Women’s History Month: Recommended Documentaries About Women

Here are some recommended documentaries about women. I posted another list in 2014.

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Miss Representation (2011)
Director: Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Kimberlee Acquaro
90 min
Rating: A

Explores how the mainstream media’s often disparaging portrayals of women contribute to the under-representation of females in positions of leadership. In the United States women aren’t represented in government as in other countries. Women make up 51% of population but only 17% of Congress. 67 countries have had a female president or prime minister but not the United States. There’s less focus on looks than on intelligence in the media.

“If women don’t stand up for each other then no one else will. No one’s going to look out for the interests of women except other women.” –Lisa Ling

dark girls

Dark Girls (2011)
Director: D. Channsin Berry, Bill Duke
71 min
Rating: A-

examines prejudices dark-skinned women face throughout the world, includes the roots of classism, racism and the lack of self-esteem within a segment of cultures. Thoughtful, provocative and detailed.

Paper bag test: “if you were lighter than a brown paper bag when you were considered beautiful, smart. You passed that test.”

“If I had a little girl, I didn’t want her to be dark like me.” So sad.

A black guy says: “dark-skinned women look funny beside me so I’d rather date a light-skinned woman. Yeah light-skinned

One of the most popular products in the third-world is skin-lightening cream. Twice as many white women get married as black women.

“I am so happy that there is a woman who is dark-skinned in the White House and she’s the first lady.”

A-Girl-And-A-Gun-Poster

A Girl and a Gun (2012)
75 min
Director: Cathryne Czubek
Rating: B+

Guns symbolize power and danger but mostly in the hands of men. These women are an interesting cross-section using guns for various reasons: personal protection; hunting; military and for fun [gun ranges]. It really shows safety, practicality and both sides of the gun control issue. There are many incidents of deaths through gun accidents. One woman is in prison because she “snapped” and killed her girlfriend with a gun. Another woman shot an intruder, lives in the rural Oklahoma and carries guns for protection. Shows media portrayal of sex appeal with women and guns. Provides pros and cons and reality of women carrying and using handguns.

“I know a lot of people don’t approve of this. It just makes sense to me.”

A Massachusetts Tai Chi instructor: “people ask me how I came to own a handgun. I tell them I have felt the fear.” In Massachusetts it’s legal to own a gun but not a taser.

Another woman who’s getting her gun teaching license and shoots at a range: “We’re not having a gun in the house. It’s just too attractive for friends coming over . . . for teenage boys . . . for showing off.”

women art revolution

Women Art Revolution (2010)
83 min.
Directed by: Lynn Hershman-Leeson
Rating: B+

Renowned artist Lynn Hershman-Leeson spent 40 years gathering interviews and news footage for documentary profiling the feminist art movement, which seeks to empower female artists and improve their access to male-dominated art spaces.

“It was hard to get women to come out as artists.”

“My work had been marginalized,” artist Martha Wilson, who opened her own center to exhibit marginalized work.

“The feminist art movement was always incredibly heterogeneous and was richly conflicted and that’s what made it the most important political movement in the art world.” –Dr. Amelia Jones, art historian.

buying sex

Buying Sex (2013)
75 min
Directed by: Teresa MacInnes and Kent Nason
Rating: B

Buying Sex is about the debate over pending reforms to Canadian prostitution laws. The filmmakers compare the decriminalized prostitution model in New Zealand and the criminalized prostitution model in Sweden.

“Sex is a commodity.” –Valerie Scott, sex worker and advocate. “I do not believe all sex workers are delusional.”

“We have a lot of models. They can work for themselves, they can work in managed brothels or they can work on the street.” –Catherine Healy, National Coordinator New Zealand Prostitute Collective.

One sex worked in NZ says: “you need impeccable grooming and a really strong stomach.” And: “I’ve got my degrees. I felt more used and exploited with a minimum wage job where I got 10 minute lunch breaks than doing this and doing what I want.”

A former Canadian sex worker says: “If there was no male demand no women would’ve been on the street. I wouldn’t have been on the street.”

no woman no cry

No Woman, No Cry (2010)
70 min
Directed by: Christy Turlington Burns
Rating: B

Investigates maternal mortality through this documentary, which profiles several pregnant women from around the world whose lack of access to basic health care and nutrition places them and their unborn children in unnecessary danger. There are cultural, economic and social barriers to giving birth throughout the world.

1/22 women die in pregnancy or childbirth in sub-saharan African.
1/5 women of reproductive age have no health care in the United States.

“Here in U.S. where providers and services are abundant, healthcare is anything but free.”

In Bangladesh, 90% of births occur outside a hospital. “If a woman cannot give birth, the fault is on the woman. In one village there is 19 local terms for infertility but for men there are only two terms.”

its a girl

It’s a Girl (2012)
63 min
Rating: B+
Directed by:

–examines the cultural traditions that surround widespread female “gendercide” and violence toward women in India and China. A woman in India has strangled eight of her daughters after birth. She says: “Why keep girls when raising them would be difficult? I felt we could keep it only if it was male. I would kill it if it was female.” Baby girls have less value and are aborted, killed after birth or abandoned. In 1961 the dowry system was outlawed in India but it’s still practiced and that places a lot of pressure on families.

The male: female ratio throughout the world is about 105: 100. In China and India it is 140: 100

If only someone could explain that men determine the sex of a child. It’s NEVER the fault of a woman because she doesn’t have a son.

In 1979, China adopted the one-child policy. If your first child is a girl you can have a second child. China has the highest female suicide rate. 500 women kill themselves daily in China.
Because the ratio of male to women is now so skewed there’s an increase in sex trafficking and child brides.

sexy baby

Sexy Baby (2012)
84 min
Rating: B+
Directors: Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus

–examines what it’s like to be female in today’s sex-obsessed culture from the viewpoints of three very different women–an ex adult film star, a 12 year old girl and a 22 year old yearning for “normal” genitalia. The film star wants a family, contemplates how her porn experiences affect her today and may affect her children. The 12 year-old seems like she’s 19. She’s very smart and worldly but also obsessed with looks and Facebook and internet connectivity. The 22 year is getting labiaplasty because she feels her labia is unusually large and that without the surgery she’ll never be able to function normally.

Ex film star Nakita: “That’s what porn sex is. It’s sport fucking.”
“Regular guys are trying to pull porn moves.”

12-year-old Winnifred: “We are the pioneers.”

“I cry because I’m not the way I used to be. I’m not interesting anymore.’

“Facebook is literally 30% of my life and it shouldn’t be. We make ourselves seem like w’re down to fuck. It doesn’t shape how you actually are and how you end up in real life.” [think I was really shocked to hear a 12-year-old say this. Have my nieces been having sex since age 12? I had sex at 23—a late start—but by choice.]

22-year-old post labiaplasty: “I feel more motivated to do the things I want to accomplish.”

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Women Aren’t Funny (2014)
78 min.
Rating: B+
Directed by Bonnie McFarlane

–comedienne Bonnie McFarlane talks to comics, people on the street, club bookers and promoters to find out why people don’t find female comics funny. She sheds light on many stereotypes about female comics in the male-dominated industry. She interviews comics such as Joan Rivers, Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes, Chelsea Perretti, Michael Ian Black, Artie Lange (comes off as the total sexist a-hole I thought he was), Colin Quinn.

brave miss world

Brave Miss World (2013)
Rating: A
Directed by Cecilia Peck

Linor Abargil– Israeli Miss World winner 1998– survived a brutal rape months before being crowned. Now in law school she travels the world talking to survivors. In this documentary the rapist faces parole, Linor is getting married and she’s also become an Orthodox Jew. Interesting because her family is secular. This documentary serves to help her face the rape and its aftermath as well as helping others in the process. It’s simultaneously sad and empowering.

chisholm

Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed (2004)
76 min.
Rating: B+
Directed by: Shola Lynch

New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman elected to Congress. In addition she became the first black person and women to run for president in 1972.

“The only thing that I have going for me is my soul and my commitment to the American people.” –Shirley Chisholm

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