Part 1: SWAN Week

This Saturday, March 28th, will be the 8th annual International SWAN Day. SWAN stands for Support Women Arts Day. All over the country and world, groups are getting together to celebrate women artists. This is an issue close to my heart. You can read more about the history of the day here:

So leading up to SWAN Day, I’m going to focus on women in the arts and history in my blog. On SWAN Day itself, I’ll have an important and exciting announcement so stay tuned!

I’m going to start with this incredible documentary film that just came out called She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry. Two weekends ago, I attended a special screening with the director and some other special guests at the Music Box. It was also a SWAN day celebration put on by the Chicago Area Women’s History Association (CAWHA).

The film focuses on the US women’s movement in the late 60s until 1971. While I’ve definitely seen films and have read about the movement, I learned a great deal from this film. One of the things that the film did was talk about the messiness of the movement. It brought in diverse voices including minorities and LGBTQ activists. They talked about how the movement left them out or ignored their issues and how these groups tried to bring their work to the forefront.

Too often movements are depicted as these monolithic entities; instead they are often times made up of people with their own prejudices and failings. The film didn’t spend a lot of time on personalities of the movement like Gloria Steinem. It did talk a little bit about Betty Freidan but it really didn’t focus on her as a personality, just noted the impact of her book and some of her later actions. It really tried to show the women’s movement as populated by people, like you and me, not just led by larger than life folks. I really dug that.

For me the most important scene was when one of the women interviewed talked about how radical history needs to be talked about. Change doesn’t just happen; radicals push for it. People need to know about this history because people get so convinced that they can’t do anything to change the world. These movements show what folks can do. Beautiful.

I also learned about some funnier elements of the movement. There was Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell or W.I.T.C.H.E.S.It was a mix of guerrilla theater and activism. Women in this group would go around hexing people. Hilarious and apt. There was also the “Ogle-In” on Wall Street. A woman was employed on Wall Street in the 60s who was receiving a lot of unwanted attention from men and newspapers. Newspapers wrote about her attractiveness, publishing her measurements; men would line up near the MTA station to catcall her when she left work. So a group of women decided to walk up and down Wall Street and catcall men to turn the tables. The footage is hilarious.

Another great thing about the film was that it talked about a variety of cities including Chicago. I learned a little bit more about the women’s movement here. It was nice to see the film try to give a larger perspective than just New York and San Francisco. In the Q&A, it was repeatedly mentioned that Chicago could have enough to make a documentary about Chicago itself. I certainly hope to see that.

So seriously, go out and see this film. It’s really an important film for all people, not just women.

Here’s the link to the documentary website:

That’s all for now!




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