Dore’s film assiduously documents missteps too, such as all the “isms” but also some attempts at separatism from patriarchy that meant members of collectives couldn’t even bring their infant sons with them to meetings. Talk about purer than thou. There was a rash of women getting kicked out of the groups they had begun, victims and perpetrators of a “tyranny of structurelessness.”
“We didn’t know what we were doing,” is the take-home message from many of the film’s retrospective interviews. And yet, how much was achieved by trying anyway and seeing what worked. A great deal of the framework we use now was born from these circles of women and queer people, just sitting and figuring shit out. The concept of reproductive justice began taking root in gatherings of feminists of color. The idea that rape is about power instead of desire. The very concept of domestic violence. This stuff may have been thought out alongside bans on infant men, but it when it was thrown at the wall, it stuck.
Watching She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry made me think that we should really revive radical ideas like the push for universal daycare and base salaries for stay-at-home parents. Feminism has become too careerist and lost some of the community-oriented focus of the early days that was both gorgeous and gorgeously messy.
Yet the film also re-cast my discouragement after watching Occupy wither, my handwringing over the fact that protests don’t lead to indictments of cops who kill with impunity. Because it demonstrates that only time will be able to separate what activism is achieving and where it’s falling short, which slights and exasperations leave scars, and which will merely make us laugh.
The best thing we can do is keep being angry, and keep trying.