Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'm Happy and Female - What's Wrong with Me?

A recent study showing women are much less happy today than they were in the 70s before Women's Lib and Equal Opportunity while men are still about has happy if not happier has triggered a lot of chatter on the news and on the web. Here's just one article on the Huffingon Post by Marcus Buckingham with 43 pages of comments. (My comment is way back on p. 41 as I saw the article right away.)

My take on the situation is different from many of the others that to my mind rehashed much of the same arguments that have been going on about men, women and our culture for the past 30 years.

What I see is that my anecdotal experience is way off from the norm. I not only would score my happiness at a 3, I would say there is not one time in my past when I was happier. My sisters and female friends are very happy. Even the sister who lost her house in a foreclosure recently has bounced back and is loving her new life. I don't doubt the trends; I just wonder what's different.

One difference is that my friends and family all lead artist lives. We are not rebels nor crusaders, because all that involves too much negative energy that interferes with creative pursuits. We are more like off-road vehicles exploring the world, looking for our own path to our dreams.

As a young woman, the culture did not see me as one of the 'winners' and that led me to stop expecting happiness to come from that culture; I would have to build it whole cloth, by myself or with friends.

The disparity in happiness shows something wrong at the core of our culture. Women's 'liberation' has exposed a deeper imbalance than work and pay. The roles that held the imbalances in check are gone and the imbalance is running loose wreaking havoc. Women have no new models for a fulfilling life, only flickering images of the old roles overlayed over current realities. The experiences of myself, my family and friends have no expression in mainstream arts to help women model a new kind of life that can be happy today.

Film and television are the main mirrors of cultural norms and ideals. But women to get funded and produced have to craft stories that fit the model that the bankers and their studio partners understand. Hence the slew of romantic comedies with smart, beautiful, successful women who are essentially broken getting 'fixed' by a relationship with a sloppy, lazy, unappealing schlub of a guy.

Is it any coincidence that an Edinburgh university study shows that watching romantic comedies hurts your love life? While everyone knows it's just a movie, as Dr. Bjarne Holmes of Heriot Watt University said: "... some of us are still more influenced by media portrayals than we realise."

And don't get me started on all the skinny women. I make movies with women of all sizes, and audiences of people who do not work in the movie business don't even notice. I should say the men don't notice, and find the women of normal size plenty appealing. The women often comment how nice it is to see people who look like their friends peopling the world of the movie.

So it's up to us broads to keep making movies despite the indifference of the mainstream entertainment biz. Women need our vision. The world is better for us. No wonder we're happier.