Thursday, January 14, 2016

On Being Beautiful and Angry

Tonight I dragged my sorry ass self, newly recovered from a cold and cough, to a screening of a remarkable documentary about the movers and the shakers of the feminist movement from 1966-1971. It's called She's Beautiful When She's Angry.

Wow, people. Just wow.

I watched the movie with a few hundred other women and a scattering of men in an historic building in Los Angeles called the Ebell. The women were of all ages and races. The movie is funny and moving and most of all, rousing. I feel such gratitude toward these women who came before me, who so doggedly and -- yes -- angrily demanded their rights as equal citizens. The movie isn't just about white, straight women but about all women, including women of color and homosexual women. It does an excellent job, too, of demonstrating that despite all the radical goings on of the time -- the anti-war movement, the student rebellions, black power, etc. -- women were left out and not counted even by these so-called liberals and radicals. I sat on a little hard-backed folding chair and laughed and teared up at the audacity of these pioneers and radicals, realized how much I take for granted and how much left there is still to do.

I felt galvanized by these women and their history, and I felt strengthened and more accepting of my own anger and radicalism -- not just about women's equality and, particularly, reproductive rights that are being whittled slowly away, but also by this cannabis movement and my role in it as, often, a quite angry mother in confrontation with an established power structure.

I received an email the other day from our local Epilepsy Foundation affiliate with an announcement of the annual Epilepsy Pipeline Conference in San Francisco. Last year, I attended this conference and was an invited speaker on a panel. I spoke of our experiences with cannabis and didn't get the greatest reception from the physicians and "professionals" in the room -- they were either dismissive or uninterested, one was downright hostile -- but I had numerous people come up to me privately and confide their gratitude that I had spoken so openly and honestly about our experience. One guy told me that when I spoke it was as if a bomb had gone off in the room and blown everyone up. I have to say that my ego surged when he said that, but deep down I was embarrassed, too. As a woman pushing against boundaries in the medical world (and it started long ago for me and well before the cannabis revolution began), I haven't always been confident. I'm even now not always confident, particularly when I am admonished for being angry. I've been called too angry, too outspoken, undiplomatic. Several relatives have publicly shamed me and called me a miserable person. Someone anonymous not too long ago left the condescending comment You're a great writer, but you're too angry. I'm going to be honest and say that those comments hurt me, that I hold remnants inside of me that dictate what a good girl is, what a humble woman does, what makes a lady, and that I'm none of those things.

This year's Epilepsy Pipeline Conference, as far as I can see (and the schedule could very well change), has no representation of cannabis as therapy except from a huge pharmaceutical company. This doesn't surprise me, and my initial impulse is to feel cynical and bitter. Now, don't think that I haven't done a lot of soul-searching, wondering if maybe I am too angry and combative, that I'm not going to ever be invited to speak at any of these functions again because I don't tow the party line. I wonder if I should be less angry, perhaps even tone down the truth of our story with the goal of persuasion. Is it better to tone it down and try to reach more people? Is it better to compromise one's truth?


Watching this documentary and seeing what those women (and those before them who struggled for suffrage) did and how they handled oppression opened my eyes and strengthened me.

I am beautiful when I'm angry. You are beautiful when you're angry.

Here's a trailer for the movie:

Here's the website with information about screenings and the forthcoming DVD issue.

She's Beautiful When She's Angry


  1. An excellent conclusion. The idea that we should not rage at outrageous things is a strange one.

  2. I believe some people don't allow themselves to be free in their mind and in their feelings, so are full of envy for those who dare.
    You are not miserable! how can they say this bad thing?
    You have a deep sense of injustice.

  3. It's interesting that many people in our culture -- and I am definitely among them -- are taught to diminish or repress or push away anger, both our own and others'. It's too bad we aren't taught to use it more constructively. Fortunately some people (like you and the women you mentioned) figure out for themselves how to do that!

  4. Elizabeth-Anger at truth denied? How can that be wrong? You go be the fierce, articulate woman you are. Go afflict the comfortable!!!

    XXX Beth

  5. I loved that movie, too. And it feels so resonant with the post I wrote today about courage and daring. You are someone who exemplifies courage, and the critics are those who prefer to stay within their own prescribed boundaries and operate without opening to possibility (especially the possibility of failure). Sometimes it takes anger to propel us forward in our courage, because it is so frightening, but, as Brene Brown says, "if you aren't in the arena with me, getting your ass kicked, too, your comments don't matter." You go, woman. Your fierceness is a beacon.

  6. Wow. Great capture of how our sisters rose up and revolted - fighting to rid the world of girdles and patriarchy -- just to take their rightful seat at the table. The film captured so well why we cannot listen to the established medical community, so keep fighting sister! Viva la causa! Si, se puede! Thanks for writing...

  7. I must see the movie. Stay as you are. Whatever people label it--- I love it.

  8. Halle-fucking-lujah that the movie made you feel empowered and bold. I was just reading "When Women Were Birds" last night and Williams said something about how so often, when women speak, it's with a whisper, and I thought about people like Lindy West and Roxane Gay and how that is becoming less true, these days--and you are one of them! One of the women who is no longer whispering. If I could insert a gif here I'd insert the one of old and wizened Anthony Hopkins from Legends of the Fall raising his middle finger and growling, "Screw 'em!"

  9. Sometimes you have to speak a little louder to make sure you are heard. Perhaps there would be no anger if everyone listened and tried to understand. Keep speaking up.

  10. I *need* to see this. But, as usual no showings in Canada!

  11. Anger is the prime thing that is giving me freedom from my past.
    When I watch even just this trailer, I am sad, inspired and most definitely angry, angry!
    When I see what confident and honed anger can do, it makes me proud and pretty damn happy, but I've never quite associated beauty with it, now I will.

    The more I wield it, the smarter I use it.

    I've always loved your anger, I think it even might have given me some of my strength in finding my own. You are indeed beautiful - I am indeed beautiful.

  12. I was going to email you but didn't have time to today at work. And the big guy got my computer back up and running:)

    I've always been too told I'm too angry. As I get older I find that I often find myself speaking filter free and it's quite freeing.

    As for you, I don't find you angry. I love how outspoken you are, how confident you are. You inspire me to speak up and speak my mind. Our kids need us to be outspoken. And you have spent the last twenty years watching your beautiful daughter's mind be destroyed while the neurologists have prescribed one medication after another in the hopes that the drug might work. No proof that the medication would work, a maybe, a might, a hope. That is not medicine.

    I'm reading a book right now called "Neurotribes" by Steve Silberman, about the history of autism and the treatment of autism. It's shocking and disgusting and I imagine there are books written about epilepsy and the failure of neurology to address drug resistant epilepsy. You must feel sometimes as if Sophie is one big failed experiment by doctors. And now you have something that helps, that works, that has allowed the light to return to Sophie's eyes and you are getting flack for that!

    Fuck them Elizabeth. You fight for Sophie. You're her mama, it's what we do. We fight for our kids.

  13. You are beautiful and powerful as you are. If that makes people uncomfortable, they can move along. You aren't expressing these views for your own benefit, simply to be outrageous or for attention; your anger is (as I see it) due to injustice. Why should you stop speaking out for others - or for yourself, when necessary? Why should you "dumb it down," when there is such a need for brilliance to counter all of the stupidity in our society? Even if we disagree, you are kind and articulate. Shine on, Beauty.

  14. Is it anger or passion, conviction, and a deep well of experience you are drawing from. Simple anger is cheap and easy - what you have is a voice in the wilderness.

  15. The way you are - exactly the way you are - is why you are loved as much as you are loved. I hope you don't change anything about yourself because it doesn't suit someone else. You have anger and the way you express it is beautiful.

  16. I loved this post because it sums up your beautiful personality and the love you spread around you. I will look out for this doc for sure. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  17. My anger apparently scares some folks and intimidates others. I am frustrated and ashamed of my anger, so like my dad's. So i often feel like i am repressing it in ome way or not and it comes flying out. Rather ironically i am intimidated by the anger of others. I would lke to accept my anger rather than fighting it or denying it. It will still be there either way.



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