If I had a magic wand and could bonk you with it, I'd spirit you to a screening of a documentary I wish were mandatory viewing in schools: It's called Feminist: Stories of Women's Liberation. Written and directed by Altadena home girl Jennifer Lee, I'm proud to say that I chipped in a tiny amount to Ms. Lee's Kickstarter campaign and couldn't be more pleased with her accomplishment. "Feminist" is entertaining, inspiring and delivered with just the right touches of information, warmth and grace. Bring the kids! Bring the men! Bring the relatives!
We all stand on the shoulders of women who had the big clanging ovaries to confront the status quo, and didn't kill anyone while they were at it. Talk about non-violent social change. We are a huge chapter in the civil disobedience playbook.
Although these lines aren't in the film, I remember them all too well: "You don't know how good you've got it! You have no sense of humor. You are man-haters. You just need to get laid. Get back in the kitchen, you battle axes!"
To understand the resistance to women's liberation, follow the money. As orator, freed slave and feminist Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."
As I wolfed down a screening of Jennifer Lee's documentary, while sitting in a darkened ballroom at the Sheraton Universal during the 20th Anniversary of the Veteran Feminists of America Conference, memories of victories, heartaches, epithets, accusations, misunderstandings and arguments over women's "proper" roles whispered in my head. I was starved for an accurate depiction of the peaceful revolution that so many women poured their hearts and lives into that I watched the film with an appetite that has rarely been sated.
Director/writer Lee delivered her highly palatable "dish" of women's history with great love, respect and yes, humor. Contrary to the bigotry of many anti-feminists, many of us have great senses of humor. And the people who were crying "You are humorless" were often the ones who weren't getting the joke.
So many of us were involved. And true to gender stereotypes, we often deflected credit for our accomplishments. It takes guts to be the first woman (or human!) at anything, and many of us were. This is also true of hundreds of thousands of women (and men) who have questioned rigid gender roles for decades now, in families, workplaces, institutions, places of worship.
And yet, to this day the revolution that altered families and society forever is barely given any recognition at all except in snarky, demeaning ways. "What? Are you some kind of libber? A feminist?" (smirk, smirk.)
The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan came out the same year that Martin Luther King gave his famous "I Had a Dream" speech. We all had a dream then: to earn as much as our brothers, to not be hampered in our dreams because of being born one gender or the other, to walk in the world freely. Dr. King said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Hear! Hear! What a shame he did not include gender, which so many of us leave unexamined in the pantheon of prejudices.
I don't know one human being on the planet who isn't related to someone who is female or male. Do you? To paraphrase Facebook: These relationships are "complicated!" I knew women who used to rail against men in general, and then gave birth to a son. Oh boy -- complicated! Similarly, I have known misogynistically inclined men who develop keener ears for feminism when they have a daughter. All of a sudden "equal rights" for females makes more sense when you're related to someone you would give your life for. Complicated!
Meanwhile, I remember the days when women -- such as my mother and her friends -- never spoke in public because it was unseemly and unfeminine for a woman to speak publicly; were fired from their school teaching jobs for being pregnant; were systematically denied credit; could not inherit property -- the list of gender-based injustices are longer than a length of yarn from an unraveled sweater.
I knew so-called "liberal" men who were just as blind when it came to gender inequality as their so-called "conservative" brethren. Gender privilege is the same on either side of the aisle.
And don't get me started on female patriarchal tools! Oops! Too late. Yes, there are still Schlafly-esque anti-woman women out there, which also is a ripe subject for a book or documentary.
Anyway, remember that magic wand I want to bonk you with? Pauline Field, the chair of Fifty-Fifty Leadership, and I are hosting a screening of "Feminist" locally, and there are other showings in the LA area coming up. Attend one and get magically bonked by this documentary. For future screenings, please go to this web site to see what's available in your region.
Feminist: Stories from Women's Liberation:
Wednesday, Oct. 9, 6:30 p.m.
Flintridge Retreat Center
236 W. Mountain St., Ste. #117
Pasadena, CA 91103
Admission free. Donations accepted.
Thursday, Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m.
Laemmle Music Hall
9036 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills CA 90211
Suggested donation $10. Buy tickets HERE
NOTE: This article is an expanded and updated version of my column in the Pasadena Weekly that originally ran on 10/2/2013.
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