Good Girls Revolt: A look at gender bias in the 1970s newsroom

It’s been a while since I binge-watched a TV series.

There was the Buffy the Vampire Slayer renaissance, during which I relived my angsty, teenage years and realized where I got my tendency to go for the bad boy with a leather jacket and tattoos (I’m lookin’ at you Angel and Spike).

Following that was the Grey’s Anatomy obsession and I finally learned who McDreamy and McSteamy were (Team McSteamy).

And of course, the occasional Friends and Once Upon a Time relapses because, well, those episodes just never get old.

It has been a while, though, since a new show caught my attention and reached instant W.O.O. status (Worthy Of Obsession).

Enter Good Girls Revolt on Amazon Prime.

The real women revolting. From left: Pat Lynden, attorneys Mary Pleshette and Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Lucy Howard. Photo courtesy of American Public Media.

Inspired by the 46 women who filed the landmark lawsuit against Newsweek for gender discrimination in 1970 and based on the book of the same title by Lynn Povich (one of the 46), this show is good old fashion Girl Power to the max. The show revolves around the women of News of the Week magazine, the fictionalized portrayal of Newsweek. They are researchers, the backbone of the magazine, the workers behind the curtain to whom no one ever pays attention. Each researcher is assigned to a reporter and essentially do all the legwork on a story (sometimes even writing the rough draft, which their reporter will then just turn in with his name on it) while their reporters get all the credit. Despite all their talent, work and education (most of these women have Ivy league educations!), they will never rise above the position of researcher at News of the Week because “girls can’t be reporters.”

*pause for outraged grumbling*

Starring Anna Camp of Pitch Perfect (and apparently True Blood, but I never got into that show) fame, Genevieve Angelson and Erin Darke, this show picks up where Mad Men left off and it does so with some angry women finally saying enough is enough.

Here are my Five Reasons Why “Good Girls Revolt” is a W.O.O. series:

Camp and her leading ladies are acca-awesome. Camp, Angelson and Darke are ah-ma-zing. As a journalist myself, I immediately connected with Angelson’s character, Patti Robinson, one of the researchers who dreams of becoming a reporter in her own right. Her resistance of the conventional (especially marriage) and her drive to get the story (even after it’s been assigned to another reporter) make her an interesting and relatable character for any woman whose dreams extend beyond starting a family. Erin Darke plays Cindy Reston, a quiet mouse of a character in the pilot who goes on to be the major break-out character of the entire season (in my opinion). In the pilot episode, we learn about Cindy’s “deal” with her husband: She has one year to work while he finishes law school, but then she has to “get serious” and start a family. Cindy will resonate with any woman who has ever felt like she had to choose between a career or a family.

It discusses issues that are relevant to this day. Gender discrimination is just one issue the show discusses. Example: The 1960s and 70s gave rise to the Black Panthers following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and tensions are high between law enforcement and the black community as violent altercations escalate between the two groups. Patti and her reporter-slash-boyfriend-slash-ex-boyfriend Doug Rhodes (played by Hunter Parrish) are assigned a story that leads to the Black Panthers organization and Patti urges Doug to look at it from a different angle. As with gender bias, racial discrimination is an issue that continues today.

Nora Ephron. The iconic player in the feminist movement, author, journalist and director is played by Grace Gummer and acts as the catalyst to the idea that the women of News of the Week don’t have to accept the hand they’ve been dealt by the magazine by quitting after a very public confrontation with editor Wick McFadden, who tells her (and everyone listening) that women can’t write for the magazine. (History check: This is one area where the creators of the show took some artistic liberty. While Ephron did work for Newsweek, she was hired as a mail girl, not a researcher. She quit within a year after being offered a job at the New York Post. As a writer).

The return of Hunter Parrish. We watched him grow up in Weeds and now he’s back as a talented, ambitious reporter? Yes, please. Doug Rhodes is a reporter who is unafraid of tackling big stories with bigger players and can make even the most mundane part of investigative reporting (going line by line through not one but two budget reports to find discrepancies, for example) look sexy.

It’s inspiring. It blows my mind to see how far women have come since then. Little girls can dream of becoming anything they want to be. Young girls just out of college can choose to create their own paths in life instead of fretting over their ringless ring fingers. At the same time, however, not a whole lot has changed. Gender discrimination is still a very real issue, particularly in journalism. As advanced and open-minded as we’d like to think our society is, women still have a long road ahead of us before we are accepted, respected and compensated equal to our male counterparts in the professional world. Shows like Good Girls Revolt should serve to remind us of our past while inspiring us to continue to revolt for our future.

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