“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”
The Women’s Movement
Here is a film that looks at the women who founded, NOW, the women’s movement that existed from 1966 to 1977. It might be surprising to some to see that the movement began with ladies wearing hats and gloves but these eventually gave way to the more radical factions of women’s liberation. It brought together intellectual women and organizations like W.I.T.C.H (Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!). The film tells the stories of women who fought for equal rights and as they did a universal revolution began.
There is no romanticism here and what we see are the beginnings of a movement that began with quarrels and controversy as the issues of race, sexual preference and leadership dominated the early days. The women here were both brilliant and outrageous and went by the idea that “the personal is political”. They brought a revolution and it took place in the bedroom, in the workplace and in all areas of life. The FBI called the women threatening and while their names may not appear in history books, they changed the world.
While this film is a comprehensive history, it is also a call to action. The younger generation has no idea what it was once like in this country when job postings were segregated by gender, when woman-centric health information and health services were hardly available to women and when women with careers were often denounced. The film gives us a peek at what life was like for women before the mid-1960s and helps us understand the origins of the concept of gender equality that seems to be taken somewhat for granted today. It reminds us that what women won in the past is again at jeopardy that many of us take for granted. We are also reminded that much of what was won decades ago is once again in jeopardy. We see clips from mass marches, meetings, poetry readings, and consciousness-raising sessions. Mary Dore, the director and her staff interviewed many women who became the face of feminism and we see and hear these women’s reflections upon how the movement developed, what issues and what actions galvanized the activism of the time. The women are passionate, profound, clever and sometimes very funny.
What many do not know is that the feminist movement was quite complicated and messy with internal political and geographical divisions as well as divisions by race and class. There was homophobia from without and from within. All of this is exposed here and examined. We are also reminded of the core struggles and the successes and failures of the movement. There were women “in the trenches” in cities such as Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and here we see them as they looked back then and how they look today. Many of the heroes of the movement have gone unsung yet alongside the big names such as Friedan, Abzug and Steinem, they made a difference.
“She’s Beautiful When She is Angry is such a terrific documentary and so skillfully introduces the core ideas, struggles, and successes/failures of the women’s movement during the late 60s and early 70s. What I especially love about this film is the way it underscores the key role of those in the “trenches” – the many local organizers in cities like Boston, NY, Chicago, LA, and SF/Berkeley. They are pictured “back then” as well as now, in recent interviews that allow for the rare kind of reflection that a younger audience so greatly appreciates. And these interviews make clear that it was the superb organizing work of “unsung heroes” (in addition to the important leadership of people like Friedan, Abzug, and Steinem) that catapulted this movement to become one of the key social justice forces of the past century.”
This documentary covers a large area and it is a pleasure to watch. We see the actual people who were personally involved with archival material and we also see and hear current conversations with the very same folks. The film could easily be subtitles, “How to Start a Movement”. It is a celebration o diversity, intelligence, fortitude and creativity and it is inspirational for those who take up the movement today.
The film opens at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in NYC December 5, 2014 and at the Landmark Nuart Theatre in LA on December 12.