Jenna Zona always knew she wanted to tell stories. How she would tell them, though, wasn't quite so clear. She began by creating comics and illustrating, always imagining that the characters she'd created were actually moving.
Then, while watching the credits scroll at the end of an animated movie she'd just watched, it all clicked. People get paid to do this, she thought to herself, and with that, she made the decision to pursue a Masters of Fine Art in animation.
Not many universities offer this specialized program, but the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is one that's consistently recognized for its breadth of creative majors and, just as importantly, its ability to guide graduates into impressive careers. They also bring in speakers, guests, and professors who are legendary in their fields, and offer state-of-the-art technology used by real-world professionals.
“While I was there, I had a mental time limit to get a full-time job in the field, so I just worked really hard on every project handed to me and kept steering my boat in the direction of my goal," said Zona. “I asked my professors for advice — a lot — and they were all very supportive. When I started graduate school, I also told myself I would never pass by an opportunity because I have no idea if another one will come up. That's what I did, and that's how I got a job halfway through the program."
Jenna Zona Illustration
Today, Zona has animated and illustrated Emmy-award winning shows such as Archer, Chozen, and The League. In addition to serving as an adjunct professor at SCAD, where she mentors future animators, she serves as the animation director at Tiny Monsters Study, which animates numerous TV shows, including the PowerPuff Girls!
Zona's success in this industry is particularly notable when you consider the statistics for women working in this field. It's no secret that there's a gender gap in the entertainment industry, but this is especially true for behind-the-scenes tech positions.
SCAD Animation Fest Summer 2017. Photo Courtesy of SCAD
According to WomenInAnimation.org, last year 97% of films did not utilize female sound designers, 79% did not use female editors, and 96% did not use female cinematographers. The natural jump is to say, "Well, women aren't pursuing these positions!" That assumption would be false. Roughly 60% of animation and art students are women, but only 20% of the creative jobs in the industry are actually held by women.
In that sense, Zona is an outlier and a true pioneer for females in this industry.
“Why do we read stories or bother getting to know each other? It's to hear about everyone else's experiences and perspectives, and see what's going on in the world for them," said Zona when we asked why she feels it's important for women to work in animation. “Wouldn't it be nice to see stories from multiple perspectives other than your own?"
There's no truer female perspective than a perspective from, well, a female.
Jenna Zona Illustration
“When I was a kid, I remember pretending to be 'Mario and Luigi' with my neighbor friend. He was Mario — clearly — and he said that I was Princess Peach and had to stand at the end of the room while he rescued me. I said, 'That's boring. How about I be Luigi?'"
When he said no, Zona stood at the end of the hallway for a few brief moments before running over to help him fight off the imaginary “bad guys." She insisted that she could play both roles, and he reluctantly agreed.
“It's stories like this that demonstrate why we need to see both genders represented," said Zona. “Because how would myself, or other children, know that it's okay for little girls to be Luigi, or know that it's okay to be Peach, too? Or, even better, know that you can be Peach and save Mario!"
That the animation industry has gone so long with a lopsided perspective of the human experience is unfortunate. With that said, Zona is paving the way and inspiring current and future students, along with peers who are also pursuing jobs in the field.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."