Published Mar 05, 2009While interesting in its examination of the exclusivity inherent in a predominately Anglo-Saxon, heteronormative culture defined on the ideals of heterosexual white men, Who Does She Think She Is?, a documentary about the struggle for women to balance art and family, succumbs to its own limitations by circumscribing the definition of art and ignoring other cultures and subjugated peoples. The documentary remains bound within the lives of a handful of female artists as they tell their stories of self-expression and social restriction.
These documentary subjects include mostly visual artists and sculptors, such as Janis Wunderlich and Maye Torres, who discuss their inherent need to produce art and remain true to their modes of expression while balancing the demands of motherhood. On the more recognizable and politically motivated front is Mayumi Oda, a woman whose art translates into a lifestyle and overt ideological paradigm, along with Angela Williams, an actress and singer whose marriage to a preacher suffers from personal expression.
Rarely dragging, the documentary does a solid job of presenting the fact that while Western culture has progressed in a manner that allows people of a different gender, race or sexual orientation to have some degree of rights, they are still expected to assimilate to a system that, in structure, is implicitly male-oriented.
The example provided in the doc relates to art as both a commodity and as a tool for social change, which generates relevance from purchase power. As the rich are the ones purchasing the art and thus establishing economic viability, it is ultimately their decision what forms of expression are deemed relevant, in a fiscal sense. Since women's issues typically don't fall within their lexicon of concern, women's art is then considered insubstantial, which all loops back to ideas of the "old boys club."
The documentary may successfully point out the many societal imbalances in our culture but it fails to produce much of a solution to its plight. This comes from a lack of theoretical and philosophical research or exploration, as even something as obvious as Rand's Objectivism template, or some comparison to female artists in other countries and cultures, may have generated some much needed profundity. (Vagrant)