This week on Feminist Flashback Friday, we invite you to visit with a character played by an actress not really known for the most feminist of roles, Doris Day. Her character Erica Stone of the 1958 comedy Teacher’s Pet is the femme of the week and here’s why she rightfully deserves the honour.
Who Is She?
The daughter of a famed journalist, Erica—a former journalist herself—is now a teacher of a night class journalism course at the local college. A woman who knows her stuff and one who isn’t afraid to prove herself more knowledgeable than any man, Erica’s credentials are called into question by a big-shot journalist James Gannon (Clark Gable) who has some very outdated ideas about work, education and women. Needless to say, James gets a refresher course in feminism and human decency from Erica.
What Makes Her A Badass?
Erica is totally secure in herself and her education, and her students widely respect and admire her, trusting that she knows what she’s doing and being unconcerned with the fact that she’s a woman. When she asks James to speak to her journalism class about the profession, he sends her a scathing letter denouncing higher education and touted his much-repeated motto about education being useless and hands-on experience being the only thing that matters. The fact that Erica is a woman teaching education encourages him to make all sorts of sexist judgements about her and her experience and he has no problem with obviously objectifying her.
Despite having to put up with a dudebro (because let’s face it: that’s exactly what he would be called today) like James, Erica doesn’t let her very true and modern belief in the value of education falter. Instead, she pushed James out of her mind and focuses on her students—particularly one student that she believes has ample potential and devotes her time, energy and connections to ensuring he has every opportunity available to him (unbeknownst to her, this “student” is actually James who joins the class to make a fool of her, but thankfully actually ends up learning to remove his head from his ass).
Why Does She Still Matter Today?
Even though we live in the 21st century, there are still tons of women in the world who are deprived of the basic right to an education, often simply because they are female. Erica Stone reminds us that education is not only for everyone regardless or age or gender, but also that it’s valuable for encouraging a future of civilized, tolerant human beings who not only excel at anything they choose to do, but also develop awareness and empathy for others who may not have had their privilege.
Erica’s tireless push for the value of education at a time when experience was still considered more valuable than book-learning is especially important since even today there are many people who believe that one is better than the other, not realizing that the best results come from a healthy combination of both. That’s why so many schools and colleges now have co-op programs in which students have the ability to apply what they have learned to real-life situations and gain the experience necessary.