Yesterday afternoon, blogger friend Kathy invited some folks over to her house to watch a movie and discuss it, and the family and I went. We can do that now, being that we now live near her. 🙂
The movie was called Who Does She Think She Is?, a documentary about women in the arts, their struggles to find their voice, the obstacles they face–and the price they often pay for their choices. (No–I was not the only man in attendance.) The movie made was by the same people who made the Oscar-winning film Born into Brothels.
As a bit of disclaimer, in case you ever view the film, it is not from a Christian perspective. There is a lot of stuff in there about goddess worship, and a slanted historical perspective on religion in general; but there is also a lot of good information, and the stories and emotions that are captured on film are real. Also, one of the artists featured in the documentary was a pastor’s wife with a Christian background. So as one of my former pastors used to say, “Eat the grass, and spit out the sticks.” 🙂
That said–the movie obviously got me thinking again about the way our culture (and indeed many cultures throughout history) have suppressed women. I’ve talked a lot here about how the church has fallen into step with this mentality by the mis-contextualization of a few Scriptures, and I won’t rehash that argument here. Today, I’m thinking about the bigger picture, about the plight of women in general, and about how difficult it has been, and still is, for them to find a voice–and how this effectively cripples us as a race of beings from being all we could be.
One eye-opening fact the film brought out through the stories of the featured artists is that in the artistic community, men still have the power and the dominant voice. Of all the art featured in museums, the number of pieces created by women generally total less than ten percent. Far less, actually. Yet over 80 percent of the people currently studying art as a profession are…female! It does not take a lot of number crunching to see the inconsistency, or to figure out that the vast majority of art being created is never being seen or appreciated by the wider public. As difficult as it is for a male artist to gain visibility–for females, the obstacles are multiplied by a factor of ten. And they are the ones currently producing the most art!
I suppose these statistics hit home to me because as a musician, I’m an artist myself, and I know the challenges that exist for artists in general to be able to make a living at their art. In a culture where women are given more and more opportunity, I was astounded to learn how unbalanced the creative culture still is against them. And that doesn’t even begin to speak to the hits women artists take on the social level, when it comes to balancing marriage and family duties, etc.
My mind had already been on this a little bit, and the movie simply injected some adrenaline into it. One of my current writing projects involves researching famous classical composers, which I’m enjoying because it’s rekindling memories from my college studies of music history. At one point my editor–a female–suggested adding a few women composers to the list. I was delighted and ashamed in the same moment–because I realized I couldn’t think of any female composers. Correction–I knew of Clara Schumann, and no others. As a music major in college, with all my studies of music over the years–only one female composer came to mind. I even had it in my head that there were no female composers at that time–the social mores of the day would simply have prevented it.
But it only took a few mouse clicks and a quick Internet search to discover how wrong I was. I dare you to look at this list on Wikipedia and try counting the names of women composers on the list. I had to stop after 170 because I found myself suddenly cross eyed, and I wasn’t even halfway through the list. Hundreds and hundreds of females who studied and wrote music, most of whose names I had never heard. The list grows exponentially longer beginning in the 1700s, and the 20th century is packed with them–but I don’t believe women just started writing more music at that time. Their names just weren’t on the record. The implications of this are absolutely staggering–potentially thousands of women through the centuries who were creating music worthy of their male counterparts, whose music, and names, are not even remembered.
Just because they were women. And because as women, their contributions were largely deemed unimportant.
And although there are more and more women composers being recognized today–I still have to say I don’t know most of their names, either. So although they are at least being documented, most of their music is still unknown, even in the artistic community. They can create, but they still have little or no voice. (The Director has even recognized this trend in his field of interest–the number of female movie directors has, in fact, shrunk in the past 10 years.)
I say all this simply to say…we still have a problem. Men who believe we’ve settled the women equality issue are simply deceiving themselves. These are people whom God has gifted every bit as much as we–and it’s not just about painting or composition. These statistics are simply symptoms of a greater problem.
In the past few months, it has become a passion of mine, not only to be a male ally and advocate for restoring the voice of women, but to urge other men to do the same. I cannot stress this enough: when the brainpower and creativity of over 50 percent of the human race is disqualified over an unrelated issue such as gender, the entire race suffers. We sell ourselves short when we pass over our sisters–it’s just that simple.
It’s time we men stop merely gaining inspiration from the female body, and start drawing some from the female mind, and the female soul.
In my view, Who Does She Think She Is? is not just a film to empower women. It is a film men need to see, hearing the message with an open heart. I challenge men to take 90 minutes to watch the movie–and then take a few minutes to look in the mirror.