Feminism in Knock Down the House



THE FIRST TIME I watched this documentary was last year. Ever since that first time, I have rewatched it multiple times, for the sheer emotional and inspirational power this movie holds, as well as the feminist message it sends, has moved me in many ways.

“We’re coming out of the belly of the beast, kicking and screaming,” are the powerful words of Paula Jean Swearengin, one of the four women running for Congress presented in this film. These words are the perfect imagery for the first charged feminist message this film puts forward: Women can fight back, and they are. One thing the four women we learn to know in this movie have in common is that they were running for congress to help their underserved, inequality-ridden communities gain justice and genuine representation. These women, with all the odds stacked against them, rose from their non-political backgrounds to challenge their established representatives and bright some change to their communities, regardless of the outcome, when they saw their communities struggle under the weight of the American system.

Another powerful message that this film puts forward is the strength of the so-called ordinary woman. The four women who were presented to the viewer were one of many average Americans (a nurse, a bartender, etc.) and all came from humble backgrounds, who then went to run grassroots campaigns without corporate backing. In the case of AOC, she was a bartender from the Bronx that transformed into a confident public speaker that won with a grassroots campaign in what political analysts have called one of the biggest political upsets in modern American politics. To run campaigns, which are extremely time-consuming and exhausting, that touched the lives and hearts of so many without corporate backing, shows the strength of women.

Furthermore, the grassroots campaigns these women ran and the difficulty that came with it exposed the feminist issue of class. From working-class backgrounds, the women running for Congress faced difficulties and obstacles in their campaigns that their opponents didn’t. From funding to getting recognition and credibility, Bush, Vilela, Ocasio-Cortez and Swearengin fought harder than anyone else to bring their campaigns to fruition, twice as hard as their opponents who were bred to become politicians or were backed by the Democratic establishment, which became a good show of the class divide in America and how hard some have to work to achieve the same as others who do not do much.

Lastly, the film shows how women, people of color, and overall political outsiders, when given a stage and support, flourish and become the organizers their communities need. Every single one of the candidates this film presented created, regardless of how small, a movement in their communities that will spur other candidates like them to run for office and became activists in their own rights, while facing their own personal difficulties. Thanks to the support of their communities and Justice Democrats among others, these fearless women gave their all to make sure their communities would have a better future. Only one made it to Congress, but all made a difference.



In the context of this course I had to choose a cinematographic work putting forward feminist ideas and concepts. I have decided to pick the movie Mulan. Mulan is a Disney animated movie taking place during the imperial time in China. A group of nomad warriors called the Huns were threatening to invade the Chinese land and were a menace to the people. Because of that, the Emperor asked that one man of each family joined the army to protect the Empire. The person who will be the most helpful to protect the people is a teenage girl called Mulan. This movie is very empowering and shows girls from a very young age that gender does not define their abilities to do whatever they want, as long as they stay true to themselves.

The first concept brought upon in the movie is the role women have in the Chinese culture. At the time, young woman were count on to uphold the family honor, if they did not get married, they brought great shame to their family. In one of the first scenes of the movies, Mulan, the main character, had reached the age where, according to tradition, she had to meet a “match maker”, a woman who would determine if she had the abilities to become a bride. As in all Disney movies, a song accompanied the scene, giving a very clear idea of what a girl was destined to become in the imperial china. One verse said that men wanted obediant girls who can have children and have a tiny waists while another verse said that men honored the emperor by bearing arms and girls honored him by bearing sons. during her encounter with the match maker, she was told that she was too skinny and that it was not good for bearing children. Mulan was very stressed and clumsy during her interview because she had to act in a way that was not herself. Her attitude did not please the match maker, who told her she would never bring honour to her family, which saddened Mulan because she understood that, by being herself, her family would lose other people’s respect.

Another concept challenged in the movie is the ability of women to be treated as men’s equal. After having ruined her chances of finding a respectable husband, Mulan found out that her father had to join the army during a visit from the Emperor’s counselor. She immediately intervened, asking that her father would not be forced to join the army because he had already served his country and was injured. The messenger was very shocked that she dared address him without permission to speak. The fact that she “stood up” for her father was very humiliating for him. She then decided, in the middle of the night, to cut her hair (long hair being a symbol of beauty), tie it like a man, bear her fathers armor, and take his place in the army. Arriving at the training camp she had to train alongside the other soldiers but she was slower than them. The Captain Shang therefore sent her home but she did not let herself be brought down by that and worked harder and smarter to prove she was as strong as men. Proving herself, she was allowed to stay and rapidly became one of the best soldiers, and even saved the captain’s life from an invaders attack that she helped win. At that moment she had gained the respect of Shang respect. Unfortunately, by saving him, she had hurt herself and a doctor had to examine her body, discovering she was a girl (she disguised herself as a soldier named Ping). The news was soon discovered by all her companions and the Captain was told by the counselor that she was guilty of high treason and ultimate dishonor meaning she had to be executed. Luckily for her, Shang did not kill her but he exiled her, leaving her alone in the mountains. It is interesting to see how Mulan was a very respected soldier before people knew she was a woman! Her gender could have costed her her life!

Left alone in the snowy mountain, Mulan realises she did not take her father’s place only to protect him. She also wanted to prove to herself that she was capable of doing things right, that she was worthwile. It had certainly been hard for her to learn that she was not good enough to become a bride and bring honor to her family. At that same moment, she sees from afar the Hun invaders enter the city. She immediately decides to rush to the city and warn the soldiers, who were entering the city as “saviours of China”, that they had failed to supress the invaders and that the country was still in danger. At first, the captain Shang, who once had respected and trusted her (as Ping), was reluctant to believe her. Seeing the Huns attack the city after Mulan had warned him brought him bak to his senses and he decided to trust her. So, after convincing Shang and her three soldier friends to help her stop the invaders, she saved the Empire! The Emperor and all China bowed down to her, the hero! The Emperor offered her a medallion, the sword of the leader of the Huns that she had managed to defeat and a place as counselor (firing the man who had treated her of treator and had said that she was not a hero, she was a woman and she would never be worth anything). Following her heart, she refused the offer to become counselor and decided to go back home to her father, who, by then had realised that the greatest honor he could ever have was to be Mulan’s father, a smart girl who spoke her mind and followed her heart.

Mulan was the last of the 90’s Disney princess movies, even thought she is not really a princess. She repeatedly challenged the role of women in the Chinese Society and proved that being a woman is not synonym of weakness. She proved that her gender did not define her abilities in both physical and psychological areas by demonstrating that military tactic, physical endurance, strenght and loyalty are not things proper to men, but to every individual who has the courage to be themselves and work hard to excel in their talents. Not only does this movie present women and men as equal, it points out that a woman does not have to meet society’s norms to be an ideal wife. In the words of the Emperor, “the flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all”.

American Horror Story

American Horror Story has been a series I’ve always loved to watch. It incorporates different aspects of horror, spine-chilling and macabre scenes throughout the whole season. This famous television series has a different storyline for each season which I find truly unique. This show was created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, back in 2011. The eighth season of the series was named “the apocalypse” (my ultimate fav!) and I believe it contains many underlying feminist aspects to it that viewers might have not realized. The Apocalypse is a season that represents strong feminism in a patriarchy dominated era. 

American Horror Story: Coven' Has a Big-Star Lineup - The New York ...

The story starts off with the main characters who are 7 powerful witches from a line of descent of the Salem witches back in 1692. There’s even a flashback period to this time era, where they made a reference to the Salem Witch Trial at some point throughout the show, which displays aspects of feminism. In a society where everybody (mostly men at power) wanted all the witches to suffer and burn at stake, they portrayed true feminine strength by standing big and tall at the end of their lives, while screaming “mark my words, my bloodline will never go extinct!” I believe that this is a true feminist movement. Back in those days, males dominated almost every aspect and women didn’t have much say, notably in governmental institutions.

The apocalypse was a series emphasizing a young man named Michael Langdon that grows up to be the antichrist and wants to take over the world. However, a group of powerful female witches join forces in order to beat the antichrist. Satan himself is represented as a man which shows male dominance and extreme masculinity. He is portrayed as the most powerful person in the world and even the witches alone won’t be able to stop him. The women had to learn to work together in order to overcome the antichrist and they learnt that in order to survive they needed to work together. An important aspect that I want to emphasize on would be how they portrayed ultimate girl power and how female relationships are important. For the female witches to survive they needed to unite as one, and that’s when they realized how powerful they are. This was absolutely empowering knowing that women coming together could conquer the impossible. 

Moreover, throughout the series the viewers figure out that the supreme witch (the term for the ultimate witch leader) was dying due to old age and they needed to figure out who would be the next supreme. However, the criteria of becoming the next supreme witch was based on how well you can manipulate the seven wonders of the world. Which consists of different magic abilities such as mortis, vitalis, concilium, clairvoyance and transferal. Here I’ve inserted a clip of the movie to show you how the antichrist was able to manipulate all these perfectly whereas the female witches were only able to do one type of magic. The next supreme witch was about to be the antichrist until the female witches realized that they needed to work together in order to defeat him once and for all. 


To conclude, I enjoyed watching that season of American horror story since it uncovers many underlying feminine and masculine aspects. It also portrays how women are being perceived in the 21st century with a little twist of comedy and gruesomeness, this is why I enjoy the show. I also love seeing women coming together in order to fight off the “bad guy” which is usually portrayed as a man in this case, Satan himself. Patriarchy is still present in our society today however much less compared to back in the days. Even though this is a fictitious serie I think thats its amazing that women back in the 1600’s had already begun the feminist movements starting with the Salem witch trials.