SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY.
Saw the documentary “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” last night. It’s focused on the enormous explosion of what I would call The Women’s Movement – I think that’s how the women I knew named it at the time – in the late 1960s, early 70s. The Women’s Movement.
It was a very exciting time, and the documentary is pretty damn thrilling to watch. Consciousness-raising groups. “Take Back the Night” marches. Actually getting laws changed. The Lavender Menace taking over a feminist conference to demand that the women’s movement embrace lesbians. A group of women called “The Janes” in Chicago who actually learned to PERFORM illegal abortions. Now, that definitely deserves its OWN documentary.
My favorite picket sign from the demonstrations shown in the film was “Stop Human Slavery – Don’t Get Married!” I happened to see “She’s Beautiful…” with a friend who has recently come to the realization that she is just OVER caring for and feeding her sweet husband. So the sign seemed very apropos.
I was there, in New York, in the middle of it, in 1969. I went to a meeting of the New York Radical Feminists. Only one meeting, but it changed my life. They handed out a mimeographed sheet – just one piece of paper. It might have been titled “The Light Bulb Moment” or something like that. Just one page of statements to help me understand how sexist our world was/still is, and how this strangles every woman’s life. The Light Bulb concept was that at a certain point, if you saw the sexism that was all around you -- you would have an instantaneous revelation that would illuminate your life. It would be like turning on a light in a dark room. That sheet of paper turned the light bulb on for me.
My whole life (I was 23 and still straight) I had felt vaguely uncomfortable, that there was something wrong with me, something …off. I understood in a flash, while reading that page, that my discomfort was caused by the fact that I JUST DID NOT FIT INTO WHAT A WOMAN WAS SUPPOSED TO BE! I was too loud, I talked too much, I had too many opinions, I was too funny, I didn’t act deferential enough to others. I was not what society was looking for – and it WASN'T because there was SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME! No! SOCIETY WAS WRONG to have such a strangling definition of me!
Wow. That was it. I wasn’t wrong anymore. What a great big gigantic fucking relief. Vague discomfort gone. I was supposed to be WHO I WAS! There was no turning back from that liberation. Light bulb still on.
I was in graduate school studying directing for the theater. Once I became a feminist, I could no longer find any plays I was interested in directing. I realized I had to write them myself.
So my deep deep gratitude to all the amazing and courageous women activists who went before me. I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for you.
Go see “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.”
Below: A photo of Lilith Women’s Theater on our 1979 European tour and a poster from the tour.