Designing Women is a show that was aired in the United States from 1986 till 1993. The series is set in a large Atlanta home, soft-spoken sister, Julie, and one snobby sister, Suzanne run a family design business. Their co-worker, whom are the other two main characters are a divorced mother called Mary Jo, and a naïve country girl, Charlene. The sisters also have a hired delivery worker, Anthony, who is a black ex-con. The characters are all in their late thirties.
This series offers a representation of women in the late 80’s, start of the 90’s. Having found specific quotes from the series, the women seem to represent the workingwoman of the 1980’s, slightly different from the Yuppie. The characters often show a more independent, feminist side to their power suits; they can be quite mouthy, chaotic, loud, slightly racist and somewhat selfish towards ‘others’ (being any other character than the four mentioned above). Looking at the history of feminism, by 1986, when the show started to air, the nineteenth amendment, which consisted of equal rights, had died. The end of the 1980’s is sometimes seen as a ‘dark period’ for women in America. A main focus from the women in the series seems to be doing/saying anything they want, this can be seen in the aggressive tones they can have in their voices towards other people, for example sarcastic laughs, wittiness and loud voices. An example for this is an anecdote by Charlene:
I asked this Northern woman, "Where are ya'll from?" And she said, "I'm from a place where we don't end our sentences with prepositions." So I said, "Okay, where are ya'll from, bitch?"
The attitudes of the female characters in this series, leads to an idea of a passive aggressive reaction towards the failure of finalizing the equal rights law on a state-to-state level. They almost seem to try and fight for what ever else there is left to fight for, implying that women and feminism had not died out just because of the failure to win equal rights. In the series we see the characters mostly at work, without their husbands and boyfriends, and a certain bond can be seen between the characters. Not just a friendship, almost a promise to stay true to each other, giving them a very powerful attitude, an attitude that is hard to pin down to a certain cultural aspect. This attitude has certainly brought along a legacy and can be represented in television shows of today.
An example of this ‘attitude’ among women can be the show ‘Desperate Housewives’. The four main characters are rich and seem to be living the American Dream, however, the plot unfolds, and the same slightly feminist, slightly aggressive attitude appears among the characters.
The right for women to have equal pay to men has, ever since the denial of the proposition, been a sensitive subject, a subject that is not overtly obvious in terms of protests etc, but seems to have taken over in a certain attitude. This attitude and community-like feel among women has made women stronger in their own sense, in some cases making them just as ‘strong’ as their men are, leading to a final quote from Designing Women.
James Dean 'J.D.' Shackelford: You look so beautiful.
Mary Jo: Where do you want to do this: upstairs or downstairs?
James Dean 'J.D.' Shackelford: Honey, I thought we would have some wine and music, then a little foreplay...