Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sexism: Battling Society & Ourselves

This past weekend, I had the good fortune of seeing a new documentary film entitled "Who Does She Think She Is?" which opened on Oct. 17, 2008 at the Angelika Film Center in New York City. This documentary film follows the trials and tribulations of five women artists, and how they maintain the shaky balance between motherhood and art in their lives. It is the kind of movie everyone should see, but may not be able to because of limited media coverage. "Who Does She Think She Is?" exposes the enduring sexism that continues to permeate the art world. I was unaware of this, until someone in the film asked random people outside of museums if they could name five women artists. No one could answer the question! I had a sinking feeling in my stomach when I realized that I couldn't give a complete response either. My embarrassment turned to determination; I have to make an effort to learn more about those talented (and often unrecognized) women who see little of the artistic spotlight, as opposed to their male counterparts.

You don’t have to be an artist or even artistically inclined to understand the themes that run through "Who Does She Think She Is?" Even now, women are still expected to choose between what and who they really are and what is expected of them, as opposed to men. These battles are often waged within our psyches, as well as in society. I appreciated how the film explored the complexity of the internal and external conflicts that each artist confronts in their everyday lives. In a previous post, I discuss the societal pressures of being married versus being single, but I know we can be the most critical of ourselves.

As a woman, the ultimate message of the film resonates with me: women’s equality continues to be a work in progress, a battle that is fought on daily basis. Have you ever felt constricted by society's expectations because of your gender? Or do you feel that you limit yourself most of all?

2 comments:

feministblogproject said...

I think I used to limit myself a lot more - I used to think I "had" to look a certain way to be respected professionally, I used to allow myself to hate my body because it didn't meet a specific ideal. I used to think that my boyfriend preferring me hairless was a good enough reason to shave off all my pubic hair.

But then I stopped buying into it. I've come a long way in not hating my body. I quit shaving my legs, but *gasp* I wear knee-length skirts to work, so my colleagues see my hair in all its glory. I grew my pubic hair back out.

And it was precisely when I started to buck the system that I realized how bad society actually can be. I've gotten comments about my leg hair. My husband chastised me because I dared to have some stray pubes peeking out from my swimsuit bottom.

And it's not just body stuff. On my first day of work, one of my co-workers asked if I had move to Texas (from Ohio) for "a fella." wtf.

So I think society is more restricted than the self. But it's a bigger challenge to break down all that mental programming.

jennay said...

i value difference of opinion because it illustrates all of our collective thought processes of the topic. my roommate and i also watched the movie, and our reactions were quite different.

soon after the movie lets out, we both head to the women's bathroom, and i say, "amazing! look at those dynamic women - i need to go home and paint immediately. their stories are awe inspiring!"

my roommate: "ugh! i feel so lazy! what am i doing with my life?"

we were all so moved by the endlessly complex and wonderous talents each woman was capable of once when she risked it all by choosing to listen to heart rather than society and outer noise.

as a woman and a minority, i personally hate making excuses for myself as to why i am not where i want to be.

its easier for me to blame society, my gender, the color of my skin, the fact that i didn't come from money, etc.

however, i could put all that aside and instead of using it as a weight around my ankles, pile it up as stepping stones to bring me to a higher level, to my greatest potential.

Therefore when i admire the view of my accomplishment with my hardships underfoot, i could fully appreciate the victory over the battle of both my weaker half and society.

simply put: "nothing worth having ever comes without a fight" - bruce cockburn.

Note: i do know more than 5 female artists - it is my field, but the real challenge begins with having positive female role models within both your field and in your life.







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