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