – about the conundrum of powerful, confident, ambitious women being deemed as “unlikeable.”.This is certainly a sexist bias we need to watch for and change. But as Gloria Steinem reminded me in one of our conversations, women need to also not be as dependent on being liked. It is hard to be an effective leader if you worry too much about other people’s perceptions.

Finding Inspiration

HMC: Any other thoughts or hopes you have for this book you can share with our readers?

MS: My hope is that the book will encourage girls and women, and all those who read it, to fully embrace who they are, celebrate what it is that makes them unique and special rather than thinking they need to fit in or conform, and find the inspiration and support to follow their dreams, use their voices, and fulfill the vision they have for themselves and for the world.

HMC: What part of this book resonated most with you?

MS: I grew up as a very insecure teenage girl, and having two daughters of my own now, I see so much progress in their ability to know themselves and resist the disempowering influences they receive from society and the media. I feel very hopeful that we are living through a time where women and girls are rising up as a potent force to help transform the world in all kinds of necessary, beneficial and important ways. What resonates most for me is thinking about how the world would change if we unleash all of that untapped potential!

author marianne schnall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Marianne Schnall is a widely published writer and interviewer whose work has appeared in a variety of media outlets including O, The Oprah Magazine,, Forbes,, Refinery29, the Women’s Media Center, HuffPost, and many others. Schnall is the founder of, a leading women’s website and nonprofit organization and, a media and event platform that engages women everywhere to advance in all levels of leadership and take action. She is the author of What Will It Take to Make a Woman President?, Daring to Be Ourselves, Leading the Way, and Dare to Be You.

Connect with Marianne

Find Marianne here: ▪ ▪

And here: @marianneschnall

To buy a copy of Marianne’s book, click here.

#MeToo and Middle Grade

On October 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted:

If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write “me too” as a reply to this tweet.

Her message unleashed a hurricane of tweets and Facebook posts that swept the internet. Women (and some men) shared their stories of sexual harassment and assault under the hashtag #MeToo. Many of us asked each other Is there any women alive who hasn’t experienced these things? Many men were shocked at the ubiquity of the problem.

The #MeToo movement, which as of this writing in late December, continues to shake the foundations of power in American media and politics, began ten years ago with Tarana Burke, director of the Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender Equity.

She describes the movement she founded this way:

On one side, it’s a bold declarative statement that “I’m not ashamed” and “I’m not alone.” On the other side, it’s a statement from survivor to survivor that says “I see you, I hear you, I understand you and I’m here for you or I get it.”

#MeToo has focused attention on what feminist theorists call rape culture: the fabric of beliefs, social norms, media depictions, and institutional structures that both normalize and excuse male sexual aggression and sexual violence. The underlying message of rape culture is that the female body exists primarily for male pleasure and male domination.

So why am I writing about rape culture on a blog dedicated to books for middle grade readers?

This post is a call-to-action for those of us who care about young people.

Rape culture exists on a continuum from cat-calling to pats on the butt to solicitations for sexy pictures to assault and rape. And these behaviors begin early.

Consider these examples:

(a) A boy chases a girl and tries to kiss her during elementary school. The girl complains and is told, “He does that because he likes you.”

(b) A boy snaps a girl’s bra. The girl complains and is told, “Boys will be boys.”

(c) A school’s dress code forbids girls from wearing spaghetti straps or short skirts because this attire distracts boys from their school work.

(d) A boy grabs a girl’s bottom, and she slaps him. Her peers accuse her of being too sensitive and over-reacting. Others call her a b*$%#.

In each of these cases, an act of harassment, upsetting in itself, is coupled with the message that girls should be (a) grateful for the attention, that (b) this behavior is “normal,” that (c) girls are the cause of boys’ misbehavior, and that (d) girls should be silent and accept this treatment.

These examples show how we confound desire and aggression and coercion so profoundly that our young people grow up believing that men are supposed to be sexually aggressive and not “take no for an answer,” while women are supposed to both welcome sexual attention and be blamed if their own boundaries are violated.

According to a study of 1,300 middle school students conducted by Dr. Dorothy Espelage of the University of Florida, 25% of girls had experienced verbal and physical sexual harassment. In a similar study of high schoolers, that percentage rose to 68%.

Is it any wonder that the percentage of women responding to #MeToo is 100%?

For young adults, sexual harassment and sexual violence are linked to depression, eating disorders, problems in school, and problems with friends. In adults, sexual harassment and sexual violence are a huge part of why women continue to be at a disadvantage in the workplace.

If we, as writers, educators, and parents who value young people, want to make a real difference in the lives of girls and young women, we need to educate ourselves about rape culture (book list below) and make a commitment to calling out instances of rape culture as it affects young people.

This means having hard conversations about everything from the lack of consent depicted in story of Sleeping Beauty to the current wave of actors, musicians, and politicians being outed as sexual predators thanks to the #MeToo movement. We need to be talking about these things with all our young people—boys and girls alike—if we are going to deconstruct the toxic effects of rape culture and move toward true gender equity.

Resources for learning about rape culture

Asking for It: The Rise of Rape Culture—and What We Can Do About It by Kate Harding, Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2015. In-depth research into present day rape culture.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakaue, Doubleday, 2015. An incisive case study of rape culture on a college campus.

Yes Means Yes by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti, Seal Press, 2008. An anthology that deconstructs rape culture and proposes new paradigms for respecting women’s sexual autonomy.

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit, Haymarket Books, 2015. A collection of essays including one that responds to the #YesAllWomen hashtag and sexual aggression toward women.

Hey, Shorty! by Girls for Gender Equity, Joanne Smith, Meghan Huppuch, and Mandy Van Deven, Feminist Press, 2011. A guide to combating sexual harassment and violence in schools and on the streets.

Slut by Katie Cappiello and Meg McInerney, Feminist Press, 2015. A play and guidebook for combating sexism and sexual violence.

P.S. I am currently writing a nonfiction book for tween and teen readers about rape culture, which will be traditionally published in Spring of 2019. More details as soon as I am able to share them. You can follow me on Twitter at @amberjkeyser or sign up for my newsletters at if you want to be in the loop.