By Juliet Bond, October 30, 2014
Yesterday, Huffington Post published an article by Alana Vagianos listing twenty-one movies that changed the way she felt about herself as a woman. In general, I’d agree that there are some great movie choices on that list. But I’d like to add a twist to the angle at which we examine movies about women and provide a list for parents to watch with our daughters and sons. These films are guaranteed to generate discussion and leave lasting thoughts about the reality of being a girl/woman:
1. Not for Ourselves Alone So, obviously, this movie was an inspiration to me. Er, I named a blog after it. But this is the ultimate movie about feminists. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are truly the authors of American feminism and an incredible model of female friendship.
2. Missrepresentation For years I showed Still Killing Us Softly in my classes on gender at Columbia College and I still highly recommend the film. But Missrepresentation is a better choice for young women and men. It’s not a lecture and the content isn’t quite as shocking. It also contains more about issues of equality in general rather than just media study. I love both, but for kids, this one might be a tiny bit better.
3. The Color Purple This movie, and the book, changed my entire worldview. The story of a child being sexually abused resonated with me but the overall theme of sisterhood just punched a fist right through my chest. I mean when Shug Avery sings Miss Celie’s Blues well, just try not to call your sister or best friend while weeping.
4. Tough Guise is an incredible film about how we impose gender constructs on boys in order to strip them of their access to emotion. However, there is a new film by Jennifer Newsome (the same producer of Missrepresentation) that looks incredible and focuses on much of the same content with a much more contemporary update. The film, called The Mask You Live in is supposed to be released next year so stay tuned.
5. Mona Lisa Smile was a film that addressed sexism in a way that I’d never seen before. It also embraced female friendships and loyalty. I see it as the female equivalent to Good Will Hunting, which got a lot more play and won Oscars and stuff but had no girls in it (he hem.) We see so much dreck in Hollywood films where women are pitted against each other, it’s a rare thing to watch women support one another.
6. The Business of Being Born is an exploration of midwifery vs. the current medical system’s choices for pregnant women today but it’s also a beautiful film about childbirth that takes place from the time the filmmaker learns she is going to be a mother for the first time, to the harrowing delivery. And throughout, the filmmaker’s friend is there to provide partnership, support and encouragement.
7. Rosie the Riveter Every once in a while you see a movie that just clues you in to something you never knew before. This movie illuminates the injustice pressed upon women during and after WWII, when they were recruited into the work force and then summarily dismissed when the men came home. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the film online but here’s a fun listen to the propaganda song and imagery widely distributed at the time.
8. Defending Our Lives is the quintessential film about domestic violence. Its stories make the viewer both enraged and informed. But it does something else too, it answers the question of why women stay. Because I couldn’t find a youtube clip of this one, I’ve inserted a more recent selection from an HBO film called Private Violence. Now neither of these films is good for younger kids. I’d say teens at the minimum. And if you want something more Hollywood-ized Sleeping with the Enemy set the standard.
9. Girls Rock follows four young girls as they literally sing into the universe until their voices are heard. It’s empowering and it’s perfect for pre-teen girls.
10. The Makers series on PBS is fantastic! And this is a wonderful documentary series to watch with any aged child who is, you know, verbal. The stories of women who have made positive changes politically, in sports, as activists and as models of behavior are compelling and seldom told.