Role Models Women Need

Ruby Rohrlich (rohrlich@UNIX1.CIRC.GWU.EDU)
Fri, 4 Nov 1994 20:26:47 -0400

This is the title of a column by Judy Mann, Washington Post, ll/4/94. She
regretted the fact that her favorite cop show "Cagney & Lacey" had gone
off the air in l988, and she doesn't watch TV much. She writes: "I called
it a cop show, and it was. Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey were
cops. But it was a lot more than that. It was a profoundly political
show about professional women who wielded authority. The show was on the
air from l982 to l988, the peak years of the Reagan-led backlash against
women's right. "Cagney & Lacy" played respectively by Sharon Gless and
Tyne Daly, explore the rich terrain of female friendship as well as
professional partnership. What a breath of freshair thgat was, to see
women as professional friends, rather than rivals for promotions or some
man's affection. They were not extensions of men at home or at work but
women who stood on their own.
"Sunday night, Cagney&Lacyreturn in aa two-hour movie on CBS.
Cagney is working in the district attorney's oaffice and Lacey has been
retired for three years, but she rejoins Cagney to help solve the theft of
l,500 police guns. They are wilder and wiser, and once again, they are
providing role models for women who are coping with whatever life throws
at them, including menopause.
Elelanor Smeal, who as president of the National Organization for
Wolmen twice led campaigns to keep the populaar series from being
canceled, says the program shows "women in roles that little girls can
aspire to be. The story line creates role models that we so desperately
need." Smeal notes that the Fund for the Feminist Majority, which she now
heads, led a campaign recently in L.A. to enforce a longo-standing consent
decree in which the city had agreed to have at least 25% of its police
force be female. The force had been l4%.
"Studies show that as you incease the percentage of women in the
force, you decrease the number of police brutality cases," she says. Such
cases can cost cities tens of millions of dollars a year in settlements.
"Women are rarely associated with that. Second, it increases the response
to domestic violence. Having more women on police forces also helps women
in the community have better representation in matters of crime and
violence." The show's executive producer, Barney Rosenzweig, has a deal for
four "Cagney & Lacy" movies for CBS. Two have been made, and two more
will be made if the ratings are good. This is one time when viewers can
turn on the TV in support of intelligent pogramming insstead of turning it
off because what they see offends them.
The cultural forces that shape public opinion and public
perceptions of women as leaders are too important to ignore -- and the
positive ones deserve our support. " Cagney & Lacey" was one of the faew
media outposts where women had power during the '80s."