Culture » Arts & Culture


The battle of the sexes, on the page and on the screen


Good Girls Revolt tells the story of women working at Newsweek magazine in 1970.
  • Good Girls Revolt tells the story of women working at Newsweek magazine in 1970.

In its latest move to gain a better foothold in the online streaming "television" market, Amazon last month released a new series dramatizing the real-life experiences of female journalists at Newsweek, who in 1970 legally challenged the institution's unequal treatment of women.

Good Girls Revolt, a 10-episode series available to Amazon Prime subscribers, is based on events chronicled in former Newsweek writer Lynn Povich's nonfiction account, The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace.

At the time, women — regardless of their educational achievements, skills or experience — were not allowed to work as reporters for the weekly newsmagazine. Instead, they were relegated to the "researcher" position, essentially a glorified title for reporter's assistant. Not allowed to write stories under their own names (even if they did write, their male reporter partner would get credit), these women did all the heavy lifting: researching story background, setting up source interviews, gathering data and fact-checking the men's work.

As someone who simultaneously read Povich's book between episodes of the show, I can attest that the made-for-TV version of the events is definitely condensed for efficiency (in reality, the women sued Newsweek twice before seeing results), and also sexed up for mass appeal. Names of almost all characters were also changed for the show, as was the magazine's, which is here called News of the Week.

Even so, the resulting period drama does a superb job of immersing viewers in the overall culture of the late 1960s and early '70s, addressing sexual freedom, the women's and civil rights movements, the Vietnam War, drugs and popular culture, fashion and even the now-outdated technology of the era.

It was no coincidence that the full series was released just weeks before Election Day. This timing is also why, for those who've seen or plan to watch it, Good Girls Revolt just feels so relevant. For women today, the struggles our gender dealt with more than 40 years ago, as portrayed in the series, are all too familiar.

Besides fighting for equality in the workplace, Good Girls Revolt's distinct trio of main characters — Cindy, Patti and Jane — each face personal battles of their own. One is in a loveless, abusive marriage. Another faces sexual advances from her boss, and disapproval from her boyfriend regarding her career dreams. Birth control and motherhood are relevantly addressed. Men's expectations of appropriate women's roles come up over and over. While a female journalist like me, in what is still a male-dominated industry, may have appreciated Good Girls Revolt more than others, it's a must-watch for women of all fields.