WaPo Feminist Film Critic Loves Bella Abzug

On Friday, Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday declared a feminist item on her resume: "I worked for Bella Abzug for one day." She was hired during an unsuccessful comeback attempt for the House in 1986. Hornaday was tapped to praise a photograph of Abzug by famous photographer Richard Avedon, now hanging in a D.C. exhibit of "Profiles in Power." Later in the short piece, she passionately lauded her very short-term boss:

This portrait reminds me of what a privilege I had in that baptism by ire....It's ironic but fitting that Bella's picture was included in a series about power; shortly after Avedon took it, she would lose her run for the U.S. Senate, and Jimmy Carter, who hovers nearby in the same series, would fire her from the Presidential Advisory Committee on Women for having the chutzpah to suggest that the economy and foreign policy were women's issues. But her power never derived from patriarchy or party, however skillfully she navigated those institutions. Rather, it emanated from her as a life force with a restless, ever more global impulse to connect with people -- men and women -- who shared her vision of equality, justice and sustainability.

I like this image of Bella because it's as subversive as the woman herself: It gives the lie to the gruff, cranky broad who would come to be known, whether with affection or withering contempt, as Battling Bella. Of course, she did battle. But this improbably lyrical portrait, which captures both her flinty gaze and twinkling humor, testifies to the essential fact about Bella: Even at her angriest, she was always propelled by a fiercely loving, implacable joy.

Hornaday could list her service at The Washington Post as a feminist cause. Among other things, she trashed the "consoling fictions" of movies like "Juno" and "Knocked Up" when women decide to have their babies, not destroy them.

Washington Post Ann Hornaday
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