She's Beautiful When She's Angry is the first documentary ever made about the beginning of the Women's Liberation Movement. We're talking the 1960s and early 1970s--what some call "second wave feminism", the first belonging to the suffragettes--the era of Betty Friedan and Shulamith Firestone and Bella Abzug and Kate Millet and Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem, bless her Playboy Bunny ears.  The days of redstockings and consciousness raising and that bible of reclamation--Our Bodies, Our Selves. The early days of the rights of women of color, the Mad Men era days, when women began to come out of the closets (where they were not and are still not being paid for their work) to find jobs in law offices and corporations--and out of the closet to love as they chose.

The movie is full of fascinating vintage footage from newscasters, and great lines from men (and plenty of women, too) who were opposed to equal rights, or simply befuddled: what is it those girls want again?  She's Beautiful is rambunctious, joyful, provocative, earnest, profound--and utterly mesmerizing--just like the women who made the movement.

I hope every young woman, and every young man, will see this movie, every history class and every poetry class and every economics class, every high school and college campus--and you can find a screening in the next week, various cities. Why see it? Because knowledge is power. My children's generation, the 20 and 30 years olds, should know where we came from to get to them. For those of us who lived it and breathed it, those of us whose very souls were forged by the feminist movement--director Mary Dore has given us back a history that was dimming, ever so softly and gradually, into the dark recesses of lost memory.

Boy, we were beautiful. Simply stunning. We were angry, too. So perfectly, fittingly, brilliantly intense. And funny, and direct, and demanding, and witchy, and creative, and crazy. I love the title, She's Beautiful When She's Angry, because it was a line that was so often used to demean us, undercut our authority, as we were passionately arguing a case, making a point. But you know what? We are beautiful when we're angry.

The only question is, why aren't enough of us still angry?

I watched with tears--of recognition, gratitude, and bewilderment--streaming down my cheeks. We accomplished so much. Our daughters and our sons are better people, and have better, bigger, healthier lives, with many more choices, because of what we did.

But then, why does it feel as though we're slipping backwards? Why are things beginning to feel harder for women, and why is the world feeling more sexist--again? And how are women themselves contributing to that uneasy, insidious sense of oppression?

These questions have been weighing heavily on me over the last few years. I still think women (and men) can have it all--maybe not all of it all, but some of it all, and maybe not all at once, but over time. But too many women of my generation are sending messages of weary, resignation, when what we should be sending is instruction on how to develop the qualities that make you successful in life: Resilience. Persistence. Determination.

I'll bet you can choose just about any company, any day, (or go on any number of dates) and listen to men be as condescending and dismissive in 2014 as they were in 1977. I'm still watching, with startled recognition of something old and familiar--as women's voices go unheard in meetings, as men repeat what women say and take ownership of their ideas, as men put their female colleagues down. I'm listening as young men seem to practice being sexist and condescending--trying it on for size, with no one stopping them.

I'm watching as women work so hard to make places run--but they still don't run enough of those places. And I'm watching women be as ruthless in undercutting other women as any man could dream of being. What's worse, the boundaries of tolerable behavior have been blown open in the last few years, so young women aren't just dealing with sexist attitudes, they're dealing with physically frightening, downright dangerous situations--and not just on college campuses. Get a young Silicon Valley woman to tell you about what goes on at tech conferences...starting with Titstare.

And most of all, because the documentary is such a visual treat (great soundtrack, too), I've been thinking about the visuals surrounding young women and men today. When it comes to the selling of lifestyles and fashion, we are living in one of the most weirdly sexist eras I have ever seen. The porn of the sixties looks quaint by comparison to the advertising we see everywhere today, on billboards, on television, online, in magazines and catalogues. We used to protest that men turned women into meat. Now, women are turning women into meat, or helping men do it.

And women's magazines are the ones publishing most of this stuff. Women's magazines are creating the fashion copy that invites us to bind our feet, to wear things that throw us off balance, literally off our stride.  We're urged to cut open our faces and bodies, inject ourselves with chemicals, for the sake of...well, what, exactly? Surely not to be taken more seriously. To be more ornamental in the workplace? To be more attractive to husbands who might stray? To be less threatening to men?

At what cost, all this visual surround? When exactly did we lose our bearings on what is degrading to women? Why has everything become so sexualized? Why are women okay with this?

Are we colluding in our own undoing?

The Internet is marvelously, inspiringly filled with conversations by women of all ages, but especially young women--being beautiful and angry. They are talking about the way we love, the way we work, the way we walk, the way we dress, the way we parent and the way we regress.

An excellent film provokes response. Mary Dore's gift for inspiring activism shines through every frame. It made me want to get out in the streets again. It made me step back and think about what's left undone.

Sure enough, a woman's work is never done.

There is no equality, no freedom, no respect, when we are routinely earning less than men. And that's what's still happening, fifty years into this fight.

I'm okay with telling young women to lean in, don't give up, engage. But many of them will lean in--and topple into thin air, finding nothing to lean against.

It makes me angry to ask our daughters and nieces to fix the pay gap. They can't. They have no power. They're trying to get their first jobs, for heaven's sake. This is our job. A system-wide problem needs a large scale solution. We--the mothers and fathers of these young workers--are the people who should be slamming that pay gap shut.

The pay gap is not just a high level or mid level problem--in which, for instance, we find that women CFOs are paid 16% lower on average than their male counterparts. The salaries of the youngest generation of women working today--our daughters--are not on par with those of men. A Wells Fargo report showed that college-educated millennial men made $20,000 more per year than women with the same education level. Median annual income for millennial men: $80,000. For women: $63,000. And this is happening way before women and men start planning families. The pay gap begins right out of college.

In general, the pay gap has not changed for a decade; some states are worse than others, but in no state in this country are we at equity. Not one state, and not in any occupation. It gets worse as we get older. In 1960, women earned 61% as much as male workers; by 2009, that figure was up to 77%.

Progress? You bet. Success? No way.

We can argue till the cows come home (those cows! are they doomed to wander the globe endlessly?) about all the factors that "justify" different pay grades to accommodate all the choices women have to make about blending their work lives with their careers. There are plenty of economists out there ready to defend a pay gap for women, or even explain it away.

And here's something I really don't get: Human resource departments are dominated by women, who make up over 70% of the profession, according to a 2012 article by Susan Strayer. You'd think that with that kind of power--and these departments have enormous power within companies--the pay problem would be gone. But it isn't.

Why aren't HR departments at the vanguard of equal pay--and child care solutions?

We should defend the right to control what happens to and in our own bodies. We have a great, and justified, fear that this right is being eroded, as abortion laws are being revised around the country, and clinics are being forced to close. But some of what's happening is what we always knew was going to happen because of the weak spot in Roe v. Wade, the point of implosion: the matter of viability.

Neonatal care has improved by stunning degrees in the last decades; our understanding of the age at which a premature baby can live on its own has changed. Most Americans, women and men, are uncomfortable with abortion at that late edge. And most abortions are not (and have never been) late term abortions.

The second thing that's changed is the widespread use of fetal monitoring: another technology that has changed by stunning degrees. (And I might add, that fetal bombardment by ultrasound is itself a nervewrackingly unmonitored, unstudied development. Some pregnant women are buying home devices to monitor their fetuses every single day. Anxiety has run amok.) We now have the ability to watch, in painstaking detail, a miraculous amniotic ballet, watch the divided brain merge, watch the exposed fetal heart throb, watch leg and arm buds unfurl. That's made us more aware of what we are doing when we abort.

None of this heightened awareness means, however, that we should lose the right to control what is happening to or in our bodies. Most Americans agree; we want our reproductive rights protected, vis the constantly failing Personhood Amendments.

Rich, too, isn't it? that the very people who won't do a thing about global warming--because "I am not a scientist"--suddenly become medical experts when it comes to women's bodies, even though they are by no means doctors.

But it would be a political error to focus all our feminist energy on reproductive rights. We have other, very large, battles ahead. Feminists ought to be up in arms about the amount of toxic chemicals--the tens of thousands of them, known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors--that are completely unregulated, being tested on our bodies, and those of our infants and our adolescent daughters and sons.

We're slathering ourselves with chemicals, we're sudsing our hair with them, we're eating and drinking them, we're breathing them, and they're lodging in the fatty tissues of our breasts, our brains, and in our kidneys and livers, and going right through the placental barrier, right through the blood-brain barrier, and ending up in our fetuses. (Why aren't the fetal rights folks all over this aspect of a child's health?) Our babies are born contaminated with chemicals. We don't even know what we're exposed to in any given product--because of trade secrets. We cannot trust retailers to protect us. Our legislators have totally dropped the ball.

And because of the ongoing difficulty in establishing direct causal links between chemicals and any one affliction that strikes us, because exposures are minute, each day, but accumulate over years--and because anyway, we are ignorant of what we are exposed to (trade secrets!)--we are unable to do much but worry. Or refuse to participate in the beauty industry. Or--and!--demand regulations to protect us. Demand that retailers do a better job of regulating toxics out of their stores. Boycott. Protest. Demand, demand, demand.

And what about the hundreds of thousands of women who work in the beauty industry? They are at the highest risk of exposure to the toxic stuff we put on our nails, in our hair, on our faces--they're up to their elbows in unregulated, untested chemicals, day after day after day. Most likely, many of these beauty workers aren't even making a decent minimum wage.

I will quickly note air pollution and climate change here, as well--only because I write about this every week over at Moms Clean Air Force. Anything that has an impact on a child's health, including the skyrocketing asthma rates sweeping the country, takes a toll on women. Mothers are usually the ones who take time off to care for the sick child. Mothers are usually the ones paying the hospital bills in the poor communities that are disproportionately suffering from bad air quality, the communities with oil and gas development facilities in their backyards, near schools and playgrounds, the communities laced with major highways and truck traffic.

The feminist movement will have third, fourth, fifth waves--if we are smart enough not to upend civilization so drastically that human rights go out the window altogether.

I sure do wish we didn't have to get angry. But here's to many more years of being beautiful.


Teri said...

Dominique, a wonderful post and I hope to see this film. I am a 44 year old feminist in an era where I see so much sexualization of women, by women, and I often feel like I'm the only one who is seeing it. The world just seems to be accepting more and more that we are pieces of meat. It's the most sexist era because it's the women degrading themselves. I'm seeing so much violence against young girls and women. In the past week, a young woman in my city was kidnapped and violently raped for hours in a home, while in another province, a girl was so badly beaten and rapid and left for dead in a freezing river - that she is lucky to be alive. And you know why? I am sure it's the pornography these men are watching where the women are only too eager to humiliate themselves. Women are so busy trying to make men happy that men seem to think it's their right to date a 25 year old when they are 50 and young men think women are there for their pleasure. The modern world disgusts me. I can't watch tv as it's all sexualization of women, not sexuality. And don't get me started on the tech industry. I have read so much about the challenges there for women. I'm an engineer for a great petrochemical company and have experienced almost no sexism at work. Im sure it goes on sometimes but for twenty years I've been often the only woman in the room. And I've been pretty. And smart. And I think the smart helps. I know my shit and I have a strong voice. Women can get ahead when they possess knowledge and skills, not when they act like their only job is to look cute. Men quickly stop seeing you as an object when you start acting like a subject.

JSBB said...

The work goes on. Recently I attended the (2nd annual) Wellesley College Project Handprint conference (http://projecthandprint.com/) which described many current and future initiatives on women and the environment, feeding a hungry planet, working to improve food and water supplies, etc. (actually a HUGE ETC!) Among other things, I learned a new vocabulary word: "Womanism" -- an extension of feminism ("Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender"), possibly coined by Alice Walker of "The Color Purple", and focusing on the struggle, specifically, of black American women to achieve independence and recognition. To explore womanism, I found a used copy of Walker's "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens" from 1983, a collection of essays written between 1966 and 1982, and have learned "There are more things in heaven and earth, [Hortense]/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Some essays are better than others, but it should be required reading for all who care about women's rights.

MJH Designarts said...

Hi Dominique, I agree agree with every point you make. I have the same questions. Why is the struggle still a struggle for equality. I fight sexual discrimination, marginalization and now ageism every day. But I am not ever going to bow down to ignorance. Thank you for your voice. I'm saving this pot to remind me of what still needs to be accomplished and inspire me to keep moving. Thank you. Mary

Lori said...

Thank you for this post. We all must remember how we got to where we are today, but still keep in mind we have a long way to go. You are so right about women keeping each other down. I've cancelled my subscriptions to several women's magazines that glamorize immoral behavior and degrade women with articles about how to please your man every night...keep him faithful...be his porn star....please shoot me if we're really going there again. We can't watch TV without ED commercials, half naked cheerleaders, etc. The internet has created a gaping wound of sexism with porn so easily accessible. My uncle was a notorius pornographer but had to leave the house to find it and hide it when he got home! Now it's right there in your lap 24/7....and women keep making it...I lay this at their feet..or whatever....they don't care about their sisters...they care about money...period. Women have the power to change this...but do enough of them care? On the abortion topic....I am pro life...I cannot lie. I'm not in anyones face or business....to each his own, but I hate it. Please don't criticize me. I had one at 23 and have regretted it every day of my life and wish I could undo it. Again, thank you.

William said...

'The only question is, why aren't we enough of us still angry?'

First, Dominique, this sentence needs work.

Second, have you tuned into Fox News or msnbc lately? There is plenty of 'angry'. In fact, me thinks, way too much 'angry'. "Angry' has become our entire culture. 'I'm right and everybody else is wrong' has become the attitude. So-called 'Conservatives' are, for the most part, only interested in promoting their bizarre social agenda, while so-called 'Liberals' are only liberal to the extant that someone agrees with them.

Meanwhile, in terms of policy that matters, they are pretty much the same. They are all in bed with the same Wall Street and 'K' Street crowd.

Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul are the only two out there presenting thoughtful ideas.

That said, I'm voting for Hillary if she runs. She is the only one of the serious contenders who is capable of running this mess we call our government. Yeah, she's too connected with Wall Street, yeah, she's too much of a warhawk, but she also doesn't sit around 'tweeting' nasty shit about Republicans and she'll 'reach across the aisle' (overused phrase) and pick up the phone and get stuff done.

'Angry' is still there, Dominique. It has just taken on an entire new 'cable news/social media' face.

Dan said...

Well, this might come as a shock to you all, but women have overtaken the employment market, there are more women in the work market today then men. The gap of men breadwinners has been matched and surpassed by women.
Heres another big shocker for you, Guess whos being marginalized and is now in the minority as far has getting jobs now? White males, between the ages of 25 and 45! Add to that, for more shock is that they are highly educated. Applying for a job today young white males come up against companies having to meet their quota for women, minorities such has Blacks, and Hispanics first. So, ladies don't cry too hard, your a step up from most white males.

SlowLoveLifeDominique said...

Thanks William for that catch on the typo. All patched up.

And you are right. There's lots of anger out there. And somehow it has gotten meaner. Maybe there's a better way to express this--more fire? more passion? more engagement? what really got me about the movie was how much we all believed in the political process--including marching in the street.

And though anger was part of the fuel, there was lots more mixed in, too, mostly a desire to make our worlds bigger, as big as we wanted.

William said...

You are clearly a sexist and a racist! Just kidding. Well said. (last sentence change 'your' to 'you're' and you'll be covered).

SlowLoveLifeDominique said...

This is marvelous, thank you. I'm going to look up this classic of womanist literature.

SlowLoveLifeDominique said...

The question about wondering "am I the only one seeing it?" is deep...and it is actually what motivated me to write most of this post. I could easily have stopped after the movie. But all the issues, and especially the objectification of women, and the degradation of women, in today's culture, has bothered me so much. And yet, I hesitated to hit SUBMIT. Would I seem old-fashioned? Prudish? Out of touch? Then I talked to an old friend of mine from high school, and he's a pretty radical and compassionate guy, and he said, I don't get it: I have to avert my eyes from lots of this stuff, it is so vile. Does this make women want to buy what's being advertised?
A recent ad campaign by Mario Testino for Wolford finally put me over the top. I cannot figure out how to post here, so I'll go back into the post and embed art and links.

William said...

No problem, Dominique, I was channeling my inner Maxwell Smart, er, um, I mean Maxwell Perkins.

I think you are right, 'angry' is meaner now. It also seems to exist for its own sake, rather than as a agent for change. "Angry' has become an excuse for doing nothing. How can I actually 'do something' when I am so busy being angry?

And don't you dare accuse me of doing nothing, have you read my angry tweets??!!

Marilyn said...

Dominique, this is wonderful. Thank you!
Marilyn Webb

wmeribe said...

Back in the day, anger was empowering. Today it paralyzes. Maybe just too much of a previously healthy reaction.

ALPHA.MALE said...

I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.



.,.,/,., .,/,.,.,/,.,/,

William said...

Are you boycotting American men also? Hell, if that's your real picture I'd marry you in a heartbeat!

Mary said...

I do not think you are alone in your thoughts, Dominique. I just wish women would be as open and out there in letting the world know that all of the behavior you rightly point out is totally unacceptable. Individually, and in our tight circles of friends, we rage about kidnapped girls being sold by ISIS to raise money for arms, or the systematic dismantling of abortion rights, but what, we say, can we do about it??? I am not a prude but find the massive sexualization of women degrading and pervasive, and don't get me started about equal pay. I am but one, without the power to effect much change except in my own zone. Which I do, every day. So the real question is: where are the powerful women with the money and influence needed to make things happen? And where are those "angry" young women who have so much to lose? I have marched, and would march again, and again, and again, but there are so many strong, silent women that need to come out from behind their veil of silence to let the world know that it is time for real change. Show me the way, and I am there! Seriously, if there is any organization out there that is gearing up to address this on a global basis, I will participate, I will give $$ and I will show up. The battle is real, the outcome uncertain and the stakes are very, very high.

jane said...

Wow, what hoot you are, drink much?

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