For the Times They Are a-Saming ("She's Beautiful When She's Angry")
Is anyone out there saying that only men should have the right to vote? Before dismissing this as a ridiculous question, remember the year 1920. It took the United States of America more than 130 years before it amended the Constitution to “allow” women the right to vote.
What other ridiculous questions about women are allowed to entertain the body politic? Access to work? Equal pay for equal work? Access to child care? Access to health care? Access to leadership? What words remain hot to the touchy women who anger over issues far from settled: domestic violence? rape? birth control? abortion? gay marriage?
See “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.” It performs one of the mainstay services of documentary filmmaking: the historical sweep. Forty to fifty years after women acquired the right to vote, the social, political, and economic landscape churned with women’s liberation. “The Feminine Mystique” and “Our Bodies, Ourselves” laid down indelible markers.
Interviews with many activists of that so-called second wave of feminism juxtapose with archival material. Droves from consciousness-raising in living rooms to plazas and parades reverberated in a time of mimeograph machines and postage stamps-- before the internet and electronic networking.
Perhaps “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” stumbles a bit over too much content to cover, but it never mumbles. Perhaps the film feels somewhat like familiar re-coverage, but dedicated and largely unsung heroes remind us of the need to key into old news.
Curious in the film coverage, a group called W.I.T.C.H. – the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell – suggests a comparatively naïve era when one could call oneself a terrorist with glib pride. Critical to the film coverage is the revolutionary spirit that people were not campaigning for a “larger piece of the pie”; they were instigating to “change the pie.”
This film touches on how distracted and splintered the women’s movement was. Back then, race confrontations raged. War weariness battled. Disparity between rich and poor undermined. Old Guard activists weren’t in tune with next wave activists. The 1960s and 70s weren’t like it is nowadays.
To a certain extent “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” doesn’t focus enough, yet, it focuses plenty.