Documentary “Fly Like a Girl” from filmmaker Katie McEntire Wiatt follows women who went against the patriarchy and pursued a career in aviation, a field where women were long considered taboo or just an anomaly. The film frames itself around an 11-year-old girl, Afton Kincade, whose dream is to have a career in aviation. The innocent hopes and dreams of this girl were made possible by the brave women who came before her; paving the way for her and every other little girl who dreams of spending their lives near and in an aircraft.
The film then explores the stories of these women. Each story is unique and from different historical eras, showing all levels of advancement towards and for women in the field.
Some familiar faces include US senator and veteran Tammy Duckworth from my own personal home state of Illinois, Patty Wagstaff, the first woman to become a US national aerobatic champion, Nicole Stott, a flight engineer and NASA astronaut, Shaesta Waiz, a woman who immigrated to the US as a refugee from Afghanistan and the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, Captain Venice Armour, the first black female naval aviator in the Marine Corps, and Bernice Falk Haydu, a female airfare service pilot who broke down huge barriers for women during World War II. Haydu had to wait 60 years for the government to finally award her with her wings and recognize her for the service she provided to our nation; the multi decade wait was all because she was, of course, a woman. All of these stories are edited back to back and intercut before we loop back around to Afton Kincade’s story.
If it seems like there’s a lot of fragments of stories that are being told here that are intermixed into an hour and a half long film, it’s because there are, and this is really my main criticism. Although I loved learning about each woman individually, particularly Tammy Duckworth who I have always admired for her bravery, I almost wish they had zoned in on less women so that we could delve more in depth into their lives. It’s like we only got to see a snapshot or the edges of their interesting stories and didn’t quite have the time to fully capture their achievements, struggles, and rich emotional lives they developed as they battled into a field dominated by men. Moreover, although an interesting idea, there wasn’t really a clear tie in to Afton Kincade. I feel like she could have just been a clip, and the film really should have focused more on the women. There were just too many things going on and that part didn’t really make much sense editorially.
This is where the film’s edit could use a polish. It is almost like the audience is being bombarded with so much information that we miss the truly inspirational feel we are supposed to get out of the film because we are too busy trying to keep track of which woman achieved what. This should not be interpreted as a slam on the film, which I do think was very inspirational, rather what I believe was an oversight in the direction. Where the film went wrong was that it shot off into too many storylines, it really could have benefitted much more from something much more linear.
That being said, aviation, like many other careers, that were once incredibly sexist towards women, have improved considerably, and yet still seem to have a long way to go. There was absolutely no reason, for instance, that a woman could not compete in the national aerobatic championship, because, as Patty Wagstaff said, the aircraft doesn’t know your gender. This quote really stuck with me, and made me think of the struggles women face everyday, in every field, and in daily life.
Even in today’s progressive world, women who work in any sort of male dominated field are still seen as a fluke or an accident with their talents and achievements being downplayed. Everything a woman does is scrutinised; but when we can look to the strength of women like the ones seen in this film, it shines a light on hope. I was encouraged that we as women can fight to be everything we want and are created to be without feeling like we have to dumb ourselves down or not pursue our dreams just because someone else is uncomfortable with them. We must fight another day, support each other, and keep marching forward.
We hope you're enjoying BRWC. You should check us out on our social channels, subscribe to our newsletter, and tell your friends. BRWC is short for battleroyalewithcheese.