If you watched the Amazon original TV season of Good Girls Revolt, you were certainly left wanting more. This feminist TV show, which is loosely based on Lynn Povich’s book The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace, tackles sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender in the workplace, and I keep hoping that it will be brought back for a second season as it’s a perfect show during the #MeToo movement. Unfortunately, the TV show was cancelled after one season, but because the dubiousness of its non-renewal is now being discussed in the open, there is some hope that it may be given a second life. [Note: The Amazon Studios executive, Roy Price, who decided not to renew the show, recently resigned because of sexual harassment accusations levied against him….] Anyways, back to wanting more.
To address my need to learn more, I turned to another source: the book that the TV show was loosely based upon. Leaving behind the fictional characters I had fallen in love with, I dove into Povich’s non-fiction book The Good Girls Revolt, and I recommend that you do too. Within this book, I found professional women who, whether because of individual ambitions or conscience raising, eventually realized that, despite recent changes in legislation that made it illegal to discriminate based on gendered, their employer, Newsweek, had refused to change their hiring policies. Instead of allowing women to become writers and editors, Newsweek had a “tradition” of only hiring women as researchers and secretaries. Women within the organization were not allowed to have a bi-line within the magazine, even though they often rewrote sub-par pieces submitted by the male writer they were assigned to assist. When it came to Newsweek’s hiring policies, women with equivalent resumes to their male counterparts were hired for positions below their qualifications, while men were allowed to assume responsibilities and advance their careers. As the Women’s Rights movement took hold, the women saw that the advances made in other parts of the country weren’t reaching them, so they set out to make a difference in their small part of the media.
The book is certainly heavier on the legalese and the technicalities that go into filing an Equal Opportunities and ACLU lawsuits, not once but twice, than the TV show. I appreciated this aspect, but I know it can be a drawback to other readers. Nevertheless, I encourage you to stick with it. The book dives into the challenges that the women of Newsweek faced in getting higher-ups to honor the agreements made to resolve the first lawsuit. Because of these challenges and a lack of urgency, the women had no choice but to file a second lawsuit that resulted in a much more detailed plan that included formal timelines and quotas to correct the imbalance. While some may be bored with this discussion, I again found it to be a fascinating demonstration of change is a combination of structural change brought on through paperwork and raising awareness through dialogue. For lovers of the TV show, don’t worry, the book does dive somewhat into personal relationships and life in the 1960’s. The stories are certainly less sensationalized, but there is still plenty of sex and Rock N’ Roll.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first hand perspectives that author Lynn Povich was able to provide a one of the members of the original lawsuit. The book’s tone was definitely one of evolution, highlighting how the women came to realize that their skills were not being fully used and discussing how the corporation as a whole was able to realize its mistakes and find a way forward. The book provides context for the larger conversation surrounding women and media, and it effectively highlighted how the women of Newsweek inspired several of groups of women in the media to start fighting for equality. Lynn Povich also included a discussion of the modern climate at Newsweek after she was contacted by several female employees in 2009. This capped off the book with a discussion of what still needs to be done.