The board for Reel Grrls, a nonprofit to get girls into film production, has named Michael B. Maine its seventh president — the first man to hold that title.
When Malory Graham founded the nonprofit Reel Grrls, an organization dedicated to helping girls learn film production, she never envisioned that one day her board president would be a man.
“I think I would have been really surprised,” Graham said. “At the time I felt it was so important to have an all-girls organization be run by women. I’ve really come around to the fact that it’s shortsighted in the long term. And I’m super excited to embrace this change now.”
So last month, the board for the 15-year-old nonprofit voted Michael B. Maine, 30, as its seventh president, and its first man to hold that title.
Though it’s a volunteer position consisting of five to 10 hours of work per week, the president is one of the public faces of an organization. To have a man in that role for a nonprofit serving girls could be seen as a big deal, capital B, D. But, said executive director Nancy Chang, he’s a great fit. “Michael brings three worlds to Reel Grrls: the business savvy (he holds an MBA and worked in the financial world), social justice and creative industries (as a photographer).”
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An enthusiastic supporter of Reel Grrls, Maine has volunteered there for four years, serving on the board for the past year. He’ll serve as the president for a two-year term, where he will work closely with Chang and the rest of the board to create a long-term strategy for the organization.
Graham, a filmmaker, got the idea for Reel Grrls when she was teaching classes at the YMCA and the 911 Media Arts Center and noticed the dearth of young women in them. She discovered it wasn’t for lack of interest. “Girls said they would be more comfortable learning if it was an all-girl environment.” When they had to compete with boys for equipment, they tended to shrink away, out of shyness or fear.
Since then, Reel Grrls has helped thousands of girls and young women between the ages of 9 and 21 learn how to write a script, storyboard a film, act, direct, and use editing software. Through the Reel Grrls Pro program, its members have produced videos promoting social change for local organizations such as Yoga Behind Bars, Starbucks Coffee and Cornish College of the Arts’ Neddy Awards.
Some of its alumni go on to receive scholarships at prestigious schools like New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
One of its current participants is aspiring filmmaker Celine Francois, 17, a senior at the International Community School in Kirkland. “I thought it was super awesome that this was all girls, so that every girl had an opportunity to have their voice be heard,” she said.
Francois said she and the other Reel Grrls were excited by Maine’s selection.
“I think it’s super progressive that there’s a man who is willing to step up and say, ‘I am a feminist and I want to fight for equal rights for women,’ ” she said. “It’s really encouraging that he’s there to support all of us as well while still not detracting from the initial mission of equality for women.”
Maine identifies as a “male feminist.” “Feminism is not just a women’s issue,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest thing that I would hope this kind of situation portrays. Everybody can care about equal rights and equal access for anybody.”
Still, the question lingers: What sort of message does it send when a man heads an organization for girls?
For Graham, it’s a modern — and inclusive — message. “I think we have done a lot of soul-searching as an organization and determined that the next step is to have male allies who really support the feminist cause,” she said. “We started out wanting to have the girls we serve to see women in power in the organization and then we evolved to the place to have girls know that men support them as well.”