The Passionate Life of Charlotte Bunch

BY Allison Steinberg

December 23 2011 5:58 PM ET

On the dawn of what may be the next activist Age of Aquarius, it’s important to look back at the roots of our movement to pay tribute to those who sowed the seeds. Charlotte Bunch is one such cultivator, and a new documentary expertly illuminates how the lifelong feminist activist has employed an ethos of passionate politics as her raison d'être, pouring her heart and soul into helping to carve equal pathways for women and LGBT people.

You don’t have to look far to get insight into the imprint that Bunch has made on our collective history and the groundwork she’s laid for shaping our future. Filmmaker Tami Gold’s visual résumé of Bunch’s many touchstones, Passionate Politics: The Life and Work of Charlotte Bunch, the subject’s activism is skillfully interwoven with the very human story of her coming-to-be as central player in the movements that shaped the world in which we live today. The new hour-long documentary traverses the five decades of seemingly tireless efforts by Bunch as she globe-treks to educate and empower women and LGBT people.

“The local and global are always different dimensions of the same struggle,” Bunch says in the film. “I try to change the conditions that are affecting our lives.” Gold’s film follows Bunch as she visits a women’s shelter in Peru; attends a protest following the murder of a butch lesbian in South Africa who was stoned to death just steps from her home; and goes to the United Nations to lobby leaders to protect these minority groups on an international level. The film reveals Bunch’s intimate involvement with the genesis of the feminist and LGBT rights movements and her equally present savvy all around the world.

Bunch was the first female fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank. When she wasn’t taken seriously at Washington roundtables because of her gender, she made what would be the first of many bold moves in her lifetime and started the first official women’s think tank. In arguably the second boldest move of Bunch’s life, she left her husband for one Rita Mae Brown (you may know her as the author of the quintessential lesbian novel Rubyfruit Jungle or the woman who also nudged Martina Navratilova out of the closet) and thus began her life as a lesbian — an identity that would continue to guide and inspire her work.
 

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