Whatever Happened to Women’s Liberation?

She’s Beautiful when She’s Angry

Directed by Mary Dore (2014)

Film Review

This documentary examines the 1960s women’s liberation movement. I found it quite sad in a way, given our total failure to reduce violence against women. Most countries are witnessing an increase, rather than decrease, in rape and domestic violence.

The film traces the beginning of so-called “second wave” feminism to the publication of Betty Friedan’s Feminist Mystique in 1964. The book was highly critical of society’s insistence on defining women via their sexual relationships with men and refusal to recognize them as individuals. In 1966, seeking to end job discrimination against women, Friedan and Pauli Murray founded National Organization for Women.

The formation of local consciousness raising groups in the US and Europe were an early feature of 1960s feminism. In sharing their feelings and experiences with like minded women, tens of thousands experienced immediate empowerment in discovering they weren’t alone in feeling depressed and angry about their relationships with men.

After NOW leaders refused to allow the organization to take on the distinct problems of African American, lesbian and working class women, many broke away to form their own groups.

In 1968, New York Radical Women (which was more militant than NOW ) first brought the women’s movement to mainstream media attention through a mass protest (against women’s sexual objectification) at the 1968 Miss America pageant.

The Chicago Women’s Liberation Network went on to organize 24-hour free child care for all Chicago women, as well as classes on auto repair, women’s history and sexuality (after Kinsey and others revealed how few American women experienced orgasm) and contraception. In addition, volunteers with medical training offered a free clandestine service providing safe abortions.*

One of the enduring legacies of 1960s feminism is the Our Bodies Ourselves series. The first edition of Our Bodies Ourselves was  published in 1970 by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. It came out of a health seminar designed to educate women about their anatomy, sexuality and women’s health issues. The latest edition was published in 2011, and it has been translated into 33 languages.

The end of the film offers a brief fast forward to the efforts by millenial feminists to campaign for free childcare and an end to the current rape culture (see Rape Culture: The UK Failure to Prosecute Rape) and global epidemic of domestic violence.

*Abortion didn’t become legal in the US until 1973.

Does Contemporary Culture Create Sexist Men?

The Bro Code: How contemporary Culture Creates Sexist Men

Directed by Michael Enriques, Mitch Lemos and Thomas Keith (2011)

Film Review

This documentary explores how for-profit corporate capitalist culture tries to deliberately transform boys into sexist men.

It begins by looking at the role MTV* and other media outlets play in teaching men how to “womanize.” When MTV was first founded in 1981, its major focus was music videos.  devoted to playing music videos. In recent years, it has mainly featured reality TV programs about drinking and womanizing, like Jersey Shore and Spring Break. In these and similar shows, the primary role of women is to serve as sex objects and compete for the attention of men.

According to filmmakers, college fraternities go one step further, with their notorious “bros and hos” and “No means yes and yes means anal” parties, to promote a literal rape culture. In this environment, committing date rape (by getting naive women drunk and/or slipping “ruffies”** into their drinks) is considered a rite of passage.

Rape, occurring mainly in freshman women, has reached crisis point on many US university campuses. In 84% of cases, victims know their assailants. College age women are four times more likely to be raped than any other age group, with 56% of college males stating they would commit rape if they thought they could get away with it.

The documentary also blames dysfunctional attitudes towards women on Internet pornography, which is now the main form of sex education for US adolescent males. Internet pornography typically depicts women as sex starved and saying no as a form of flirting. Especially concerning is the extremely popular “Gonzo Porn,” a type of hate porn that glorifies rape. Many college age men are so immersed in Internet porn that they become impotent in face-to-face sexual interactions.

The full film can be seen free on Kanopy.








Rape Culture: The UK Failure to Prosecute Rape

Abandoned Survivors

Press TV (2017)

Film Review

This is a 2017 Press TV documentary about the British failure to successfully investigate and prosecute rape cases. The statistics they uncover are appalling:

  • Between 2013-2017, Britain experienced a 150% increase in rapes. During this period, only 3% of rape complaints went to trial.
  • Between 2016-2017, Britain experienced a 30% increase in rapes, simultaneous with a 30% cut in police resources.
  • British police accuse rape victims of lying in 20% of cases.*
  • In 30 years, Rape Crisis London has experienced only one successful rape conviction.
  • Only 5.7% of suspected rape suspects go to prison for their crime.
  • Convicted sex offenders (including child molesters) only spend an average of four years in prison (sentences are much shorter than for theft and drug offenses, presumably due to their low economic impact).
  • Most convicted rapists re-offend (ie commit rape) within one year of leaving prison.
  • Increasingly British gangs employ rape for vendettas because the sentences are so short.

Although the film is limited to an examination of the British criminal justice system, the US and New Zealand experience similar low prosecution rates for rape.

*”Why It’s So Unlikely Any Woman Would Lie About Being Raped” – see https://www.usnews.com/opinion/civil-wars/articles/2018-01-10/women-dont-lie-about-being-raped

The film can’t be embedded because YouTube has banned Press TV from their platform. You can view it free at  http://presstvdoc.com/post/15961

The New Rape Culture

Blurred Lines: The New Battle of the Sexes

BBC (2014)

Film Review

Blurred Lines is about the new misogyny, which makes it socially acceptable to be sexually offensive to women.

BBC reporter Kirsty Wark makes a clear distinction between sexism, which she sees as an irrational bias against women’s equality, and misogyny, which is the dislike and deliberate denigration of women.

She focuses on four main manifestations of so-called “rape culture”: in stand-up comedy, social media, on-line gaming and adolescent male-female interactions.

The Year of the Rape Joke

2012 was known as the Year of the Rape Joke at the Edinburgh Festival. Several men Wark interviews argue strenuously that casual talk about rape is perfectly acceptable so long as it’s done in a humorous or ironic way. Others disagree. She talks to a psychologist who has studied the effect of sexual assault jokes on male behavior. His research shows that rape jokes validates the sexist views of men with underlying resentment towards women. After listening to jokes about sexual assault, they are more likely to oppose women’s equality in politics, in the workplace and in the home.

Misogynistic Social Media

Blurred Lines also examines several high profile incidents in which prominent females were subjected to vicious, graphic sexual slurs and rape threats on social media. The most highly publicized involved Caroline Criado-Perez, who received around 50 abusive tweets an hour for a 12-hour period after successfully campaigning for Jane Austen to appear on the ten pound note.

Misogyny is also extremely common in on-line gaming. Grand Theft Auto, the most popular on-line game of all times, is a classic example. It provides for players to score points by paying prostitutes and then mugging or killing them to get their money back. Meanwhile women gamers are frequently bombarded with sexually dismissive language and rape threats once male players discover they are female.

Recently Anita Sarkeesian, a Canadian media critic, tried to crowdfund a study on women’s roles in on-line games. The reaction she got was a barrage with graphically violent rape threats, in addition to having her crowdfunding site hacked and shut down. What was even more remarkable was that many of threat threats weren’t anonymous, as they were linked with Facebook pages.

Male Anger Towards Women

Wark, explores where this intense anger comes from by interviewing Australian feminist Germaine Greer, who shocked the world by discussing men’s unconscious hostility towards women in the Female Eunuch (1970). Greer maintains that many men still view a women’s position in family and society as subordinate. Thus they feel threatened by women assuming previously male roles.

Martin Daubney, editor of the British men’s magazine Loaded, has a somewhat different take. He blames the anger on extreme role confusion, especially among young men who have no jobs or clearly defined gender roles and see women passing them by.

The Role of Pornography on the Adolescent Brain

The documentary ends by examining the extremely violent on-line pornography teenage boys consume and whether this has an effect on their developing sexuality. According to the young women Wark interviews it does. They feel on-line pornography leads teenage boys to demand sex in the male-dominant way pornography portrays it. It also causes them to feel threatened and dismissive towards women who express sexual needs.

Another, more pernicious effect of ubiquitous on-line pornography, humor that makes light of sexual assault and the constant objectification of women in advertising is confusion about consent. This ranges from inappropriate groping at parties to gang rape which is posted to Facebook or live tweeted on Twitter.