Monday, May 3, 2010

A Bit of Feminism Sneaks Up on Me

I have just finished watching, of all things, Private Benjamin. Yep, the '80s Goldie Hawn movie. It was a Netflix recommends and I had the evening open and nothing else to do, so I figured I'd give it a go.

The woman's hero's journey sure has come a long way! I often forget the work of the women who came before me, the women who brought equality in the workplace (almost) and who changed the way the country thought about women, who changed a woman's role from being something tied to someone else (a wife, a mother, a daughter) to just being a person in their own right.

Watching one of these transition-era movies—when women were coming into their own in this country in the eighties, forming their own careers and making choices that had nothing to do with men and everything to do with what they wanted—watching these movies is a charming reminder of how far we've come. I am immensely grateful to all those women for making it so easy for me to say and believe that I can be whatever and whoever I want to be. It's a concept that I've always held as a truism from childhood to now, but this amusing movie served as a gentle reminder that the generation before me had to fight for equality.

The movie ended terribly, or at least in a way I hate—open-ended, as Benjamin walks away from the family that doesn't support her and the fiance who doesn't respect her, toward an uncertain future. I like my endings concrete. I would have liked to see Benjamin return to the army and become more than just a private. To excel beyond the expectations of the men and women she encountered there. But, I suppose the open-ended conclusion was good symbolism. Benjamin cast aside the lifestyle that demeans her and the people who treat her like hired help or like a brainless child, and she walks away, alone, strong and independent, toward a future of her making.

The eighties didn't achieve equality for women. Feminism still had (and has) a ways to go. But this film showed it moving in the right direction, and that was just one step among many toward gender equality.

No comments: