Perhaps it is because I am currently taking a class on documentary filmmaking, but I have never been so interested in watching documentaries as I am this semester. To continue the trend I started last month with my review of 13TH, I would like to recommend a second, equally important documentary. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry tells the story of the beginnings of second-wave feminism, a history I would know little about if I were not a Women and Gender Studies minor. The history of the feminist movement in the United States is often overlooked, without any explanation, in high school history classes. Speaking for myself, I would have loved to learn about important political figures involved in the movement, including Kate Millet, Muriel Fox Linda Burnham, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and a number of other strong women that are featured in the film. All of these women were important activists throughout the period, and are still fighting for women’s human rights and equality.
The movie covers the wide range of activism throughout that time period, beginning with the formation of NOW (National Organization of Women), to the more radical and outrageous actions of groups such as W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!). Even with my own strong background knowledge about the movement, I could not help but learn from the histories the women shared. Hearing personal stories about rallies, protests, and organized groups from all across the spectrum of the fight for women’s liberation was enlightening. My favorite aspect of the film is the ways in which they use the older, archival footage along with the new interviews, showing how the women have changed and developed over time. It puts an active face to all of the women we see in photographs of the protests surrounding the era.
Another aspect of the film I really enjoyed is its acknowledgment of the issues that arose as the movement grew. The attempts to create an intersectional movement encompassing women of all races, socio-economic backgrounds, and sexual orientations often failed, and She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry doesn’t try to hide it. The women are aware of the difficulties that they faced and sometimes created themselves, when expanding their movement. Only by acknowledging the past errors with intersectional feminism can we remedy them as we progress with today’s feminist movement.
Overall, I was inspired by the film. In the current political climate, it important to continue the fight for reproductive rights and true equality and against the normalization of sexual violence. However, we cannot move forward with progress unless we take a step back and recognize the incredible efforts of the women who came before, paving the way with activism that, though sometimes was extremely radical, helped us to achieve the position we are in today. I recommend She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry to anyone that ever wished they could learn more about the history of the women’s movement, or even just the current state of women in society today. The movie made me laugh and made me cry at other parts, and it is a really great way to begin to explore the rich history of feminism.