Mrs. America – Episode 7 “Bella”

I remember seeing this image in newspapers. “YOU’RE A TRAITOR TO YOU SEX FOR WAGING WAR AGAINST WOMEN” the pie slinger yelled. I was 14.

Episode 7 opens with Phyllis Schlafly speaking at a luncheon. You can see her daughter and friend are uncomfortable with what Phyllis is preaching. In the show, the attendees resume their seats for lunch and actor portraying Aron Kay, a real-life radical-left wing activist who was notorious for “pie-ing” people throughout the 1970s-1990s, moves through the seated guests. He closes in on Phyllis and yells “YOU’RE A TRAITOR TO YOUR SEX FOR WAGING WAR AGAINST WOMEN” – – splat. Phyllis is pied and essentially brought to her knees for the remainder of the show to recover from the incident. Even though historically the pie-play was out of sequence, it still was powerful to see.

The 1977 National Women’s Conference is on, with Bella at the helm. The National Women’s Conference was the first meeting of its type in the United States since the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. It was able to take place from funding from Public Law 94-167, which was introduced by then, United States congresswomen Bella Abzug and Patsy Mink. It called for the commission to organize and convene national women’s conference in 1977, supported by $5 million in federal funds. As always, disagreements are afoot putting activists moral and ethics on the line.
Plans by Stop ERA/Eagle Forum board to take over the NWC are underway and Rosemary Thompson, board member of Eagle Forum has lofty goals nominating herself to fill Phyllis shoes as Eagle Forum representative and then appointing herself president of her newly formed group Citizens Review Committee.

The next sequence of events superficially dives into being a woman experiencing menopause and her “family” life being exposed as she loses control over her children. After a heated argument involving “other people in the home i.e. the nanny” and Phyllis’ daughter, Phyllis Jr., Phyllis Sr. learns a hurtful truth from her daughter, who incidentally is struggling with her want for independence, that Phyllis Sr. isn’t as admired as she thought she was. Phyllis Sr. then retreats upstairs after the family photoshoot is a bust, and we are privy to her removing her holiday sweater to reveal a sweat soaked silk blouse. This hit home with me as to how menopause was and still is the hidden and not spoken about “change”, albeit a natural change in womanhood, a time where many women often suffer alone.

Struggles of racial hate with Phyllis and the “Clan” and how she and Mary Elizabeth rationalize the “support” for their cause and their white privilege is disturbing at the very least, ethical betrayal by Bella to Midge by removing the gay rights resolution from the convention line up, then the full circle of redemption of Bella knowing that it was necessary to keep the gay right resolution on the docket.

Watching all of this brought me back to a mantra I hold dear because I am a lesbian and I have white privilege, “Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s right” – Hillary Rodham Clinton. I truly believe Hillary meant that for all women, not just “some”. It also revalidates why I am a social and women’s rights activist and speak out against racial hate and homophobia and speak to white people about their white privilege.

Kim Sontag, is the Digital Media Manager for the National Organization for Women

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