Maker of documentary on women’s history asks: Why Do We Only Remember Bra-Burning?

tags: Women’s Liberation Movement



Imagine an America where women had the right to vote but could be rejected for a job because of their gender. Imagine an America where women were refused admission to colleges and technical schools and denied access to credit cards. Imagine wanting to buy a house and being turned down for a mortgage because you’re a woman. Imagine being a teacher and bring fired for being pregnant.

This is what America was like before the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The women’s liberation movement changed women’s lives socially, economically, and politically. It was described as “the revolution that will affect everybody” on the September 4, 1970, cover of Life magazine. And it did. So why do I always get the same question from younger audience members at screenings of my independent documentary, Feminist: Stories from Women’s Liberation: “Why didn’t I know about this?”

The first time I got the question was in a letter from a first-year college student who had watched the film in her classroom. The information in the film was new to her, and she wrote that it made her angry that she didn’t know this history.

I began making my film, Feminist, in 2004 as a straightforward documentary about historical facts, but I learned so much that I finished the film a different person. My feminism strengthened to the point where I can easily talk with people who reject the term feminism because the facts of the movement are within reach for me, and I can share the reasons why feminism changed our country for the better. I understand now that not remembering this movement preserves a male view of American history that values male leaders of history over female ones.

Ten years ago, a co-worker at my film-editing job at Technicolor whispered to me: “Are you a feminist?” She was putting distance between herself and the word—something I had observed other women do over the decades. I reached into my memory for images and quotes to help explain why I was a feminist, and I couldn’t grasp any.



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