Michelle Gillett: Women of 'Downton Abbey' have a timely message


STOCKBRIDGE >> Sisters. It's time to loosen our corsets and follow the lead of the women of "Downton Abbey" who have finally shown chutzpah and determination when it comes to claiming their independence.

Lady Mary is managing the estate; Dame Edith has fired her tyrannical and overweight editor and is planning on hiring a co-editor — a woman. Lady Cora and the Dowager Empress and Isobel Crowley are duking it out with local health care providers over the best health care plan for the locals.

In a moment of quiet reflection, Isobel commented, "I became a nurse, why couldn't I be a doctor?" And Lady Mary, when asked what her interests were, replied, "I like my work; I need to have a purpose." Anna has learned about women's reproductive possibilities. Daisy is furthering her education at a women's college.

Little said on issues

As I watched "Downton Abbey" last Sunday, it occurred to me that we have not heard nearly enough about women's issues during this presidential campaign. So I went to double-check if I had missed anything. Donald Trump is pro-choice, but he says he would shoot people in Central Park so I figure that cancels out being pro-choice.

Here is brief overview of where the candidates stand on women's issues in 2016:

The majority of Republican candidates:

* Support banning abortion, with and without restrictions.

* Would defund Planned Parenthood. Would institute policies that would restrict access to affordable birth control.

* The majority of Democratic candidates:

* Support access to safe and legal abortion. Would support Planned Parenthood. Would institute policies that would support access to affordable birth control.


* Martin O'Malley (D) sides with the Republicans on all three issues.

* John Kasich (R) sides with the Democrats on all three issues.

The majority of Republican candidates would vote (or have voted) against gender-equalizing legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act. Jeb Bush says we spend too much on women's health issues.

All of the Democratic candidates support gender-equalizing legislation.Some candidates don't agree or are simply uninformed that the pay gap is even an issue. All of the Democratic candidates are in support of legally requiring companies to hire women and minorities via methods of recruitment, quotas and/or affirmative action agreements. The Republicans are split on mandated legislation regarding the increased hiring of women and minorities.

* Carly Fiorina (R) also against putting a woman on the $10 bill to honor women's contributions to American history.

* Bernie Sanders (D), on the other hand, has spent the majority of his political career advocating for the equality of women and minorities in both society and in the workplace.

* Jeb Bush (R) stated that gay rights and feminism are "modern victim movements" that attempt to get people to view themselves as part of a smaller group deserving of something from society.

* When reminded by a reporter that he's called women "fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals" in the past, Donald Trump (R) said, "I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I don't have time for total political correctness."

* Hillary Clinton (D) has made family leave and women in the workforce a pillar of her campaign.

* Michelle Patterson, director of the California Women's conference said in a recent interview," While presidential candidates often spend considerable time courting the minority vote, they might be better served looking at a majority that is rapidly gaining considerable economic power in this country. And, that new majority is women who are now outnumbering men in the workforce and are the primary purchase decision-makers in the homes across America."

Charting changes

In 2006, a database was developed by Hanna Rosin that measured the economic and political power of women in 162 countries, and the conclusion was the greater the power of women, the greater the country's economic success. That's a pretty compelling reason to consider what's on women's minds and how they, as candidates, can respond in a way that will secure their votes. The idea of women as major contributors to the economy and having the all-important role of bringing up the next generation, brings me back to "Downton Abbey" where we can see those changes happening.

A British show called "Suffragette" had a limited showing on this side of the pond but it is inspiring interest in the history of women's rights. "Suffragette" is still drawing attention to the long and tenuous battle by British women for the right to vote (they did not gain universal suffrage until 1928). It is also inspiring a new level of interest in American women's campaign to gain the vote which we did in 1919. Nearly 100 years later, we still hold only 19 percent of the seats in Congress.

As Hollywood fights for diversity we need to pay attention to women whose stories keep getting marginalized or never told. We need to keep women's rights and history "relevant, While "Downtown Abbey" keeps us entertained, We better make sure we know what those candidates are planning.

Michelle Gillett is a regular Eagle contributor.


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