It seems as though almost everyone has some complaint about "Who Will Protect the Family?" the hour-long documentary screening tonight at 10 on Channel 26, and tomorrow night on Channel 32.
A close-up of the Equal Rights Amendment debate in North Carolina, the program, produced by Victoria Costello, concentrates on two opposite numbers: workers for or against the cause, both conventional middle-class women, wives, mothers, college graduates, born-again Christians--and friends. Though scenes, speeches and comments are balanced with obsessive care, to the point of cutting speakers off in midsentence, it seems that the film's makers are on the side of ERA.
Some Reagan administration people reportedly have objected to pro-ERA sentiments being aired on a program that is partly paid for with government funds.
And some feminists have objected to the nature and quality of the anti-ERA material. A prime example is the insistence on labeling the ERA opponent "a pro-family activist." The term "pro-family" is, after all, the description that this group has arrogated for itself, with the implication that a feminist cannot possibly be pro-family too. At the very least it is a loaded word.
The hour contains some good footage, notably a corridor confrontation between the two women in which the ERA opponent says the whole thing is a communist plot and the pro-ERA woman tries to calm her fears and remind her that legal protections for women are a sometime thing, being often based merely on common law, and that "though man and wife are one, he's the One!"
But most of the time "Who Will Protect the Family?" skates dizzily across a vast range of assorted issues, from jobs to abortion to rape to sex education to censorship to "roles" . . . and lets itself be lured into wasting time with Sam Ervin's flatulences and the straight-faced announcement that "a woman thinks with her heart and a man thinks with his head" and other nonsense.
There's enough confusion and bitterness attached to the ERA fight already without throwing this hodgepodge at us, sincere and hardworking though it is. The last thing we need in the equal-rights struggle for women, perhaps the most profound revolution of the century, is yet more heated rhetoric, crowd scenes and slapdash discussion.