Feminists: What Were They Thinking?

In the mid-70s, photographer Cynthia MacAdams collected pictures of women, determined that feminism made them look different, distinct. Could the difference be observed on film? Her book of photographs immortalized an awakening, a second wave of feminism wherein women were shaking off their cultural expectations, shedding the shackles of their pasts, and stepping forward with new purpose.

MV5BODljMzYzOTQtZGQyYi00ZjhkLTk5NDktY2RlNTdjOTljYjgwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjcyMzE1MA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_40 years later, as MacAdams’ work is being exhibited, film maker Johanna Demetrakas tracks down many of the women featured in the work, including Jane Fonda, Funmilola Fagbamila, Gloria Steinem, Lily Tomlin, Margaret Prescod, Phyllis Chesler, and Judy Chicago and asks them about our continued need for change. Personally, seeing all these knowing eyes staring out at me, I feel galvanized.

Together they discuss employment, motherhood, abortion, choice, and the state of feminism today.

Jane Fonda says “I’ve only known for 10 years that ‘no’ is a complete sentence. That gave me pause. Don’t you love it when a book or movie reaches out, past the page or screen, and just touches you? This film is ripe for that, although it’s crazy that this brand new, just-released film already feels a little dated – in this #metoo, Trumped up era, feminism’s fourth wave is moving necessarily quicker than ever.

One thing I felt just a teensy bit gratified about is that this film devotes a small amount of time to address intersectional feminism and the ways in which historic feminism failed to include women of colour and other minorities. ‘Feminism’ has mostly meant white feminism, and white feminists have asked women of colour to somehow divorce themselves from their other concerns, as if they ever could. Race and gender must go together for WOC, and and we can’t properly call for advancement or equality of women without bringing all women along – queer women, trans women, women of every class and colour. This documentary acknowledges the deficits but doesn’t begin to delve into them – we’ll need many more documentaries to cover the complexities of black feminism.

Most of all, I am struck by so many notable women trying to reclaim the feistiness of their youth – not the righteous anger of their 20s or the organized action of their 30s, but the freedom of being a little girl, before any gender expectations have fully settled. Many seemed to hope age would help them reclaim that feistiness, but I wondered what it might be like if we never lost it to begin with.

6 thoughts on “Feminists: What Were They Thinking?

  1. allthingsthriller

    Brava Jay. I love the way you turn a phrase. I’ll seek this one out. And I’ll be galvanized and fired up, no doubt. I’ll also whole hardheartedly disagree with about 10% of it, I’m sure–like I habitually do with feminism and most of it’s sub movements. Does that make me a feminist? To be honest, I’m not sure. But I’m certainly not anti feminist. Ladies, let’s get to work.
    Thanks for the excellent review.


    1. Jay Post author

      I think it does.
      Feminism hasn’t gotten everything right. And at any right, I think it’s important to be critical of our institutions. No one gets it right 100% of the time and we have to keep them honest.

      Thank you, as always, for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person


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