Monday, November 7, 2016

The Good Girls Revolt and Win, 1970's and Deviled Crab

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 9 months since I wrote here. In that time, I’ve written 2 magazine articles (one on harisa and another on making calvados), and spent 6 months on a show with a crew that has become a tough, resilient if battle-scarred art department family.

Oh, and I got an Emmy nomination for my show (but not a win – this time).

Our show is about famous crimes and this year the stories covered a lot of territory –– from 1911 to 1970, California to New York and everywhere in between. One of the recurring themes of the show is that of a woman judged as uppity because of her competence and intelligence and the consequences of these perceptions for her as victim or killer. Punished for being uppity? This is a theme that is playing out in our politics today, isn’t it?

      Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin

After the show was over, one of the first things I did was indulge in some serious binge watching since it had been months since I’d had time to just relax and watch something. First I jumped into Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom as an antidote to the viciously caustic election cycle we are being subjected to against all reason. The choice wasn’t a surprise --Sorkin has provided comfort for me before. During the 2000 campaign I took refuge in looping a DVD of Sorkin’s film American President and watching his TV show West Wing (these were pre-binge times so I had to watch West Wing in once-a-week gulps). The brilliance, honor and bravery of the characters made the pettiness of the real political climate a little easier to swallow. Palliative care to be sure but it got me through the recount.

2016 creative team for The Good Girls Revolt with original women from the 1970 Newsweek suit

When I’d run through 3 seasons of Newsroom, I moved on to a new show on Amazon. I’d heard about it because it was a period piece and I love the show’s designer, Jeanine Oppewall (who’s done gorgeous period work in shows like Catch Me If You Can and LA Confidential).

The original 1970 press conference demanding equal treatment for women writers

It’s the story of a group of women who fought to get reporter status when their glass ceiling stopped at researcher-class even though their contributions were often far above their lowly rank and diminutive pay grade(usually a 1/3 of similarly experienced men). They were being discriminated against and not allowed promotions to reporter positions let alone editor status.  I was having trouble getting back to writing again but this show inspired me to write this very personal post.

The women of Good Girls Revolt

Considering the aforementioned feminine leitmotif that ran through my own show, The Good Girls Revolt was an easy sell for me with a theme that resonates with many working women. Remember the line about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, “Sure he was great, but don't forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, ...backwards and in high heels.” ? That’s how many women have felt in their careers. You can’t just be as good as your male counterparts –– you have to be better, with an appealing appearance and personality and non-threatening to your male colleagues (and voters it seems). Mad Men-vintage rules are still rigging the game in 2016. This is where the two worlds collide.

Isn't it shocking that Hillary is still enduring the slings and arrows of being a smart girl in a man’s world 46 years later? The theme couldn’t be more timely today if it tried. We’ve come a long way but the vestigial misogyny still lurks. Female swift-boating, as Gloria Steinham noted so well, is front and center this election. How else do you go from 12 years as "most admired woman in the world' to ‘lock her up’ without a whole lot of mudslinging?

When the integrity of our elections has been compromised by the Russian’s hacking and the male candidate is facing a fraud charge, is being investigated for tax evasion for a failed condo scheme in Mexico and his sketchy Trump charity as well as sexual assault and possible rape yet we obsess over Hillary’s emails like she committed multiple murders (NPR’s This American Life  has a pretty remarkable piece on the insanely antiquated computer system of our State Department and the equally remarkable incompetence of her staff’s work-around – it proved most enlightening. Hillary doesn’t know how to use a desk-top computer and operates on ancient Blackberrys that her staff has to frequently replace from Ebay since they aren't made anymore). You should be reprimanded for being a Luddite but not imprisoned. It beggars the imagination the way this woman has been held to an impossible standard so every misstep is high treason.

The whole world is watching on in horror as this comes down to the wire. Saturday Night Live lampooned the email scandal with Alec Baldwin kissing Putin, KKK and an FBI agent and the moderator wouldn't pay attention because "emails".  Author Salmon Rushdie pronounced “So, to recap. Trump will go on trial in November accused of racketeering, and again in December accused of child rape. He is a sexual predator, hasn't released his tax returns, and has used his foundation's money to pay his legal fees. He has abused the family of a war hero and… oh, but let's talk about some emails Hillary didn't send from someone else's computer, that weren't a crime anyway, because that's how to choose a president. Come on, America. Focus.”

One candidate is flawed and the other is a batsh*t crazy baby-man with a tissue-thin skin. Time to stop with false equivalency. Being a strong woman candidate doesn’t even the negative playing field or compare with her opponent’s outright racism and misogyny. The lying and misinformation that has deviled Clinton since she first challenged the male fortress of congress with her healthcare plan in the 90s beggars belief. It wasn’t perfect but rather than joining together to fix what was wrong and compromise on what was right to accomplish something grand and good they burned her at the stake for being an uppity who didn't know her place.  It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people might have survived had her 1990s healthcare bill gone through (20-40,000 people a year die for lack of or inadequate healthcare and half a million are bankrupted by medical bills - Michael Moore in Trumpland explains this pretty well).

That more women don’t identify with and stand up for her is hard to swallow. At least check into a few news sources on these wild accusations and triangulate to form an opinion. On both the left and the right there is an evil noise machine of lies and half-truths that preys on the under-informed voter. Try the crazy theories out at Scopes or Politico before you accept or regurgitate them. There’s even a Russian misinformation army out there spewing crazy ideas – this has gotten surreal (look it up – not a left wing invention)

I for one celebrate the woman of 70's who made it possible for me to do what I do. Women need to stand up for women and at least give them the benefit of the doubt before you vote against them. We are more civilized than the guys, aren’t we ladies?

Personally, after nearly 300 years it’s time for woman at the helm of the good ship USA*.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s side-kick says these are tough times and a woman isn’t strong enough to handle the issues. I guess Rudy hasn’t done his homework. Do you know who 2 of England’s most powerful leaders were –– who led England through the most exciting expansive times in the nation's long history? Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria. I bet Giuliani doesn't remember Elizabeth’s famous speech to the troops in 1588, where she walked without her guard to address the assembled masses:

“My loving people

We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit our selves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear. I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust.

I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field….”

Women can do anything men can do – in heels and backwards if necessary. Time to let us try, don’t you think? We can roar.

*PS.  We lost.  this time.  Our time will come.

this picture is from Better Homes and Gardens

To help you as you sit down and contemplate the changes that are on the horizon, here’s a thoroughly Mad Men dish that is terribly good. To get you through election day, try some Deviled Crab. The recipe comes from my old favorite Time-Life Series from the 1960s Foods of the World (American Cooking volume). The dish was so popular, there was even a dish for them. 

They were a favorite of my mom for her bridge parties. She used regular grocery store crab – not the fancy lump stuff we get today. Needless to say, it makes them better.  I think my mom would have approved of it and the breaking of glass ceilings -- it's about time.

Deviled Crab for 4 (8 for an appetizer)

½ c finely chopped celery
½ c finely chopped green pepper
½ c finely sliced scallions (green and white part)
½ c finely chopped parsley
1 lb lump crab meat
¾ c coarsely crushed soda crackers
½ t salt
½ t dry mustard (I used a teaspoon)
tabasco (I like spice so gave it quite a few shakes)
¼ heavy cream
¾ c melted butter

Preheat oven to 350º

Mix vegetables and crab with 1 ½ c of the cracker crumbs and everything else –but save1/4 c of the melted butter and ¼ c of the crumbs

Put in a greased dish. Sprinkle with the crumbs and spoon the butter over all. Cook for ½ an hour and serve hot with toasts or crackers or on it’s own with a salad.