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Not Your Mother’s Feminist- An Interview with Paradigm Shift

Posted by Marguerite at 7th October, 2010

When the Feminist Movement Needed a New Direction Meredith Villano stepped up and took the Reigns.

An Interview with Meredith, Co-Founder Paradigm Shift, NYC

1. What prompted you to start Paradigm Shift?
Three and half years ago I felt the feminist community was fractured, and there wasn’t a diverse array of entry points to a feminist consciousness or community. Paradigm Shift was created so feminists and the feminist curious could have a consistent and regular platform and outlet for self-expression, education, and coalition building.

2. Who were you and who have you become since Paradigm Shift?
Before Paradigm Shift I had a singular focus on my career in media and business development, and I was really missing the close feminist community I had in college, and was eager to establish new friendships and professional relationships in a setting that would contribute to the work of all types of progressives. Now, I’m so grateful and privileged to work with prominent feminists who I’ve admired for years, and others who constantly inspire me, including our volunteer staff and interns. I’m proud of the impact we’ve made, and I’m constantly learning by participating in an evolving dialogue.

3. What are Paradigm Shift’s main goals and objectives?
Paradigm Shift’s mission is to foster coalition building and to educate, inspire, expand and diversify the community among the feminist identified and those interested in progressive issues.

Paradigm Shift works to tear down the barriers and remaining stigma that lead all genders away from identifying with feminism, and from identifying as feminists. As feminists, we should meet people where they’re at – and work to provide opportunities for the non-feminist identified to discuss how they feel marginalized or how they feel empowered, and help them connect the dots to the larger cultural dynamics involved.

4. How have you seen Paradigm Shift’s make an impact on regular mainstream media and society as a whole?

We host monthly lectures, discussions, screenings, and performances featuring leaders in feminist thought, ranging from artists and academics to filmmakers and policy activists that have received mainstream media attention mainly online, print, and radio including NY Daily News, NBC NY, The Examiner, articles and features in Time Out NY (we were Critics’ Pick 8 times). Some of our events analyze mainstream media and it’s impact, as well provide a larger platform for independent feminist media both online and off.

Paradigm Shift is a community not-for-profit organization, and coalition building is crucial to increase the impact and reach of every progressive organization. We’ve partnered with over 95 organizations (including Woodhull), media outlets, and blogs who are directly involved with each topic as well as supporters, which has increased our reach exponentially, as well as our partners reach. We also provide our partners with marketing, project support, networking, and a select few have received a portion of the income from events. In April 2009 we launched a blog and Paradigm Shift TV, our online video channel which features video coverage of our events, interviews, submissions from the community including film trailers, and later this year an original series.

Up to now, our impact has mainly been measured by positive community response and participation. Our events provide diverse entry points to feminism whether your interested in telling your own story, discussing feminist perspectives on culture, or performing or networking with like-minded people. We also make it point to feature topics that need more air-time or dialogue within and outside of the progressive movement – such as feminist men and masculinity, sex work, virginity in America, ecofeminism, women & religious equality, the quest for physical perfection. More people are realizing that feminism is everyone’s issue, everyone has to gain from feminism.

5. What are the responses of men to Paradigm Shift?
We often feature and highlight the work of feminist men, including a sold-out panel discussion “Feminist Men: Increasing Visibility” a year ago. Past speakers include Michael Kimmel, world-renown gender studies scholar, Joe Samalin from Men Can Stop Rape, Robert Brannon co-founder of National Org for Men Against Sexism, and Vinnie Angel, feminist consumer product designer (creator of Vinnie’s Tampon Case).
Men make up about a third of our membership/attendees and partners. The feedback has been extremely positive, and I most often hear that they are inspired by our speakers and performers. Men are eager to be more involved and to learn how they benefit from feminism. Men are crucial to the progression of the movement.

6. Are you male inclusive?

People of every gender identification participate, volunteer, and have always been welcome, which is one of the reasons why Paradigm Shift, a name not specifying gender, was chosen.

7. What can a woman come away from by being a part of Paradigm Shift?

Inspiration, support, education, and networking- lasting ties to a large and welcoming community that encourages and provides a platform for self-expression in thought and identity as well as all literary and creative pursuits.

8. What are the future goals of Paradigm Shift?

- Increase our national and local audience by hosting events and workshops across the country including our signature workshop “Creating Intra and Interpersonal Paradigm Shifts” which we just launched this weekend at the international conference Performing the World 2010: Can Performance Change the World? http://www.performingtheworld.org/
- Increase our participation in local and national protests and campaigns (past includes- Paradigm Shift was a part of the NYC National Equality March Mobilization Coalition, speaking engagement at Anti-Stupak-Pitts local reproductive rights protest hosted by NOW NYS)
- Increase our membership specifically among those under 18, and our partnership base to include more youth organizations and universities
- Expand Paradigm Shift TV by launching several of our own original video series
- Upgrade our website in order to make it more dynamic and to increase community participation
- Further diversify and expand our programming to showcase more performers and playwrights, as well as those working in psychology, business, science, and technology.


• 8/18/10- BODY TYPED Short Films on Perfection 
Screening & Discussion with Jesse Epstein, Sundance Award-Winning Filmmaker. Over 89 attended. Time Out NY CRITICS Pick- our 8th honor.

Lecture and Discussion featuring 
DR. MICHAEL KIMMEL, PhD, Author & Sociologist, is among the leading researchers and writers on men and masculinity in the world today 

Moderated by SHELBY KNOX, nationally known feminist organizer & subject of the Sundance award-winning film, “The Education of Shelby Knox” Time Out NY CRITICS PICK! Over 145 attended.

Proudly Present 
A LOWER EAST SIDE FEMINIST TAKEOVER – Celebrate as the Lower East Side officially becomes The Feminist District!
Happy Hour at Gallery Bar. Over 75 attended.

• 4/21/10- Artist Showcase: Celebrating the Work of Feminist Artists hosted by Laura Joy, Acoustic Folk Pop & Membership Coordinator, Paradigm Shift. Featuring, Bastet “Belly Dance For Change”, Experimental belly dance troupe; Barnacle Bill, Folk / Soul / Reggae; Chantilly, Singer-Songwriter; Jennifer Ortiz, Spoken Word Poet; Julia Weldon, Folk Indie Rock; Katina Douveas, Spoken Word Poet; Ms.India.M, R&B, Soul / Jazz / Alternative; Twilight of The Idle, Queer Cabaret Wordrock; Amy Mitten Photography. Sold Out house.

• 3/30/10- Sex Work & Human Rights: Feminist Advocacy Strategies. Panel Discussion and Screening. TimeOut NY Critics’ Pick (our 6th time!) featuring: Sienna Baskin, Esq., Staff Attorney, Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center; Christina Cicchelli, Columnist, $pread magazine; Maryse Mitchell-Brody, Co-Founder, Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK); Audacia Ray, International Women’s Health Coalition & co-founder of Sex Work Awareness; Will Rockwell, Editor, $pread magazine; Screening of “Sangram: Sex Worker Organizing In India” a collaboration between the International Women’s Health Coalition and SANGRAM; moderated by Melissa Gira Grant, External Relations Officer, Third Wave Foundation & freelance writer. Portion of the proceeds donated to Sex Workers Project. Over 53 attended.

• 2/23/10- “The Purity Myth: How Americaʼs Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young 
Women” A Discussion with Jessica Valenti, Author & Feministing.com Founder and 
Editor. TimeOut NY Criticsʼ Pick (our 5th time!). Portion of proceeds donated to Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. Over 110 attended- sold out.

• 12/1/09- Sex. Consent. Power. Pleasure. “The Line” Documentary Screening & Panel discussion. TimeOutNY Critics’ Pick. Featuring: Nancy Schwartzman, Filmmaker, Erin Burrows, Students Active For Ending Rape, Joseph Samalin, Men Can Stop Rape, Campus Strength Coordinator, Ignacio Rivera, Sex educator, Organizer & Performance Artist. Portion of the proceeds donated to The Line Campaign and SAFER. Over 85 attended.

• 11/19/09- Progressive Single Mingle: A Cocktail Party for the Left-Leaning. TimeOutNY Critics’ Pick. Raffle Sponsors include: Rubin Museum, Jivamukti Yoga school, Brooklyn Museum, Bluestockings, Tastee Vegan. Supported by the Planned Parenthood of New York City Activist Council, NARAL Pro-Choice NY, NOW NYS Young Feminist Task Force, The Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership. Over 30 attended.

• 11/2/09- NARAL’s Pro-Choice Election Phone Banks- Co-sponsored by Paradigm Shift

• 10/29/09- “Amelia” Film Screening & Discussion

• 10/11/09- National Equality March for LGBTQ rights in Washington, DC. Paradigm Shift was a part of the NYC National Equality March Mobilization Coalition.

• 9/23/09- “Fight for Your Reproductive Rights: How You Can Help Pass the Reproductive Health Act” co-sponsored by NYCLU, featuring Corinne Carey, Interim director, Reproductive Rights Project, New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), Rev. Matthew Westfox, National Coordinator for Field Services at Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice & Associate, Pastor at All Souls Bethlehem Church, Dr. Carol Roye, EdD, RN, CPNP, researcher in reproductive health, Jenn Proulx, Filmmaker of “Another New Yorker for the Reproductive Health Act”. 25 attended.

• 8/19/09- “Feminist Men: Increasing Visibility”. TimeOutNY’s Critics’ Pick. Featuring Dr. Michael Kimmel, one of the leading researchers and writers on men and masculinity, Vinnie Angel, purveyor of social justice consumer products, Robert Brannon, Co- Founder NOMAS, Jerin Alam, NOW NYS YFTF, Ben Siegel, former VP Hunter Women’s Rights Coalition. Over 80 attended.

• 7/22/09- “The Sari Soldiers” documentary screening & discussion with Julie Bridgham, Filmmaker. Portion of proceeds to Sari Soldiers Outreach Fund. Event produced in partnership with Women Make Movies.

• 6/17/09- Paradigm Shift TV & Blog Launch & LGBTQ Pride Party featuring Rickie Gal, Jennifer Friedman, Inky Glass, and Phoenix

• 4/1/09- Women & Religious Equality with Leora Tanenbaum, Author “Taking Back God: American Women Rising Up for Religious Equality”- lecture and discussion. Portion of proceeds to Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual. 22 attended.

• 3/7/09- MichFest Half-way Soiree, a benefit for Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival featuring local and internationally renown talent such as singer/songwriter Pamela Means, Amber Darland, and Juliana Marx.

• 1/21/09- Roe vs. Wade Anniversary documentary screening of “I Had An Abortion” and discussion with Jennifer Baumgardner, Activist, Author, Filmmaker, Gillian Aldrich, Filmmaker, and women featured in the film. Portion of proceeds to NY Abortion Access Fund. 74 attended.

• 1/14/09- Are You Financially Secure: Women & Finances Workshop by Tanya Osborne, Independent Financial Services Professional at Primerica Financial Services

• 11/19/08- Feminism & Motherhood with Amy Richards, Activist & Author “Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself”, lecture and discussion. Portion of proceeds to New Space for Women’s Health. Over 25 attended

• 9/23/08- Open Mic & Special Guest Pauline Delage, French Feminist Scholar

• 8/1/08- “Feminazi” Off-Broadway One Women Comedy by Suzanne Willett & Panel discussion featuring S. Willett, Alexandra Zimmermann and Nichole Casamento of Younger Women’s Task Force- NYC Chapter, & Paradigm Shift Co-Founder, Meredith Villano

• 5/29/08- The Real Sex In the City: Sexuality Workshop by Ducky Doolittle, Author & Sexual Health Advocate

• 5/8/08- Ecofeminism with Marti Kheel Ph.D.., Author “Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective” & Scholar- lecture and discussion

• 3/28/08- From Violence to Empowerment featuring NYC’s Radical Cheerleaders

• 3/1/08- MichFest Half-way Soiree, a benefit for Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. TimeOutNY’s Critics’ Pick. Featuring local and internationally renown talent such as singer/songwriter Nedra Johnson, poet Staceyann Chin, Filthy, and Laura Joy. 110 attended.

• 1/25/08- Feminist Entrepreneurship: No Glass Ceiling to Smash featuring Annmarie Agosta, MSW specializing in Holistic Psychotherapy and LGBT issues.

• 12/7/07- Abortion Speak Out and Open Mic

• 6/07- Bushwick Artist Open Studios- Open Mic

• 3/07- Paradigm Shift LAUNCH EVENT- Body Image/ Self-Love- Open Mic and Speak Out

About Marguerite

Marguerite Brereton has written 4 articles on this blog.

Category : Community Member Projects and Updates / Women

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