As Laurie Stone streams some talked-about shows on TV, she notices the women's movement has been cut out of the snapshots of our time, like tedious relatives you'd prefer to consider dead.
Lo mein, noodles
This is like a million flashbulbs going off. I thought I was the only one who had this reaction. I think for us--women's studies majors and feminists of all stripes circa late 80s and 90s--daughters of feminists and in my case, granddaughter--this giant hole that feminism has disappeared into is so disheartening and surreal.
I absolutely respect this argument, but I feel compelled to say that—as someone who is the precise age/generation of those depicted in Fleishman—I found it incredibly relatable. I was arguably raised by pop culture of the 1980s, much of which taught me that the ideal woman was "just one of the guys." I had female friends, sure, but we considered our issues to be issues of identity, class, culture, not those of sex. We believed (foolishly) that sexism was over and that second wave feminism was not a movement that had allowed us this ignorance but a dated cultural phenomenon whose markers (the burning of bras, etc) seemed overly...dramatic to us. I didn't acknowledge sexism was still a thing until my early 20s, when I worked in the music industry, almost exclusively with men.
I'm not saying any of this is admirable; frankly I'm embarrassed about it, and I agree that it's pathetic that Libby's character didn't acknowledge Rachel had humanity until the show's second to last episode. However, this is completely believable to me for people of this micro-generation. Does this story need to occupy a coveted space in the world of streaming television? Probably not. But its resonance is no mystery to me.
Respectfully, you missed the boat on Fleishman. And the Fleishman “in trouble” was not Toby; it was his wife and his friend who was narrating. Their storylines ran parallel while dealing with issues of female identity — motherhood, careers, and middle age. Thankfully feminists paved the way years ago for so many of the opportunities we’re able to take advantage of today, but women are expected to do it all excellently — wife, motherhood, career, friend, caretaker, housekeeper, etc. If you noticed, neither of those women were great at female friendship, which is why Rachel’s overtures and revelations with Toby’s wife were powerful. Not all females feel the power of sisterhood. But they all seem to be perpetually judged, most specifically by other women, yes? Maybe lightening up on that is a start to bringing back cohesion.
I think you got the theme of "Fleishman . . . " without quite getting it. For context, my high school teachers were from Nora Ephron's generation. One gave me copies of Ms. magazine. They taught me about women's rights. None of my peers seemed interested at all. I always felt like an outsider, so I fought for myself. The same is true today because, as in all things, every generation must learn all things anew, and choose to accept or reject prior wisdom. In the profound shift we are currently undergoing, as you know, a lot of prior wisdom is being rejected, and new wisdom -- about equality and individual rights, e.g., -- is being developed and adopted -- by individuals, each in the course of the one life each gets. Not all women were feminists at any point in history, and not all women are feminists now. The battle over rights and wrongs will never be decisively settled (at least in the context of the world as it is) because each of us decides what we believe and how we behave, despite politics or social pressures. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." - Fitzgerald
Laurie Stone, you rock. I love when this much anger is this intelligent. Beautiful prose too.
YES! Thank you for your unsparing, unsentimental critique. As an 84 year old lifelong second wave feminist, the fact that voices like yours are crucial is both a relief and a disappointment.
@Laurie-- I read the book and thanks to you, I am not watching the show. However, I am glad I read the book so I could fully appreciate your hilarious and insightful take on this show and others. I LOVE your writing. It flows like we're at our regular bar with just the right amount of background conversation and some great oldster music playing (but not too loud). In my younger days we called girls (no one said women) who wanted to be the ONE girl at the table--- a Cool Girl. It wasn't a real compliment. It meant, you were sooooo eager to show how you were One of The Guys, you would go along with all the misogynistic crap because you were above the regular females-- you were a Cool Girl-- and it didn't apply to you. I'll tell you what type of "girl" I am. I'm a Laurie Stone Fan Girl!
I have not seen Fleischman, but you have precisely pinpointed a major problem in our culture and in popular culture depictions of our culture. The other day, I was thinking about how young people now are “triggered” by so many things. So university teaching (to use the realm I know best) of certain things becomes perilous. An image of the prophet Mohammed in an art history class? Racist language in a historical novel? What if women called a halt to every image and text that demeaned us? Trivialized us? Belittled us? Slaughtered us? Culture itself would come to a halt. Kate Millet demonstrated this in 1971, but it remains ongoing.
Thank you! I read the first few pages of the book and it was painful. This review of the show confirms my suspicion those first pages planted in my brain. The larger point , the erasure of feminism in the popular media, also spot-on.
A thoughtful essay. But as someone who devoured Nora’s essays as a teenager, and wanted to be her, or at least almost as good as her - I have to note that towards the end of her piece about being the only woman at the table, she notes that that is not a good thing, and not what she wanted anymore. I wish I could find the exact quote, but I know it’s there.
I love being lectured by my 19-year-old daughter about feminism, having grown up in the '70's.
Wow Laurie. Another perfect post. And by perfect, I don't mean tidy. I mean perfectly detonated, like a landmine you found on the road and detonated for the well-being of the many.
Really good, laurie. I’m an ephron fan but you nailed her correctly.
I didn’t make it through 15 minutes of Fleishman (book or series) and the rave reviews are mystifying to me.
In addition to Laurie’s justifiable criticisms of the portrayal of women in TTWF, I was repulsed by Jessie E’s portrayal of a clueless single father in need of rescue by a renegade woman. In the 70’s I was a single father raising 2 young children by myself. Their mother escaped marital and maternal bondage to find herself thousands of miles away, writing a book about the plight of dingle mothers but neglecting to say the children were with me. But I was no victim. I chose single fatherhood despite the court’s checking the “joint custody” box. Though it was challenging, I loved loving and raising my and required no rescue. What helped me most was the love and support of close male friends. Not misogynists, but good men. Eisenberg’s fecklessness repulsed me and I turned it off as soon as I realized why I was turned off.