Monday, November 5, 2012

introducing the fascinating erin fox

ms. fox--photo by justin hackworth
i first met erin fox years ago, when she was a student film maker completing a short documentary about my mother-in-law called "a merry widow."  i remember thinking how insightful she was, and what a smart subject she had chosen for this film, and how well she captured my amazing mother-in-law.  recently i saw facebook excitement going on over her upcoming project fascinating womanhood and i got in touch with her to see if she would guest blog for us, and tell us a little more about her work and this project.

Tell us about yourself.

I worked in film in Los Angeles for over 5 years and was privileged to work on several award-winning documentaries including Big River Man, a film about a marathon swimmer from Slovenia; Resolved, directed by Greg Whiteley about high school debate champions; and Cachao: Uno Mas, a film about the Cuban mambo genius from the American Masters series on PBS. I moved to Salt Lake in 2009 and I was fortunate to be hired for a documentary series for BYU-TV about missionaries with Chantelle Olsen and Manju Varghese. I teach some classes at the Art Institute of Salt Lake when I’m not working on the film about Fascinating Womanhood.

Are you in a tight place right now, and if so, what are you doing to get out of it?

As a freelance editor, I would work on a film for a while and then work at a law office or for a temp agency and all-the-while feeling immense pressure to date and find “a mate."  Marriage has always felt like the bigger concern than career from my family and church. I first read Fascinating Womanhood (1963) by Helen B. Andelin to learn about the ways of feminine enchantment. Later, when I heard that Helen Andelin was speaking on panels with Gloria Steinem, Helen Gurley Brown, and other notable feminists, I was intrigued. Here was one of our own sisters who spoke about being a woman during the Second Wave of feminism. What was that like for her? What did she say? Some people say she was crazy but I think Andelin’s life story has many parallels for women today who do it all.

Many people see Fascinating Womanhood as a horrible book that tells women to be manipulative to men and weak but I think it may be onto something. She says that the way to be attractive is to embrace your femininity and be a “domestic goddess." I am uncomfortable with “childlike anger” and feigning helplessness. But I think the answer to greater confidence and harmony with men is to find your true feminine self.

The Fascinating Womanhood documentary began with my sister Emily Fox King. She was in several bands with Brian Andelin (Helen’s grandson) and made her MFA thesis art exhibition at Brigham Young University inspired by Fascinating Womanhood. Emily got married and moved to Ogden and onto other projects. Heather Bigley has been an enormous help with writing and planning. I’ve had generous help from Chad Peters and Zach Marsh and the Utah Film Center. The film will be completed by May 2013, the 50th Anniversary of Fascinating Womanhood and The Feminine Mystique.

What are you hoping to accomplish by the end of the year?

Would love to be on the way to a final edit. I hope to secure some funding for finishing the film and hiring an editor to sort through the 30 hours of footage we have.

What inspires you?

I’m reading The History of the Wife by Marilyn Yalom and she gives accounts of wives in Europe and the United States. I read A Strange Stirring by Stephanie Coontz which was great.  I read Homeward Bound by Elaine Tyler May. It was excellent and puts into perspective how our grandparents define the American way of life. Women who had successful careers were portrayed as selfish and promiscuous. Singles were considered too “sick, immoral, selfish or too neurotic” to marry, so couples stuck together. Homemaking was a career and homemakers turned to experts to do their job well, which may be why books like Fascinating Womanhood were popular. It was like a scientific method for the perfect wife.

I am also inspired by music. I discovered PJ Harvey’s “White Chalk” album when I was unemployed, frustrated, and getting bad advice from therapists. I loved the simple piano parts on it and she became relatable for me as an artist. On Pandora I like to hear Arvo Part, Erik Satie and Arcade Fire.  Additionally, walking outside is my best source for inspiration.

What is your favorite leg wear?

I like the thick Smartwool or Thorlo socks. 

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