On MAKERS: The Women’s Rights Movement is Alive and Kicking

Last night, PBS aired a mostly wonderful show entitled MAKERS: Women Who Make America.

The description from the PBS site of the show:

MAKERS: Women Who Make America tells the remarkable story of the most sweeping social revolution in American history, as women have asserted their rights to a full and fair share of political power, economic opportunity, and personal autonomy. It’s a revolution that has unfolded in public and private, in courts and Congress, in the boardroom and the bedroom, changing not only what the world expects from women, but what women expect from themselves. MAKERS brings this story to life with priceless archival treasures and poignant, often funny interviews with those who led the fight, those who opposed it, and those first generations to benefit from its success. Trailblazing women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey share their memories, as do countless women who challenged the status quo in industries from coal-mining to medicine. Makers captures with music, humor, and the voices of the women who lived through these turbulent times the dizzying joy, aching frustration and ultimate triumph of a movement that turned America upside-down.

It is remarkable how women were treated unfairly and denied civil rights.

It is remarkable that so many women fought back and tried to gain these rights.

Wait—I just said “tried.”  Why the past tense?

We (women) still don’t have the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), as even Justice Scalia noted two years ago. Many people were outraged by his comments, but as a feminist activist, I was almost thankful he pointed out that women don’t have equal rights under the Constitution. (Having taught Philosophy of Law, I am no fan of Scalia’s Constitutional interpretations, but I sadly must agree with him on this issue. Sadly because I believe it to be true.)

We (women and men who believe in equality) are still FIGHTING to get the ERA ratified. You wouldn’t know it from the third part of the MAKERS series aired last night, however. For someone like me, involved in women’s liberation and NOW, it was nothing new yet something I think the general, non-feminist—identifying public was unaware of. This is good.

But the women’s rights movement hasn’t stopped. The third section of MAKERS spread the message that “women are fighting for these rights on their own.” There was no me mention that NOW and Women’s Liberation, along with others, are still fighting for seemingly basic human rights.

No doubt women have been empowered to expect to be treated as human beings by our sisters who fought so hard!

But we aren’t all fighting this on our own. The women’s rights movement remains active. (Why else would the terms “feminazi”, “femistasi”, bitch, whore, slut, cunt, etc are still “acceptable” criticism that is tossed our ways for speaking up? Or even taking up space? The Seth MacFarlane debacle? Affirmative Action? Etc)

You wouldn’t know from the way it was presented in MAKERS that it’s still very much an active movement.

And for many women, this is a constant battle. Fair pay? We haven’t achieved that yet. Paid parental leave? (Which again, benefits both genders. In fact, most of the feminist movement has benefited both genders.) Got equality?

My main impression of MAKERS, condensed, is:

“MAKERS” was fun (“Oh, I know her!”) [and yes, I do know some of the women who appeared on the show], not really new to me (thanks feminist friends for the education and CRs!) but also depressing.

Lots of work to give women basic civil rights has been done. Thank you to those who made my life easier.

But watching “MAKERS”, I couldn’t help but be painfully reminded that many gains for equality have been or is being eroded. We still don’t have the ERA (WHY?), victims of sexual assault are still put on trial (not the extent it was, but some cases are scarily close to the woman’s lifestyle being on trial), and lots of folks still think “sexual harassment” means a woman just can’t take a joke. There were women of color, but not enough.  It was frustrating to see not see third wave feminism mentioned at all and instead told that “women are doing it themselves” (and that somehow, fighting alone is acceptable). or that we take those before us for granted.

*I* don’t take this for granted, and I can only speak from my own experiences, but in general, I think feminists are aware of the injustices that happened before our time–and the injustices happening now….well, we, as feminists, are very much at risk of losing rights we have now with no Constitutional protections.

There were women of color in MOVERS, but it wasn’t enough for 2013. (Where was Loretta Ross and her lifelong activism?)

Despite my own criticism, I would recommend it with caution. It was a good, honest history…up until what, 1986?

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