16 Intersectional Feminist Documentaries That Everyone Needs To See

On its face, feminism isn’t a hard concept to grasp. It’s the belief that there should be equality among genders. There should be equal pay for equal work. Violence against marginalized people should be prosecuted to the same degree as violence that affects those with privilege. Everyone should have full bodily autonomy. Those and all other major tenets of feminism are pretty easy to parse out.

But where feminism often fails is in being intersectional. Intersectionality refers to the interconnectedness of different forms of social oppression based on gender, race, sexuality, and class. For example, trans women of color face vastly different battles than cisgendered white women. As feminists, it’s important that we understand these intersections. Fortunately, there are tons of resources out there to help us do that, and in documentary form, they’re super engaging. Here are 16 feminist documentaries you can stream that will help you figure it all out.

16. The Testimony

While plenty of feminist activism needs to happen in our own backyards, it’s important that we understand the global scope of women’s oppression. The Testimony details the story of the Congo’s largest-ever rape tribunal following the mass-rape of Congolese women by their own government’s military. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 35 percent of women worldwide have been or will be victims of sexual violence. This horrific Congolese case is part of that tragic statistic.

Stream it now on Netflix.

15. A Ballerina’s Tale

The story of ballerina Misty Copeland is an inspirational one. In 2001, she joined the American Ballet Theater (ABT), she became the second-ever black soloist for the troupe in 2007, and in 2015, she was promoted to principal dancer for the ABT, making her the first black woman ever promoted to this position in the ABT’s 75-year history. A Ballerina’s Tale chronicles her story as a black woman rising in the ballet ranks, and it’s an important look into the ways in which race continues to impact the professional and personal lives of people of color, both subtly and overtly.

Stream it now on Amazon.

14. The Hunting Ground

Released back in 2015 alongside powerful track “Til It Happens To You” by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren, sexual assault documentary The Hunting Ground spurred a nationwide movement. The film focuses on the ways college campuses protect rapists and oppress their victims so that the schools can uphold a certain image in the media. These women banded together to say “no more” to their attackers and the institutions that protect them.

Stream it now on Netflix.

13. Miss Representation

Women’s representation in media, which is maybe one of the most pervasive issues women face, reinforces rape culture and perpetuates damaging stereotypes about women that lead to workplace discrimination, infantilization, and overall oppression. It affects us in both public and private spheres. Documentary Miss Representation takes a deep dive into the portrayal of women in media and the lasting impact those portrayals have on women and girls worldwide.

Stream it now on Netflix.

12. What Happened, Miss Simone?

As one of the greatest performers of all time, Nina Simone made an indelible impact on music in the Civil Rights era. In her daughter’s words, Simone “found a purpose for the stage.” Instead of passively performing for casual entertainment, Simone used her growing platform to participate in social justice work. She famously asked, “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?” What Happened, Miss Simone? recounts her story as an artist and an activist when the world would have preferred that she remained silent.

Stream it now on Netflix.

11. Growing Up Coy

The struggles of trans women are bound up with many of the same struggles cisgendered women face, but under an even greater existential threat. The story of Coy Mathis, a young trans girl whose school refused to recognize her as such, is documented in Growing Up Coy. The doc follows her and her family as they file a civil rights suit against the school. Coy’s story made national news, with prominent trans activists like Laverne Cox speaking on her behalf. Her story is emblematic of the issues trans people face when trying to express their truest selves.

Stream it now on Netflix.

10. The True Cost

While $15 price tags in stores like Forever 21 and H&M; are appealing, the fact of the matter is that there’s a reason why fast fashion retailers can offer such low prices. Many people believe that cheap materials are what allow for low costs, but the truth is actually steeped in human rights violations. One of the most important feminist documentaries available is called The True Cost, which teaches viewers what’s really at stake — particularly for women in the developing world — if we continue consuming fast fashion.

Each year, horrific cases like the Raza Plaza garment factory collapse, which killed over 1,000 people, shed light on the real cost of our cheap clothing. If you want to become a more ethical consumer, this film is a must-watch.

Stream it now on Netflix.

9. Hot Girls Wanted

Although there is definitely a movement to empower porn stars led by female directors and producers of pornography, the industry is still steeped in patriarchy and rape culture. It sucks in thousands of teenage girls each year and spits them out on the other side like trash. Produced by Rashida Jones, Hot Girls Wanted gives viewers an up-close and personal look at the exploitative and often abusive porn industry.

Stream it now on Netflix.

8. Audrie & Daisy

As if sexual assault wasn’t bad enough, two girls, Audrie and Daisy, experience endless online ridicule that boils over in such a way that life becomes impossible to live in their small towns following their sexual assaults. Like The Hunting Ground, Audrie & Daisy explores what happens when the collective desire to protect sexual predators outweighs the desire to protect the people they traumatize.

Stream it now on Netflix.

7. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry

We have decades of tireless work to thank for the current state of the feminist movement, and She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is a master class in the evolution of feminism across decades and generations. The film catches up with feminists who have been hitting the streets, organizing, and marching since the 1960s and gets their insights on women’s rights today.

Stream it now on Netflix.

6. 13th

An issue that often gets lost in the conversation about women’s rights is that of mass incarceration, which disproportionately affects communities of color. Incarceration has the power to shape and define families, especially when mothers find themselves behind bars. The focus of Ava DuVernay’s powerful documentary 13th is on a constitutional loophole that exempts incarcerated people from 13th amendment protections against slavery and the ways in which that loophole is exploited.

The film follows the U.S. prison boom and delves into the implications of the prison industrial complex in the context of human rights and in turn, women’s rights.

Stream it now on Netflix.

5. Queen Mimi

The story of one 88-year-old homeless woman’s journey to self-love in a film called Queen Mimi is a raucous, heartfelt, and funny one. Befriending celebrities along the way, Mimi has carved out her little place in the world inside a laundromat and her story of resilience is one that should not be missed.

Stream it now on Netflix.

4. After Tiller

Even though late-term abortions make up an extremely small percentage of all abortion cases, their existence is disproportionately covered by the media. That coverage dictates much of what pro-life activists focus on when protesting abortion in general. Very few doctors can (or will) perform late-term abortions and the practice has long been under fire. After Tiller tells the stories of the select few doctors who have continued performing late-term abortions after the murder of field pioneer Dr. George Tiller by pro-life extremists, focusing on the compassion that drives what they do.

Stream it now on Amazon.

3. It’s A Girl

Hard-to-watch documentary It’s A Girl tackles the harsh reality of gendercide in places like India and China where millions of baby girls are killed upon birth and girls who aren’t killed immediately often do not survive to puberty. Per the film’s trailer, there U.N. estimates that upwards of 200 million girls are “missing” in the world. These are the girls who have been killed, abandoned, and aborted on the basis of being female.

India, for example, has a “gender determination test” that is given to pregnant women. If the fetus is female, physicians and family members put immense pressure on the mother to abort the fetus. There are even cases of doctors killing newborn girls themselves without giving parents any say. It is one of the gravest and most dire feminist issues in the world.

Stream it now on Amazon.

2. The Punk Singer

The Punk Singer follows the Riot Grrrl feminist movement, which took hold in the ’90s, through the journey of the Riot Grrrl pioneers who made up punk feminist band Bikini Kill as they blazed a new trail for feminists in the punk scene. Up to that point, punk music, which has a history of social commentary, tended to shy away from issues of feminism. The women of Bikini Kill redirected the narrative.

Stream it now on Amazon.

1. Half the Sky

And finally, there’s Half the Sky, a documentary following activists around the world to tell previously untold stories of women and girls who are fighting back against oppression. From doctors to sex work safety advocates, this film follows the good news in women’s rights globally. It is a reminder that there are brilliant minds all over the planet working toward a greater good, which is a safer tomorrow for every woman and girl on Earth. In terms of feminist documentaries, this piece really lights the way forward.

Stream it now on Amazon.

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