It’s amazing how often women are marginalized or written out of history altogether. Many of their accomplishments are attributed to others, or considered to be a part of a larger external entity. This is why She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry should be required viewing for everyone. The film chronicles the feminist movement in the United States from 1966 to 1971 and it’s amazing how much of this history has been glossed over in schools and popular culture. The American Civil Rights Movement is covered quite extensively here in Canada, and I firmly believe that it should be, but the Woman’s Rights Movement is glossed over at best.
We’ve all heard of the feminists burning their bras, but how many people know that they successfully campaigned for a universal childcare bill before it was vetoed by President Nixion? How many people know that the feminist movement was directly responsible for domestic violence and rape becoming visible crimes? The lack of education about womens’ effect history is quite frankly inexcusable in a society that claims to be as progressive as ours, which is something that the film sets about trying to rectify. Part of the main staple of the movement was teaching women about themselves—their history, their accomplishments and their bodies, something that we are still woefully deficient on.
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry tries to fix this by providing a thorough overview of the feminist movement. Most importantly, it never tries to pretend that it was (and is) something that it’s not. The film acknowledges that race, class, sexual orientation, as well as different philosophies all play a roll in what a woman is fighting for. Fractures between different groups of women within the movement are all covered, including the fact that lesbians had to fight for inclusion and that black women had to create their own groups to fight a very different battle than the ones faced by white women. The only downside to such extensive coverage of the movement is that none of these individual groups are given as much time as they deserve in an effort to fit everyone in. I prefer this however, to the alternative which would have been to further marginalize some of these disparate groups.
This is very much an introductory film about feminism—Feminism 101 if you like—and it is timely given the resurgence of mainstream feminist discussion in recent years, but it’s also sad that such an overview is necessary. This is an important piece of history that had, and continues to have important implications and ramifications in the present day. The women featured in the film are all passionate individuals that inspire a great deal of respect and admiration. They didn’t know what they were doing when they started protesting in the mid-60s, they were figuring it out as they went. All they had to guide them was their anger. Anger at being considered second class citizens. Anger at being considered objects and not people. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry keeps driving home that anger is necessarily to break from the established paradigm. These amazing women who first stood up and decided they wanted the option of having more to their lives than marriage and motherhood have paved the way for everything we have now. There is a stark contrast between what was possible as a woman in the 1950s and now, but there is also still a long way to go.
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is a call to action. Don’t accept what is unjust and unfair. Get angry. Because with anger, we can change the world.
Amanda is covering the 2015 Inside Out Festival live from Toronto. For more coverage of the festival, click here.