Helen Reddy’s 1971 hit single “I Am Woman” became an anthem for second-wave feminism that continues to reverberate in today’s #MeToo moment. Directed by Unjoo Moon and starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey, I Am Woman chronicles Reddy’s remarkable rise to fame and independence.
It’s 1966, and 24-year-old Helen (Cobham-Hervey) travels from her native Melbourne to New York City in search of stardom. But she discovers that male gatekeepers to the record industry don’t take her seriously, look down on her single motherhood, and seem to believe that female recording artists have zero to no chance in a Beatles-mad pop market. Fortunately, Helen finds an encouraging friend in fellow Australian Lillian Roxon (Danielle Macdonald), a journalist who’s made some headway into her own male-dominated field writing the first encyclopedia on Rock ‘n Roll.
It is this relationship that makes this energetic and enthusiastic effort from Unjoon Moon a highlight of the film coupled with Tilda Cobhan-Hervey’s spot on performance of Helen Reddy. Moon revealed at the Opening Night screening at The Toronto International Film Festival, that she remembers her Mum and family members screaming the well known anthem at the top of their lungs often. Which is why it is so ironic that a chance meeting with the Grammy winner resulted in this inspirational tale of a woman’s right to be a person separate and apart from what a male dominated society expects.
Moments that hit me to the core were watching Reddy sing her anthem pregnant onstage wile touring or she sings You and Me Against The World shortly after her best friend Lillian passes away. I think this was the first time I really heard the lyrics of this song and it literally brought me to tears. The most surprising revelation was that the Equality Act, a bill passed by the United States House of Representatives in 1964 was only amended as late as May 2019. This bill, an amendment to the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of the sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition of an individual. It’s appalling that we are still even having that conversation.
Thanks to Helen Reddy, the ERA, NOW and many other organizations women and many others are able to attempt to live a life of non-bias. As they say in the film, “…to you our President…we will not go back.”
I Am Woman is full of the typical biographic cliche’s, but is beautifully shot and reminds this generation of a time where being a woman in America or anywhere is the world was frowned upon. Thanks Helen Reddy for reminding us that ‘We Are Strong…We Are Invincible…We are WOMEN.’