It’s not hard for me to see how I became so demanding about my basic equal rights as a woman. The movies and TV shows that my mother surrounded me with as I grew up speaks volumes about the woman she is and feminist beliefs she taught me.
My mother LOVES Mary Tyler Moore. Mary Tyler Moore (the show) was my mom’s favorite but the woman herself could do no wrong. I knew at a very young age that she was the first woman to wear pants on prime time television (one per episode until she started sneaking them in more often) on The Dick Van Dyke Show. I knew that the MTM logo I saw so many times on TV was her and I knew how much she dedicated of herself to (what was then known as) Juvenile Diabetes.
Carol Burnett constantly tugged her ear on our TV and I knew those Golden Girls before they were golden. I knew Bea Arthur as Maude was the first woman on prime time to get an abortion and started out by arguing with Archie. And I knew that when Betty White was Sue Ann Nivens to Mary Tyler Moore’s Mary Richards that she was waaay more like Blanche Devereaux than Rose Nylund.
Jane Curtain and Gilda Radner were hilarious and Goldie Hawn was a triumph. I saw her shake her groove thang on Laugh-In reruns and heard the term rape for the first time in a movie while watching Foul Play with my mom.
The movie 9 to 5 was watched every chance gotten. My best friend and I could quote that thing by the time we hit double digits and whenever I watch the movie with a new person I always share with them my mom’s favorite scene (the hospital scene and corpse escape).
If I had to take a guess, I’d say my mother’s favorite playwright is Neil Simon. When most people think of him, they think The Odd Couple (if they realize he wrote that). He’s written countless amazing plays and movies but my mother’s favorites have always been the ones starring Marsha Mason. Max Dugan Returns, The Goodbye Girl, Chapter Two. Neil Simon could write one hell of a strong woman. She was funny, strong, real, smart, silly, vulnerable and brave. She handled the shit life threw at her. And she always held her head up.
Gidget was on A LOT. The movies (although my mom only really liked the original) and the TV show. I knew both Sandra Dee and Sally Field as our favorite girl hero. I learned at an early age that it was okay to be smart and headstrong and stubborn. It was okay to try and do the things that the boys do. I learned that being myself was more important than fitting in and that a boy worth liking was one that liked me for me.
And no one, NO ONE, was on our TV screens when my mom was in charge of the remote more than Doris Day. And if you don’t think that Doris Day was a goddamn feminist then you haven’t ever seen one of her movies. She did everything. She had a career. She had a love life, even if she was single. She was smart. She had her own money. She was stubborn. She stood her ground. She said what she thought even if it took guts to do it. She wasn’t afraid to argue and she was damn good at it. And she did it during a time where that was even a bigger deal than it is today.
I got lucky. My parents taught me how to be a strong person. They taught me how to treat others and they taught me the values that I cherish today. The values that I write about a lot in this blog. My mom, though, she taught me how to be a feminist. She taught me what it meant to be a strong, independent woman. So it’s no surprise that when my high school did a production of Arsenic and Old Lace and they opened up male roles to females because the play was so male-heavy, I expressed how cool I thought that was. A male classmate of mine overheard and asked me if I was some kind of feminist. When I went home and told my mom about the conversation that night, know what she said?
“Did you tell him, ‘Yeah, why aren’t you?'”
I mean, how cool is my mom?