And behind every good woman is a great woman.
In 1975 when Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, and Lorraine Newman were the feminine faces of Saturday Night Live, the late great John Belushi made it his mission to sabotage their success.
Jane Curtin said as much on Oprah Winfrey’s April 14 tribute to SNL. According to Curtin, Belushi apparently believed that “women were fundamentally not funny; and if a woman had written a piece for John, he wouldn’t read it during rehearsal, he’d whisper it.”
She went on to explain that this type of disrespect wasn’t at all an unusual feature of the workplace experience in the 70’s. A working comedienne (terrifically talented at that) in New York, on the most exciting new show on television, and Jane Curtin, as a self-employed woman — “could not even get a credit card.”
Why bring this up now?
Because I thought of this super good title while walking the dog three days ago. And I decided this piece can’t be about my life as an RP spouse as I had originally planned. That’s because watching Tina Fey sit with Curtin on Oprah’s famous couch illustrated how far women have come in 36 years. And that was deeply inspiring.
Today, Tina Fey is lauded as one of the most brilliant entertainers in T.V, and she is indeed a woman with a credit card — as well as loads of respect. Here’s what Oprah says:
“Tina Fey is the creator, writer, and star of 30 Rock — and former head writer of SNL — she is one of the smartest women on our planet right now.”
I wonder if she’s the smartest woman on all of the planets. She might be, and do you wonder too how she got to be so all that?
Fey said simply, “I was 5 when the show started, and I studied it all the time.” There it is, nourished by the brilliance of women before her, Fey now stands on the shoulders of those who blazed the trail. (For the purpose of this spiffy blog article, I wish she’d have been more specific in that sound bite about emulating women in particular. But maybe that’s exactly what she meant, eh?)
Anyway, it was a powerful statement when she said later about her own trail-blazing time on SNL that “the more women in the room to laugh at pieces written by women, the more everyone would agree to put it in the show.”
While the scary, loathsome dynamics of middle school girls might lead us to believe that girls will always and forever scratch each others’ eyes out, most adult women have each other’s backs. There is no doubt that we help one another in ways that make us cry with gratitude.
Consider all the stories of women all over the world: WomenforWomen.org, which helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives; United Prosperity, which guarantees loans to female entrepreneurs in developing countries; the nameless thousands of women volunteers who stand on call in the middle of the night at rape crisis centers across the world; or the women in your own family and in my family who say to each other, “I know your heart is breaking, and I know you will get through it because I did.”
Whether we realize and appreciate them or not, new generations build on the successes of their ancestors. It’s why the indigenous people pray that their current actions be “for the good of the children and the children’s children.” And it’s why Tina Fey can now be queen of comedy in an industry that is still predominately male.
I plan to read her new book, Bossypants, this weekend by the way. In it are many stories of her road to empowerment, success, and hilarity. Can’t wait.
And because I’m always looking for fantastic role models for my girls, they are each getting a copy.
Now it’s your turn: Whether you are female or male, tell a brief story below about the awesomeness of a woman in your life.