In theory, feminism is an easy concept to understand and an even easier cause to get involved in. But for any number of reasons, some women see feminism as the enemy.
The new series, Mrs. America premiered last month on Hulu. Set in the 1970’s, it follows the battle for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). It seems that ratification is on the horizon. Writer/activist Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), Representatives Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) and Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), and journalist Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) are four of the women who are the faces of the feminist movement. Their goal is to see the ERA enshrined as constitutional law. Standing in their way is Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett), a conservative activist and lawyer who will move political h*ll and high water to prevent the ERA from being ratified.
I’ve seen eight of the nine released episodes and I am hooked. The main thing that strikes me is that the issues that these women were fighting for fifty years ago are the same issues we are fighting for now. If nothing else, this series reminds me how far we have come and how far we need to go before American women are truly equal.
It also humanizes the characters, especially the ones that are based on real women. We see them as giants and icons, not as human beings who were as fallible as anyone walking down the street. That humanization also stretches to the women who were against the ERA.
From the liberal perspective, it would be easy to label them as right wing nut jobs who are siding with the patriarchy. But in this series, they are portrayed as women who are scared. From the time they were born, they were told that the ideal life is to marry, have children and maintain a home. When the second wave of feminism began to affect the culture in the 1960’s and 1970’s, it felt like the rug was pulled out from beneath their feet. I absolutely do not agree with their political or cultural perspective. However, I understand the feeling of not knowing what to do when you are told that everything you know and love is wrong.
I absolutely recommend it. I would also not be surprised if this series did very well come award season.
The final episode of Mrs. America premieres Wednesday on Hulu.
There is an old saying: a house divided cannot stand.
A political movement whose ultimate goal is equality cannot last when hate worms its way into the movement.
Theresa Shook is one of the founders and leaders of Women’s March, the face of the modern feminist movement. She has called on her co-founders to step down due after accusations of antisemitism and anti-gay sentiments were made known to the public.
To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. If we are marching and protesting to ensure equality for one group of people, we must do the same for all. We cannot say one thing in private and say something else in public. We cannot demand equal rights for all women in public and in private make antisemitic and anti-gay remarks in the private.
In case these women forgot, this generations feminists did not just become feminists out of thin air. We stand on the shoulders of Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. All three of these women are not just icons of the second wave of feminism, but Jewish as well. The fact that antisemitism has infected Women’s March spits on these women who paved the way for us to fight for our rights.
When we have true equality, it will happen when we work together, not when we denigrate one another because of religion or sexuality.
Ratified in 1971 by Congress, the idea of the Women’s Equality Day was started by the late, great Bella Abzug.
American women and women around the world have come very far, compared to where we were only two generations ago.
But the fight must continue. For every battle we have won, there are many more that must be won. There are still parts of the world where women are second class citizens who are denied the right to vote, to work, to marry whom they want to, etc.
Thanks Bella, wherever you are. You got the ball rolling, it is up to us to keep it rolling.
Bella Abzug is a political and feminist icon. Not just among her New York City constituents whom she represented in the 1970’s, but the world over. Bella was a true politician, unlike many of those who are in the government today. She meant what she said and said what she meant. She stood behind her convictions, even if they made her unpopular.
The 2008 biography by Suzanne Braun Levine and Mary Thom, Bella Abzug: How One Tough Broad from the Bronx Fought Jim Crow and Joe McCarthy, Pissed Off Jimmy Carter, Battled for the Rights of Women and … Planet, and Shook Up Politics Along the Way, is not the standard biography.
Born in 1920 to Russian Jewish immigrants, Bella Abzug (nee Savitsky) was a born fighter. Her first brush with feminism when was her father died when she was a young girl. Traditional Judaism dictates that a son should say kaddish (prayers for mourning) for his father. But Bella, the youngest of two girls, had no brothers. So she said kaddish for her father.
Most biographies have a typical cut and dry style. The person profiled was born on this date, accomplished x,y and z during their lifetime and died on this date. But not this biography. What I enjoy about this book is that instead of being just another impersonal and historical biography, is the interviews. Not just with the subject herself, but with the those who knew her best. Her family, her friends, her colleagues. I feel like, as a reader, that even though I never met her, that I knew who she was, as a human being, warts and all.