Women with a Purpose: The Saratoga Women’s Fest
This month marks the 100th anniversary of Women’s History Month, as well as International Women’s Day. In honor and celebration of women in Saratoga (and worldwide), a local council of women have come together to bring the first Saratoga Women’s Fest to the area.
The festival’s mission is not only to commemorate this centennial observance, but to bring awareness to the emerging modern women’s movement, as well as educate, encourage and empower the area’s women. The Opening Ceremony begins on International Women’s Day, Tuesday, March 8th at 7pm at Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga.
I spoke with the Women’s Fest founder, Sierra J. Sullivan, feminine power expert writer/speaker-lifestyle coach and circle facilitator extraordinaire. In addition, Sierra is also the founder and publisher of RAY magazine (an acronym for Real Authentic You), which until recently, was Southern California’s fastest growing lifestyle magazine geared toward empowering women.
The Free George: As the visionary of this month’s Women’s Fest, can you share with us how the festival came to be?
Sierra Sullivan: This year is the 100th annual Women’s History Month. I’ve done things for International Women’s Day in the past, and this year I wanted to do something really special. After moving here in August, I also knew that this was the place to make it happen. This is actually where the women’s movement started as Susan B. Anthony is from right around here. Because of this area’s history, it’s important for the east to realize this special feminine partnership, not feminist, in the modern women’s movement. After Christmas, I hosted a women’s circle and had the class set an intention, something to create for the New Year. I made an action to get this together, to gather the women and change the world. And what started with a few women, wound up bringing more women and here we are.
TFG: You’ve talked extensively about the importance of the media’s portrayal of women. Is it important because mass media owes retribution to the skewed images of the past, or are we still combating these distorted views?
SS: A little bit of both. We still have a long way to go until we are shown in an accurate, powerful light. Everything is so advertisement-driven. Especially after leaving LA, all the billboards and advertisements there are incredibly objectifying. Even when I worked in the magazine industry, everything was just way too focused on how to look, how to please your man and all about weight, weight, weight. Even TV shows like “Desperate Housewives” and “The Bachelor” pit women against each other, and “Extreme Makeover,” with different perceptions of “what is beautiful.” It’s about how you look and what you have. Instead, it should be women working together; believing that we’re all unique, we’re all beautiful in the same way. And if we hear what we all have to say, that will make all the difference in the world. Our lifestyle has changed. We’re estranged from our families. We used to sit and talk with our mothers, our grandmothers, and pass knowledge and stories down. It’s the communal existence that’s important. Rarely are we gathering with women in a way that is meaningful. And it’s a rampant issue that needs to be brought to attention. Even in the workplace, we’re told to watch our emotions, be more like men to succeed, and all of this withholding; it’s literally draining our bodies. The simplest, easiest thing women can do to change their lives is just to be with other women. It’s a tremendous help–it’s just as healthy as good nutrition, it’s a natural painkiller.
TFG: The Dalai Lama is quoted on your website from last fall’s Peace Summit saying how “a western woman [will] save the world.” What women in the public eye do you think are doing their part to “save the world” right now?
SS: Right now there actually are not a lot of great models out there of feminine leadership. Hilary Clinton was and is, but she is struggling with her femininity. Oprah is a great leader in many respects as well; she’s also very feminine, so I think that’s why she’s respected on so many levels. I would say she’s our best role model to date. Right now there’s a grassroots movement of women coming together, bringing it home. We can’t save the world until we save ourselves; reconnect with who we are, where we are, how we support ourselves in our relationships, community and job. It really is important to understand that we need to get out there and connect. We actually do have the power, but we have to believe it first. And once we believe we can do it, watch out.
TFG: Is there anything you’d like to say to the women out there?
SS: To be positive about themselves, leave limiting beliefs behind and to get out there and connect in meaningful ways with other women.
This event has been organized by an incredible group of local women–mothers, artists, and business owners–who have joined forces, and dedicated themselves to make this festival possible. Through their hard work they’ve produced an unforgettable month of workshops, presentations, lectures and films, including:
The Burning Times: March 11th, 7pm
This 1990 documentary by Canadian filmmaker Donna Read examines the 17th century European witch hunts and trials and explores the violent history of thousands of women who were persecuted and killed for merely gathering together and for their healing ways and powers. The film questions whether the rampant violence of centuries past and the destruction of an organic way of life can be traced back to the current history of women today. Women’s Fest founder, Sierra Sullivan calls it, “a profound piece for us to see.”
The Life of Katrina Trask: March 23rd at 7pm
This lecture is dedicated to the legacy of Katrina Trask (1853-1922), an esteemed poet, novelist, playwright and most importantly a philanthropist, who envisioned future generations of artists and talented people “creating” at her family’s estate, Yaddo, which has become Saratoga’s renowned artist’s community. In addition to donating another property, Lake George’s Wiawaka Holiday House (which continues to be one of the oldest and longest continually operated retreats for women), her many contributions make her an important historical figure in Saratoga.
The event is more than just a month-long celebration. With the citywide (and beyond) participation, these women-centric events are bringing women together from all over in the name of the “big picture”–the modern women’s movement, which is what it means to be female–recognizing and supporting each other because we all have something in common and can recognize that we are all alike (and different) in many ways. It’s forming bonds, connecting, celebrating and realizing our unique potential in the world.
Other events and workshops being offered include yoga & zumba classes, dream workshops, aromatherapy & couples massage workshops; there’s also a slew of area restaurants, stores, galleries, and skin and massage services being offered at a 10% discount during the festival.
For more information regarding the festival, including a complete schedule of events, locations, films, workshops and lectures, visit www.saratogawomensfest.com. More announcements, speakers, films and events will be posted as it gets closer to the Opening Ceremony. Note that you’ll need to reserve a spot in advance for the special events and workshops. Closing Events take place on Sunday, March 27th, beginning at noon. For more info on Sierra Sullivan, visit www.sierrajsullivan.com/pressroom.
–Aubree Cutkomp is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.
The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.
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