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.



Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, commonly known as AOC, is a hero.

I believe that the U.S Representative for New York’s 14 congressional district meets the criteria used to define heros. In the face of adversity, Ocasio-Cortez has faced all challenges, whether personal or in the public sphere, with great courage, ingenuity and strength, therefore we can check off the technical definition of hero. I believe her to transcend the bounds of the stereotypical, mainstream hero and make of herself a modern heroine, without even trying to. 

Of Puerto Rican descent, a woman, born in the Bronx to a working-class family, Ocasio-Cortez is not the figure of the hero we see in the stories or the media. However, she has built that for herself thanks to her intellect and charisma. A graduate from Boston University in international relations and economics, a former bartender and waitress, the knowledgeable congresswoman fought her way to win one of the most shocking electoral upset victories of the 2018 midterm elections primaries. She did this by starting a grassroots movement that touched the hearts of her constituents and gave her national attention.  Since then, she has been one of the most influential and important voices in the United States congress, and a democratic socialist, badass warrior for human rights, women, people of color and the working-class, amongst many others. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a woman who inspires me. Heroes are moral compasses, people to look up to and strive to be like while maintaining our sense of individuality. Heroes, in their paths, inspire us to do better, to follow our ambitions. AOC has inspired me to believe in myself. If she could do it, why couldn’t I, a person with a similar background, achieve my goals with as much courage and dedication as she? In a world where little brown girls from humble beginnings don’t have anyone to represent them, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has given us the hope necessary for us to use our voice, and that burgeoning hope that swells in our chest will give birth to the strongest generation of women you’ll ever hear. Are you ready to hear us scream?




BLOG #2: Women in the Class Struggle

Often routinely ignored, the class struggle needs to be recognized as a feminist issue. In our capitalist society, the drawbacks of our current system, classism and sexism are interlinked. From the denial of basic human rights to all, to women and particularly women of colour facing higher rates of poverty than, of course, men but even white women, to “women’s work” being undervalued and underpaid (McKelle, 2014), feminism needs to address the consequences and setbacks capitalism and the oppression of the working classes have on everyone specially women, and women across every ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender expression, etc. However, due to various reasons, we are hesitant to take the necessary steps to ensure class AND women’s liberation.

For example, on a exclusively Marxist perspective, women’s battles come from capitalist oppression rather than male domination, which are obviously not mutually exclusive and actually work together to keep women in subordination. In mainstream feminist positions, middle class white women, who have seem to make themselves the face of the movement despite historical and current evidence of the major weightlifting by women of colour, working class women, etc.,   refuse to acknowledge classism as a pressing issue, or something to be addressed at all, for it upholds the status quo which middle and upper classes benefit from. I make the case that feminism and anti-capitalist movements (reformists and revolutionaries alike) need to consider the present issues, if they want to claim any semblance of a motivation for the liberation for all.

Freedom is not freedom until everyone is free, and this goal will ultimately only be achieved if we reach a consensus where classism, sexism, racism and all the other systems of oppression are addressed as problems with intersections that truly affect the lives of people at home and around the globe. In order to do so, we must organize communities, elect representatives (amongst other ways) and overall fight back against the systems that ignore us. Before we can do this, we need a firm basis of feminist theory that includes ALL INTERSECTIONS of the female and feminine experience, and make such theory accessible to all.



RETRIEVED FROM: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-class/#2

RETRIEVED FROM: https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-1-4614-5583-7_682

RETRIEVED FROM: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137326799_14

RETRIEVED FROM: https://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/class-is-a-feminist-issue/

RETRIEVED FROM: https://splinternews.com/how-women-are-leading-the-class-struggle-1834721678



BLOG #1 – Defining Feminism

The feminist movement is essential to our liberation as a society and as individuals, and both hooks and Valenti make this point. We can feel the anger and marvel at the rawness of Valenti’s piece, where she focuses on the current issues surrounding the movement, such as a lack of sisterhood and a lack of general consciousness about the true nature of feminism. hooks’ piece, some truly eloquent work, exposes the need for intersectionality in our analysis of society and what action we need to take in order to achieve our goals. The differences in their approaches are palpable, but the message of these authors, to whom feminism is important as women, as women of color (in hooks’ case) and simply as members of society, remains the same. Feminism is for everyone, and what sets us back is how misunderstood it really is.

My personal definition of feminism remains largely the same now that I have read these authors’ pieces. Feminism is about liberation. Liberation from the white supremacist, capitalist and ultimately toxic patriarchy that keeps us all under figurative (or literal) slavery. Women’s liberation, certainly, but the liberation of everyone in society from systems that affect us all.

A section of hooks’ work that made me stop and think was firstly, the Reformist vs. Revolutionary approaches. I have always considered myself on the revolutionary side, for I thought that was the only side there was, perhaps naively on my part. I was surprised to see that reformists are a genuine force. Secondly, hooks’ call out of the patriarchy as a white supremacist and capitalist force was pleasantly surprising, for the race and class struggles are often overshadowed or willfully ignored.

My research on these authors brought me newfound appreciation for their work. I admire the accessibility of Valenti’s platform and the deeply intersectional approach hooks’ takes.