Sunday, September 29, 2013

Makers: Women Who Make America

I've been a lifelong PBS viewer, starting with Sesame Street when I was a kid. For those of you who don't know, PBS stands for Public Broadcasting Service and it is a non-profit public broadcaster based in the United States.  In 2011, a British pay-tv version of PBS, called PBS America, was created and I was thrilled when I found out that one of my favorite networks was coming to the UK. I've been able to pick back up with my loyal viewership now and that's enriched my television experience greatly.

Several days ago, I was pleasantly surprised to be contacted by PBS America and I was asked if I would give my take on their upcoming documentary series called Makers: Women Who Make America. I jumped at the chance to preview the series before it airs. So the series was sent to me and I really loved it!

Makers: Women Who Make America is narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep and it features such women as Gloria Steinem, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, and many more women from all walks of life. I love that even though it features many well-known women of our time, it also features women whose names we may not know, but they definitely have paved the way in the women's movement.

The series is broken down into three parts: "Awakening", "Changing The World", and "Charting A New Course". Each part highlights how the movement has changed over the decades.

Part 1: "Awakening" looks back at the 1950s and 1960s, in the postwar years when America began to emerge from its male-dominated comfort zone. Along with many other events during this time, it highlights the publication of the groundbreaking book The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. This book challenged the roles that women were forced into playing in society and it raised questions in women's minds about what they wanted out of life. Since this era was before my time, I can only look back in amazement that women were so marginalized during this time. I've learned about some of this, but the documentary really depicts the time period very well. I found out something that I didn't know as I watched this part of the series...the fact that there were separate classified ads for those seeking employment. Women were not allowed to apply for 'jobs for men' whether they were capable of doing them or not. That just floored me. I knew that discrimination was rife, but I never knew about this blatant segregation between the sexes in job ads even though I knew there was segregation by color. There is so much contained within the first part that I'm sure viewers will be amazed at all of the happenings of this era.

Part 2: "Changing The World" picks up the story from the early 1970s and explores how the feminist movement affected every corner of life. The influences were clear from popular culture to politics. During this section of the documentary we are shown the impact of events such as the "Battle of the Sexes", which was a tennis showdown between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Also the impact of the pill on women's lives is explored along with many other societal changes that occurred, such as Roe vs Wade and the Equal Rights Amendment.

When I watched this section of the documentary, I thought to myself that even though the 70s are a while ago now, they aren't that long ago. It is so incredible to think about how heavy of a price these women have paid for me and all of us women who came after them. They dealt with this stuff so that life would be a lot more equitable for us and I can't thank them enough.

The final episode, Part 3: "Charting A New Course" starts in the 1980s and shows how women were making their way into corporate boardrooms and areas not accessible to them a few years before. This section highlights the stories of Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Sally Ride, and Geraldine Ferraro in her time as the vice-presidential candidate. There are a wide selection of voices represented in this section as they were in the previous parts. Even though things were changing for women, there was still a mountain to climb for many of them as they fought for equity in pay and opportunities. There is so much to learn from the whole of the episode, but among many things, a quote from Maria Shriver stuck out to me. She said that her mother told her years ago that, "Life is a marathon". And what I took away from that is that the fight for equality is not something that you do and then wash your hands of it. This quote reminded me that we must live our lives every day and relish them whilst we keep doing the work that needs to be done.

All in all I truly enjoyed viewing this series. It was very informative and yet it wasn't so heavy that it took away from the viewing enjoyment. I would highly recommend that everyone watches this series, especially women and young girls because it can open the eyes so much. Even if you think you know a lot of this stuff, you may be surprised to find out things that you didn't know.

Here in the UK, Makers: Women Who Make America will premiere on Friday, 4th October and will be shown each Friday through 18th October at 9pm on PBS America, channel 534 on Sky and channel 243 on Virgin Media.

I hope that you'll watch and enjoy. If you do watch, please come back to this post and let me know your thoughts on the series.

*Photos courtesy of PBS America


Ellen Hawley said...

I'm 67, so I not only remember that job ads (and jobs) were segregated by sex, I started work in that world. And the craziest part of it is that we took it for granted. Even those of us who were, by the standards of the day, feminists, although that wasn't the word we used then. Glad you're writing about this.

Dori said...

It's so great to get your perspective. It was very educational for me to learn about the many layers of the whole movement through watching the film. Thank you for your input!