A Letter to the Reel Grrls Community from Board President Michael B. Maine
A historic vote from the Reel Grrls Board has named Michael B. Maine as the organization’s first male-identified Board President. The artist and activist shares his thoughts on what this means to him personally in the letter below.
When I was a very young boy in Dallas, I made up a game where I would watch the news by turning around and try to guess what the person the news anchor was talking about looked like. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s when I started reading and codifying media. Trends began emerging for me: violent crime—black; award-winning acting performance—white; etc. Before long, I became very curious in how mass media came to existence. Where did these messages come from? How is casting handled, who chooses what news stories are news worthy, and what is the relationship between media and perception? I realized that what I was seeing on television and in the theater, and what I heard on the radio didn’t match my real world experiences.
Several years later, I was sitting in the laundry room, at a predominantly white university, watching a football game when a classmate walked in. Surprised to see me, he said, “Hi Michael. You’re in my political science class right? You know…you’re much smarter than I thought you would be.” When I asked him why he thought that he said, “You’re the first black person I’ve ever met in my life—you know—outside of TV and I just expected you to be like that.” I saw the power of the media clearly that day.
I’ll never forget when I first learned about Reel Grrls. In partnership with Media Justice League, I performed a media training for the Texas Council on Family Violence. In that training, we showed how oppressive images normalize thought and behavior that often leads to violence. Media is a powerful tool, and we screened the video that Reel Grrls produced to protest Comcast’s withholding their sponsorship. It was a great example of how, when people have the literacy and skills to create their own media, the potential to build awareness, empathy, and action is tremendous.
I hope I can show more men that ‘feminist’ is not a bad word, because it stands for my values of equal rights and representation.
As the new Board President, I have big aspirations for Reel Grrls. How can we offer our media literacy programs to more communities? How can we get tools and technology into new hands for authentic storytelling? And how can grow our network of supporters so these dreams are attainable? I hope that as the first male-identified Board President, I can help play a role in helping Reel Grrls get there and more. I hope that standing proudly as a male feminist, I can bring more men into our community and rally them behind our cause of teaching youth through a feminist lens. I hope I can show more men that ‘feminist’ is not a bad word, because it stands for my values of equal rights and representation.
I feel fortunate to be surrounded by a team of caring, talented, and experienced people who are open minded and looking towards the future. Together I strongly believe that we have an opportunity to continue further the delivery on the Reel Grrls mission by being nimble and increasing access to a more diverse group of people—many of whom are underserved and under resourced. I also hope that, as a man, one of the things I can bring specifically is to show that feminism isn’t a “women’s only” issue, but a framework that represents the belief that everyone should be free to fully participate, present, and be considered.
Michael B. Maine
Reel Grrls Board President and proud feminist