The other day I was asked to share three aspects of my life that I think contribute to my overall personality. So, after taking a quick inventory of my noggin, I came up with three distinct, pretty odd-ball qualities:
- I’m a hard-core equality lovin’, female powered feminist (obvi)
- I’ll eat anything if it’s smothered in at least one layer of cheese
- If I had to model my life after any hit television sit-com, you can bet your bottom-dollar that it would be “I love Lucy” because well… I really love Lucy.
If you haven’t already noticed by my not so cleverly phrased blogger handle, (lucilleontheball) Lucille Ball is one of my all-time favorite feminist icons. She was a voice of reassurance for all women during the “Second Wave” of feminism and she literally broke down barriers for all women in the entertainment industry. So today, instead of going over some of the current inequality issues that make my feminist spirit all fired up, of which there are plenty, I’ve decided to give an explanation of why I love this red-headed comedic genius.
Perhaps one of the most important things to recognize about Lucille’s unique brand of feminism during the second wave is the fact that she was not upfront about her feminist ideals. I mean take one look at the television show I love Lucy and it’s clear that gender roles are still heavily enforced: the husband is the main breadwinner/authoritative figure, and the wife is merely responsible for cooking, cleaning, and pleasing her man. However, Lucy presents a rich subtext of resistance to these patriarchal standards. Take for instance season 1, episode 8 (I really love this show). In this episode titled “Men are messy” Lucy grows tired of her husband Ricky’s sloppiness and decides that she’s done with being the typical housewife. She literally splits the apartment in. half. and tells her husband that he can be responsible for cleaning up his OWN messes (*snap*). Lucy may not always get what she wants in married life, which she recognizes is a social injustice for all woman, but she’ll be damned if she doesn’t do everything in her power to get what she deserves.
Okay, lets take a step out of I love Lucy, which I know is really hard, (especially if you’ve been binge watching… all day) and move on to real-life Lucille Ball. Real-life Lucille Ball was actually married to t.v. husband, Desi Arnaz. Say whaa? It’s true! While their marriage did not last forever, it was a pretty radical union for their time. Because Desi was of Cuban ethnicity, even CBS producers had a hard time swallowing the idea of a multiethnic couple airing on television. In fact, it wasn’t until Lucy threatened to leave the production team that CBS finally came around and agreed to have Desi play her husband on the show.
Breaking barriers for gender and ethnic minorities in television, eh Lucy? Not only did she prove, like a boss, that women could be the center of a television show without loosing viewers, she also proved that women could actually BE the boss- of a production company that is. After divorcing husband Desi Arnaz in 1960 Lucille actually bought him out of the show’s production company, Desilu, making her the first female head of a major production company. EVER. Love Star Trek or Mission Impossible? Well we have Lucille Ball to thank!
Gratitude for the multi-faceted accomplishments of Lucille Ball certainly does not go unnoticed in the entertainment industry. Tons of female comedians since Lucille like Carol Burnett, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler, have raised their hats to the prolific comedic genius for giving women the chance to pave their way in the male-dominated industry. She was exactly what women on the fence about feminism during the second wave needed: “a powerful woman in Hollywood who could do anything she wanted… who responded to the women’s liberation movement with a voice and viewpoint that were unique, decidedly brave, and already liberated”source.
Every morning I wake up, take a gander at my Lucille Ball poster and think to myself “How many more episodes of I love Lucy can I watch today”. Okay that’s false. But I do carry her feminist spirit along with me wherever I go. Because, while I’d love to go around shouting feminist rhetoric in the face of “the man”, Lucille reminds me that sometimes our actions are what count the most. Actions, and a whole lotta laughs.