I made it through the first two-thirds of Makers: Women Who Make America before falling asleep on the couch last night when it premiered on PBS, and it was SO GOOD, in my totally biased opinion. (Listen, it was a super long day for me and I had a glass of wine – only the strongest among us could stay awake for all three hours under those conditions. It was still SO GOOD.) You can watch it on their website linked above and I’m sure it’ll be on repeat on PBS throughout Women’s History Month this March.
Being a PBS production, this documentary clearly had resources and connections. Almost everyone was in this! (Except most noticeably, to me, was the complete absence or mention of Angela Davis and Audre Lorde.) I appreciated the variety of women featured, everyone from Aileen Hernandez, second president of NOW, representing the kick off of the feminist movement, to Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, leading the movement today. It balanced inspiring stories of women’s movement successes with acknowledgement of shortfalls like the exclusion of various demographics of women, namely women of color, queer women and poor women – no small part of America’s population of women to be sure. It also gave countermovements air time. Overall, it was thorough, balanced and engaging. Totally worth a watch or two or three.
I learned a lot of history watching this. Did you know that Betty Friedan referred to lesbians who tried to be part of the feminist movement as the “lavender menace”? She meant it in a derogatory way, but that is a name to be reclaimed if I ever heard one. Have you ever heard the one about when the press would push back on the feminist movement during demonstrations and ask, “are you going to be ladies today?” that they would respond deftly, “well we are women, so we’re going to act like women.” (This was before current feminism’s reclaiming of the term lady with a sense of irony, which I personally support. But I still love the sentiment of the women demonstrators response.) Did you know that the first black congresswoman, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, publicly declared that she believes she felt more discrimination as a woman than as a person of color? The documentary attributes this as a turning point for the inclusion of women of color into the feminist movement. These and so many more things were new knowledge or details for me.
So much knowledge in this documentary! So many inspiring stories! But still balanced by acknowledgment of shortfalls and countermovements! What a great way to start of our month of celebrating American ladies with Women’s History Month.
I’ll watch it a second time with you if you bring the wine. I’ll even make some popcorn.