*TW: Sexual assault.
Throughout lockdown, I found myself gravitating towards things that comforted me and made me feel connected with people, whether strangers or friends. With a potential second lockdown on its way, I’ve been looking back at the media I consumed from March onwards that achieved these things. So, without further adieu, I offer you my top three pieces of feminist art that’ve kept me sane since quarantine began.
I May Destroy You – Michaela Cole (TV Show – BBC)
Written, directed, and executively produced by Michaela Cole, I May Destroy You follows a young creative’s journey to recovery following the trauma of a sexual assault. Semi-autobiographical in nature, it leaves no stone unturned in exploring the tumultuous reality of living through such an experience. Cole treats the issue with equal tenderness and frankness: there’s no romanticised ideation of the recovery process. Instead, it’s shown warts and all.
The show’s release earlier this year overlapped with global Black Lives Matter protests. Consequently, I found it an extremely potent viewing, drawing attention to the intersectionality of racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism. For all the darkness of the subject matter, the show ultimately signed off with a message of resilience, and provided me with a deeper education on the behaviours that support cultures of discrimination and violence. My hope is that IMDY accompanies viewers long after its final episode, helping to bring awareness to ingrained discriminatory behaviours so we can work together to overcome them.
- Women Don’t Owe You Pretty – Florence Given (Book)
I bought this towards the end of the Spring lockdown and inhaled it all in a day. Written by internet sensation Florence Given, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty is every woman’s guide on how to love themselves.
The book deftly and compassionately tackles internalised patriarchal ideas about sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism, discussing how these societal ailments affect our ideas of ‘prettiness’, privilege, and our ability to love. It’s a comprehensive guide, covering dating, allowing yourself to be yourself, dropping that feud with your boyfriend’s ex, and setting healthy boundaries. Ultimately, it’s a celebration of diversity, strength, and empowerment within women everywhere. It’s also full of gorgeous 70’s-inspired art that serves as a hearty homage to the second-wave feminist movement where many of these ideas first gained traction.
- Mrs America – Dahvi Waller (TV Show – BBC/ Hulu/ FX)
This is another timely show, and bears further weight following the devastating news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Ginsburg was at the forefront of the legal battle for women’s rights during the culture wars of the 70’s, and Mrs America is a dramatisation of that struggle. It follows the race to ratify the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), designed to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex, and the movement that rose in opposition.
The bill has a tortured history: the deadline for its ratification was in 1979, then extended to 1982. Both deadlines fell just a few states short of ratification. To this day, 38 states are in favour of the ERA, but due to the expired deadline, it cannot be passed, leading to calls across the US for Congress to eliminate the original deadline.
The show depicts both sides compassionately, showing the people behind the debate despite the creators’ obvious support for the ERA. This is accentuated by stellar performances from Cate Blanchett as the stony-but-insecure Phyllis Schlafly and Rose Byrne as the iconic yet relatably flawed Gloria Steinem. There’s no dehumanisation of the ERA’s opposition here. On the contrary, the show is full of sobering moments: Schlafly and the members of her anti-ERA organisation are shown in all their humanity, their motives given a great effort to be understood.
Dramatic irony makes this show a particularly saddening viewing: the viewer carries the weight of knowing these women are beginning an uphill fight that’s still being fought fifty years later. The parallels between 1970’s America and today aren’t lost on the audience – Mrs America is a call to arms before this year’s US presidential elections, urging viewers not to give up hope on these issues, and instead to rally once more in the face of further adversity.
It’s an inspiring show, with great attention to period detail and a message that really hits home. If you wish to read up on the show’s historical accuracy as you watch, Slate has some great articles that analyse each episode.
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