by Claudia Vitarelli

We got dangerous, invited a group of kickass women to gather around a table… and the Feminism in Flux dinner was born. Here, we’re featuring personal stories from our attendees.

Michelle Mattar, Creative Director, 27 years old, American.

When did you first realize you were a feminist?

Short answer: Slowly, around age 13-14

Long answer: I lost my father at age 11 and watched my mom heroically rise to the occasion of becoming a single Mom. I grew up in a family where the man earned money and the mother stayed at home, but at one point my father fell too ill with cancer to work. Shortly after, my brother was diagnosed with cancer. My mother managed to run my father's business while taking two members of the family to chemotherapy and surgeries, putting one through college and another through elementary school. After my father passed, my mom decided to close the business and apply for jobs. She is an incredibly hard worker, dedicated spirit, kind soul and skilled multi-tasker– but she was disqualified for not having enough job experience to fill a resume. The challenges continued from there. It was over the course those few years following his death that witnessing her adversity caused an absolute belief in me that we have not won equality.

What are some nuances within the feminist movement that you’ve come to understand in the last year?

We can be the conversation starters, and it's a new form of power. #Metoo was simply a conversation. So often it is difficult to see that a small group of people can change the world. It's helpful to think that a compounding of Facebook statuses might have triggered conversations like #TimesUp.

If you could tell one group one thing about feminism who would it be and what would you say?

My dad was from Beirut and many members of my family are there; It holds a very special place in my heart. I have some conflict with that because so many things I believe in that are at odds in Lebanon. I would want to the collective community of the country I love to know that power to others advances the whole, not just the part.

What would you tell your 10-year-old self about what it means to be a woman?

Taking care of yourself is equally as important as taking care of others.

What is one wish you have for women, or for the feminist movement, in the coming year?

My dad has come up a few times in this, so I'll end with something I can remember him saying to me about his fight: "When you've given 100%, you have 30% more left in you." Keep going, keep talking, keep learning!