Thank You, Mary Tyler Moore

Just a few days ago, I was driving downtown and passed by an anti-abortion rally in the park. There were signs such as “Baby Murder” and “Pro-Woman Pro-Life” galore. Only days before that, in the exact same spot, were thousands of other people protesting the exact opposite stance, and other issues, in the national Woman’s March event.

What was most shocking and dismaying to me was not so much that the topic of abortion was a big one in both rallies—it is an extremely polarizing and personal issue—but that it seems impossible that differences can be put aside and that we all as women and as people can stand together and fight for our own equality.

On January 25th, 2017, Mary Tyler Moore, a beloved on-screen legend, passed away. She was best known for her role as Mary Richards on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, in which she played a single woman who becomes an associate producer on a local news station. She was the first example of an independent, un-married career woman on American television, and show explored themes of equal pay for women, prostitution, the “Pill,” and homosexuality throughout its course. It was extremely progressive for the time, and changed the face of American TV as we know it.

The show itself was not perfect, and the treatment and perspective on women was fairly sexist—but it was still a crucial step forward in addressing and fixing a rampant societal issue. And, although there have been huge improvements in the rights and treatment of women since the 70s, some of the same issues Mary Richards faced are still being debated about today. For example, equal pay for equal work is a problem that has yet to be solved. Studies still show that women make 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man. [1] This kind of gender discrimination was unacceptable in the 70s, and is even more unacceptable now.

           

I really feel that in some ways, we as women are our own worst enemies, if we continue to be unable to come together and fight for ourselves and for each other on some basic principles of gender equality. There are, and always will be, divisive and touchy issues such as abortion that not everyone is willing to back up. However, I think it’s time to focus on the bigger picture—if you cannot march and defend the right of a woman to have an abortion, then do it for the right to have safe birth control, the right to an equal pay, the right to be able to voice our opinions, the right to feel safe when walking home alone, the right to not have female-specific healthcare regulated solely by a group of men, and the right to a longer paid maternity leave. And if you really can’t get behind any of these movements, then at least do it for Mary Tyler Moore and other woman champions, who enabled us to open up the floor enough to even have this kind of discussion.

 

[1] http://www.iwpr.org/initiatives/pay-equity-and-discrimination