Second-Wave Feminists Define an Era in The Heretics

"Democracy is messy and nasty and sensational" recalls one of the talking heads in Joan Braderman's spirited doc about the Heresies, the New York feminist art collective that published 27 issues of a journal of the same name from 1977 to 1992. Film- and video-maker Braderman, who joined the collective in 1975, tracks down 24 of her fellow second-wavers (one of whom I worked for briefly 12 years ago), scattered around the globe and ranging in age from 54 to 84, to reminisce about the endless downtown loft meetings and hair-splitting debates about whether "we were Marxist feminists or feminist Marxists"—all part of the collective's mission "to examine every bloody thing in the world." If Braderman's voice-over narration drifts into nostalgia for a lost utopia on occasion, the testimony of her interlocutors reminds us that even though consciousness-raising groups are a thing of the past, the spirit of the group is very much alive, whether in the present-day work of '70s Heretics ("I don't think [second-wave feminism] ever ended," asserts architect Susana Torre) or the commitment of the Gen-Y founders of the feminist, queer LTTR collective. For a movement that was "fundamentally leaderless," Braderman's film gives its participants an opportunity to rightfully claim: "We thought we could change things—and, in fact, we did."

 
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