The book’s subtitle is, “How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace.”
This is a work of non-fiction, by Lynn Povich (sister of Maury), concerning one of this country’s biggest workplace discrimination lawsuits. I am eager to read this book. And I’ve been thinking a lot about it, because this monster lawsuit (the subtitle makes the causes of action clear) was filed in 1970. Yet my brain is not recalling it from my ample mental data base, which does go back further than 1970.
I’ve been wondering why.
During the ’60s, I was a young woman working toward what I hoped would be a career in editorial or publishing. That is, I was theoretically subject to the same inequities as were the young women at Newsweek who brought this lawsuit. So why wasn’t I paying attention?
In those days, my work attitude was sort of tremulous, uncourageous. I didn’t have much confidence. And, too, when I started doing editorial work, the glamorous low-paying jobs I got (as a secretary until I moved proudly upward to the title of “assistant”) were on girls’ magazines. So the people I worked for were women. (Who bullied me. The Sisterhood? Oh yeah. It was more like Identification with the Aggressor.)
Indeed, it was because of an editor I always think of as The Devil Who Wore Sling-Backs that I left editorial work — was fired, actually — in 1964 and moved into TV and film. Working for men, only. Who treated me really well. So, although feminists were out there then propounding the inequities in the working world, while I may have been hovering intellectually around feminists, I was emotionally and characterologically on the sidelines, not at the barricades.
I was a wimp. And I was too sensitive.
Speaking of my early work world, people keep asking me whether I watch and adore Mad Men. I tell them no. I worked for advertising agencies around that time, and have not been drawn to re-visit, even fictionally, the experience. So maybe work-world feminism has grabbed me, if only as a long-delayed reaction.
Anyway, read this marvelous piece by Liesl Schillinger (and she has a personal small note in there that is quite moving), which the New York Times published under the general heading Books of Style. (Why? This book isn’t about “style;” it’s about a major discrimination lawsuit. Boo, NYT.)
And not at all by the way, the “firebrand” lawyer who prosecuted this case was Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has been for many years the District of Columbia’s lone Congressional representative in the House. She is not, however, a “Representative.” She is a “Delegate.” How miserably ironic is it that after having won that important lawsuit, Ms. Norton has no voting power in Congress. Did you realize that the citizens of Washington, DC, have no voting representation in the House of Representatives and, even worse, have no senators — even though the D.C. population is larger than Wyoming’s? It’s why the DC license plate bears as its slogan, “Taxation Without Representation.”
Shameful. This should be another monster lawsuit. Or a revolution.