Review of MAKERS Documentary Part II: Changing the World
The second part of “MAKERS” is a tough watch that taught me a lot about how the state of women got to be where it is today.
Summary of MAKERS: Women Who Make America Part II: Changing the World
The film starts in the 1970’s with the women’s rights movement spreading to universities, homes, and every part of society. Single female main characters began showing up on tv like in the Mary Tyler Moore show.
Women started to make strides in sports too. A nationally televised tennis competition called “Battle of the Sexes” pitted Bobby Riggs against Billy Jean King, who had started the first women’s tennis circuit. You’re going to have to watch to see what happened next!
Couples re-evaluated their relationship roles, and the divorce rate skyrocketed in the 70′s. The birth control pill came to the American market and the sexual revolution began.
Women still didn’t have control over their bodies however, and abortion was still illegal. Then and now, 1 in 3 women have needed an abortion, and not everyone was wealthy enough to go to other countries. 5,000 women a year were dying from complications from illegal abortions.
A high profile abortion controversy in 1962 brought the conversation of legalizing abortion to the American public. A white, married, tv personality, and mother of 4 took anti-nausea pills while pregnant, not knowing they contained Thalidomide which causes severe birth defects. She speaks in the documentary about calling national attention to her situation to prevent similar tragedies from happening. Unfortunately she lost her job, had to be guarded by the FBI, and fly to Sweden to have a legal abortion. This event began to change opinion and start the reform of abortion laws.
As women were gaining ground in the women’s rights movement, there were many laws that still legalized gender discrimination. For example in some states women couldn’t serve on juries, or apply to colleges, or get a credit card without their husband’s signature. So women decided to fight these discriminatory laws.
Enter Ruth Bader Ginsburg. After graduating from Harvard and Columbia law schools, she couldn’t get a job in a law firm because she was female. She was hired by the ACLU and brought a series of cases that highlighted gender discrimination including 6 in front of the Supreme Court. As you probably know, she is now a Supreme Court Justice and still fighting for women’s rights. Pretty awesome lady you should research if you want to know more.
Women had one more tactic besides fighting current laws: be sure such laws are never created. Female politicians started winning office in the 70’s more than in any other time in history.
Title IX was passed which created women’s sports teams in universities but it also allowed for women to be admitted to law and medical schools. Law schools and medical schools were allowed to set quotas for admitting women, but not after Title IX! Medical school enrollment for women jumped from 5% to 30% in 1972.
Feminists got their greatest opportunity for their rights, in Roe v. Wade. A young female lawyer, who had also had resistance in finding a job after getting her J.D. argued the case before the Supreme Court. At 27, Sarah Weddington is the youngest person to ever present a case to the Supreme Court. In January of 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy.
Feminists, feeling the momentum from Roe v. Wade decided to push for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Only 24 words long, and first proposed in 1923, the ERA had a few unsuccessful attempts at passing in Congress. The film mentions the ERA would be a blanket amendment to make discriminatory laws unconstitutional. I looked it up and here is what the ERA would be:
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Scary I know right?
In 1972 the ERA was passed by both houses of Congress and then went to states for ratification, for a window of 7 years. The ERA was passed in 35 states.
Then the film, or I should say history, gets downright depressing.
The ERA was not passed. Why? Because of women. A woman named Phyllis Schlafly created the Stop ERA movement based on extremely conservative, and religious principles and used fear tactics to gain followers. The ERA doesn’t mention sexual orientation but lesbians were supported by the pro-ERA movement. And, you guessed it, Schlafly is homophobic and rallied similarly-minded people behind her. The film also showed Stop ERA women who said they were anti-choice so it seems the Stop ERA movement also brought in reproductive rights as a reason to not support the ERA…which doesn’t mention abortion…Things got pretty nasty, but I would credit Schlafly for being the grandmother of the Tea Party movement. Fives states actually went so far as to rescind the ERA.
After the ERA died, Regan was elected president and the political climate swung conservative. The reproductive rights movement turned violent with Planned Parenthood clinics being bombed. The conservative strategy knew it couldn’t overturn Roe v. Wade outright, and instead it was (and continues to be) chipped away at the state level.
To be continued in Part 3….
Women who appeared in Part 2
Hillary Clinton – former Secretary of State
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – Supreme Court Justice
Judy Blume – author
Sarah Weddington – lawyer
Pratricia Schroeder – former Colorado state representative and first woman elected to Congress from Colorado
Sandra Day O’Conner – former Supreme Court Justice
Meg Whitman – CEO of HP
So that’s what the ERA is…
It’s almost too much to process, and ridiculous I didn’t know any of this before. I feel like my generation has no idea what our mothers and grandmothers had to do to get basic rights. Rights that are still being attacked.
Over the course of Part II I felt excited, then shocked, then pretty depressed. And embarrassed. I can’t believe women fought against their own rights. I can’t believe they were scared women would have to serve in the draft (no longer an issue) or that lesbians would be treated just like anyone else (gay rights are now finally getting recognized). At least I can say I believe the ERA would pass in today’s political climate and I hope Phyllis Schlafly is seeing the progress women have made.
I don’t know if the ERA will ever be passed though. I’m just glad we are finally passing sexual orientation civil rights laws.
Current women’s rights news!
- There are currently 20 female Senators, 9 of them lead committees which is a record high. Read how having only 2 female bathrooms near the Senate floor can be a good thing.
- The latest unconstitutional law attacking Roe v. Wade
- The most creative March Madness bracket I have seen: which state is the worst for women’s rights? Read about states most damaging to women and who the winner is. Is it Arkansas or North Dakota?
- And the best news I heard last week, Malala Yousafzai is going back to school! Malala is Pakistani 15 year old who became an activist for women’s educational rights when she began blogging in 7th grade about life under Taliban rule. If you haven’t heard already, in October 2012 Malala was shot in the head in an assassination attempt by the Taliban, in her school bus. She is also the youngest nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. I hope for a full recovery and her continued safety.
Watch the Makers Documentary here.
Let me know what your reactions are!