What I thought was going to be a review of the premier of the documentary that made its Michigan debut on Sunday, March 8, 2015 at the Maple Theater in Bloomfield, MI, titled, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is turning more into a testimonial in many ways. Many deeply personal ways.
Director/Producer/Writer Mary Dore was in attendance for the premier on Sunday and I had the great fortune of meeting her and actually getting a chance to visit with her for a short while before the film. That was a gift unto itself. I was actually honored to be asked to host this amazing event that sold out to more than 300 people. A second showing was added at the last minute and it had marvelous attendance as well. And for good reason: this film is making its way around the country, one or two cities at a time, and most documentaries have little chance of theater openings as the competitive nature of that business is, well, competitive. If a movie underperforms in any way, it is yanked very fast. But I now know why this amazing film is finding a life of its own and for exceptional reasons.
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry chronicles the advent and continuing journey of the Women’s Liberation movement over the past half a century. And what a journey it has been. At the core of this struggle is the creation and prominence of the National Organization of Women (NOW). But that would just be scratching the surface. For my purposes today, I will say that I have a renewed respect for and a growing admiration of NOW as they have weathered many intense storms over the years and continue to find a way to make an impactful difference in the lives of all of us.
The early days of the Women’s Lib movement, as it is commonly known, were fraught with many a speed bump and too many roadblocks to mention. However, because of the tenacity of a dedicated core and an increasingly growing number of women who had just had enough, we learn all too well through this film how backward society was (is), how critical and necessary this movement was, and how significant it still is.
There were many light moments in this film, some of which were laugh-out-loud moments. One of my favorites was a scene where a woman wore a shirt that loudly stated, “Stare at Your Own Tits”. But carefully interspersed and emphasized through this gift of a film was the reality of what this struggle was like, including in-fighting and shocking moments that were surprising to this audience and society at the time it was actually happening.
Another scene where a surprise announcement was made of a national strike where women would refrain from working on a given day caused such great anxiety among many of the activist faithful that they cringed and almost hid from the events. But, to their utter surprise and delight, in New York city on that fateful day thousands of women, and men, showed up in unison and unity to put an exclamation point on a movement that had arrived and was going nowhere until they knew they had made their mark. And they have.
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is remarkable on so many levels that it’s hard to pinpoint a section or a era where more focus should be given. I say this because, as much as I thought I was a learned soul, I was fooling myself. That’s where the real magic of this film lives.
Often we experience things in real life and wonder how history will remember it. Walking this journey of a movement that was so profoundly impactful and historically significant got me to thinking about so many things that I could not turn my mind off. The “what ifs” and the “now whats” were popping in my head like firecrackers. My activism genes were raging so much as I watched this move unfold over the course of just over 90 minutes that I both didn’t want it to end and couldn’t wait to talk about it. I am not alone.
Mary Dore is a gift that decided to give every audience that has seen this documentary a gift as well. Her journey to produce this film is remarkable. As I shared with her, the sense of destiny of this film, and you will feel that powerfully, if you have the chance to see it, was no mistake. Call it whatever you want, but had this movie been released two years ago or two years from now, the impact would have been diminished, count on that being true, so the struggle to get this financed and then actually made and into theaters is and was destined. There is no time like the present, as the saying goes, and this movie will make you VERY present, I promise you that.
The audience, the majority clearly women, was sitting in the edge of their seats, and the men who attended were right there with them. No minute is wasted in this film and, although I am sure some would find areas to criticize, I do not. Why? Mostly because it accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish. It reminds. It empowers. It questions. It answers. It hits home. It is in many ways the beginning of a discussion that needs to continue to take place and it is also a reminder of what happens when good people do something inherently good and selfless. It is a reminder of times when oppression and anger were so prevalent and domineering. It was a time, for example, when they were advertising in the newspaper employment section for secretaries who could find a good job and possibly a chance to marry an executive (!). How exciting and what a job benefit, right? This was a time when pregnant and barefoot was the norm and a time when many women went from being happily ignorant about what was being done to them to turning them into the fierce activists that made the difference in a society that richly deserved and continues to deserve equality and a real chance to be HUMAN!
As Congresswoman Debbie Dingell pointed out in her remarks to the audience assembled to watch this film, we have NOT arrived, YET! But, as she passionately pointed out, we have only just begun to fight.
I call myself a feminist and I proudly believe myself to be one. But I learned while watching She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry that my education may have just begun, and toward that end I am committed to furthering that education until the day I am taken from this earth.
Mary Dore, and the team that assembled this footage should be heralded for their attention to quality and detail. Their ability to tell a story, with the actual people who were there from day one and who are still around to fight the good fight today, reminds us what happens when we don’t quit. And we mustn’t ever quit. These warriors need to be celebrated and remembered, they must.
I am wiser today than I was a week ago and am empowered to a basic truth that equality is a moving target and there are still too many wealthy, white, prejudiced men (and some women) who do not understand what they have done and what they continue to do to the very foundation and fabric of this country by allowing unequal pay or reproductive health issues to guide their misplaced ideology and outward and obvious disdain for women everywhere. There are still too many issues and too many roadblocks for women in our society that have earned and deserve equality in every way, don’t you think? I think so.
For every mother, sister, aunt, friend, boss, and mentor I have ever had, let me thank you for having the courage and strength to grow up and raise families. For the MANY sacrifices you make and for the many times you have turned the other cheek and have shown great care and concern to raise strong, confident daughters, we thank you. In a country that doesn’t see the harm they are causing you, I cannot apologize for that because it wasn’t my doing. However, I am grateful that I had a mother and father who knew the importance of equality and respect and enshrined that in me and my siblings.
If there is anything I can do to help to reverse that, I will. And that you can count on.
[Photo credit: Mikasi | Flickr]