“Monalisa Smile” is one favorite movie of mine. Well, related to my being feminist, it is easy to guess why I love this movie. It is coz this movie talks about women’s lives.
The setting time of this movie is 1953-1954 America. From Betty Friedan’s book entitled The Feminine Mystique, I know in that decade, American women believed that they were the happiest women in the world. The Cult of True Womanhood norm emerging in the middle of the nineteenth century America must have still lingered till the middle of the twentieth century America. People believe that women were created to be housewives. As one of advanced countries in the world, to be housewives in America was the most coveted things coz they were provided with many luxurious things by their rich husband; e.g. house completed with modern appliances (e.g. refrigerator, microwave, washing machine, etc), car. In other countries, women as housewives couldn’t get those yet.
Katherine Watson, the main character of this movie apparently didn’t agree with this principle; that women were created to be housewives. She believed that women, as men, were also born to be future leaders. Women’s destiny to be housewives was not gifted by God, it was constructed by society instead. Watson believed that women also had another choice—to pursue their career outside of home. American women were as intelligent as American men. This was one thing Watson brought with her when she came to Wellesley University, her new workplace—to encourage her female students that to be housewife was not the only ultimate goal for women in this world.
This movie clearly illustrated how those girls continued their study to college not to satisfy their hunger for knowledge, and then later on applied it in their professional life (work), although at the beginning of the movie, one character named Joan Brandwyn stated, “I am every woman going to college to awaken my spirit through hard work and dedicate my life to knowledge.” In the following story, it depicted how Joan, Betty, and the other girls at Wellesley University still believed that to get married and to be a housewife were the only choice to make them happy. They went to college to look for a “better” guy to marry, to spend time while waiting for Mr. Right came to them. Consequently, to live single is a disaster coz they would feel that they were unwanted, unloved.
It is not easy to make difference. It is not easy to change people’s way of thinking that has been shaped for ages. Watson’s struggle to really awaken her female students that they also could lead a professional life outside home was not clearly described as successful by the end of the movie. However, she succeeded in introducing a new principle of life to her students, living single was not like living in hell coz of feeling unwanted and unloved. Many other things people (read à women) could do to make their lives useful and beneficial for other people. Living in a marriage can also mean hellish life when your spouse doesn't marry you for love, just like the example of Betty Warren in the movie.
According to history, we know that struggle of women like Katherine Watson resulted in the second wave of feminism in America in the beginning of 1960s. Many other women in later years continue their struggle to realize equality between men and women in all facets in life.
And I am proud to say that I am in their path. J