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Film Review: “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”




If you’re bummed by the recent election and feel like the clock’s been turned back for women’s rights, take yourself to a screening of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, the new documentary on the 1970s women’s liberation movement, and get some righteous feminist energy going.

Opening in Los Angeles December 12 at the Nuart Theater, the 90-minute film is jam-packed with footage of energized women challenging the powers that be — from Congressional committees to the medical establishment, from news media to men on the street — demanding basic rights and respect for themselves as citizens, workers, wives and girlfriends.

As a founder of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union in the 1960s, I have a small part in the film, which thankfully shows the movement as it really emerged, not just in New York, but in communities across the U.S.

It’s hard to imagine what life was like for women back then – want ads were segregated by gender, rape was considered mostly a woman’s fault, you couldn’t get a credit card in your own name or birth control pills unless you were married (or lied about it). Abortions were done in back alleys or across the border in Tijuana clinics. (Eventually feminists in Chicago started doing abortions themselves, helping 11,000 women before the procedure was finally legalized.) Women were largely ignorant about their bodies and doctors usually kept it that way. Domestic violence and sexual harassment weren’t yet violations of the law.

But most insidious were the attitudes we had about ourselves. It was in consciousness-raising groups that the unspeakable was discussed and where women learned that the treatment we experienced was part of a societal system of oppression, not a personal problem. And as part of a social system, it could be challenged and changed.

Women flocked by the hundreds for the experience of sisterhood and solidarity while women in politically radical groups, such as the Black Panthers and Young Lords, confronted the machismo thought to be key to a radical agenda. All this and more is shown in actual footage of meetings, speeches and rallies of the time, juxtaposed with photos of many of those same women today, in their 60s and 70s relishing the memories, an especially touching part of the film.

A woman’s work is never done – especially when fighting for her rights. Hopefully this film will help women today see that it’s their actions, not the actions of the powerful, which can set them free. To learn more and find a screening near you, go to:

(The film begins screening December 12 at the Landmark Nuart Theater, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd.,  West L.A.  Q&A sessions will follow the 7:30 p.m. opening night screening and after the 5:10 p.m. screening Sunday, December 14.)

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