Sunday, 14 March 2010

BBC4 Women: upon a second watching...

NOTE: Please read my other posts about BBC4 Women:
First Thoughts on 'Libbers'
Review of 'Mothers'
Review of 'Activists'

OK, after watching BBC4 Women - Libbers again, I have a few more opinions.

Firstly, I actually enjoyed the program, I felt an affinity for many of the Libbers and seeing their passion and pain was a good contextualisation of the Women's Movement. Whilst I agree with The F Word that the view given is very white and middle class, I think the program was limited in this way by its target audience.

Which brings me back to my original thoughts, my criticism was mostly that the program was not accessible or inclusive, but obviously we're talking about a program made for BBC4, whose viewer-ship is probably similar to that of BBC Radio 4 - middle class, middle-aged and white. If we were talking about popularising feminism it would have to be placed on a channel that was for more popular viewing! BBC 1 would obviously have a different impact, and a program made for BBC 3 (which seems to be the 'youth' and 'comedy' channel) would probably be approached in a completely different manner.

So, moving on to the program that was actually made; here's my main criticisms:

Upon questioning Marilyn French about being a housewife, the interviewer (I assume Vanessa Engle) asks:
"Did you enjoy all that drudgery?"

[insert my rage face here]

I feel Engle demonstrated in just 6 words one of the problems about the whole "feminists vs housewives" debate. Those words suggest that life as a housewife is all 'drudgery' and assumes that French agrees with that analysis. Luckily French wasn't easily led, I was most impressed by her reply:

"I didn't mind it, what I minded was being limited to it"

Which is the core of the argument really, isn't it? It's not a case of it not being fulfilling or it always being boring, it's a case of being capable of other things, if you so wish to engage in them.

French further prevents a misinterpretation of her work when discussing the reaction to her book, "The Women's Room" which unleashed a "tidal wave of female anguish."
Upon being asked "did you feel proud of that?" French replied:

"no I felt anguished"

powerful stuff, not pride in her achievements, only sadness that so many women could feel the same way.

I like that the questions from the interviewer are challenged by quite a few of the women, highlighting their strong will (or perhaps a naivety of younger women interested in the movement?)

For example, I felt that quite a lot of pushing (on the part of the interviewer) was involved in the matter of sex, orgasms and lesbianism. A number of the women didn't want to speak about it and I think it may have been disrespectful to try to make (what seemed like) a big deal about this section of the program.

Another thing that struck a strong chord with me was the section about the sit-in against the male editor of Ladies Home Journal. Some of the arguments in the film footage from the time were just as relevant today as they were then, e.g. images of women being used to encourage other women to live vicariously instead of living their own lives to the fullest. I found this a really telling and sad section, those same arguments can still be made 40 years on, but there's such a quiet minority of people making them.

Which brings me to my conclusion: the program was good, but so sad. I was interested to hear the words of UK feminists, as most of the material I've had available before has been limited to the American Movement. The way the hope and power of the movements is expressed seems so wonderful, but this is contrasted harshly with the tinge of disappointment and sadness that seems to permeate through the interviews. French in particular seemed so sad: "we thought we were changing the world...but it ended."

Yet, besides the sadness, the program was good for the audience it was trying to reach, but, in my eyes, the audience feminism NEEDS is younger women, and those who have little-to-no connection with feminism. Surely this is the main way that the movement can be re-invigorated on a grand scale?

I'm sure there's much more I could add to this review, and I do have another post lined up about Susan Brownmiller and rape, but I'll save that for another time.

And to end, here's my favourite quote (no, it's not the cat one):

"I don't know what I am"
"Do you call yourself a lesbian?"
"No, I call myself a poet"
Robin Morgan

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