If we don’t keep stories of struggle alive, they tend to be robbed of their power. We look at the past through the lens of the present and so when we reflect on the (ongoing, let’s be clear) battle for equality across any given demographic strata there’s a broad tendency, especially among straight, white, cis males (among which your author can be numbered) to think, well, how bad could it have been?
“Very” is the unvarying answer—although it can take a short, sharp shock to knock the blinkers off. Brazen Hussies, a new documentary from Catherine Dwyer, is just the kick needed: an incendiary, exhaustive, emotive and well-researched look at long struggle of the Australian Women’s Rights Movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Clocking in at a tight 90 minutes, the film is incredibly propulsive in its eagerness to try and encompass as many aspects of the wide-ranging, grassroots movement as possible. Dwyer presents us with a decade of struggle, kicking off roughly when feminists Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bogner chained themselves to the to the public bar of Brisbane’s regatta Hotel in 1965 to protest women being banned from such places, and wrapping in 1975 with the dismissal of the progressive Whitlam government.