For International Women’s Day on March 8th, The Untitled Magazine sponsored a viewing of the documentary film “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” A group of excited women (mostly) and confident men (a few) entered The Anthology Film Archives in New York City and chose to learn about women’s fight for equality and the second-wave feminism of the late 1960s and early 70s. “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,” directed and produced by Mary Dore, highlights the inspiring, badass, incredible women who founded the modern women’s liberation movement. It has won awards such as the Audience Awards for Best Documentary at both The Mardis Gras Film Festival 2015 and Independent Film Festival Boston 2014, as well as the Best Documentary at the Fairhope Film Festival 2014. Of the two decades it took Dore to produce the outstanding film, she reminded viewers, “You have to understand that there was a very determined and very well funded conservative effort to defame feminism.” The second-wave feminists fight for freedom shown in the film has given us so much that we take for granted in society today, yet that fight isn’t over. Viewing this film taught me a lot, but most importantly that we can no longer rely on the women who came before us to demand the equality we deserve. Feminists of 2016, it’s our turn.
What transpired over the course of the three hour event (which included a screening, panel discussion, and cocktail party) was goosebump raising, tear jerking, laughter inducing, and eye-opening. The film followed the formation of NOW (National Organization for Women) and more radical groups such as The Lavender Menace and W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!) in the late 1960s. The film also highlighted the way literature played a part during the second wave of feminism with the creation of the first women’s newspaper and the ladies behind the well-known book, “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” Importantly, the film shows an unedited side of the movement, not omitting the controversies over race, sexual preference and leadership that arose while women fought for equality.
After the film was a question and answer session moderated by Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show, who is also a writer, comedian, producer, and co-founder of Lady Parts Justice. Panelists discussing “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,” included a diverse group of inspiring women including director Mary Dore; writer, editor and author Nona Willis Aronowitz; President of Women Thrive Worldwide, Dr. Patricia T Morris; journalist and president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, Jennifer Merin; and The Untitled Magazine’s own editor-in-chief Indira Cesarine. The women discussed the film, it’s inspiring story, women’s rights today, how social media brings people together and more.
The history of second wave feminism is one that shines a light on women. It’s an important history, but also one that is often lost in the shuffle as students in class learn about the men who have played big roles in American history. Dr. Morris said in the q & a after the screening, “The film today, for me, really exudes how important for us to know our history… to share our history with this generation,” and she’s right. Aside from the women’s push for the right to vote in the 1920s, females are brushed over in classrooms, or at least they certainly have been in mine. Today we are raised thinking that women just have so many rights, rather than understanding how hard the women before us worked for them. It’s a history that’s not only important to learn about, but necessary to know, especially for upcoming generations.
“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,” should be obligatory viewing for not only women, but men in America. It’s a reminder of the power of unity, the power of voices, and the power of women. It’s a reminder of what has changed and how far we have come. Even more powerfully, it’s a reminder of what it takes to bring change to a culture such as ours. The film, though focused in the past, is still a strong ode to our present and future. Director Mary Dore said during the panel, “There are people who very much don’t want women to control their own bodies to the point of not even allowing birth control. There are people who don’t want certain people, people of color, older people, to vote. We have backlash in many areas and its incredibly distressing.”
Today, the issues that the second-wave feminist women fought for are still being challenged, including women’s access to birth control and abortions, protection against rape, equal pay, and more. Jennifer Merin pounded the point to the panel audience, “We have a hell of a long way to go. We do not have an Equal Rights Amendment yet. We have, as women, absolutely no protections under our constitution. None whatsoever and it’s becoming clearer and clearer. This film which really recalls some of the highlights and some of the main issues of this movement should be a catalyst for further action at this time.” If women of today want our rights to remain intact and desire true equality, we have to get loud, get angry, and demand change.
Moderator Lizz Winstead asked viewers and the panelists, “Do you have these conversations [about rights]? Are you collectively meeting with your friends and scheming and conspiring? Or do we need to get back to some hard ass scheming and conspiring?” For my friends and I, we are constantly talking about feminism whether we knowingly classify it as that or not. We talk about abortion rights as we head to Duane Reade to pick up our birth control prescriptions. We talk about rapes on campus when we hear of (yet another) friend of a friend who was sexually assaulted. We talk about getting paid what we are worth. We talk about Kim Kardashian’s nude selfies and Sarah Paulson’s lesbian relationship. What we forget to talk about though, is what we are going to do. Our beliefs are clear, but our execution is lacking. How will we work towards equality with action, rather than just words?
This topic also came up amongst the panelists. Is my generation, that of 20-something-year-olds, taking action or simply tweeting and moving on? Jennifer Merin put the pressure on our online actions having questioned, “I also think that the internet is sometimes just a distraction because you think that you’ve done something and in reality what is it that you’ve done?” For the youngest panel member, Nona Willis Aronowitz, she knows that there are moments where the internet has made waves, “A few things I can think of, like campus rape, has become a much more acute problem. It always existed, but people have gotten much angrier and more vocal about it. I think that’s because people are having conversations both online and in person.” Of that, I certainly have to agree. Campus rape is something that younger generations have taken seriously, whether we have participated in walks, stood outside of college buildings with signs, or carried a mattress across a graduation stage.
One positive moment of feminism in 2016 is the unbelievable fact that men have begun to not only understand the term, but have slowly opted to join the movement. Indira Cesarine said during the panel, “I think one of the most important things we have to address is that feminism is really considered a women’s issue and I think we really need to break that male and female dichotomy. Men need to become involved for it to be an actively successful movement in the world that we live in today.” Ladies, do the men around you support your equal rights? I’m sure the guys we sleep with are happy we have access to birth control. I bet the guys we work with think we deserve the same salary as them. Most guys are disgusted by the hidden and often protected rapists on college campuses. The more men who step up, the stronger we can become. Cesarine continued, “I think its extremely important for all of us to actively try and push the men in our lives to educate themselves, to try to understand our history.” Its about time we sat our boyfriends, guy friends, brothers and dads down and pushed play on “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” No one – whether men, women, old, young, straight or gay – should be uneducated when women’s rights are still on the line.
At a cocktail reception following the panel, viewers were encouraged to share thoughts, network, and connect. The attendees ranged in age, ethnicity, and gender, yet one thing was clear: they were inspired. It was an International Women’s Day celebrated exactly the way it should be, with strong women, uplifting ideas, and overwhelming unity.
Article by Kaylee Denmead for The Untitled Magazine.