Saturday, August 08, 2009

Monalisa Smile … She’s smiling, but is she happy?

In the 2003 movie, Monalisa Smile, different stories for different women and how their lives and choices were being affected by both traditions and taboos were presented in a very sensitive movie that went back to 1953 to start the events that took almost a year.
What really strikes me the most is the stories, those women who are everywhere now in our Arab societies.

First one, Connie, the girl who somehow reached the conclusion of being ugly and with minimal chances of getting married, which is, of course, the whole purpose of her life! That girl who chokes into tears when anyone talks about how slim her chances are to be asked for a date, or to be “wanted” by a man, and her usual reply is;

Connie Baker: [hurt] someone, somewhere, someday might be interested. Just in case, I'll be prepared.
[Connie leaves, fighting back tears]

I guess you easily remember at least a dozen of her in your life. And I don’t know when, how or what should be done to help her… I really don’t!
That girl who got the slap of her life when she was told by the "single teacher" that she reminded her of herself... Ouch! What a future! Single? Alone? Afterwords the girl also choked into grieving tears!
But naturally since she is a “good” girl, she gets her happy ending when she doesn’t let the chance go to have the “good” guy who once told her –bragging about himself-;
Charlie Stewart: My parents say my future is right on the horizon.
Wow! I’m impressed!

Second girl is Giselle, the rebellious, daring girl who came from a broken home “first divorce in the block” feeling all small, cheap and insecure that she allowed being hurt more than once with every possible way. She is the smart girl who you keep on wondering why she is acting that “slutty” when she can rule her world and be one of her own! Such girls make me want to grab their heads and shake it till they get up of this Greek tragedy they are living and wake up to see that we all are in pain and we all have our past that’s hunting us. Only those who are strong enough can actually step away from all that and get themselves what they can have … which is just ANYTHING THEY WANT!

Then we go to Princess Betty, the girl who just has everything. The looks, the family name, the money, the big school, and of course the husband! That girl who is just so sad feeling that all her life is being taken away from her the moment she was born. She is supposed to get married, get a house with the kitchen machine and washing one, get babies and just get photographed with the Hoover in one hand and the her book in the other!
She’s the perfect women. The one everyone looks up to, not noticing her bleeding soul that shades her eyes with all this pain, her shaking voice that is struggling to come out through all these tears that were buried deep and anger that was fed everyday when she just sees any sign of life reminding her that she is dying alive!
She’s the one who knows everyday her husband is cheating on her, but is supposed to let it go since he comes back at night putting food on the table and sleeps next to her. Faking a tremulous smile when she greets her guests as any “happy lady” would do, accepting to live a false play as long as she has the leading role!
The only pleasure such girl can get is by living the image of “the one everyone is jealous of”… “They would die to be me, but they just can’t!”
Luckily for Betty –unlike most of her likes here – she sets herself free and breaks every single wall that was between her and life, in a marvelous scene she asks her mother the fundamental question that I don’t think we even ask it to ourselves here;
[About the Mona Lisa]
Betty Warren: [ironically] look at this, mother. She's smiling. Is she happy?
Mrs. Warren: The important thing is not to tell anyone.
Betty Warren: She looks happy, so what does it matter? Not everything is as it seems, Mom!

How many parents refused that their daughters return to their homes telling them “a good wife waits for her husband for how long it takes”, “ don’t wash your dirty laundry in public”, “you will make your hair and dress nicely waiting for your husband no matter what”?
In the movie, Betty set herself free. Do you think our Betties can dare think the same?

Joan, the worst kind ever! The one who actually has every possible opportunity in life and then “chooses” to throw all that away for a man and a home! Believing in the freedom of choice obligates most of us to at least respect such a choice. But I don’t think I can have this in my heart.

The only thing that has to be mentioned here is how objective the movie was when this particular character was presented without any judgment.

What makes me personally a bit against that, is the fact that the examples that we have here are not doing that cause of an aware choice rather than a previously set programming. This is what they are expected to do and this is how they are going to be.
Quite an objective way to look into things that I appreciate the film for!
I am practically living with those. Graduates from medical schools who after taking the “title” choose to leave all that, cause they suddenly discovered that a woman’s ultimate role is the man and the house! Those who fight for imaginary jobs where they only can enjoy the image of someone with brains using all these brains in exploring new ways to escape any real challenge when they can “have it all”, the title, the job – or so it seems-, the man, the house and the kids. In their sick minds, they have it all. They don’t care if everything they have is a flat image with no depth.
They don’t care if because of them, men everywhere have a strong valid argument when they want to prove that educating women is a “poor investment”.
They don’t care if they are the weapon by which men have won a lot of battles regarding increasing women seats anywhere, giving women the right to get this job or that, or at least giving women a fair equal chance in being promoted!

Who do they think they are fooling but themselves? It’s pathetic when humans live a lie so good that they start to not only believe it, but be unable to see that people actually don’t buy it, in fact they can see it very well but they enjoy laughing at them!

I can never forget these words from one of the teachers when she was “educating” them about true life;
Nancy Abbey: You may be here for an easy A. But the grade that really matters is the one that he gives you, not me!

I wanted to applaud when their single teacher was asked why she wasn’t married and she just replied;
Katherine Ann Watson: I am not married because I am not!

And I was laughing when the students were discussing the fact of having a grown up single teacher in their school;
Betty Warren: No man wanted her!
Giselle Levy: She’s not dead, Betty.
Betty Warren: She’s at least 30.
Connie Baker: I guess she doesn’t want any children!
At that moment, I thought I left the movie and started hearing my own friends talking!!

Such an amazing movie that went deep inside women souls searching for reasons why those complete, wonderful and capable creatures are voluntarily lowering their own expectations from life when they literally have everything to open new worlds to the world we live in.
Monalisa smile, showed hope that I wondered if we can have here. Being negative is not my favorable color, so I’ll just ask, do you see any hope?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Iron Jawed Angels... A hundred years is all what we need!

No, I’m not a movie critic or anything of this sort. I just love movie business. I am fond of this amazing magical world and I have the dreams of each and every Egyptian woman in my heart and the vision of powerful independent ladies who are fighting for their free spirits and liberated minds.

With this heart and with these eyes I watch the movie, and with this spirit I write about it!
Iron Jawed Angels... A hundred years is all what we need!

Four times, I watched that movie four times! And I know I’ll watch it again. Not because of the amazing work that was done, not for how powerful, honest, interesting and inspiring it is, but because it amazes me. 

To put you in the picture, this movie is about the fight American women had to go through for 8 whole years starting from 1912 to have the right to vote. And you can easily recognize the kind of replies those women had to deal with during their debates;

“The female mind is inferior to the male mind need not to be assumed “
“There’s something about it essentially different and that this difference is of a kind and degree that makes votes for women would constitute a political danger ought to be plain to everybody”
“I don’t wish to see the day comes when the women in my state shall trail their skirts in the muck and mire of partisan politics”

Sounds familiar? Very! I know … specially that last one, kind of reminds me of how some men consider themselves “cursed” if ruled, judged or asked by a woman!
The only thing that I can’t get over is the fact that this movie is almost hundred years ago!! They had this kind of debates hundred years ago.
Do you need more proofs?
1- Those women were called freaks, psychopaths, and rude.
2- One of the senators mentioned the fact that “ we don’t need women voting in South Carolina, we know how to take care of our women”
3- When the married woman joined, her husband closed her account, took her children and asked her how she would afford an attorney to defend her rights!
4- One single woman mentioned the fact that she is tired of being alone, all men were idiots, or terrified of her!!!

5- The worse fight than fighting men for them was fighting another women, who hated how powerful and independent they are and who felt weak and helpless in front of them.
6- Men in America also thought they would be cursed if ruled, charged or even if they shared decision making with women!!!

I know!! It sounds freakishly familiar that one might doubt they are actually expressing what we here in the Arab countries are facing.

One phrase really touches me every time I hear it was said by the lead character to the “married lady” who didn’t want to embarrass her husband – and who became a very important member afterwards – when she said;
“Women like you are worse than anti-suffragists; you perpetuate the lie everyday at breakfast”

My god! How many times have you met a woman who voluntarily declares her stupidity and ignorance just to get a man’s attention and approval?
How many women have you talked to and they just faked inferiority to nourish a no-body guy just to get a proposal?
How many places have you gone to where women refuse to get business done with other women cause “we are not as smart as men”?
I know that a lot of my fellow doctors never went to a female doctor nor they ever intend to because “male doctors are cleverer”
I know that women don’t like to go to electronic stores and deal with saleswomen cause “we just don’t understand technology!”
I know my friends who resist any piece of information related to their laptops cause “guys just get these kinds of things not us”

But what I don’t know is why! In the end, those women gathered, and with the help of strong men who don’t need to exert power over women to prove their manhood, and under a constitutional umbrella, those women were able to get their right to vote. Those women were jailed, beaten and starved till they got their right. 

Do you think we can do that one day? Don’t tell me we can vote, because we don’t.
When the girl is brought up that she has to be the good girl who follows her father, till she gets really lucky and follows her husband to get another woman to the world who leads the same life, we don’t have the right to vote.

When women still chose to stay at home earning nothing and being completely supported and fed by men, we don’t have the choice.

When women leave their universities, careers and whole futures just to be someone’s wife because this is her holy destiny, we don’t have any future!

But unlike what you may think, I am optimistic, I believe that someday we will be able to break those walls, that women will be that scared of being rejected by intimidated men, that women will not be ruled by what other want her to be, that women will not be scared to lead their lives, make their own choices, be ready for the consequences and live the beauty of a free life!

Even if they were called the “Iron Jawed Angels”