Hot Docs Reviews – Anita, The Punk Singer, Pussy Riot

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Anita is a look back at what the exact moment where sexual¬†harassment became a valid work problem that is taken seriously.¬†Prior to Anita Hill infamously speaking out against the sexual¬†harassment¬†she endured working for Clarence Thomas, this kind of treatment was tolerated by women (and men) because they didn’t know they had any other option. She gave us all a voice and right to speak up without the risk of losing our jobs.

I was so young when she did this for feminism that I didn’t even realize she is the one to thank for the times where I’ve felt uncomfortable at work – and been able to do something about it. The beauty of this film is that it is educating my generation and those women younger than me on what she did for us, and how different the world was just 20 years ago –¬†how acceptable that kind of workplace abuse was. I feel so incredibly lucky to have been born in the time of history that I was.

It was startling to watch her give her testimony facing a large panel of old white men, as they interrogated her and accused her of man hating, revenge, bitterness and lying. They tried to tear her apart because she was honest, and yet she remained calm and poised throughout the entire process. I have no idea how she did it. She deserves a medal from every woman. As if it wasn’t bad enough that she suffered through his¬†harassment¬†the first time, they put her up there and did everything they could to humiliate her in front of the entire world, making her relive every minute detail.

And of course, in the end, they didn’t even care about her testimony. Thomas made it into a racial issue (which is crap considering she shares his race), the politicians got scared, and nothing ever happened to him. He took his seat on the¬†Supreme¬†Court, while she had to move to another state to avoid all the death threats and¬†harassment¬†she endured after it was over.¬†That in itself is depressing – but the film makes it very clear that what she did is an act of heroism that will be remembered for generations to come.

Thank you Anita.

 

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Kathleen Hanna is another fascinating, inspiring woman to my generation. As much as I could never really get into the whole riot grrrl scene because of my aversion to vocals that involve screaming, I have incredible respect for its place in the third wave of feminism that sparked because of the injustices faced by women like Anita Hill at the time.

While I never really enjoyed Bikini Kill’s sound, I did like Le Tigre to some degree, but I was never quite interested enough to dig into their story. This film definitely made me realize what I was missing out on, and how incredible Kathleen was (and still is).

She is exactly the kind of person I aspire to be – and I have been living by her manifesto, despite not being particularly aware of it, all along. Her “ALL GIRLS TO THE FRONT” mentality at shows is literally the best concept in music history, ever. EVERY BAND SHOULD DO THIS. The way they explained it in the film made me so happy, because men don’t seem to realize that they make such a hostile environment for women at shows – or they do realize and they just don’t care. The last thing I want to deal with is getting head butted by moshers (this has happened to me) because I’m at the front trying to actually see the band. If the male population were kind enough to do that shit in the back, and stand back so that women who are generally at least 5 inches shorter, could actually see the stage – the concert going experience would be oh so wonderful for everyone.

I wish I could have went to a Bikini Kill show just to be a part of a concert where there was a priority put on women actually being comfortable/having a stage sight-line.

The look into her health issues and the decision to end Le Tigre was also insightful. Lyme disease is something most people (myself included)¬†certainly¬†don’t understand, and it went a long way to explaining how dreadful the disease can be – especially when it makes a singer lose control of her most precious asset – her voice. I also loved when she talked about meeting Adam Horovitz and feeling conflicted about dating someone who sang such sexist songs in those early Beastie Boys days, and how you don’t choose who you fall in love with.

If you are at all interested in 90s music culture, feminism, riot grrrls or just want to see a doc about a groundbreaking artist, make it a point to see The Punk Singer.

 

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I’ll admit I was fairly uninterested in the whole Pussy Riot thing. I heard about it non stop to the point where I just decided to tune it out. Again, not being all that into the riot grrrl scene, I just didn’t pay much attention. When I hear Peaches is involved in something I kind of lose interest, as it always tends to feel like a spectacle.

Of course, seeing Pussy Riot РA Punk Prayer made me feel foolish for not paying attention. It is scary to me that this kind of church meets state environment still exists in what looks like a modern part of the world. They were doing nothing more than what Kathleen Hanna and the riot bands did 20 years ago, but they are in jail for it!

The best part of Hot Docs is that it shocks me into remembering just how lucky I am to be living where I do, in the age that I do. After watching the injustice these girls are going through, I am thanking my lucky stars that I do not live in Russia. It literally boggles my mind that things could still be so backwards in a developed country – but religion makes people act in very strange (ungodly) ways.

Can you imagine being sent to jail for 2 YEARS for just barely starting to sing a ‘punk rock’ song in a church? It’s absurd. I agree that it was crossing a line since so many people were offended by it, and they could have maybe banned them from the church for life or something – but putting them in jail away from their babies for years because they¬†created art in public? Insane.

The film gives these women faces, families, and history – which is something you don’t get through our exploitative¬†news. Watching their parents talk about how they were as kids, and how they grew into feminist artists trying to move their part of the world forward in the same way that Kathleen Hanna did, makes it a must see. It’s also inspiring to hear them talk during sentencing – the fearlessness these women have for the message they are trying to spread of equality for all women is so powerful. I know that when they get out they will continue to create positive change and hopefully help move Russia into the current decade.