I watched the Betty Broderick story on Netflix. It is the second season of the Dirty John series. Betty shot and killed her husband and his second, much younger wife, in 1989. I remember the story, although vaguely.
Those of us who were raised in the late 60s and 70s remember when women were expected to marry, stay home, and raise the children while the husband provided for his family. I don’t know that many of us thought too deeply about a woman’s place in society or the home – it was just the accepted norm. Women went to college to obtain their MRS degree if you catch my drift. And then, Gloria Steinem came along. Previous to Gloria, Betty Friedan was making ripples especially when it came to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. It wasn’t until NOW (National Organization for Women) formed in 1966 that the ripples became waves.
What I didn’t realize because I was in my early teens then, was the degree of misogyny women experienced prior to NOW and the Women’s Movement. Betty Broderick’s story highlighted the degree of disdain and scorn society held toward women. And worse, women participated in the long-held belief that somehow women were inferior. The prosecutor, in her case, was a woman who seemed to relish her role taking every opportunity to put Betty, and women as a whole, in their place. Wasn’t she a woman who, given the times, must have clawed her way to the top? But we do that as women, don’t we? I have witnessed it in my lifetime. Women in stilettos walked over the bodies of others they sacrificed on the way to the top. Where is the solidarity? Where is the we are women hear us roar?
The other thing that hit hard, for me at least, was the acceptance of what is now considered sexual harassment in the workplace. Back in the day as a young nurse, doctors inappropriately touched women they worked with and seemingly no one blinked an eye. A squeeze of the knee here, a shoulder rub there, what was the harm? Finally, we realized it as one more way women were marginalized. Now, everyone in the workplace is subject to sexual harassment training at least annually. Does it still happen? Sure, but strides were made.
Betty sacrificed herself at the altar of her husband’s career. Then, when he was riding the waves of success, he traded Betty in for a much younger woman, enviable eye candy to adorn his arm. It happened then and it still happens today. I do not condone Betty’s actions. Clearly, she had some mental health issues, couldn’t let it go and move on, but it doesn’t take away from the lesson learned – humans are crappy to other humans, especially when it serves their purposes.
Every morning we get the opportunity to wake up and make our mark in the world. Sometimes that mark is as simple as a smile or a kind word directed to another. We can forgive and move on even when we have been wronged. We can choose not to be crappy human beings…..