Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Potiche": Taking trophies off the shelf and finding your voice.

On December 14th I attended a Toronto International Film Festival (tiff) Reel Performance in the Rectial Hall at Keyano Theatre. Potiche is a 2010 French-Belgian comedy film directed by François Ozon, based on the play of the same name by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy. It stars Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Judith Godrèche and Jérémie Renier. Set in 1977, the film tells the story "trophy wife" Suzanne Pujol  coming to grips with her own self-worth in this international comedy. When her husband is taken hostage by his striking employees, a trophy wife (Deneuve) takes the reins of the family business and proves to be a remarkably effective leader. Business and personal complications arrive in the form of her ex-lover (Depardieu), a former union leader.
In French, a "potiche" is a decorative vase, but also roughly means the same thing as "trophy wife".  This is a journey that one woman takes to break free of the supplied mold that society and her husband have trapped her in.  At first she is unsure if she can take on the challenges in front of her, but as she gains more self-confidence she realizes that she cannot go back.  In the end she not only becomes a strong woman, but enters the political ring as an independent to beat out her former lover for his MP job.

Here is the link to the movie's trailer.

I had moments where I laughed out loud and giggled silently.  This was a film about a woman coming into her own.  A story that has been told many times over the years, but somehow remains in the shadows. I have over the years talked to many women who have for one reason or another doubted that they had it in themselves to stand up for themselves.  Everyone has moments of doubt and I myself am not immune to such insecurities.  The difference lies in whether a person believes the opinion of others in their heart and makes them who they are. I have had a colleague tell me that he basically will give me my opinion as I had no degree in the field  therefore making my opinion less valuable and wrong.  Let me tell you, that did not sit well.  I could believe that person or chalk it up to an eye-opening experience into today's chauvinism. Guess which one I chose?  I will always have an opinion and although I may be wrong on items so has the person with that degree on his wall. I am not saying that all men are wrong and all women are right, because women can tear each other down just as much as men.  Been on the receiving end of that too.  The point I am trying to get across is that although words can hurt and people can be forgiven..... the words stay.  It is up to each person....woman or man... to decide if that person's words define who you are.  When you place too much value on others opinions of you rather than believing you are good, strong and worthwhile, then you have given too much to others. The last thing one needs to do is set them a place at your dinner table.  When the person's words take up time with your family and friends you have given over too much time and energy on the subject. Take back your life.
I have spent a fair amount of time facilitating and writing manuals for self-esteem, anger management and stress management and let me tell you I have seen the damaging effects of words on grown individuals.  It is not just "trophy wives" that need to understand that they are more than sum of someone else's opinion, but children, women and  Sometimes people seem bent on changing someones opinion because it did not match their own.  That somehow because it didn't match that the other person is wrong. That person then needs to overpower the other by undermining their intelligence, insulting them or maybe yelling loud enough to intimidate. One cannot talk their way out of a situation they have acted their way into. Not everyone is like this, nor is it my intention to apply a broad brush to paint a disparaging picture. The reality of life is that we meet all kinds of people in our life. And I have meet some wonderful people over the course of my life who are amazing conversationalists. Tackling an issue from all angles while holding two opposing ideas within the discussion. That is not an easy task. I do not have all the answers nor do I claim to.  I am just one person trying to find my way, messing up, apologizing, trying to stand strong,and trying to do the right things in life. Not unlike many people I know or really that unusual in any particular way.

I leave you with a story that has made many a grown woman and man weep.

Nails in the Fence

There once was a boy who had a bad temper.  His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence.  Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down.  He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all.    The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.  He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence.  The fence will never be the same.  When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.  You can put a knife in a man and draw it out.  It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”

The little boy then understood how powerful his words were.  He looked up at his father and said “I hope you can forgive me father for the holes I put in you.”

“Of course I can,” said the father.

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