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Film Fri May 08 2015

She's Beautiful When She's Angry: a New Film on the Feminist Movement

She's Beautiful When She's Angry is a new documentary that takes us back to the early days of the women's liberation movement in 1966-71. The film reminds us of how many gains we made back then, how much we've lost recently, and how much is still to be fought for in the future. If you're a woman of a certain age, the film may make you mad at what we put up with then and still endure. If you're a younger woman today, the film can be eye-opening and provocative. If you're a guy of any age, you should see this film!

She's Beautiful opens today at the Gene Siskel Film Center and runs through May 14. Some of the Chicago activists who appear in the film will lead discussions at various screenings.

The 90-minute film, directed by Mary Dore, does not spend a lot of time glorifying the feminist icons of the 1960s. Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug and Germaine Greer make appearances. But the film focuses on the women -- the activists and organizers -- who made things happen on the ground in New York, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco and other cities. She's Beautiful When She's Angry is their story.

GB-sbwsa_poster.jpegThe women's movement came together in the early 1960s in a confluence of other protest movements. The civil rights movement for racial equality, the anti-war movement brought on by the Vietnam conflict and women's efforts for equality in all spheres of life.

The documentary focuses on so-called second-wave feminism: the fight for equal pay, career opportunities, abortion rights, and working mothers' desperate need for child care services. (The first wave of feminism is considered to be the suffrage movement of the later 19th and early 20th centuries). The film shows the formation of the National Organization for Women in 1966 and the later fight within NOW for recognition of the rights of lesbians (who called themselves the "lavender menace").

With excellent sourcing and editing, the film shows footage of the organizers in their 1960s marches and speeches and interviews with them today. The strength and commitment to the spirit of the movement are still potent in the contemporary interviews. She's Beautiful When She's Angry is well researched and beautifully edited. It's funny and fascinating in its overview of how far we have come and how far we still have to go. As activist Virginia Whitehill says near the end, "The bitter lesson is that no victories are permanent."

Chicago plays an important part in the film and the movement.

GB-1374Blaisdell_Rockband.jpgThe Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band, which performed from 1970 to 1973 and toured the Midwest and east coast. (There also was a sister band in New Haven.)

Writer Judith Arcana and Mary Jean Collins are two of the Chicago activists who appear in the film.

Arcana, an original member of the Chicago feminist underground abortion service JANE, will lead a discussion at the Wednesday, May 13, screening, and Anne Ladky, executive director of Women Employed, an heir to the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, will moderate the Sunday, May 10 discussion.

The Monday, May 11 discussion will be led by Mary-Ann Lupa, past president of Chicago NOW, a present VP of Veteran Feminists of America, and designer of the poster and button for the 1970 Women's Strike for Equality March; and Estelle Carol, SAIC graduate and member of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union.

The battles for women's rights are not over. Read the stories about the sexual harassment lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins, a major venture capital firm. Plaintiff Ellen Pao lost her case, but it shines a bright light on the gender issues in the VC and tech industries. (Best quote from the case: When another woman partner complained to her employer about sexual harassment, she was told she should be "flattered.")

Yes, the world of the 1960s was as it's portrayed in AMC's "Mad Men." Classified ads, organized under "Help Wanted-Female" could specify that the secretary be attractive as well as skilled on the keyboard and steno pad. It was assumed that a woman would stay home, take care of the house and the children, and be ready with dinner and a drink for her husband at the end of the day. A career? Nope. Life was a series of no's for women of that era. (I couldn't take print shop at Steinmetz High School; couldn't cover hard news with a University of Missouri journalism degree; couldn't get a job as a copywriter, only as a researcher ("stack rat"); couldn't get a credit card in my own name.)

She's Beautiful When She's Angry will be screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., beginning today. There are daily screenings through Thursday, May 14. Tickets are $11 and $6 for members.

Images courtesy International Film Circuit, Inc. Band photo by Virginia Blaisdell.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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