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10 films of women challenging misogyny

From Elle Woods to Caster Semenya and Thuli Madonsela, misogyny takes various forms in countless social environments. These productions explore it in obvious and subtle ways
Thu, Sep 23, 2021

Misogyny is a scourge upon the land, a heritage of its own passed down from generation to generation. It transcends cultures and tax brackets and often acts as a unifier for those who indulge in it. Women from all walks of life can attest to having been touched by it.

We're often fed the notion that for the pain and prejudice of women to be felt and portrayed, it must be straightforward and overt. But in its true form, misogyny itself is not that.

With this in mind, I've put together a list of productions that explore its reach, and also tell tales that are real and relatable.

1. Legally Blonde

To think Legally Blonde isn't a riveting, in-depth portrayal of an intense battle against the early 2000s' casual and condescending brand of misogyny is inherently misogynistic.

Legally Blonde is Paris and Nicole's The Simple Life meets Suits, and it follows sorority queen Elle Woods, who's on a quest to become a Harvard law graduate after her boyfriend dumps her because he needs "something more serious".

She exceeds everyone's expectations, all while lugging around her best friend, a chihuahua named Bruiser.

It's a must-watch for anyone who identifies with the cherry emoji and Bratz doll culture.

2. Paradise Hills

Emma Roberts plays Uma, a young woman who finds herself in a mental health institution/ boarding house to correct her behaviour. The issue? She wants to break up with her rich, emotionally abusive boyfriend and everyone in her life thinks it doesn't make (financial) sense – especially her mother and abuser.

The school "corrects" its roster of "undesirable" young women through the enforcement of rigid snobbery, brainwashing "treatments" and sedating the young women into compliance.

It's if Tim Burton made The Handmaid's Tale, with outfits from various Lady Gaga eras.

3. I, Tonya

Margot Robbie plays Tonya Harding in this portrayal of the Olympic figure skater's life and the events allegedly leading up to the scandal that rocked her life and took her from training for the Olympics to waitressing.

Her rival Nancy Kerrigan's vicious attack led to Harding being fingered as the alleged mastermind who was desperate to win.

I, Tonya paints a picture of a woman raised by a mean, narcissistic mother, and who is married to an abuser, and has little control in her own life.

4. Hyenas

Djibril Diop Mambety is the Senegalese director behind Touki Bouki, the film The Carters based the concept of their On the Run Tour on.

In Mambety's Hyenas Linguere Ramatou returns to her home village of Colobane, opulent and "richer than the World Bank" to find her former lover Draman right where she left him, now a grocer and a hopeful Mayor to be for the dustiest village in all the land.

He wants back love, but she seeks revenge and turns the town against him, as he had done to her in their youth.

5. I Am Not A Witch

Set in Zambia, eight-year-old Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) is accused of being a witch for being weird, as kids often are, and the film follows her life living in a witches' camp after adults decide that's where she belongs.

The camp has women and girls who are both ostracised and used as prison labour and she becomes a star because of her "abilities", but the price she pays for maintaining the facade eventually proves too high for her to keep to.  

6. Birds of Prey

In Birds of Prey, Margot Robbie appears alongside Jurnee Smollett, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ella Jay Basco for an action-packed Harley Quinn spiral after her breakup with The Joker.

Each female character has their own tentacles of the kraken that is misogyny reaching into their lives and trying to suck the life out of them. The outfits are stunning, the action scenes are meticulously executed, any and all slander against this production is unwarranted.

People just hate seeing a single woman working on healing and becoming her best self with her pet hyena and the support of like-minded violent and virtuous women.

7. Black Girl

Senegal makes a second appearance with Ousmane Sembene's Black Girl. A young woman called Diouana leaves Senegal to work for a couple in France but instead of the beautiful explorations she’s been planning she ends up essentially imprisoned and enslaved.

The film holds open the carcass of the premise of "house help" and what it truly means to be that catered to by another human being when disparity and bigotry run the household.

8. Being Caster Semenya

Very few people have experienced the consistent scrutiny and harassment Caster Semenya has. On Being Caster Semenya, she sits down with ProVerb for a candid conversation about her life, at the centre of which is the consistent and luminous love of her wife.

The mentions of their individual trials and those faced in their union are outshone and snuffed out by the warmth clearly incubated and nurtured by the couple. As is customary, Caster struck gold.

9. Thuli Madonsela: Whispering Truth to Power

This doccie follows former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in her final year in post, handling her biggest case yet, Nkandla and the misuse of public funds by former President Jacob Zuma.

"Corruption is a cancer that erodes anything that is good. In fact, it stifles freedom." In her own words, she likens the role to that of "the Makhadzi, in Venda, who listen to the people on what the King is doing wrong and give feedback to the King quietly".

In her case, the report was deafeningly loud, the inquest heard around the world.

10. MTV Base Meets Winnie Mandela

"I have no idea what I would have been like if there was no apartheid," shares Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in this 2012 interview hosted by Sizwe Dhlomo, alongside six chosen young individuals from across the continent.

She speaks candidly about fighting for her own identity, realising her power and coming out on the other side of a harrowing and awe-inspiring life with no regrets.

  • Watch the films on Showmax