Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Makers: Women Who Make America
With a website called "The Makers of Things," which mine is, in case you hadn't figured that out from the blurred-together characters in the domain name, it would be a shame not to review the fantastic "Makers: Women Who Make America" documentary that premiered on PBS February 26th, 2013. If you missed it, you can still watch it at PBS.org or the film website.
"Makers" tells the story of the women's movement in the US from 1950 to today. It's about three hours long with three distinct parts that can be watched individually. The film is educational, inspirational, and entertaining. I loved the use of music from the times and the fashions from the 70s and 80s. But mostly I was very moved by the fight that my elders took on. I've encountered sexism, but in general, I was able to assume equal rights as my birthright, thanks to the work of the activists and trailblazers in the film.
The film tells a positive story, with a good arc. Right overcomes wrong. The underdogs fight adversity and come out ahead. One of the most interesting aspects of the show is the discussion near the end about young women today. Many young women don't want to be called "feminist" and the show does a good job of explaining why. It also introduces the audience to young activists and writers who embrace the term, though, including Amy Richards and Shelby Knox.
I like the fact that the film talks about the women's movement and class. It was interesting to learn that many working-class women and women of color weren't interested in the movement at the beginning. They felt that it focused on issues only relevant to wealthy and middle-class white women who felt stuck being homemakers, whereas the working-class women were already holding down jobs and raising families. The movement also didn't welcome lesbians at first. But by the late 1970s, lesbians, working-class women, and women of color had joined forces with millions of other women in what Diane English in the show calls, "The biggest social movement in the history of the planet earth."
My only criticism of the show (and it's not really a criticism but more of a "feature request") is that it should do a better job talking about women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). It should have mentioned not just Rosy the Riveter, but also the Digital Rosies (women who calculated ballistics trajectories on the ENIAC computer during World War II). It should have also mentioned Grace Murray Hopper, an American computer scientist and US Navy admiral who developed the first compiler in the 1950s and may have been the first person to use the term "debugging" in relation to computers, when an actual bug (a moth) caused problems for the Mark II computer at Harvard University.
When the "Makers" show got into recent times, it could have mentioned many women in STEM and computer science, although it was great, at a minimum, to see Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. The show makes it clear that women fought hard to get to the board room, and today belong any place where they can continue making the world a better place.
There's still much work to be done to ensure equal pay for women, to protect women's reproductive choices, and to inspire more women to speak up, but at least nobody calls me "Girl Friday" or pinches my butt, just because I can type fast. I can use my typing skills to write books, write software, configure networking devices, and blog.