One of 2014’s best films, Mary Dore’s She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is an urgent, illuminating dive into the headwaters of second-wave feminism, the movement that — no matter what its detractors insist — has fundamentally shaped most aspects of our lives today.
If you think women are, like, people who should be allowed to make decisions and hold jobs of note and be paid worth a damn and not get raped, well, your thinking has been molded by the pioneers interviewed in Dore’s wide-ranging film: Here’s Rita Mae Brown, Susan Brownmiller, Ellen Willis, Fran Beal, Judith Arcana, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, and many more, dishing truth and priceless anecdotes about what it felt like to change the world — and to have to figure out how to do it as they did it. Dore offers revealing recent interviews and fiery archival footage, tracing the development of the National Organization for Women and its many sister and rival groups, culminating in 1970’s Women’s Strike for Equality.
The doc — which opens on December 5 at the Landmark Sunshine — is wise, moving, upsetting, and sometimes funny, as you can see in this stunner of a clip, provided to the Voice by the filmmakers. On August 26, 1970, more than 20,000 women took to the streets of New York. Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan organized the protest, held on the 50th anniversary of women winning the right to vote.
Here’s how a sneering Cedar Rapids newsman covered the event — and unwittingly demonstrated its necessity.
Good lord! He could only top that with a mic drop and a shout-out to maintaining ethical standards in games journalism!
Yes, he actually signs off with this:
So remember, men, if you come into work tomorrow, and your secretary refuses to do the filing, and go home and find that your wife has refused to do the cooking, don’t blame them. Remember, you gave them the vote, 50 years ago. This is Mike Scott, male chauvinist, TV 9, Eyewitness News.
Today, even the most proudly sexist guy you know would find Scott’s report nasty — yet more proof that, in many ways, the movement achieved profound successes.
That isn’t to say that the specific demands of the marchers have ever been met, of course. Check out this ad that Friedan’s organization ran in the Voice in the last week of August, 1970.
Note that those last items in the ad — “FREE Abortion on demand” — are the marchers’ demands, even though they’re presented in much the same style that, say, fair organizers would promise free hot dogs.
Here’s how the great Mary Breasted described the march in the Voice the next week:
There was no great unity of styles or goals in the Women’s National Strike for Equality. There were the three basic demands: Free abortion on demand, 24-hour day care for all mothers, and employment, pay, and promotion opportunities for women equal to those of men. But no one seemed to harp much on those demands. The common bond was the demonstration itself, their presence in the streets together, sharing defiant sisterhood.
That’s from this piece:
Breasted’s reporting is thorough and thrilling, a portrait of a movement that has just willed itself into being. Like Dore’s film, it’s rich with observant detail. Relish this account of a group of counter-protesters squaring off with some marchers:
Calling themselves “Men Our Masters,” they held up pink signs which said “Mom.”
One of their group strayed into enemy ranks. They quickly started challenging her. Trembling all the while, she tried to stand up to them.
“What are you fighting against?” a feminist asked her.
“The idea of putting sex down…One man today lit my cigarette for me. I thought it was wonderful,” the MOM girl replied without much spirit. Her heavy make-up was beginning to streak in the heat, and she looked forlorn.
“Why can’t you light your own fucking cigarettes?” the feminist asked impatiently.
“Why are you cursing?” asked the MOM girl. “That’s very, uh –“
“Unladylike,” the feminist suggested with a knowing nod.
Later, the feminists ask the MOM protester about her career.
“What do you do? Do you work?” another feminist asked.
The MOM girl saw her enemies closing in on her. She started to look for an opening in the throng behind her.
“I’m a bookkeeper,” she said, “and I make a good salary, as good as a man does.”
“Have you ever come up against job discrimination?”
“No,” said the MOM girl, beginning to look really uncomfortable.
“Would you like to become an accountant?” asked [a] male bystander.
“I could if I wanted to,” said the miserable girl, “but I don’t want that responsibility.”
Just like Mike Scott, chauvinist newsman, the MOM protester can’t articulate with any compelling logic what about the movement is damnable or immoral — she’s just gripped by the conviction that it is, that things are better the way they are, that any fight for societal change is somehow a violation of an existing societal ideal.
And note that those same confused assumptions underpin the complaints of men and women who still, today, insist that they oppose the movement Dore and Breasted document, a movement that has chased toxic spewings like Mike Scott’s out of the mainstream and onto message boards and comment threads.
Here’s the trailer for Dore’s She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry. Pass it along to a GamerGater.
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