Shirley and O

I wanted to share a letter that Shirley Mars, Janis’s mother, took upon herself to write to Oprah Winfrey. She felt that Oprah should know about the film and perhaps would be interested in promoting it in some way.

I include it here, because I think it is lovely and a tribute to the power of film. Now, Shirley Mars does not know Oprah, nor anyone who is connected to her—but she wrote this anyway and will send it off this week. However, if any one out there reading this blog does know or has a connection to Oprah and feels moved to speak on Shirley’s behalf and on behalf of the film, don’t be shy!

02 June 2008

Dear Oprah,

I recently attended the Ohio Independent Film Festival where I saw an enlightening documentary film entitled “Who Does She Think She Is?” I was excited about the film initially because our daughter was one of the featured women in it, and I literally filled a tour bus with people in support of her. After the viewing, I realized that there was something much greater about the film that spoke to me in a deeply personal way. On the bus trip home, I realized that it had the same impact on every person there. Since you are a powerful champion of positive change for women and righting social injustices, I want to bring this film to your attention because of the important issues that it explores.

“Who Does She Think She Is?” is an intimate look into the lives of five engaging women who share a passion for their individual creative expression. Though they were total strangers from diverse social and economic backgrounds, they share common struggles with universal issues such as gender inequality, social and cultural expectations, economic disparity, and the everyday pressure of finding meaning and balance in their lives.

As artists, they daily face the effects of working in an art world where a distorted view of its’ history has been perpetuated and where mothers and female artists, in general, have not been valued or taken seriously. The courage and tenaciousness of these five women in recognizing and overcoming their personal obstacles has propelled them in their attempt to triumph over circumstance.

Although I am not an artist, I am a Latter-day Saint (Mormon) woman who has lived with many of these same issues. As a mother of ten children, I have struggled to feel social acceptance in my choice to have a large family. As a school board member, I have been asked to present a “Womanhood Award” with no scholarship attached to it, while the “Manhood Award” was given with a scholarship. I refused until we could attach a comparable scholarship with it, even if I had to fund it myself. Inequality for women is still thriving. I want my four daughters to be valued in society, as we value them in our home! I want them to know who they are and what they can become. I want them to live without guilt for responding to the voice within. I want our culture to change!

In my summation, the goal of “Who Does She Think She Is?” is the same goal that I see in your work – that of changing attitudes and inspiring and empowering women to reach within themselves to find their voices and activate their courage to better not only their own lives, but our world as well, for when one woman is lifted, we all benefit.

Pamela Tanner Boll, Director of “Who Does She Think She Is?”, was Co-Executive Producer of the Academy Award winning film “Born Into Brothels” which was a rare look into the brothels of India through photography of the children who lived there. As a result of that documentary, many of the children were enabled to receive an education and escape the demeaning life of the brothels. I believe that her current film has the power to effect change and break down societal and cultural barriers.

Kindest Regards,

Shirley Mars

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