i finally watched iron jawed angels this weekend. i'd seen bits of it with caroline, but had never watched it all the way through. it tells the story of alice paul and lucy burns, who sought and were given control over the national american women's suffrage association's congressional committee and their later break with NAWSA and formation of the national women's party. it depicts paul and burns's efforts to push for an amendment to the consitution granting women the right to vote, including their picketing of the white house, demonstrations and parades, and their unjust imprisonment and the resulting hunger strike.
i was frustrated with the opening 45 minutes or so of the film. it felt too caught up in its snazzy soundtrack and its quirky camera work, both of which i felt detracted from the power and importance of the story the film was telling. and i have little patience for things like gratuitous lesbian kissing and masturbating scenes that do little if anything to develop character or story.
but. it is good. and worth watching, in spite of the weakness of the opening half. it brought to life the extremes to which these women were willing to go in order to make their voice heard. and it beautifully demonstrated the hypocrisy of the men who were willing to sacrifice human life in the name of preserving democracy even as they flatly refused to change laws in order to extend the rights and privileges of democracy to half of the american population. watch it. this history needs to be remembered and understood. and the film does present a succinct representation of that history.
perhaps the greatest praise i can give it is that it moved me to resolve to do better. to make use of the opportunities and rights that women who lived before me did not have. and to resist the myriad ways in which my own society confines, limits, and stymies women. i have watched commentary on hillary rodham clinton's upcoming (current?) presidential campaign with a mixture of interest and distaste. not because of any dislike for her on my part, though i think it would be a horrible mistake for the DNC to nominate her. nor because i have even one little tiny reservation about a woman's ability to fulfill the office of president, with all of its responsibilities. rather because of the kinds of criticisms i have seen of her. not so much by professional commentators; more from average, generally mormon, americans. she is criticized for wearing the pants in the family. for not leaving her husband when he cheated on her. i have heard her simultaneously criticized for betraying her sex by using domestic settings and for being a cold, unfeeling, unnatural woman--both criticisms coming in response to the same clinton statement, from the same person, practically in the same breath. when she makes a statement that, were it to come from a male politician would be lauded for its restraint, she is accused of being catty (the statement in question was "after six years of having bush in the white house"). but if she were to not level any criticism at all, she would be called weak. which is another critique i have heard--that she's too soft to handle the difficult foreign policy issues facing our nation. this in spite of her support of military action in afghanistan and her initial support for the invasion of iraq, two foreign policy actions supported by those who typically oppose her. and in spite of the fact that president bush, who most of her critics seem to support, appointed a woman to be secretary of state.
the long and the short of it is that this presidential campaign will throw into stark relief the ways in which women are held to standards radically different from those of men. that opinions of women are governed in large part by continuing stereotypes about which social realms they have the ability and right to influence. if anything can demonstrate the hypocrisy of our society's views on women, it will be a woman running for president. in my opinion the battle fought by women like alice paul will not be fully won until women can not only elect their representatives, but be their own representatives at every level of government.