Review: Feminists: What Were They Thinking?

Cynthia MacAdams taking photos in Feminists: What Were They Thinking

Feminists: What Were They Thinking? takes a slightly different approach to the history of feminism. If you lived through the various waves of feminist thought, you aren’t going to see anything new, but you will see some new faces entering the discussion.

Feminists: What Were They Thinking? starts with Cynthia MacAdams’s 1977 photography book, Emergence. This book showed images of women as they were shedding the cultural restrictions of their childhoods and embracing their full humanity. It was a time when women were throwing off many of the bonds of patriarchy. The images were strong and determined.

The book’s author, Cynthia MacAdams, and many of the women photographed in the book discussed earlier times and their own personal lives at the time. Included – among many others – were Laurie Anderson, Judy Chicago, Jane Fonda, Sally Kirkland, Meredith Monk, Michelle Phillips, Cheryl Swannack, and Lily Tomlin. There were a couple of women of color among the commenters who pointed out how white the early feminist movements were and how problematic that was.

Johanna Demetrakas directed the documentary. She found a fresh way to approach feminist history and a fresh set of ideas and input because she used people featured in the book. But as I mentioned earlier, there’s nothing here you haven’t heard before if you know any of feminist history.

I tend to be interested in this type of content, so I found the film interesting. It definitely was worth the hour and a half I spent watching these courageous and groundbreaking activists. If you watch it, I’d love to hear what you thought about it. Did you own the book way back when?

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