Film: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014)

July 3, 2015 | By


ShesBeautifulWhenShesAngry_posterFilm: Excellent

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Genre:  Documentary

Synopsis: Detailed, highly informative, and lively chronicle of the women’s movement.

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There’s an interesting irony that pops up within Mary Dore’s documentary on the women’s movement, as it grew and became global from the late sixties to the early seventies: just as key participants may not have known much of the suffragettes who gave women the right to vote 50 years before them, few today may not be aware of how many rights were denied as recently as 1966, including equal pay and making spousal abuse illegal.

Dore’s documentary is packed with great interviews of arguably forgotten figures in modern social history who proved ordinary people could manifest change, but the degree of rebellion, protest, grand public gatherings, brazen statements, and hammering collective outrage to politicians until they buckled was an immense struggle, especially when the leadership in power structures where men.

Worked in between interviews are archival news pieces featuring amazingly sexist comments by reporters, government officials, and men on the street who genuinely felt women belonged at home, and were shoved out of doorways with terms like “honey.” Within the movement were various groups who were already more ideological or evolved into more extreme organizations, and yet as one activist states quite bluntly, the micro and macro struggles were necessary, partly because there hadn’t been a precedent in terms of how to achieve a whole series of vital social changes, many of which involved basic human rights.

The right to vote and the birth control pill are cited as the two most pivotal events, but the latter – the most contemporary – is ultimately presented as part of a greater exploration of abortion, rotten hiring practices, and the need for a national childcare program. It is shocking that a motion to establish national childcare in the States, as approved by the government, was vetoed by President Nixon, snuffing out an opportunity that remains unrealized in both the U.S. (In Canada, national childcare is still used as voter bait, and once an election is over, it’s deemed too costly, in need of further scrutiny, and inevitably shelved until another political leader dusts it off for a campaign plank a few years later.)

Nixon’s bigwig in the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, wanted to spy on the various organizations that comprised the women’s movement, but in a sweet bit of irony, he had had to use snitches because his organization refused to hire women as federal agents. What information trickled back to the make agents and Hoover’s ears were group discussion on basic social, marital, human concerns rather than a grass roots effort to overthrow the government. According to Dore, in many cases groups discussed subjects and information which wasn’t widely available, especially info on women’s health, hence the publication of the international best-seller Our Bodies, Ourselves.

What radicals existed were exploring the dimensions of social change, and seeking to identify their own place in a mass movement that ultimately made the present day vastly different from the late sixties, and yet there is a singular closing statement that’s the most sobering, and the most prescient to any generation:

“The bitter lesson is that no victories are permanent. All our rights are like that. They’re only as good as we maintain them.”

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is more than a history lesson: it’s a warning to avoid complacency, to take bad legislators to task, and redirect ire and anger towards bad governance when things hard won have the potential to be softened or legislated into oblivion.

Dore’s documentary is currently in theatrical release, playing in Toronto at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema throughout July.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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