Adventures in Feministory: Oh, Florida

It’s a cold, snowy day here in Portland and broken heaters, blown fuses, and cars stuck in ditches have shut us out of the Bitch office. On top of that, colds and flu!  But the blog must go on, and so I bring you this week’s Adventures in Feministory – an abbreviated version, due to aforementioned catastrophes… 

Let’s take a quick trip back to the 1970s, to the sitcom Good Times, on which the amazing Emmy-Award winning Esther Rolle played Florida Evans

Esther Rolle

I loved Florida Evans something fierce – strong, stubborn, loving, smart, and snappy, she’d argue with her husband James about who was the “head” of the family, and she always seemed to find a way of holding her kids accountable while loving them intensely.

I didn’t realize it when I was young, but I think what made Good Times so absorbing – aside from my Florida fascination – was that it centered around a family that felt real and relatable to me, a family that talked openly about struggling financially, about work conflicts, a family that fought with each other, but still loved and had fun with each other.

They just don’t make sitcoms like they used to, do they? 

by Debbie Rasmussen
View profile »

Get Bitch Media's top 9 reads of the week delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning! Sign up for the Weekly Reader:

4 Comments Have Been Posted

love it

they really dont make sitcoms like they used to.

i love watching these clips because it takes me back to a day when tv shows were actually tolerable and somewhat harmless (in terms of violence and bullshit).

for the most part, tv shows used to be more political and more centered and representative of struggle.

this is reality-tv to me.

The twist in the sitcom is

The twist in the sitcom is that the ones who were seeking "liberation" from home were not black women, they were white women. We were already working outside of the home. THis episode was put together by a white man seeking to interject feminism into his show by portraying the idea of Black womans freedom from home, something that she in fact already had. Our biggest problem wasnt the kitchen, it was racism. We were working outside the home way before white women thought of their liberty from the house. THe problem was that all we were allowed to do was clean houses and kiss asses for a pay that barely fed a dog and puppies.

I am an African AMerican woman and we WERE that black family in the ghetto! Black women have always worked outside of the home..even during slavery we had to clean our shacks, clean the masters house, work and cook for him, tend the fields AND care for our family, all in the stretch of one day or we got our asses beat (pregnant or not). Our breat milk fed our babies and yours.

WHile you got the office jobs, we were stuck cleaning floors. Even with the best of education , I would not be paid the same amount as you. It wasnt because I was a was because I was black.

Dont get it twisted.

The black feminist group that influenced Norman Lear

While these comments are true, and were reiterated by black women a number of times in the 1970s through today, black women did have a huge impact on Norman Lear and his portrayal of Florida and Thelma Evans, as well as Wilona Woods. Black Women Organized for Action, a Bay-area based organization, wrote to Lear after seeing Florida's portrayal in Maude and then Good Times, to protest what they felt was an unrealistic portrayal. I babble on about it here:

In short, sure we black women did, and still do earn less than white women, white men, and black men, but there are black women engaged in feminist and anti-racist struggle and Esther Rolle's character displays the conflicts and convergences without being two-dimensional. It never has been and never will be an all or nothing proposition for black women facing racism, sexism, classism, etc.

Our biggest problem wasn't the kitchen either

It was living in poverty because of our class. There were lots of white people in the ghetto too. There still are. Not all of us were working office jobs and getting educated.

I grew up in the housing projects of Chicago, a little too young to totally understand Good Times while it aired. But I watched reruns when I got older and remember it as one of few shows that had storylines and families I related to (especially since it took place in Chicago). The other one that comes to mind is Rosanne. Both shows brought to national audiences storylines of poverty and the hardships that come along with it, but they also tried to make audiences laugh, which I think was essential for the people like us who related to them.

Add new comment