Feminist Conversations is a weekly series at Feminists For Choice. We spotlight activists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them. Jodi Leib is an artist and filmmaker currently working on “Monday’s Child”, a feature about reproductive freedom. Her films have screened at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Screen Actors Guild, Wine Country Film Festival (Audience award, 1997), On the Lot, IFILM, Laemmle Theaters Sunset 5 and several other festivals and venues.
1. When did you first call yourself a feminist? What inspired that decision?
I first had the feeling of a bias against women when I was in grade school and I made a bet with a boy and won, but he didn’t pay me what I was due. I subsequently had the feeling in several working environments that I was being treated unfairly based on my appearance and/or gender, and I was even sexually harassed in my early twenties.
I became a filmmaker in college, and as I began to write and direct, I realized that I only wanted to tell stories about women – that I had a driving desire to communicate my point of view and experience as a woman through my characters and stories. As I became more interested in reproductive rights and committed to making “Monday’s Child,” I became comfortable calling myself a feminist.
2. When did you start working on “Monday’s Child”? And what was your motivation for starting the project?
After I was sexually harassed in the workplace, I floundered for a while. I wrote a few films, but didn’t have the commitment to see them through. I was still shell-shocked. So I retreated into my own creative space for healing, where I began to paint as a form of art therapy. It took me a long time to recover, and I explored a variety of different art forms.
I was trying to make it as an actor and couch-surfing in L.A. It was November 2000—the only thing happening at the time was [the Bush v. Gore election dispute.] One night I was speaking with my Aunt Susie on the telephone from Michigan, and she asked me if Bush won, “What’s going to happen to all those women?”
I thought to myself: What would happen? And, so I wrote the first draft of “Monday’s Child” in about two weeks with the premise of what would happen if Roe v. Wade were overturned and how that would affect a community of women facing complicated pregnancies. I have been rewriting the screenplay ever since.
3. Why is the film called “Monday’s Child?”
The name came to me in my imagination, like many of my creative ideas, and I went with it! I then looked up the nursery rhyme, and in it I discovered that Monday represents the day of justice – or so I interpreted. I also reviewed my own birthday and found it was on a Monday. Additionally, I was born into a family of lawyers and became the only filmmaker. So, in terms of life-purpose, it all makes sense - I was born into the field of justice to do this work and make this film.
4) When did you first get involved in the pro-choice movement? And how has your involvement evolved over the years?
My first involvement was when I started using condoms and protecting myself from unwanted pregnancy. I was eventfully fit for a diaphragm, which I never used, but I participated in my healthcare. I went to the gynecologist regularly and cared about my body and developed reproductive values. After I wrote Monday’s Child, I became more actively involved in the movement. I attended the March for Women’s Lives in 2004 as a journalist and interviewed several leaders including Gloria Steinem, Moby, and Janeane Garofalo about reproductive rights.
After I moved to New York, I joined the Young Professionals Council for Choice, a fundraising unit of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, to activate young professionals around the issues. I also collaborated with Words of Choice, a pro-choice theater company, and wrote as a guest-blogger. In 2009, I independently produced a reading of Monday’s Child and discussed the story at length with the audience.
Today my involvement is focused on producing “Monday’s Child.” I write a bi-monthly newsletter that usually features some content about reproductive health.
5. When you’re not working on “Monday’s Child,” how do you take care of yourself?
I try my best to include dance and yoga in my schedule and get enough sleep when I can and eat healthfully, in addition to spiritual growth and relationship fun. Self-help books are an essential guilty pleasure!
Jodi is a freelance writer and recovering academic with more enthusiasm for sports than athletic talent and a prodigious taste for the health food known as dark chocolate.