It plays Cate Blanchett and Rose Byrne in a glossy, big-budget TV account from 1970s feminist history, but a key player who was there, Gloria Steinem, shows: it’s ridiculous, subversive and just not very good, she said Friday.
Steinem, arguably the world’s most famous feminist, has revealed that she is not a fan of the new Hulu TV show Mrs America, which premiered in the US last month and will be coming to BBC2 in the UK later this year.
The show plays Byrne as Steinem and Blanchett as her right-hand man, Phyllis Schlafly, who is seen leading the fight against gender equality.
Steinem would make his first appearance at the Hay Festival this year. Now interrupted, she is one of the first interviewed for a re-created online version and talks to author Laura Bates on Friday about her new book, The Truth Will Free You, But First It Will Piss You Off!
Steinem asked for advice on how to deal with women who were not feminists and constant sexism.
They were, so Steinem. “But what is important to remember is that although women can be a problem for other women, they do not have the power to be the big problem. Women can be opponents, but we do not have the power to be our worst opponents.
“For example, there is now a not so good series called Mrs America and it gives you the impression that … Schlafly, who was a very religious and right-wing woman who opposed the change of equal rights … it gives you the impression that she was the reason it was defeated.
“In fact, I don̵
Schlafly was someone “brought in at the last minute” to make it look like women opposed equal rights when the truth was “the vast majority” always supported it, Steinem said.
“The series makes it appear that women are our own worst enemies, which prevents us from recognizing who our worst enemies are. Not because we are not in conflict, yes we are in conflict, but by and large we do not have the power to be our own worst enemies. “
Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, said the media often enters into debates with token women to create a “cat fight as a way to undermine feminist arguments”.
Steinem agreed. “That’s the problem with this ridiculous TV series. I’m sure the actors in it are good, that’s just the driving force of the story is the problem.”
Mrs America was created by the former Mad Men writer and producer Dahvi Waller, who has stressed that it is not a Schlafly or Steinem biopic. It also plays Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress; and Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan, the author of The Feminine Mystique.
Steinem, 86, talked about the importance of feminists of all ages working together. “Segregation by age is as ridiculous and devastating as segregation by race or class or gender or anything else. We learn from each other. We need each other. “
Bates said she still found girls in schools who felt they were a solitary feminist voice. “There are these girls everywhere who think they are the only ones who are on the verge of giving up and who feel completely defeated and paralyzed by their peers … they are called feminazis, they make fun of, they get ridiculous. “
What would Steinem’s message be to these girls?
“I would tell her … trust that voice in you and find a listener and a friendly voice somewhere. You may not find it in your classroom but there may be someone in your area, just someone you feel drawn to. Talk to that person … Trust your own wisdom. “