TV

Mrs. America

The show smartly grasps that there will always be competing visions for the future of feminism.

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In 1983, radical feminist Gloria Steinem called conservative Phyllis Schlafly "an artificial creation of the fairness doctrine"—famous only because the media were legally forced to give both sides airtime. Barbs like these are common in Mrs. America, Hulu's nine-episode miniseries dramatizing Schlafly's 1970s struggle to stop the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), pushed by feminists such as Steinem and Betty Friedan.

Cate Blanchett's Schlafly looks the part of homemaker, but A-line dresses and coiffed hair are her crafty ruse. She's also a defense policy expert who has run for office several times. Instead of portraying anti-ERA women as unenlightened or duped by men, the work gives us a protagonist in Schlafly who can clearly hold her own intellectually. She can also be acerbic; to a woman who looks forward to "freedom" when her last child goes to college, she replies: "Motherhood is freedom, Jill."

Rose Byrne's Steinem is fiercely ideological, struggling with whether to work inside the political system or to support longshot outsiders. She's gentle, too, whimsically tapdancing alone in her apartment and comforting a stranger who opens up to her post-abortion.

The show grasps that there will always be competing visions for the future of feminism. It digs into Schlafly's coalition-building between Southern evangelicals and Northern Catholics, and it shows us the inadvertent exclusion of black feminists at Steinem's Ms. magazine. No leader in either movement is presented without fault. The writers give both Schlafly and Steinem space to be troubled by their own contradictions and failings.

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  3. That was the era I grew up in, and I was raised in a conservative household in a conservative area. And I STILL don’t understand the opposition to the ERA. My guess is that it was just plain old tribalism. Nothing in the amendment was controversial at all, only the people pushing it.

    We have everything the ERA promised today. With zero chance of ever going back. Yet their is a tiny segment of the Left still pushing for it. It must be the symbolism.

    1. It was fought because it wasn’t necessary. Many conservatives at the time likely opposed it (at least the most rank and file conservatives) because of the people pushing it. Kind of why many conservatives opposed marijuana legalization. It was the domain of dirty hippies.

      But on its merits, it was an entirely unnecessary amendment, as time has proven. And if it HAD been ratified, by the results I’m seeing from The Long March On the Institutions, it would now be considered highly problematic– by the very political spectrum that wanted it.

      Always remember, less is more.

    2. You mean how like the left is continuously fighting the battles of the 60s as it concerns everything? And what’s worse is they’ve branched out to fight the civil war all over again.

      For a group of people allegedly interested in progress, they sure are concerned with continuing battles that were won decades ago. The only capital they have is in acting as if the past 60+ years didn’t happen.

    3. Per (likely revisionist) history I’ve read, at issue was the ERA would have likely end special cutouts given to women (alimony, custody of children, etc.).

      Being equal to men would be a step below their current status.

      Especially given the Viet Nam War was in full swing at the time, questions about conscription were more than a MRA talking point.

      As is, I see little movement from feminist organizations to force the issue. Passing the ERA would end things like VAWA and that would be a travesty if women weren’t given special consideration in law.

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  4. The show grasps that there will always be competing visions for the future of feminism.

    What future? Feminism should have faded on the beach 25 years ago before the fourth wave even started to curl. Instead we have incessant bitching about free birth control and secretaries make less than NBA centers while ignoring the gross disparity favoring women in college, casualties of war, on the job deaths and incarceration.

  5. She can also be acerbic; to a woman who looks forward to “freedom” when her last child goes to college, she replies: “Motherhood is freedom, Jill.”

    Camille Paglia once noted that one of the great blindspots of modern feminism was that it never addressed motherhood. She noted that all of her own feminist heroes were childless to a one.

    1. Yeah, but she’s just a product of the patriarchy, so….

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  7. The ERA was in large part “ratified” by the culture and the courts, to the extent that many people who might have supported the amendment thought it was unnecessary.

    So while the text of the Constitution remains free of this particular blemish, that’s largely because the work of revolution has been to a great extent accomplished extra-constitutionally.

    I suppose the final frontier of “justice” would be women in combat and (connected with it) a female draft. [Oh, no, we’re a libertarian country which would never draft *anyone!* – mandatory disclaimer]

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