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13 Documentaries That Are Essential Viewing For Women

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    The documentary world can be overwhelming. Think of a topic — broad or obscure — and very likely a movie has probably been made about it. Biographies, investigations, social commentaries, historical portraits, institutional exposes... but how to choose? How about the films that dive deep into fascinating, meaningful topics that we don't talk about often enough: women's issues.

    Consider the experience of being a woman in 2016, in every corner of the globe. From personal stories to wide-scale investigations, documentaries are a window into the experiences of women from all walks of life. With a camera and a vision, filmmakers can shine light on people and challenges that so many of us know too little — or nothing — about. That includes thorny topics like the sexualization of young women, workplace sexism, gender-based violence and murder, sex trade, and lack of access to education and healthcare.

    To experience another woman's life for a couple of hours, watching a documentary can be a revelatory experience. Here are our picks for the documentaries every woman needs to see.


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    Audrie & Daisy (2016)

    Audrie, 15, and Daisy, 14 didn't know each other, but their stories are similar and all too common. Both girls alleged they were sexually assaulted by their peers while drunk and unconscious. This documentary is about the devastating aftermath of their assaults. Photos of Audrie from that night went online and she committed suicide shortly after; Daisy and her family endured torment and bullying online and in their community. This movie is less about the perpetrators themselves than the systems that protect them: A culture of victim-shaming, an instinct to protect prized male athletes, and a legal system that fails the young women who need it most.

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    Miss Representation (2011)

    Katie Couric, Gloria Steinem, Condoleezza Rice, and others shine a light on the most pervasive distributor of sexism: the media. Everywhere we look, the mainstream media tells women that their worth is measured by their beauty, desirability, and youth — rather than her intelligence, ambition, or character. That has a very real impact on the girls — and boys — who grow up seeing these images everyday and believing that it represents their value and place in the world.

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    Dark Girls (2011)

    This controversial film looks at the prejudices faced by Black women and women with dark skin in all corners of the world. Those biases are deeply rooted in racism and classism, as well as the dissemination of the Western ideal of beauty in the media. For example, skin-lightening products are a multibillion-dollar worldwide industry. The addition of Viola Davis's story proves that no dark-skinned woman is immune to this prejudice.

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    It's A Girl (2011)

    Here's a sobering fact about gender-based infanticide: Every year, India and China "eliminate" (abort, kill, abandon) more baby girls than are born in the United States. Some families sell their baby daughters to be trafficked; others fight to save their lives. Here, experts, activists, and those with firsthand experience discuss the causes and impacts of this frightening epidemic.

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    The Invisible War (2012)

    There is a rape epidemic in the U.S. military: Half of females in the military report being sexually assaulted, yet only 8% of cases are prosecuted, according to this well-researched doc. In fact, if you are a woman stationed in Afghanistan or Iraq, you are more likely to be raped than killed by the enemy in the line of fire. These predatory men come home and transition into our civilian communities; the women come home and watch these men's crimes be buried by military culture and the Department of Defense. It's hard to know what's worse: the upsetting personal stories or the alarming big-picture statistics.