Girls Rising: Netflix doc shows feminist rights empower everyone

Trajectory of women’s rights bending toward equality

Netflix released a documentary called “Feminists: What Were They Thinking” on Friday Oct. 12. The documentary was sparked by a photography exhibit by Cynthia MacAdams who took photos of women in the 1970s because she thought women looked different because of feminism.

The documentary shows some of the women in the photos as older women. The women interviewed included Academy Award nominee Lily Tomlin, and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas.

They also interviewed young feminists, including Wendy J.N. Lee, who is a filmmaker. She said about feminism, “I always feel when someone asks me if I’m a feminist that it’s a trick question.” Women who are feminists are sometimes perceived as men hating and wanting to get rid of all men. This stigma has been a fight women have been waging for centuries.

The fight that was being fought by the feminists of 1978 is still being fought today. In the women’s march of 2017, a mother/daughter duo, Nicole and Carol Zais, commented on the long fight with the patriarchy. The mother, Carol Zais, said, “It’s nice to be here with my daughter, but it’s very sad at the same time. I’m just ashamed that I’ve lived through not being able to pass the ERA. I now have lived through not being able to get a woman president. I cry a lot still.”

Funmilola Fagbamila, a professor at Cal State, said, “feminists in general are stigmatized as being against and anti-man, instead of acknowledging the complexity and fullness of being woman.” Most women who are feminists only want equal rights, such as equal pay.  

“When [men] say they are feminists, [it’s] to make themselves seem cooler,” Lee said. When women say they are feminists, they are not praised for it; they are attacked.

World renowned feminist artist Judy Chicago talked about her time in college and the struggles she went through. “‘They’re not calling on me because I’m a girl.’ I knew that, but it was impossible to talk about. If I tried to raise it, people would say, ‘What are you some kind of suffragette?’” she asked. The way women of the ’70s viewed suffragettes then is the same way many women see feminists now. 

Another well known celebrity involved was Jane Fonda who starred in the movie “Barbabella.” For the opening credits of that movie, she was undressed. She said, “That’s the least of the things I did that I didn’t really want to do because I didn’t know how to say no. I’ve only known for 10 years that ‘no’ is a complete sentence.” 

One of the most powerful things anyone can learn is how to say no and how to be confident enough to do that.

Fonda also described how feminism affected the mainstream media. The creation of the movie “9 to 5” was based on what mistreated women of the workplace fantasized about what they would do to their bosses if they could. These women standing up for themselves helped start the base for the award winning movie.

Feminism is what teaches women that they matter just as much as anyone else. As a group, females face harassments every day that until recently had gone unnoticed. This past year there have been multiple pro-women organizations started such as the #MeToo movement.

The #MeToo movement was created to show victims of sexual assault that they were not alone. This organization recently celebrated its one year anniversary.

Some mock feminism. They say, “They have the right to vote; they have equal pay. What more do they want?” What they want as feminists goes way beyond U.S. borders. What they want is to have a bride be able to leave her abusive husband and not have to fear acid being thrown in her face. What they want is a girl who wants an education to not fear being shot on her way to school. There are so many more hardships that women around the world face every day that we cannot possibly put down the notion of feminism because things are “alright” here. 

Oftentimes, when a woman is angry with the way she has been treated, she is not taken seriously and as seen as overactive. 

A largely overlooked point in feminism is the suffering that women of color go through. “If you are not listening to the voices of the women of color and telling us that we have got to put our concerns and issues on the sidelines for the greater good, it means that we fall into separatism,” Margaret Prescod said about a time when she was speaking about black female issues and her mic was shut off. 

In the political climate as of late, a lot has been said to defend men who are accused of sexual assault or harassment. Most of the time defenders say, “He was a boy; he wasn’t yet a man;” however, when someone calls a woman a girl, they are saying so to demean the woman, not to bring her up.

All women’s rights are human rights. No matter the mockery they recieve or the hate they get, the women featured in this documentary are feminists through and through. 

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