Last week, I went to the movies with a group of about 30 women to see “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” The event was hosted by the reading realtors, two friends who are locally famous for always including a book review in their real estate newsletter. We had a book exchange before the movie, ordered wine and popcorn, and filled the theater with Gen X women who grew up on Judy Blume.
Like many women of a certain age who read Margaret in middle school, I remembered vividly the mortification around getting your period, buying your first bra, and having to play kissing games at a boy-girl party. I didn’t remember the book being so religious, which is hilarious, what with “God” in the title and all...
But the scene in the film that resonated most was when Margaret’s mother, Barb, finally says no to the PTA president. The look of glee, of guilty pleasure, of liberation that Rachel McAdams brilliantly conveys in that one syllable—no—is just as transformative as Margaret’s passage to womanhood.
As a woman, saying no is hard. It’s a learned skill that takes years of practice. It requires strength, confidence, resilience. Even bravery. (Just look at E. Jean Carroll.) We are raised in a culture that demands women say yes to “having it all,” which too often means doing it all.
PTA committees are the embodiment of the unpaid labor that women are conditioned to say yes to, all the damn time. How many dads do you see organizing school dances? Judging from the cheers of all the moms in that movie theater watching Barb’s small triumph, not nearly enough.