On Election Day in 2016, I was so proud to cast my vote for Hillary Clinton alongside my Mom. Needless to say, we now know the repercussions of those results as America faces an administration preferring to build walls separating humanity, major cuts to health care and taxes that adversely affect the working class. Women all across America were fired up and mad as hell. As a result, a record number of women were elected to Congress in 2018. Director Rachel Lears‘ Knock Down The House follows the journey of four women – Nevada’s Amy Viilela, Missouri’s Cori Bush, West Virginia’s Jean Swearengin and the scrappy young chick from the Bronx – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
As a female film critic of color, I get all sorts of dehumanizing, insulting comments. They pale in comparison to what these women had to endure in the political lane. Being called stupid, young, inexperienced, brave and told you gotta be “bitch” to make an impact is just plain ridiculous. Like one of the candidates say in the film. I’m not a dog. In each instance, these woman ran against an established politician, some of which were political dynasties like the Clay family in St. Louis or one of the most powerful democrats in Congress – Representative Joe Crowley from New York.
While running against Ocasio-Cortez, Crowley couldn’t even be bothered to show his face at an early debate. Why? This is someone who was elected to a political seat representing the Bronx, Queens and Rikers Island that lived in Virginia. Let that sink in for a minute. Organizations like Brand New Congress elevated these women to work and support each other instead of tearing one another other down and apart all in the name of “Making America Great Again.” Women all over the country are accomplishing that task by placing the power back into the working class and away from the same old political status quo – middle-aged white men who have become complacent, lazy and more interested in lining their pockets with corporate PAC money than caring about what’s best for the American people. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “The time is always ripe to do right.”
Watching this film was particularly emotional for me. I was watching history, proud women were taking a stand, making a difference and not backing down. Knock Down The House made me proud I live in a country where women have the freedom to pursue any type of professional we choose. The road isn’t always easy depending on the lane, but at the end of the day, for every ten rejections – you get one acceptance and that’s when you win everything.
At the Q&A afterwards, when Cori Bush was asked if she would run again, “I gotta represent my community, but I gotta represent myself first. Yes, I’m a woman of color, a black woman with big hips and I plant to take these hips to Congress.” We need a machine to make a movement and it has already begun with the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the documentary Knock Down The House produced by Netflix and will be available for streaming sometime this Spring or Fall, but can be seen one last time at SXSW on March 13th.