Documentary Review: ASK DR. Ruth

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Ryan White’s Ask Dr. Ruth is a thoroughly charming and entertaining biodoc about Dr. Ruth Westheimer, America’s famously beloved sex therapist. She has been a public figure for decades, but her personal story is actually full of surprises.

To wit, you may think you know Dr. Ruth intimately from her candidly specific and remarkably graphic public discussions — widely broadcast on radio and television, often despite the media’s taboos — of every aspect of human sexuality, but Dr. Ruth’s personal story is filled with hardship and this enlightening documentary reveals that her life’s journey has not only been difficult, but that she has, in fact, overcome enormous adversity without giving in to or being deterred by despair.

Dr. Ruth’s harrowing life challenges began when she was a child of just ten years old, born of Jewish parents who sent her on a kindertransport from Germany to Switzerland to keep her safe from the Nazi persecution of Jews, the historical atrocity of which they soon became victims. In Switzerland, Ruth managed to educate herself despite sexual discrimination that would keep girls in the kitchen and on housekeeping squads. Seeking a better life, Ruth emigrated to Israel where she served as a highly rated sniper in the Israeli army. She became a single mom and worked through the difficulties of raising a family on her own. Eventually she emigrated to the United States, where she completed her studies as a therapist, became an educator and outspoken advocate for women’s reproductive rights. She was always an energetic advocate for women’s rights, a stance that singled her out and eventually lead to her broadcast career as a sex therapist with a huge and loyal following.

White’s documentary chronicle’s Dr. Ruth’s remarkable life, covering the adversity she faced and showing the unflinching spirit that she drew upon to lift her out of the despairing experiences in her life. She has an extraordinarily positive spirit and done remarkably well in sharing it with countless followers who look to her for inspiration in not only sexual matters, but in all aspects of life.

As Ryan White’s compelling biodoc reveals, Dr. Ruth, now in her 90s is still going strong. She is an indomitable spirit and a true inspiration to us all. Put Ask Dr. Ruth on your list of must see films — along with RBG (about Ruth Bader Ginsburg), Gloria: In Her Own Words about Gloria Steinem and Maya Angelou And Still I Rise — for feminist inspiration.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ask Dr. Ruth is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for May 24, 2019

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