Needless to say, I was absolutely appalled. And I don't think I even need to list all the things wrong with this. I don't need to list them because it is obvious that this devalues women's work, women's worth, women's person-hood. It is obvious that the girl in this story never had a voice and was never able to express what she wanted. It is obvious that she was just a resource for the father, as either a helper or as a person to attract a "better" helper (ie a male). It is obvious that gender roles were so fixed in this scenario that there was no possibility of seeing her for anything other than a second class citizen. It was very disturbing.
But I also found myself reflecting on the fact that things actually have changed and moved over the last 50+ years. Not everywhere. And there is a long way to go still towards recognizing women's humanity. We still don't pay women equal wages for equal work, we still treat them as sex objects, we still value their appearance over their talents, we still abuse and use women. There are still fields of work and study that are restricted by gender (women cannot be priests in the Catholic church, for example), we still treat them as second class citizens. But, at least here in my community, I know that the large majority of people here would be equally appalled by this TV episode, and that shows movement, that shows growth in our understanding, in our vision, in our appreciation for who women are, what we can do, and what our best gifts are. I am not, in any way, the only person who would watch this episode and wonder what the girl (who remained voiceless in the episode) would say for herself.
This episode gave me perspective. It has been hard to not fall into despair when I read about the racism, the sexism, the rejection of other people, the increase in poverty and in the huge gap between rich and poor in our culture, the cruelty towards immigrants and LGBTQ+ people, the abuse of others and of our earth that seems to have escalated in the last couple years. It is hard to not fall into a sense that everything is moving backwards in terms of our understanding of one another as siblings, as family, as connected to each of us in a way that makes it absolutely necessary that we care for and love one another. I am blessed by the wisdom and perspective of people who are older, who have lived through other troubled and dark times, who remind me that "this too will pass". But their words don't always drive away the growing sense of a damage done that may not be reversible. To see this episode, though, reminded me that in the midst of all of this, there is movement still. At the time that episode was written and aired, my grandmother was working our family ranch by herself. No one questioned that. Not one person felt she was less than competent to do so. But still, the episode aired. While it was aired again a few weeks back, it is a rerun shown. I don't know of any new programs that could get away with a horrible message like this. And that is good news. If our art reflects life, we are moving, we are growing. And that gives me hope, indeed.
I'm also attaching a link here to a commercial that I think also shows this movement. Granted, this is a New Zealand ad. Also, the language may be a little much for some. I apologize for that. Still, I love the message here. Hope you enjoy it.