I attended the Maine Women's Fund's screening of Who Does She Think She Is on Saturday, with two dear friends, but I wished that the room included everyone close to me. The movie is so powerful and resonates so deeply that I think some of the themes (particularly about how extraordinary and how risky consciousness can be) come up for us as we experience the film. I have that sense of having to sublimate some of my deepest connections with the women who were profiled, because I don't have the time, support or emotional energy to follow the threads where they might take me -- but it is good to have some new threads to pull on, when the time comes.
The film is about mothers who are artists and about artists who are mothers. This provides very rich ground for women across generations, occupations, and family experiences to connect. For some of the women in our audience, the resonance came around their experiences of ambition, sexism, and caregiving. For others, the important part was about how a creative impulse can be life defining and how biting back self-expression is tantamount to self-destruction. And yet, how following one's creative energy can cause a lot of harship, saddness, logistical problems, etc. for people. As one of the artists said, about her own experience: Now my dream is out there, and it isn't safe and I'm not safe.
The statistics about women's representation in the art world were horrifying -- while women compose upwards of 75% of art students, they are barely shown in big galleries or national museum collections. The data on NYT book reviews of women authors, of women screen writers, etc. are equally depressing (links to come to the sidebar when I have more time).
As a political person, I feel passionate that there is a link between creating economic security (economic human rights) and allowing women's creativity to have some space. How do we create our art if we're working two jobs and don't have paid sick leave? But others in the audience were quick to point out that there is a psychological and cultural dimension as well -- we need confidence, we need quiet enough to hear our own inner voice, we need patience, we need access to the histories and experiences of other women and other mothers. And to that end, the film provides an extraordinary jumping off point.
It is my huge hope that the women's fund will find a way to offer a lot of public screenings, since the film is not yet available to the public... but if not, you can sign up for an e-mail when it is released.