On the shoulders of women
The women’s rights movement is the most important revolution we forgot
By Ellen Snortland 10/02/2013
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.” We all need a dose of peaceful resistance to oppression! Written and directed by Altadenan 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 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 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 and 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 and 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 Have 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.” 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 my mother and her friends never spoke in public because they were not allowed to; were fired from their school teaching jobs for being pregnant; were systematically denied credit; could not own property — the list of gender-based injustices is 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 Phyllis 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, 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.
“Feminist: Stories from Women’s Liberation” screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Flintridge Retreat Center, 236 W. Mountain St., Ste. #117, Pasadena. Admission is free. Donations accepted. RSVP: Ellen@snortland.com. The film will also screen at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at Laemmle Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. Suggested donation is $10. For tickets, visit www.tugg.com/events/5489.