Day: March 5, 2008

Congratulations, Hillary Clinton, you did it! (and a fab retro-feminist movie about Defiance, Ohio!)


I watched this the other night and I thought about the films lately that have really great roles for actresses.  This is one of those sleeper films, not exactly a “chic-flick” but more like “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” that really explains women’s issues, except this time in the era of the early 60’s.

So, when I looked at Hillary Clinton’s graduating class picture from Wellesley it was 1967.  Just a few short years after the early 60’s era depicted in this film above.  In those days women had so few choices, and this is what the feminist movement was all about.  To get them more choice…and “gender equality.”

If you watch it you’ll see a really sensitive portrayal of a wife and mother who is trapped, yet finds a way to survive financially by writing jingles for ads and winning contests.   Her daughter “Tuff” ends up being the writer and this is a true story.  They did a really beautiful job on this film adapting it as a screenplay.  It speaks to women’s issues but not in a way that is overbearing and you can learn so much about Second Wave feminism just by watching it.

My mother was the first woman to ever work in my family.  She started in the late 50’s in the fashion industry and she was a model at first.  Women chose jobs then in fashion because it was very glam compared to the other professions that were available to them.  Very few went to college, and even if they did, mostly it was to meet Mr. Right and get married.  It’s so different now, and that is why a younger generation is probably having a hard time with this election understanding why so many have voted for Hillary Clinton.

It’s epic, that she as a woman is in line for the Presidency of the United States.  Epic.

Watching this film, I thought about my mother’s era.  She wanted to work, and she married and divorced twice.  We ate in restaurants almost every day, because she hated to cook.  So, my mom was really different than the norm of the time.  There is a scene in the film where the daughter “Tuff” is told that “she can be anything she wants” — and so, I think so many women of this era grew up with that as a mantra.  Striving for more has never been easy for women.  But the early feminists of this era were a really strong group and they paved the way for the girls coming up behind them.

I’ve been working on a book about this era, myself, because I don’t think the experience of growing up at the tail end of the baby boom Second Wave has been explored yet, and it’s possible that it’s a piece of history that needs filling in as memoir.

I really understood my mother’s revolt against her own mother when I saw the film “Mona Lisa Smile.”  She had no intention of wearing pearls and a cashmere twinset or a dirndl skirt and marrying the man her mother had picked out for her.

There was a great op-ed on the baby boom recently in the LA Times,1,4165712.column

which I think helps to explain  the demographic splits in this election.  It’s a hugely divided group, socioculturally.  At the upper end are people who came of age during the 60’s and at the lower end the early 80’s.  Just that 20 year difference saw massive, massive shifts in the social landscape and emotional landscape of American culture.  Most of them were able to go to school for the first time, especially women.  They wanted to work and gain identity that way, rather than just being housewives, like their own mothers had been.

My mother always told me about how my grandmother had given up all her “own” dreams.

But that was also part of her generation of women.  When you start at look at the changes made in just 100 years, the way the world has changed for all women, it’s incredible.  From 1908 until 2008.  It’s a blink of an eye against all of history and yet?

Well, we just saw it last night, as feminists.  From the 60’s till now.  From the era of that great film above, till now.  And there stands Hillary Clinton.  Why is it important that a woman be given the chance to be President?  Because she will pave the way for others after her.

There’s this great scene in that film where they show a clip from an old Miss America pageant and ironically the question is “would you vote for a woman to be president.”

Of course, in the 60’s, no woman would have ever dreamed it possible, and you should have heard the answer — (it was a sly touch on the part of the filmmaker, and totally great).

I don’t think it could have come true here during the 80’s either.

But now?  It can come true.  It can really come true.

It’s hard to imagine all the different states across these vast United States.  Each state has its own special regionalism.  I imagine that in some places things might still look like this film.  Someplace there is a woman struggling to feed a huge family and devising ways to make ends meet.  Anyway, if you rent that fab film you’re going to understand part of the feminist movement that grew up out of the 60’s and resulted in Hillary standing where she is today.  You can also learn a lot more about her life in the wikipedia

It’s an amazing morning for the feminists here in California.  Amazing, to see this happen in our lifetimes!  Take a bow, Hillary Clinton.  Take a very big bow.  It’s for all of us females, really.

Here is a place to read about “Tuff,” and her book, “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.”