Lynn Povich's 2012 memoir about being one of Newsweek's 46 female employees to sue the magazine in 1970 over sex discrimination, The Good Girls Revolt, seems more prescient than ever. The basis for a same-titled Amazon TV series, which became available for streaming late last month, the book is also the perfect companion in an election season dominated by discussions about misogyny and "nasty women." Povich talked to us about seeing her work adapted to the small screen and why the more things have changed for women in media, the more they've stayed the same.
Amazon's TV version of your book fictionalized some key elements of the story. Among other things, the women in the show work at a magazine called News of the Week. Why the change?
I insisted it be fictionalized because I knew I wouldn’t control it. I also felt [fictionalizing it] would give the writers more latitude to tell the story over one, or hopefully more, seasons. I do think the series has caught the spirit of the story and the characters and the times. It was a wild and exciting period for all of us.
Do you see your younger self reflected in any of the characters in the series?
The characters in Good Girls Revolt are totally fictional, but there are pieces of all of us in them. In fact, we who were researchers working at Newsweek [in the late 1960s and early 1970s] all identify with the scene where Patty, one of the three female leads in the TV series, phones in her scoop on Altamont [the 1969 rock concert in California, headlined by acts like the Rolling Stones, that infamously erupted in violence] and then goes running and leaping down the street, yelling because she did it. That's exactly how it felt.
On the one hand, it seems like so much has changed from the time you, and your co-workers, "revolted" at Newsweek. Then again, here we are in 2016 with our first female candidate for President being derided as a "nasty woman" by her opponent. It begs the question: how much have attitudes about women really changed since the 1970s?
Clearly not as much as we would have hoped. Let’s face it, there has been a lot of progress for women since 1970. But we found out early on in our own situation at Newsweek that you cannot legislate attitude. So while we’ve broken barriers and passed many more laws that support women, we still face bias—intentional or unintentional—gender discrimination and sexual harassment. And many of the legislative battles that we did win are now being rolled back. So the fight continues.
Reflecting upon the media's treatment of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during this election cycle, do you feel that there is a double standard towards female public figures in the media?
I do. Remember when Hillary was criticized for having a "shrill" voice, while Donald Trump was yelling at his rallies? And there’s the question of the proportionality of the coverage. I think the media has been very critical of Hillary since the beginning, which is ok, except that most of the media didn’t take Trump seriously at first, and therefore gave him a pass for a long time. They didn’t really investigate his businesses or foundation until very late in the game.