I have fallen in love with Marilyn Monroe.
I had always been taken aback by the image of the feminine she was used to portray. I would hear people talk with genuine adoration about her movies, her talent, what a strong woman she was. Yet all I could see was the this image that the mainstream media decided to portray her with, an image that just seems to have grown since her death.
The strength, her strength, is completely lost in the shuffle of it all. Unless of course you yourself are a woman; one whose eyes are open, one who has experienced this world, this man's world and thereby know the truth she represents. Then you just smile and nod while watching her steal the show and light up every room she steps into.
It is as if people cannot help but love her and in doing so people can't help but hate her.
I am one of those people who has fallen in love with her.
She is, after all, me.
She may just be every woman.
We share the same birthday. Astrology, numerology, and other divining-ologies compare us regularly. Therefore, I have always thought that the tragedy of her conformation to societal expectations fit my life story so well. Even when I thought she was a sell-out for conforming I still found the connection to her a positive one. I still found happiness in being able to say, "I am much like Marilyn Monroe, we share a birthday, and, if you know a bit about her back story, then you know a bit about mine."
I finally saw the film "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
" and I was floored at how wonderfully well done that movie is. How Marilyn steals the show and truly makes the finer point of the movie just stand out with obviousness: why do women get treated as if they are shameful for looking out for themselves in this world?
Sure, the movie's premise seems to be a simple comical look at gold-digging women finding love. Yet the underpinnings of feminism and a sense of equality for women stand out very plainly. These ideals are the core of the film itself, the core of the story-lines development, climax, and finale. In fact I was truly shocked that such a aged movie was held up and lead by two female leads. In so much as the men were entirely secondary and easily forgettable. The women had the most screen time, the most dialogue, and all of the strength and control was their's - without fear that they couldn't make it on their own. Without fear that two women, taking care of themselves, watching out for each other, needed something else to be complete - a man.
When Marilyn makes the point, "I want to marry him for YOUR money." Everyone laughs, but her honesty is then followed up with, "Don't you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn't marry a girl just because she's pretty, but my goodness, doesn't it help?"
She points out the one thing women, during this time, were taught to look for in life and she puts the man, who demands so much of a woman, in his place. She does it with the truth. She does it without flinching or hiding or feeling ashamed of who she is. She does it with a punch right in the face of societal expectations, and there is no doubt she is right.
All that time she spends throughout the movie, playing stupid for the men; talking to them as if she hasn't a clue. It is always superseded by the fact she knows exactly what she is doing and what is expected of her. She knows that if she is too smart she will lose out in life. She knows that if she is too dumb she will lose out in life. She knows that she is oggled and is not ashamed to utilize this oggling, (the one asset, in my opinion, women in this time truly had control over), to bend the world to her will.
Her friend, a beautiful brunette woman, played by Jane Russell is presented in the film as the exact opposite of Maryilyn's character. Jane, this opposite of Marilyn, knows the truth about her best friend though. She knows the strength, beauty, and fierce intelligence her friend has. Men in the film are quick to point out these differences and, in doing so, suggest that there is something wrong with Marilyn while there is something right with Jane. Jane will have nothing to do with this notion though and she puts them in there place - righteously so.
Jane is made to be Marilyn's opposite, the one we think is in it for true love not money, the one who readily shows her intelligence and doesn't cow-tow to a man's desires. Desires of who she should be and how she should behave. Jane is what society sees as "better than" and "desirable" of a woman - you know, except for that pesky tendency she has to be head strong that is.
Jane's character is also a superb representation of feminist values and most importantly she demonstrates what true friendship is all about. We watch her, as we watch Marilyn, be strong, honest, herself, never flinching or cow-towing to the expectations that society, mainly men, have laid at her feet. We see her differences from Marilyn and we note how she does not think these differences make her better than her friend. In fact, we see how Jane supports her friend, no matter what. We see how Jane empathizes with her friend without agreeing with her all the time. We see how upset Jane is that anyone judge her friend or take advantage of her. We see how Jane is willing to stick her neck out for her friend, because that is what friends do.
The most significant impact that Jane's unwavering friendship displays for me however, is one of true feminine unity. A understanding that it is hard to be a woman in this man's world, and that we, as feminists, as women, should be sticking together, supporting each other, and most importantly empathizing with each other in all things that are a divinely feminine experience in our society -- things that are experienced in so many different ways, by so many different types of feminine. Yet still remain things we have all gone through or will eventually go through.
So it is, I have found myself drawn in that much closer to Marilyn Monroe. Finding the feminine experience she shared so openly off-screen, was just as strong and important as the one she portrayed on-screen. Recognizing that the things that made me think less of her, the things I was fed by society so that I would see the Marilyn they wanted me to see her, are the very things I should empathize with the strongest - not the things I should be off put by.
How many of those things have I been seeing in myself lately and beating myself up for? How many of those things have I allowed others to hold over me, shame me with, and make me question my place, value, and worth because of?
That is the mirror I hold up now ... learning to love myself - all of me - well that is the goal of this thing called life.