“I just feel so strongly that women need to really come together. It’s a new time. It’s a time where we don’t compete, but we work together in co-creating the planet that we want to have.”
— Mary Ann Halpin
Mary Ann Halpin is an internationally acclaimed author and photographer who is leading women in what is being called a “Fearless Women Revolution.” Her first two books, “Pregnant Goddesshood” and “Fearless Women: Midlife Portraits”, were groundbreaking (and controversial), and now she is about to release a third fearless book. Go Mary Ann!
In her new book, “Fearless Women, Fearless Wisdom,” Mary Ann has brought together 40 female entrepreneurs from across the country to celebrate their courage and strength in having worked through their fears to achieve great personal and professional success.
TB: What inspires you to do this Fearless Women work?
MAH: I feel a consciousness happening with women all over the world. Women are being called to action to help co-create a better world. We as the feminine healers are growing to our full potential, moving through fear and really going for our dreams to make a better life for ourselves and the whole planet. That inspires me to forge forward with this Fearless Women Revolution. I like the word “Revolution” instead of movement as “evolution” is contained within the word. I think we have truly evolved and are continuing to do so.
So why “fearless” you may ask? Fear seems to be the motivation behind so much of what happens in the world to stop our dreams, keep us stuck and creates a world of frustration, depression and panic. Everywhere you look, listen and see in the media is fear driven. We are told to be afraid of everything. So it all makes you want to crawl under a rock and give up. We are living in tough fear-full times. However, if we as women, come together for support and inspiration, we can move through fear to courage and ultimately heal the planet. As the Dalai Lama declared at the Vancouver Peace conference last year, “The world will be saved by the western woman.” When I read that I thought, yes, we are on the right track!
TB: Tell me more about the Fearless Women Revolution. What specifically are women doing as part of this revolution?
MAH: The Fearless Women Revolution is really moving through the country like wild fire. Women seem to really resonate with this. An annual “Fearless Women Day” has been created in honor of the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment being ratified, which gave us the right to vote. On this day, August 26th, 2010, women from all over the country and Canada will celebrate being the amazing fearless women that they are and create events that will raise awareness and contribute to charitable organizations.. Each city will select one woman who will be given a Fearless Women – Susan B. Anthony Award to honor her fearless contribution to the world. The ultimate goal of the award is not only to honor the selected fearless woman, but also to support her dream and help her gain closer access to her goals.
“I think women are being called to action.”
TB: As you have been leading this incredible movement to encourage women to live in fearlessness and celebrate their strength, what leadership lessons have you learned along the way?
MAH: They say you teach what you need to learn the most. I agree with that. It surprises people when I say I have fear almost every day. I wake up with butterflies in my belly a lot. I have come to appreciate those butterflies as they are signs of transformation and change. I don’t think of myself as a leader. I am just doing what I am called to do. I told a friend of mine, in jest, that I should wear a t-shirt that says, “don’t follow me I’m lost!” There is truth in jest. Sometimes I feel that but then I take a deep breath, hike into the woods, meditate, journal and listen for the answers. It’s a big part of keeping my balance — my cabin in the mountains. I crave Mother Nature to feed me. I think we all work so hard these days. The energy of the planet is very intense. I believe many women are being called to lead. The major lesson for us all is taking that time to retreat, regroup and re-energize so we can take up our sword and go forward again. It’s really an amazing time to be on the planet. I heard someone say that the transformation happening on the planet is a 1000 times more transformative than the Renaissance period. If we think about what history will say about this time it will be very fascinating.
“I wake up with butterflies in my belly a lot. I have come to appreciate those butterflies as they are signs of transformation and change.”
TB: What fears have you had to move through? And how did you do this?
MAH: When I was photographing women for my last book, Fearless Women: Midlife Portraits, I was rushed to the hospital with a tumor in my small intestines. I was told I had to have surgery or die. It was really fear transforming! I realized that I would be in the hospital for at least five days and in bed for about six weeks. I surrendered to the fact that I might not get the book done as we were only half way done and had a deadline approaching. A wave of energy moved through me and by the end of the first week I was out of the hospital, and I was photographing Kathy Najimy for my book. By shear fearless will power, I finished the book in time to go to print. I had many fearless lessons all through the project and this one as well. I just do what’s in front of me, move through fear and embrace courage. My husband is a huge support for me and gives me such strength through his love and belief in me. I am blessed to have him in my life for almost 30 years.
TB: Your first book, Pregnant Goddesshood: A Celebration of Life, was controversial when it first came out. Tell me more about that and how do you think things have changed since then?
MAH: When Pregnant Goddesshood came out back in the late 90’s, it was still frowned upon to show a pregnant belly. I was really disturbed by the way most women viewed their body. I photographed a lot of actresses and most were very unhappy with their bodies. They felt either too fat, too short…nose wasn’t right…hair, etc. I started a figure study project. The first woman who came to me was pregnant. She seemed so comfortable with her body. When my book was released a major book store would not carry it as they felt it would offend their customers. My book did get lot’s of press because of the controversy and seemed to blaze the trail for people accepting women showing their naked bellies full of baby. Not long after my book was out the reality show, “A Baby Story,” came on Discovery Channel. The opening shot was a woman with her hands on her pregnant naked belly. I knew that my book made that possible. So the pregnant portrait began and today it’s incredibly popular. You can’t go into many cities and not find a portrait photographer that doesn’t do pregnant portraits as part of their portrait business.
TB: That is awesome. I of course particularly love the goddess title. What does being a goddess mean to you?
MAH: To me, being a goddess really means being in our power and acknowledging who we are as a powerful woman, a beautiful sensual woman, and a wise woman. And I totally believe we should be worshipped.
As a photographer when I do portraits, so many women say, “Oh I couldn’t put a portrait of myself on the wall.” I say, “What?! I think we should all have a portrait of ourselves on the wall, have a little table under there with a candle and incense. We need to be worshipped. We need to really love ourselves. Goddess to me is more than just a medieval vision that we have of a goddess. It’s an inner strength, and an inner beauty that we have to acknowledge that we are. When I listen to women’s language sometimes when they are putting themselves down, I say “Don’t say that about yourself. You are a goddess. You are amazing!”
TB: How have you found men’s responses to be around the Fearless Women Revolution? In other words, how do you think men are handling this surge of women stepping into their power?
MAH: There are two kinds of men that I observe. There are the men, like my husband, that love women and love the whole idea of women coming into their power. They are not threatened by it. They are really supportive. And then there are other factions of men that, when look at my book of women with swords, they smirk. They say, “It’s a little scary seeing women with swords.” Or they make some snide comment. I’ll just kind of laugh and say, “Yes, I guess chicks with swords are kind of threatening.” I joke about it because I find that with men or women, you can’t change what they think, but you can just honor that maybe they are afraid of it. Most often I joke because you are not going to change someone’s view. You just have to do and be authentic. Some people just don’t get it, and that’s just the way it’s going to be.
It’s the type of thing when you create revolution, you may get shot down. That’s the risk. Metaphorically you may get shot down or literally. Look what happened to John Lennon, or Martin Luther King, or Jesus Christ. You can be crucified. But you can’t think about those things, you just have to move forward.
TB: You said earlier that you don’t think of yourself as a leader, but are just doing what you are called to do. What is your advice to a woman who is being called to lead, but is resisting the call?
MAH: What they need to do is rally the troops. Gather your friends around. Tell them: “I’ve had this vision … this calling, I need feedback. If you have doubts whether you want to go forward with something, just say to your friends: “This is what I want to do, what do you think?” If you surround yourself with really wonderful, powerful women, you will get the best feedback and then you can have your support.
“I think that a lot of us are taught — you’ve got to be strong, and don’t ask for help, and all this sort of stuff. But it’s really crap. We really need each other, and as women, we need each other more than ever.”
TB: What can women do right now to join the Fearless Women Revolution?
MAH: Right now, they can join our Facebook Fan page to join in the community
of fearless women. We are also in the process of creating a website www.fearlesswomenday.com. If they want to create an event for Fearless Women Day, they can go to the website and learn how to put together an event. I am encouraging women all over the country to come together on that day (August 26th), whether it’s a small group, getting together to have tea or coffee, or a large event. The point is to come together to celebrate being women, and a way to have a sisterhood celebration on that particular day.
TB: What will you be doing on Fearless Women Day?
MAH: I am doing a luncheon in Los Angeles at the Ann Douglas Center for Women at the Los Angeles Mission. The Ann Douglas Center for Women is my cause. The women there have really gone through a lot of challenges. I’ve been offering my services there for 30 years. We decided this year to not go crazy big, and keep it simple. It will pave the way for next year, and this feels really good.
TB: Any parting thoughts?
MAH: I just feel so strongly that women need to really come together. It’s a new time. It’s a time that we don’t compete, but we work together in co-creating the planet that we want to have. One of the things I love to say is, “Love more, and fear less.” Or “Fear less and live more.” That’s really the heart of my project.
To learn more about Mary Ann and see more of her gorgeous photography, visit www.maryannhalpin.com.
To pre-order a signed copy of Fearless Women, Fearless Wisdom visit www.eWomenNetwork.com. Your purchase will contribute to the eWomenNetwork Foundation, which provides grants and cash awards to non-profits and individuals supporting the well-being of women and children.
Tabby Biddle, M.S. Ed., is a writer, editor, and reporter dedicated to the empowerment of women and girls. Her work has been featured by The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, NPR, and other national media. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post on women’s issues and reports on the inspiring work of women changemakers. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.