Hello Everyone! This is Lilipop. I am proud to announce that we have a guest blogger today from the USA (exotic)! Charlotte has written about a film she saw that changed her life…
My name is Charlotte and I am a freshman at S******-B****** School. Part of my school’s goal is to help students find their voices, and I have wanted to find my voice since I was nine years old. I have wanted to find my voice since an exhibit taught me to fear death, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation. I have wanted to find my voice since I realized that I could use it to change my life. But I never thought of using it to change someone else’s, and I never realized that what I thought was a personal struggle was something women faced all around the world: not being heard. I knew that women were oppressed, but it seemed like a distant problem that I had no connection to. This year, a single film changed that for me, something I never thought a movie could do.
Three Saturdays ago, a senior at my school showed the 2004 drama Iron Jawed Angels as part of her Women’s Film Series project. The film tells the story of the final steps of the suffragist movement by through the eyes of suffragist Alice Paul and her companion, Lucy Burns. The movie captures the internal conflicts of the suffragist movement, from race divisions to the clash of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman’s Party, while also putting the movement against the political backdrop of World War I.
Besides putting us in touch with the history of women’s rights, the film was a welcome breath of fresh air in terms of its complex, multidimensional characters. This contrast to the standard depictions of women in film was accentuated by the first movie in the Women’s Film Series: Miss Representation, a 2011 documentary about the disparaging portrayal and underrepresentation of women in the media. In that light, Iron Jawed Angels was a unique movie in that it featured strong, multi-layered women who had diverse goals, desires, and priorities and whose entire lives didn’t rely on being in certain types of relationships. However, this welcome contrast also served to emphasize how one-dimensionally women are usually portrayed in film.
To pay the fine would be admitting guilt. We haven’t broken a law. Not. One. Dollar. -Lucy Burns, Iron Jawed Angels
That Saturday night, I walked out of the room where the film had played with quaking knees, but I felt stronger than I had in a long, long time. Instead of skipping the three steps that led to the door, I took the stairs one at a time, watching the soles of my shoes meld with the carpet and the rubber treads on the edge of each step. It was not the disturbing scenes from the Occoquan Workhouse or the tragic death of Inez Milholland that weighed me down, but the strength of those women. I saw the world through a lens of fury and passion: the same passion that Paul and Burns had displayed not only in the film but also in reality. I couldn’t imagine living through the thirty-minute car ride home, through studying for a math quiz, through all the
mundane actions that I realized made up my life, without knowing why. I had found my voice long ago, but I hadn’t realized how to use it. Iron Jawed Angels snapped me out of my spell of apathy. I wanted to be like those women: fighting for something I believed in. And what was there to fight for? The rights of my own gender.
That’s how Iron Jawed Angels turned me into an active feminist. But I can’t help be bothered that it took me this long, when the only thing that changed was seeing a role model, even a partially fictional one, who used their voice. Does that mean that I haven’t closely witnessed a woman speak out for what she believed in with such a fire in the last few years? And if I, a teenager raised in a socially aware family and attending an all-girls school, haven’t in the past few years, what does that mean for girls growing up in less accepting communities and cultures? One thing is clear: we need more women behind the scenes in the media. We may have gotten the vote back in 1920, but as for taxation without representation, we are unquestionably misrepresented.