A while back I was out having dinner with Jack and my boss and his domestic fella and their girlfriend, T. T is sixty or so, with lots of elegant gray hair, and to powerful things she brings an immense power*. Seriously, she should just walk around in an ermine robe and carry a sceptre and orb, she's downright regal. Whenever she notices me she gives me these long, appraising, heavy-lidded looks, and the only thought there's room for in my tiny, rodent brain is "this woman could eat me alive without smudging her lipstick."
So, we were waiting for the first course and everyone was quietly talking about some Hollywood folk who were at the next table, and my boss asked me, "Did you know T was once nominated for an Academy Award?"
"For producing Norma Rae," said domestic fella.
Then T elegantly arched her cossack-black eyebrows and asked me, "Did you see it?"
And I thought, Well, I could lie, but I don't know enough about the film to fake it, so I bucked up and said, "No." And just like that I was banished from everyone's consciousness for the next ten minutes.
Being ignored at parties gives me lots of time for self-reflection, and while everyone discussed the other films up for Oscars in 1979 I realized I'd seen all of them, some even two or three times.
With a little tequila it didn't take me long to figure out why I'd never even wanted to see Norma Rae: I was raised by prefeminist cavepeople.
I am not blaming my ignorance on my lovely, lovely parents, who were born during the Coolidge administration and who, to the best of my knowlege, never lived in a cave, either together or separately. No, my dad's a with-it guy, and he never, ever told me there was anything I couldn't do just because I was a girl, although my mom's pleasantly submissive role-modeling taught me that staying home with the soaps and the laundry and mowing the grass and working part-time for the phone company wasn't a bad lot for a small-town girl. No, what really bent my brain was worshipping at the altar of my magnetic next-oldest brother. If he thought something was totally bogus then By God I'd cut my conscience to fit his idea of what a boss little sister ought to be.**
Yes, thanks to the overwhelming influence of Our Man Flint on my household, I grew up in the Triumphant Era of Gloria Steinem thinking that men knew everything and that it would be totally, incomprehensibly wrong if women were priests, flew airplanes, delivered babies, or, hell, delivered the mail. I still catch myself thinking that way sometimes, and it occurs to me that a post I wrote a while back about how I judged older men in retail jobs to be either experts in their field or managers or store owners was partly a product of a lifelong fear-based instinct to hand over all power and authority to men, and then to completely resent them for it.
Norma Rae is about a woman who works in a textile factory and who slowly realizes that she and all the other women who work there are getting treated like crap, and she organizes them and fights the power and wins an Oscar. People liked her, they really, really liked her. And I still haven't seen it. Is Burt Reynolds in it? I'll see it if there's a scene where Burt Reynolds drives a Camaro under a semi truck.
**Bogus things: James Taylor, ballet, flutes. Approved manly entities: Ted Nugent, Corvettes, movies in which lots of people get shot.