Why You Should Pay Attention to Amazon’s ‘Good Girls Revolt’

Why You Should Pay Attention to Amazon’s ‘Good Girls Revolt’

While Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt should top your list for must-see shows this Fall, the behind-the-scenes of the show is just as interesting.

Lynn Povich, now-award winning writer who began as a secretary at Newsweek, is the author of The Good Girls RevoltHer book offers an understanding of what it was like to be a female Newsweek staffer in the pre-Women’s Movement era. Women, it’s made clear, were there to be researchers, never to be writers. Articles were written by men. The Good Girls Revolt tells the story of the 46 women who came together to push back against Newsweeks‘ glass ceiling, and it inspired this year’s new show of a similar title.

At the time, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, civil rights attorney Eleanor Holmes Norton spoke up for the women who worked at Newsweek. Now, she’s played by Joy Bryant on the seriesNorton argued for the women’s entitlement to equitable pay and their right not only to be given ample opportunities as writers, but also to be appropriately credited for their contributions. In the corresponding lawsuit against Newsweek in 1970, Norton won the magazine’s female staff members the right to work as reporters.

Ultimately, Povich and her comrades fought against institutionalized sexism, and they did it in a time when “feminism” was new to the lexicon. In fact, they filed their lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the same day that Newsweek‘s glitzy cover story chronicling the new Women’s liberation movement went to print. They’d been working secretly on their case in the office, waiting for the right moment to come forward. Eventually, Gloria Steinem caught wind of the Newsweek women’s case and offered her support.

The “good girls” of the story went public with their fight in a moment already rife with uprising. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a generation of women who, reared by prim-and-proper June Cleavers and coming of age in a Vietnam-era America, were energized about changing the status quo. Povich and her colleagues kicked off their battle beside the pillars of Second-Wave Feminism. They added their voices to a growing battle cry, and they inspired other women to do the same. They became, as creator Dana Calvo stated in a recent NPR piece, “accidental revolutionaries,” inspiring similar suits by female staff members at major news outlets including NPR and The New York Times. 

The show’s release came at an interesting time, since the EEOC, with which the women originally filed their claim, has been tasked with exploring gender discrimination in the film and television industry. The Newsweek glass ceiling’s resemblance to the state of things for women in the arts is not lost on the show’s cast and creative team. In an October Variety article by Oriana Schwindt, star Anna Camp spoke of the show’s relevance, saying, “I’m always reading great scripts where they are, like, seven awesome parts for boys, and two parts for girls, and both of them are half-naked.”

The parallel between sexism in journalism and in Hollywood is striking, which is part of what fueled Calvo and executive producer Darlene Hunt’s commitment to hiring women (and feminist men) to bring the show to life. In a piece she penned for USA Today (Calvo, who herself is a former journalist), the show’s creator describes the feeling of “telling a female story alongside other women in an industry that is still predominantly male.”

She goes on to explain the team’s dedication – on screen and off – to creating a space for women that felt full, open, and accessible. Behind the scenes, Calvo explained, things were heavily run by women. It was important to the team that younger women, working to emerge in their creative fields, had the rare opportunity to be on-set. “There was always at least one woman…”shadowing” the director,” she wrote, “…in the hopes that they could learn a craft that is 85% male and…excruciatingly challenging  for women to break into.”

In their storytelling, the Good Girls Revolt team was passionate about depicting the full experience of the women’s whose lives they were bringing to the screen. They fought to depict women’s lives as they are really lived and experienced, which meant never shying away from topics that could be deemed controversial, like sexual assault, but that had a place in the narrative. In her article, Calvo recounts the profound experience of preparing to shoot a sex scene and hearing the director, Scott Winant, say “tell us how you want this to go.”

The show is a good watch, but ultimately, it’s behind-the-scenes where the show’s power lies. The women behind this story whether in Hollywood today or at Newsweek then, remind us what it means to stand up and be counted. That this show exists is proof that the glass ceiling can be, and has been, chipped away at, and that, as we soldier on together, we can continue to push up and against that which threatens to hold us back.

Cover image courtesy of Getty Images.