‘Mrs America’ breathes life into the women at the front of second wave feminism and their fight for equal rights. The nine-part miniseries follows both sides of the argument, those for the Equal Rights Amendment and the members of STOP ERA, headed by Phyllis Schlafly. This captivating retelling not only offers an entertaining distraction to the worldwide pandemic, but also stands as a reminder of the endless struggle for equality that we still face.
Phyllis Schlafly, or Mrs America, was an anti-feminist activist who directly opposed the Women’s Movement in America, particularly the Equal Rights Amendment. By defending traditional gender roles, ‘Mrs America’ highlights Schlafly’s hypocritical position, and subsequently, how her activism seemed to uphold inequality. The series does amplify Schlafly’s influence over the anti-feminists, but others, such as Gloria Steinem, believe the show gives one the ‘impression that [Schlafly] was the reason it was defeated.’
According to Steinem, one of the show’s protagonists, the ‘vast majority’ supported the ERA, as presented by the series, but Schlafly was just someone ‘brought in at the last minute’ to oppose equal rights. The battle over the ERA appears to be Schlafly versus Steinem, when others, such as insurance companies, hindered the ERA’s progress more. The show spotlights the issue on the table: inequality. It emphasises how change requires the relentless persistence of those effected, and that sometimes even that is not enough to overthrow the norm.
‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.’ Almost one hundred years on from the ERA’s introduction, ‘Mrs America’ reminds us the minimum of thirty-eight states has been achieved allowing ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
Equality is back on the agenda.