'Mrs. America' Is a Chillingly Relevant Look Into the History of Feminism:In an ideal world, nothing about Mrs. America would feel similar to living in America today. Instead, every detail from white feminism’s struggles with intersectionality to the fact that the Equal Rights Amendment still hasn’t passed rings hauntingly true.
Mrs. America isn’t the story about the feminist movement overcoming patriarchy. It’s the chilling tale of how we started fighting the same battles we’re still struggling within 2020.
Surprising:Surprisingly this miniseries tackles its chillingly relevant focus through the eyes of the feminist movement’s one-woman rival, Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett). When the ERA was first proposed it was a little opposed piece of legislation that seemed destined to be ratified. Then Phyllis Schlafly stepped in. Initially, Schlafly didn’t care about the ERA until she became convinced that equalizing the rights of men and women would weaken the U.S. military during a draft.
By banding together groups of conservative housewives and mothers through her newsletters, Schlafly turned a surefire piece of legislation into a battle that’s still being fought. It’s difficult to look at Mrs. America‘s portrayal of the often extremist, conservative author and not see the beginnings of the modern Republican party.
It should come as no shock that the accomplished Blanchett excels at the role. Blanchett deftly navigates between Schlafly’s two extremes, channeling her affected, over-the-top accent and mugging for the cameras before slipping into a somber frown during her more private moments.
As much as Blanchett’s take on Schlafly assures her supporters and detractors alike that she’s treated equally, she’s not. Her husband Fred (John Slattery) routinely brushes off her achievements and opinions, and while his colleagues allow her into the room, they routinely subject her to taking notes.
Even when posing with a smile under these mistreatments, Blanchett infuses Schlafly with an unspoken fury. That fury that is then channeled into every speech and protest baking spree against the ERA.
But as much as Blanchett’s rich and connected Schlafly embodies the hypocritical everyman pathos of politics today, it’s the examination of the feminist movement’s stumbles that resonates the most.
Trotting Out The Big Names Of The Movement;Mrs. America wastes no time trotting out the big names of the movement, all played by some of the biggest names in the industry — Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem, Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan, Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm, Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug, Elizabeth Banks as Jill Ruckelshaus. Yet as opposed to the apron-clad militaristic force of Schlafly and her supporters, the feminists routinely come off as disorganized and borderline self-sabotaging.
Often that disorganization comes from a good place.
One of the greatest strengths of the feminist movement has long been its embrace of debate and discourse in addition to welcoming a diverse array of supporters. But as the series progresses Mrs. America wisely shows the struggles of competing with an agenda as single-minded as Schlafly’s takedown of the ERA.
As the movement’s leaders decide to mirror their rival’s strategy and sideline issues like pressing for racial or sexual equality, the platform weakens. The feminist movement becomes better recognized as the white feminist movement; while groups of its former allies turn into its detractors. That stigma against intersectionality is still a major criticism today.
During its most thrilling moments, Mrs. America turns the proposed ratification of the ERA into an unrelenting war between two groups of women, and Dahvi Waller’s miniseries remind us that 60 years later nothing much has changed. We may be tweeting instead of shouting, but we’re still fighting the same battle for equal rights; and, most disturbingly, we’re still making the same mistakes.