With winter break upon most college students, the free time we're facing can be overwhelming. Sure, taking three naps a day might sound great (and it is for the first two days), but after some time it's best to do something a little more productive. While watching a documentary might not change the world, it may give you an idea on where to start. At the very least, it'll be motivating and entertaining. If you're a feminist with Netflix and you're ready for documentaries about incredible women, read on.
“People interview me and they keep asking me about all these rules, and I say I don’t have any rules because I would only be breaking them so it’s a waste of time.” — Iris Apfel
"Iris" is the perfect movie if you’re looking for a role model who does what she wants to. Iris Apfel is a businesswoman and fashion icon living in the United States, often seen wearing big, round glasses. While filming "Iris" she was 90 years old. The documentary focuses on her success in the past, but also her present. She doesn’t let her age nor her gender stop her from anything, especially not from being witty — the hour-long documentary is full of her one-liners. Many of those quotes focus on her passion to keep doing what she loves no matter the circumstances, which is something many college women can learn from. While she doesn’t identify as feminist (she chooses not to “codify it”), she certainly has made strides in the movement, including being one of the first women to wear jeans for fashion. In a story told in the documentary, she explains how she had to fight for five to six weeks in order to have a shop owner order her a pair. “They said to me, ‘Don’t you know, young ladies do not wear jeans. What’s wrong with you?’” She didn’t care, though, she wanted the jeans, and she kept going until she got them. As she said, her outfit afterward was “smashing.”
2. "What Happened, Miss Simone?"
“I’ll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear!” — Nina Simone
"What Happened, Miss Simone?" is a documentary about Nina Simone, musical artist and civil rights activist. It chronicles her childhood, her vocal career, her relationships and the darker parts in her life. More than any of that, it chronicles her strength in fighting in the Civil Rights Movement. The documentary does not focus on feminism but shows what an influential woman Simone was. While she was not perfect, she was still a big factor in making a change in America. Although Miss Simone died in 2003, her recurring journal entries and old interview voiceovers kept her in the film. Interviews with her friends and family and clips from the movement occur throughout the film, but old interviews with Simone provided the most information. It was Simone’s voice that drove the movie and showed her power, like when she told Martin Luther King Jr. she was not “nonviolent,” because as she said, “I thought we should get our rights by any means necessary.”
3. "She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry"
"You can't convince me you can't change the world because I saw it happen." — Mary Jean Collins
"She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry" provides a new outlook on the feminist movement from 1966 through 1971. In this documentary, the women who made incredible strides in women’s rights reflect on how they made it all happen while moving photos and videos pop in between their interviews. It covers all the major sections of the change they fought for, as well. From protests specifically for black women’s rights, the right women have to be sexual and to know their own bodies and the rights of women in the LGBT community, this documentary, just like feminism, isn’t just about the rights of some women, but all. If you’re looking for motivation to keep fighting this winter break, this documentary is sure to provide that. As Virginia Whitehill said in the film, "No victories are permanent. All our rights are like that. They're only as good as we maintain them."
4. "The Women’s List"
- “Wherever there is a glass ceiling, there is an iron woman right underneath it.” — Elizabeth Holmes
"The Women’s List" is a 60-minute film that is complete with 15 interviews with successful women in all different fields. From singer/songwriter Alicia Keys to athlete Aimee Mullins, and from pilot Nia Wordlaw to entrepreneur and inventor Elizabeth Holmes, women of all profession types and backgrounds are accounted for. The women interviewed discuss the effects of diversity and representation, the way success feels and how “feminist” isn’t a dirty word. The documentary is quickly paced and holds attention well — it’s perfect for watching when you only have a short bit of time or while you’re getting ready for holiday get-togethers. It’s also perfect for when you need a reminder that there are incredible women in the world doing what they want to be doing and loving it.
5. "Finding Traction"
“Women need to take ownership of our dreams, and I want to see society change a little bit to encourage women to pursue extremely difficult goals.” — Nikki Kimball,
"Finding Traction" is a documentary about Nikki Kimball, an ultra-marathon runner who is trying to break the time record for Vermont’s 273-mile trail. As the previous record breaker is a man, she wants to show women that they, too, can dream and work for their goals. The documentary shows Kimball breaking down mentally and facing physical trials as she races for days on end. The film isn’t just for athletes, though. Kimball’s drive to be inspiring for women of all ages is something all women can respect and admire, regardless of their age or athletic abilities. Kimball’s hope with the run was not even to be the very best, but to close the gap between men and women in running so that another woman could look up to her and think "I could do even better than Nikki."
These are just a few of the films Netflix has to watch about incredible women doing outstanding things. Whether you're looking for a documentary marathon or a movie to watch with friends, you can never go wrong with films that empower women. So here's to having a break full of naps, friends, food and feminism.
Lead Image Credit: Em Brandon