Divorced women have historically carried more of the social stigma than their male counterparts, even when they were equally responsible for the decision to divorce. Once divorce proceedings were done, women have generally been treated with unequal social scrutiny, often being treated as if they have suddenly become members of some lower caste.
This has been visible through the years on television, where divorce was never even mentioned until an unlikely hero brought it out into the center stage. At the end of an era when TV bedrooms had to show two beds and pregnancy could not even be discussed on air, Lucille Ball made a divorced woman the supporting star of her own prime-time show.
After her own divorce from Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball struggled to find her footing until she talked the network into running her new show, which featured herself as a widow and Vivian Vance, or Ethel, as she was known in I Love Lucy, as a divorcee named Viv and Lucy’s best friend. The Lucy Show was a hit, and Viv became the first divorced woman on a hit sitcom.
Years later, Maude, the title character from the 1972 show featuring Bea Arthur (long before she was a Golden Girl), went through divorce as part of the show’s script. Interestingly enough, she would return to TV as a divorced woman in the 1980’s hit, The Golden Girls.
Shortly after Maude ended, Bonnie Franklin brought the role of a divorced mother of two girls to prime time. For many, One Day at a Time, which previewed in December of 1975, was the first to spotlight a divorced woman, and to portray her for what she really was – a struggling single parent facing the same issues any other parent would face, just without the support of a spouse.
One Day at a Time is often cited as the first show to feature a divorced woman, even though it was not even the second. It was, however, the first to discuss the issues of divorce openly and honestly, placing the main characters in realistic situations, which, even though the show was technically a sitcom, could be heartbreaking and difficult. For many, that tipping point brought the subject of divorce out of the shadows and made it a normal, dinner-time discussion.
The subject of divorced women was initially broached by an unlikely source, one who broke several stereotypes and paved the way for women to succeed on television. Lucille Ball made the subject more approachable, then Bea Arthur’s Maude made it more open and acceptable.
Bonnie Franklin’s character put the subject of women in divorce front and center of our TV screens for almost ten years, showing the world that divorced women were no different than divorced men. In many ways, the show proved what most people already knew – they had to work harder, often face the same struggles and challenges, and often do so with less support than their now-absent spouses.
Every subject has its tipping point, when someone finally steps up and boldly presents it to the rest of the world. These three brave women changed the face of divorce for the rest of us, and especially for divorced women everywhere.
If you are facing divorce, there are many new options available that may not have been possible when Lucille Ball took to the screen, let alone even 5 years ago. Educating yourself is important. Please contact the experienced West Michigan divorce attorneys at Johnsen Wikander today. Let us help you understand the options, such as Collaborative Divorce and Mediation.
Contact Johnsen Wikander today and let us help you through your most difficult time.