Though feminism has been around, arguably, since the Suffragette Movement, and though girls and young women have benefited hugely from the accomplishments of Second Wave Feminism, many teens are still hesitant to self identify as feminists or feminist allies. This may be due to a lack of understanding of what feminism actually means, or a false notion that sexism no longer exists and feminism’s work is done. However, just as Second Wave Feminists engaged in consciousness raising groups in order to make their fellow women aware of everyday patriarchal injustices, many young women, particularly on social media sites such as Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook, are actively engaged in drawing attention to everyday sexism as well as the intersections of racism, classicism, cissexism, ableism, and the ways in which mainstream feminism has (and in many cases still does) excluded other marginalized groups.
The library can serve as an excellent place for consciousness raising whether through book clubs, service projects, or topic specific forums. Documentaries can serve as a jumping off point for these discussions. Here are a few to get you started.
Miss Representation (2011)
The recent release of female-centric films and television shows such as Suffragette, Grandma, and Supergirl may spark young women’s thinking about why there isn’t more female representation in media. Miss Representation, directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Kimberlee Acquaro addresses the lack of good representation of women in media and the implications it has for female leadership. This documentary makes a compelling case for teaching media literacy in schools. Available for streaming on Netflix. Visit the official website’s curriculum page.
Girl Rising (2013)
Girl Rising, directed by Richard Robbins and featuring voice overs by several well known actors such as Anne Hathaway and Cate Blanchett, focuses on the stories of ten young girls around the world who face tremendous obstacles in their path to education. Each vignette follows a different girl who partnered with a screenwriter to help tell their story. In many cases the girls play themselves in the dramatizations. While many of the girls encounter disturbing struggles, the ultimate tone of the documentary is hopeful. Available for streaming on Netflix. Visit the official website.
Honor Diaries (2013)
Honor Diaries, directed by Micah Smith, explores the acts of violence perpetuated against girls and women committed in the name of “honor”. Nine female activists from Muslim majority countries of origin discuss why these atrocities occur and what can be done to stop them. This documentary contains graphic descriptions, and in some cases depictions, of violence including female genitalia mutilation. Recommended to older, mature teens. Available for screening on Netflix. Visit the official website.
PBS American Experience: The Pill (2003)
The Pill, directed, produced and written by Chana Gazit for PBS’s American Experience series focuses on activist Margaret Sanger and scientist Gregory Pincus’s quest to give women ultimate control over their own reproduction. Even though abortion rights are a hot topic in today’s political climate, many teens may be unaware of how long the fight for women’s reproductive rights has been raging on. They may also be unaware of how revolutionary and relatively new the concept of family planning is for women. This documentary does a good job of giving this background not often taught in schools or sex education classes. Available on Youtube. Visit the official website and read more about the film, find primary sources used, a teaching guide, and more.
Have you seen these films? Have others to recommend? Please let us know in the comments!
— Emily Childress-Campbell, Currently reading These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly