August 17, 2017

Fertility experiences inspire alumna’s new film

A doctor told Webster University alumna Zoe Kennison that she had to be more proactive with her expiring fertility because it was her duty as a woman to have children.

Kennison was 22 years old when she went to an urgent care for a job-required tuberculin skin test when the doctor gave her an opinion of his own about her fertility issues.

Kennison was told that she had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a problem in which a woman’s hormones are out of balance and can cause problems with periods, making it difficult to have children.

As Kennison got older, she said she noticed that women often are asked when they are going to have children, not if they are going to have children, which is the opposite for men.

“I thought it was this very bizarre double standard that when I express that I maybe don’t want children, I get told that I will change my mind or that all women change their mind, or that I’ll regret it,” Kennison said.

Kennison said there is a story to be told in this and she came up with a narrative about women’s experiences and that is when she wrote the script for her feature film, Easy-Bake, which she is looking to fund through Kickstarter.

“I thought it would be a really interesting concept to give a 22 year old a heightened ticking time clock,” Kennison said.

Kennison received her bachelors in religious studies from Webster in December of 2015, with an emphasis in social sciences.

Kennison has always been a strong feminist, even as a child. When she took Womens Sex and Gender class with adjunct Andrea Miller, she said that really ignited her fire to fight social injustices.

“That became my passion, especially gendered injustices,” Kennison said.

Easy-Bake is about a 22 year old college student who gets told that she only has one year to conceive a child during the busiest time of her life. Kennison plays the lead, Ivan, who is struggling with the underlying pressure of the sexist assumption that all women want children.

“[This movie] explores the issues of infertility but it’s more so that there is this underlying pressure and overt pressure that women feel, especially in their early twenties, to settle down and have children,” Kennison said.

Kennison uses her own personal story to draw upon the film’s narrative.

“The main character is based off of me, she’s a little bit more woke than I was at 22,” Kennison said. “It’s interesting because I am essentially playing a version of myself… I have to be vulnerable and show some emotion that I don’t typically show to people.”

Kennedy Baldwin, who plays the character Jo, said she can also relate to the story in a way that she is also unsure about having children and is a nanny herself.

“It’s really cool to see somebody you can relate to on screen and it will be very important to show other women that there isn’t just one path for you to take,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said she knows from her own experience the pressure other people put on her about having children. She said people have told her they have never heard of a woman who said they did not want to have kids.

“I know what people are typically saying to women who don’t want to have kids, so I think that informs me on how I can play Jo as somebody else,” Baldwin said.

Kennison said she has never really expressed an interest in having children herself and being told she might have fertility issues, and that something is wrong with her body does not mean that she is failing as a woman.

“Women can accomplish a lot more than just having children,” Kennison said. “I’m not failing as a woman because I can’t have kids.”

Kennison said she really wants this film to be female driven and operated.

“I wholeheartedly believe that women can accomplish anything they want and they can be anything they want,” Kennison said.

Baldwin said the film has an important perspective a lot of girls can relate to.

“For me, I think it’s great, because I am a person of color [and] to be in the film and it’s not just a white woman’s perspective,” Baldwin said.

With this film, Kennison said she wants to reach women who have been met with hostility when they have expressed the desire to be child free.

“A lot of times people call it childless, and that’s not the case, you’re childfree… there’s nothing missing from you if you don’t have children,” Kennison said.

For more information on the film, visit the film’s Indiegogo page.

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