Gumption: Judi Dench

I thought I would start a weekly post on public figures I admire.  I’m a true believer that our identities are continually shaped by those around us and there are an endless number of peers and loved ones I draw inspiration from.  That’s probably one of the most exciting things about being here–that our characters are very relational and fluid.

I also want to call this weekly post “Gumption” because it refers to courage, resourcefulness and spunk.  In my opinion it’s one of the most important traits to continually develop in ourselves because the most important thing we can do is put ourselves out there.

So, the first person I admire is Dame Judi Dench.  Not only is she a talented actress in both dramatic and comedic roles, but she brings a strength to all of her performances that is so inspiring.

To not be a ‘woman’ at all

The other night I watched “Woman of the year” (1942) which is the first movie that Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn worked on together.  Their on-screen chemistry is legendary and the pair went onto to collaborate on nine films in total.  In their personal lives they had a long partnership but never married because Tracy being a Catholic could not divorce his wife.  He lived with Katherine while being estranged from his wife till his death and the couple maintained a “secret” relationship.  When Spencer Tracy died Katherine called up his wife and asked to be friends and to offer help raising the kids but his wife responded “oh, I thought you were a rumor.”  Pretty heavy and complicated stuff.

With regards to the film “Woman of the year” I absolutely loved it.  Tracy is a gruff sports writer and what you would classify as a “man’s man.”  As problematic as classifications always are, let just say that he’s a man who would want his wife to cater to his every emotional and material need.  However, he’s attracted to and marries Hepburn’s character Tess who is a political analyst, intelligent and busy. After their courtship the film documents all the strain that is being but on the couple by Tess’ schedule and travel demands.  When the relationship has deteriorated Tracy indicates that Tess may be awarded “woman of year” by the public but she’s not a “woman” at all.  I promise that there is a happy ending and a famous breakfast scene where Tess tries to cook for him and show him that she is a “woman.”  The scene is pure comic genius.

No matter how I may have gasped at her attempts at reconciliation and the concessions she makes in her career and identity, these were the pressures placed on women in the 1940s.  Although circumstances have changed for woman today I don’t believe that it’s completely gone.  My own husband and those of my other friends are willing to help out with household duties that men of another generation would have been appalled at.  However, I believe that it is way more complicated than that.  There are definitely generational differences that I observe even in my own life.  Our mothers are women who fought hard to have careers and maintain the family life at the same time.  Whether these goals were met through paid childcare or other assistance, they are proud that many of them “have it all.”  I sense an anxiety there that they have to come home exhausted and still cater to the needs of their families with perfection.  Is it wrong that I don’t feel the same sort of pressure?  Is it because I’m just lucky to have a supportive and actual “partner” who puts in the time to develop our relationship and home?  The truth of the matter is that I feel like for many women of my generation careers are a given, giving up employment to be mother is not something to be ashamed of, and every single thing does not have to be perfect anymore.  If being a “woman” and an empowered one at that no longer has the baggage of putting on a facade I am grateful.  This is not to say that I don’t acknowledge all of the work and sacrifices that came before us to get us where we are today.  I just hope to raise a generation after us who knows that the most important thing is choice, acceptance and the embracing of frailty.  There is something beautiful in knowing that your sense of self is strong and ever-changing and to own what you choose to build for yourself.  I believe it’s crucial to take responsibility for your choices, really being in the moment and supporting other women on their paths.

Situating.



I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.  Write a blog that is.  I even started one a few months ago but couldn’t commit so there is a lone entry out there in the blog “just be” that’s destined to go nowhere.  I was living in Thailand at the time and I thought that it would be the perfect way to start this project–when I am abroad and feeling so much.  I’ve read a few books that were former blogs and they always began with some sort of project or journey and this would be mine: a young woman living alone in Southeast Asia for the first time, loving it but also missing the life she left behind. Somehow it didn’t feel right so I let it be.  Now I am back and here to share stories, projects, and actual things that are helpful, enriching and wonderful in my daily life. I’m also back home with my husband, family and best friends.  Instead of talking about the negatives I will mainly be posting about what I love because it’s so much more fun to talk about.  There’s already a lot of negativity out there no?

The reason I have called this entry “situating” is because that concept is very important for me when I’m reflecting and for this blog.  I am currently entering my late twenties, married and a graduate student.  But with life choices and fate things will continue to change and my taste will also.  So, I hope this blog documents all of these transformations but also allows me to reflect on what has been helpful in the past.  It really has been a learning experience to get here and I look forward to all there is to love in the future.