Monday, 15 March 2010

BBC4 Women: Mothers

NOTE: My other reviews of 'Libbers' and 'Activists' can be found here:
first thoughts
2nd watching

Yes, I watched it, and I have lots to say.

Mostly I resented the demographic represented, but again, how else would it be pitched on this channel? I do believe that only one family lived north of London, and the parents in that family were both academics. I suppose it's appealing to the lowest common denominator, to just interview (stereo)typical nuclear families. However, there are SO many feminist families who are anything but typical!

Personally, it would have felt a much more rounded documentary if the lives of feminist families were included, e.g. non-working feminists mums, queer parents, mothers who stay at home but fill their lives with things other than children.

(Not to say that the stay-at-home parents featured in the program DON'T do other things, but the documentary didn't seem to show them doing anything other than 'typical' parenting - baking, play-groups, washing, yawn).

What about the parents staying at home and providing home-education? What about mothers who give up their time for voluntary groups (coughcough breastfeedingpeersupport)? What about working class mums who don't have a bloody choice in the matter?

Isn't it wonderful to pontificate about 'choice' when the people without a choice have no voice?

Furthermore on the subject of what a parent does, how about the question put to the Oxford graduate:

'what is the point of your education, do you need a degree from Oxford in order to stay home and look after your children?'

Well, those who know me can imagine my reaction.

(something along the lines of 'fiery wrath'?)

The fact that education for its own sake is not even considered astounds me. Once an educational level has been achieved it is always there to fall back on, use, or add to. I absolutely agree with the mother: she can pass her knowledge on to her children. I feel so passionate about my academic achievements and goals, but I also feel passionate about bringing up my daughter in the way I have chosen.

Why should motherhood negate education and the urge to be educated? Is education only compatible with working and earning? That sounds quite capitalist to me.

However, on to the thing I enjoyed: watching the squirming when Engle asked what activities they each do around the home. It was good to reinforce the idea that washing, organising and cleaning are not a realm of natural knowledge - it is learnt through trial and error, paying attention, reading, PLANNING and thinking, before doing. It's too easy to get drawn into always doing something because your other half 'doesn't do it well enough'. How the hell did that partner learn to do it in the first place?

Anyway, that aside, it's perfectly understandable that Vanessa Engle may have wanted to highlight the inherent sexism in the standard nuclear family. Today, that kind of sexism often goes unchallenged and is held up as a shining example of what family life should be about. However, my question is, can't we have some positive examples? Can't we see what other people are doing and be inspired, rather than depressed?

Mr Onions regularly challenges me, asking me if I am ever going to read something positive about feminism. Well, I put that challenge to this doc: make me feel positive next week, I want to see something good about feminist activism, some passion, some success, some positive ideas. Lets leave this sadness behind, please?

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