She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry: A Film Review

 

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International Film Circuit, Inc.

By Christine Riddiough

The year 2014 witnessed an upsurge in activities related to violence against women. From Elliott Rodgers to #YesAllWomen to sexual assault on college campuses, there was a heightened awareness of the ways in which women are still denied a full place in society. On December 31, "Morning Edition" host David Greene talked with author Roxanne Gay about how Americans have dealt with race and gender issues in the past year. Toward the end of the interview Greene asked Gay, "Does that suggest that some of the movements from the '60s and '70s on these very issues, I mean, did they fail in some way?" Gay’s response was, "No, they did not fail. There was just work still to be done, and we're continuing that work now."

This exchange highlights how important understanding our history is to informing our current activism. One movie released in 2014 and now coming to theaters around the country does this. She's Beautiful When She's Angry is a fascinating documentary detailing the beginning of the women's liberation movement in the United States.

Filmmaker Mary Dore moves with agility between interviews with activists from the 1960s and early 1970s to archival footage showing demonstrations and concerts and consciousness-raising groups. She traverses a range of issues—from reproductive justice and childcare to the role of African American and Latino women in the movement and equal pay for equal work. Starting with the publication of The Feminine Mystique in 1963, Dore illustrates the status of women then and describes just how much the women's movement changed things.

For many younger women, involvement in the civil rights and anti-war movements spurred a commitment to social justice, but within those movements women were often denigrated. Heather Booth, a founder of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, describes a meeting in the 1960s in which she tried to raise issues and was told to "sit down and shut up." She goes on to say that one of the most important lessons of women’s liberation was the idea that "the personal is political": if something is happening to many women, it’s a social problem that needs to be addressed collectively and politically.

Ruth Rosen, author of The World Split Open, describes her situation and that of many women students thus: "We had degrees but we knew nothing about women." The authors of Our Bodies, Ourselves talk about how they did research to find out more about women’s bodies. In the 1950s and 1960s women were simply told what to do by doctors; most women knew nothing about reproduction or sexuality. Karla Jay, author of Out of the Closets, talks about how she didn’t tell anyone in college that she was a lesbian because she was afraid of being expelled. These are a few of the anecdotes that illustrate the situation of women in the early 1960s. Fran Beal of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) says, "You’re talking about liberation and freedom half the night on the racial side, and then all of a sudden men are going to turn around and start talking about putting you in your place. So in 1968 we founded the SNCC Black Women’s Liberation Committee to take up some of these issues."

These few highlights from the film can only hint at the boldness and exuberance of the women’s liberation movement. The film itself does an excellent job of transmitting that heady feeling of the time. It also shows us that no matter how bleak things may look given the challenges we face now, we can move forward.

And the important lessons in this are that first, in order to move forward we need to know where we’ve been, and second, that change doesn’t just happen, we make it happen. Carol Giardina points out that "To take away the history of how change is made cuts down on activism, because people don’t think that I, an everyday person, can make a big change.” And Mary Jean Collins states, "I want people to know that if they take action, they can make really profound change. You can’t convince me you can’t change the world, because I saw it happen."

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is being screened this winter and spring at locations around the country. You can find a screening at http://www.shesbeautifulwhenshesangry.com/findascreening/ and at many of them women in the film will be present to talk about the movie and their activism. If there isn’t a screening near you, contact Wendy Lidell at wlidell@internationalfilmcircuit.com to book the film.

ChristineRiddioughAID.png Christine R. Riddiough serves as a vice chair of DSA and was a member of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, which is featured in the film.

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Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 82 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
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Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 19 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.