Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tis the voting season

This past week, I hosted the Burlington feminist meet-up group Women for Change. In keeping with the voting season and inspired by an email from That Girl, we watched Iron Jawed Angels. Everyone brought delicious food, and after the movie we talked for several hours about all kinds of things! The commercializing of girlhood, the packaging and sale of sexuality, polyamorous relationships, "post-feminism," the different extremes of women's liberation and how it's affected by or expressed through outward appearance, and the disintegrating state of women's rights in our country.

I'm so happy to be part of this developing community of women here in Burlington. Lately I've been missing the group bond I found in Ithaca College Feminists, the strong, smart, passionate women of the executive board, and the energy of the group as a whole.

The HBO-made historical drama about the fight for women's suffrage stars Hilary Swank, co-starring Frances O'Connor, Julia Ormond, and Anjelica Huston. I'm not any good at summarizing or reviewing movies, so I've pasted the synopsis from the HBO page:
IRON JAWED ANGELS recounts for a contemporary audience a key chapter in U.S. history: in this case, the struggle of suffragists who fought for the passage of the 19th Amendment. Focusing on the two defiant women, Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and Lucy Burns (Frances O'Connor), the film shows how these activists broke from the mainstream women's-rights movement and created a more radical wing, daring to push the boundaries of political protest to secure women's voting rights in 1920. Breathing life into the relationships between Paul, Burns and others, the movie makes the women feel like complete characters instead of one-dimensional figures from a distant past.

Although the protagonists have different personalities and backgrounds - Alice is a Quaker and Lucy an Irish Brooklynite - they are united in their fierce devotion to women's suffrage. In a country dominated by chauvinism, this is no easy fight, as the women and their volunteers clash with older, conservative activists, particularly Carrie Chapman Catt (Angelica Huston). They also battle public opinion in a tumultuous time of war, not to mention the most powerful men in the country, including President Woodrow Wilson (Bob Gunton). Along the way, sacrifices are made: Alice gives up a chance for love, and colleague Inez Mulholland (Julia Ormond) gives up her life.

The women are thrown in jail, with an ensuing hunger strike making headline news. The women's resistance to being force-fed earns them the nickname "The Iron Jawed Angels." However, it is truly their wills that are made of iron, and their courage inspires a nation and changes it forever.

1 comment:

Virginia Harris said...

I believe that my generation of women was the first to come of age with most of us believing that the world would be fair to us.

But when I realized that I didn't know how my freedom happened I set out on a journey of discovery and I am now strengthened by the inspiration of countless suffragettes.
Can you even imagine being a woman and NOT being able to vote?

Thanks to the suffragettes, America has women voters and wide range of women candidates, and we are a better country for it!

Women have voices and choices! Just like men.

But few people know ALL of the suffering that our suffragettes had to go through, and what life was REALLY like for women.

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