Maiden Voyages

by

K. Anne Eston

In the jungles of Borneo, a woman is fighting to save the indigenous orangutan population; in Cuba, a housemaid has organized a women’s coalition of handworkers to rebuild their community in the wake of post-Castro poverty. In India, a female anthropologist has created a co-op to employ women who have been cast out because of pregnancy outside the traditional practice of polyandry in Humla, Nepal.

These women may not measure up to the media’s standard of beauty or to society’s monetary-based vision of success. But, they are changing their lives, their communities, and their world. Holly Morris is making new feminine heroes of these women and others throughout the world in her new travel documentary series designed for television, Adventure Divas.

The series is partly inspired by Adventura Books, a series of women’s travel and outdoor adventure books edited by Morris for Seal Press, a well-known feminist publishing house at which Morris became managing editor. Adventure Divas is an interplay of individual biology with the excitement of worldwide travel. The format encompasses themes that have been done before with new twists of feminism, adventures to exotic places, and heroic personal stories. But, never have these elements been combined to celebrate and highlight the achievements of women.

Morris, who is an advocate of mentoring, says she wants to “create a brand new role model” by highlighting women who are not typically celebrities. And while the icons in the promotional data for Adventure Divas include such controversial media heroines as Tank Girl, Xena, and Thelma and Louise, Morris stresses that the programs are pro-women, not anti-men. “The message will be universal,” she states. “It’s not exclusionary [of men]. It will bring a broader perspective of what women do that will transcend gender. It’ll just be ‘Wow, look at this kick-ass person!’”

Morris has let her love of travel guide her in choosing subjects and cultural hot spots, the public’s enthusiasm has also given her fuel for the fire. “People get excited — they want to help push the stories forward.” Morris receives many letters spotlighting great American women, but for the time being, Adventure Divas will capture the international stage.

The project wouldn’t be complete without a crew of its own divas, including Morris’ mother, Jeannie Morris. “It’s meant a new relationship with my mom,” Holly says. “As one friend put it, your mother always has your back.” Mom Morris is a great partner in the project, bringing a background in both television and writing.

The impetus to create Adventure Divas is a culmination of Morris’ work as a political activist and her itch to travel, which she says was not satisfied behind the editor’s desk. “Travel has always been a vehicle to be my best self. I’m my best on the road.” But this project has also symbolized a very personal journey for her, in which she wants to embody the ethics projected in the program. “I aspire to be like them [the subjects]. If I didn’t do that, I’ve sold out — I’m a phony.”

With the pilot scheduled to air this fall, Morris hopes that the series will be picked up for a full schedule by next spring.


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Excerpted from Maiden Voyages Magazine


"…making new feminine heroes”

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