She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a new full-length feature documentary that explores the early era of the U.S. feminist movement, premieres in Philadelphia tonight. Following the 7pm screening at the Ritz Bourse, Access Matters President Melissa Weiler Gerber will host a Q&A with the film director, Mary Dore.
Watch the trailer here.
“An overdue documentary flashback to the U.S. women’s liberation movement, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry arrives at a time when, despite notable gains, the clock seems to be turning backward on many of the issues — reproductive rights, sexual harassment, equal pay, etc. — that ‘libbers’ fought more than 40-odd years ago,” notes Variety scribe Dennis Harvey.
True enough. The last four years have brought an unprecedented spike in state laws that curtail women’s access—meaning, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg likes to point out, all women except rich women—to safe and legal abortion services.
Here in Pennsylvania, only thirteen healthcare facilities still provide surgical abortion care for 67 counties, and yet we still have lawmakers trying to pass sham bills to shut down more.
The history of women fighting for their rights is a big, long story to tell. By honing in on the years 1966 to 1971, Dore illuminates an era when organizing a group of women around a kitchen table to share experiences with rape, harassment and unwanted pregnancy was a revolutionary act.
The film isn’t merely a time capsule, though; it carefully threads the early era to the modern movement.
“We’ve had high school feminist groups show up at screenings, which is so great, that is wonderful,” Mary Dore told me during a recent conversation. “A lot of people asking for advice and help because I think it’s hard for them to figure out how to organize and who to align with. There are always so many excellent [websites] and young organizers online. That’s important for people to know, that young women are doing all kinds of things.”
Before modern street theater like SlutWalk, there was W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!), women who ran around in Halloween witches costumes to throw hexes on the wretched.
Talking with Dore reminds me of the observation frequently made online: The women’s movement didn’t begin the moment you realized it exists.
“When you talk about the women’s movement and you act like it began when women had birth control, and all these things that had huge changes for women, you’re missing the cultural context,” explains Dore. “We particularly [explore] the civil rights movement, because many of the women who started the women’s movement in the 1960s came from the civil rights movement… they were also being treated as second-class citizens.”
This film has been a long time coming, both as cultural product and for Dore herself, who began work on the project more than two decades ago.
“I started writing grant proposals before I got pregnant with my kids, and they’re 21,” says Dore. “So there’s a clue [of how long it took].”
The practice of creating the film, of course, is also part of the movement, as systemic erasure from history one of the functions of backlash. Buy tickets for tonight, and other screening times, here.
Tara Murtha, WLP Staff