By Admin | January 4, 2008
Marianne Schnall is a pioneering blogger, widely published writer, and activist on ecological issues. She publishes the websites Feminist.com and Ecomall.com that serve as national clearinghouses for information and resources. She gives us her thoughts.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in New York City.
Where did you go to college and what was your academic major?
I graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. and I was an English major.
What was your career path from college to your current situation?
My first job out of college was as an assistant to a well known non-fiction literary agent, John Brockman & Associates in Manhattan.
I went on to become an editorial assistant and reporter for Us Magazine, interviewing celebrities at industry events like movie premieres and award shows, and compiling the “Loose Talk” page.
It was the experience of covering the 1992 March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C. which helped empower and awaken my activist and feminist sensibilities, as well as my interest in how celebrities could use their high profile status to create exposure for important causes.
I began writing the column “Cause Celeb” for In Style Magazine and working on a book of interviews with celebrities about the causes with which they were affiliated.
Some of the celebrities I interviewed during that time included Meryl Streep, Bette Midler, Ted Danson, Ed Begley, Jr., Joanne Woodward, Kathy Najimy, Christopher Reeve, Timothy Leary and Alec Baldwin, just to name a few.
My husband Tom Kay and I developed an environmental directory of earth-friendly products, services, and information, EcoMall.com, in the early days of the Internet back in 1994.
Feminist.com was an outgrowth of my awareness of the potential of the Internet, and how it could help women and women’s causes online.
I now also write stories and do interviews for various mediums such as Entertainment Weekly’s web site EW.com, Glamour Magazine, the Women’s Media Center, and The Huffington Post.
I think all of my current work has one unifying goal – finding creative ways to engage people into important causes and working together to create positive change.
I wear many varied hats such as writer, interviewer, editor, webmaster, business woman, activist, executive director of a non-profit organization – and also mother.
Who has been your best interview to date?
No one interview was the “best” – each interview has been enjoyable, enlightening and meaningful to me for different reasons and each has had its jewels and surprises.
What is your approach to doing interviews?
After many years, I think my personal interview style is one of conversation and just relating as human beings. I also try to share myself so it feels like a conversation between friends.
I research the person I will be speaking with – and when preparing my questions, I consider what their true passion and message is, as well as what that person might want most to get out to the world.
What was the impetus behind founding Feminist.com? Who were the original founders? Are they still with the group?
I decided to start Feminist.com in 1995 when few women were online – I think the statistics were that 15% of Internet users were women – to encourage women to use the web by providing a starting point site that would facilitate their ability to access the information and resources they were looking for.
Also, in those beginning days of the Internet, many women’s non-profit organizations didn’t yet have web sites of their own, so we also saw an opportunity and a necessity to ease their entry onto the Web and make their information immediately available by offering organizations their own space at Feminist.com.
As a result, Feminist.com was the first official web presence for many non-profits such as the Ms. Foundation for Women, Equality Now, Girls Inc., V-Day and many others.
On a personal level, my desire to found a site to help women and girls came from my own experiences and concerns as a woman, as well as hearing about, witnessing and experiencing many of the injustices that happen to women in the U.S. and around the world.
And now, as the mother of two young daughters, I am that much more inspired to provide a resource to help educate and empower women and girls, as well as to advocate for lasting change on their behalf.
The other original founders of Feminist.com are an amazing group of women (and one man, Tom) that are friends and colleagues, and I am happy to report that these incredible women are all still active and on the Feminist.com Board: Karen Obel Cape, Amy Richards, Susan Swan, Jennifer Meyerhardt and Lauren Wechsler Horn.
I could not have done it without them and am so grateful for their longtime involvement, friendship and support.
What was the impetus behind founding ecomall.com?
Tom has always been an environmentalist – his background and expertise is in the field of solar energy. He also had some technical background in the early days of computers, so he was one of the first to realize the potential of the Internet as a way to support environmental issues and organizations, as well as to promote environmentally-friendly and sustainable companies and products.
When we first started out in 1994, all the pages were grey, most people didn’t even know what e-mail was and Netscape was the only browser, and there were barely any sites, much less environmental ones, online. It is very heartening and exciting to see the growth of the green movement online.
How are Feminist.com and Ecomall.com funded?
Feminist.com is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is funded through sponsorship, grants, membership in our women owned business directory and donations.
EcoMall.com is a corporation and receives its revenue through companies advertising their products and services with us. We have over 300 companies listed at the EcoMall and most of them have been with us for 5 years or more.
We consider all of our advertisers, partners and supporters of both sites as part of our community and online family.
What is your most accessed feature on Feminist.com?
Our Resources section is one of our most accessed features. This includes columns from various writers and women’s organizations, articles, book excerpts and much more.
Our visitors also visit our online advice column “Ask Amy”, written by activist and author Amy Richards who answers a variety of questions that come into our site, our Women Owned Business Directory, our Anti-Violence Resource Guide and our links section.
People manage to frequent all the various areas of our site – sometimes I am amazed to look at our logs and see that an old article or Ask Amy Q&A we posted 10 years ago still gets a lot of traffic.
People not only find our content by going directly to our sites, but because, as such old-timers, we have such good search engine rankings, they often find a page at both sites by doing a search for a topic at a search engine like Google.
And we are constantly updating and adding new content and features to both the EcoMall and Feminist.com web sites. Feminist.com recently launched two new sections, “Women & Peace”, and “Inspiring Conversations: Feminist.com Talks to Inspiring and Empowering People Who are Changing the World as We Know It” which currently features my recent interviews with Eve Ensler, Melissa Etheridge, Jane Fonda, Carol Gilligan, Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, Kerry Washington and Nobel Laureate Betty Williams.
What is Gloria Steinem like?
I have such enormous love and respect and appreciation for Gloria. Not only am I thankful for all of the important work she has done on behalf of women and girls and other activist causes in the world, but she has had a direct impact on me personally.
She has been a longtime supporter of and Advisory Board member of Feminist.com, and I have also interviewed her numerous times. She is so warm and down to earth, as well as articulate and smart – she has so much wisdom to offer us.
I find her very inspiring and energizing to talk to. She is still doing important work educating and activating the public on many issues and is a role model for many.
She is also just a genuine, lovely person with such a big heart. The world has been truly blessed and forever changed by her work and her life.
There are quite a few mentions on your Feminist.com site about V-Day. What is V-Day?
V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls, and a non-profit organization founded by activist and writer Eve Ensler, which raises awareness and funding for a variety of anti-violence campaigns and projects.
Having been involved with Eve and V-Day since the very beginning – some of the first conceptual talks about V-Day were birthed with Eve and the Feminist.com board at my dining room table – I have witnessed the truly astounding growth and accomplishments of V-Day’s work around the world, having raised over $50 million for local anti-violence groups, with events taking place in over 120 countries.
V-Day is celebrating its ten year anniversary this year with a huge, two-day, fundraising event on April 11th and 12th, 2008 at the Superdome in New Orleans, called “V to the Tenth”, featuring a wide range of global activists, performers and participants such as Glenn Close, Rosario Dawson, Ellen DeGeneres, Jane Fonda, Salma Hayek, Jennifer Hudson, Ashley Judd, Julia Stiles, Marisa Tomei, Oprah Winfrey, Peter Buffett, Joss Stone and many others.
V-Day has been a longtime partner of Feminist.com – for example, vday.org directs visitors to our co-branded Anti-Violence Resource Guide at the Feminist.com site – and many board members of Feminist.com have gone on to play important roles with V-Day.
V-Day has always been a huge supporter of Feminist.com and Eve is an ongoing inspiration to me and countless others. For more on V-Day and the V to the Tenth event, visit V-Day’s web site at www.vday.org.
Do you ever get discouraged at the pace of progress for both the feminist agenda and the ecogreen agenda? How do you get yourself motivated and fired up?
Feeling discouraged serves no purpose, so I work at staying optimistic. I stay energized by focusing on the positive progress and the growth of both the feminist and environmental movements.
The traffic to both sites is growing, the number of sites and organizations working on both feminist and environmental issues is on the rise, and I think consciousness in general is rising.
Feminism and the environment are to me interconnected – it is all about an evolving awareness of our interdependence with each other and the Earth. I feel very hopeful, and grateful to be doing work which allows me to interact with other like-minded people and feel like I am contributing to change in the world.
And whenever I need a pick-me-up, we get a new e-mail from a site visitor telling us how one of our sites has helped or inspired them.
The Internet has been a revolutionary new medium for good that breaks down all borders and is a powerful tool for fostering awareness, community, activism, and self-empowerment.
Copyright 2008 DailyInterview.com