Friday, 19 March 2010


I’ve been shouting at the television. Has anyone else been able to stomach Women on BBC4?

I grew up in the 70s aware of the Women’s Liberation Movement and absolutely convinced of my right to be equal to any man. This does not mean I subscribe to some of the dottier things they did. I’ve generally thought my bra quite supportive even if I have wished for a smaller bust that wouldn’t need one – if only I was young enough not to find showing the straps acceptable!
Like the brave women who fought for the vote I applaud the ‘liberation’ of women. In my teens and twenties I had no interest in settling down with a man and a family; I was going to Save British Industry.
The first episode interviewed the chief activists (all mad according to A A Gill in the Sunday Times). The second interviewed a (very middle class professional) tiny set of mothers and their other halves about how they ran their marriages and who did what work. The key question seemed to be ‘In what way is your life different from that of a fifties housewife?’

It was at that point that I started to shout! The difference is that these women (and me too, being a middle class professional!) had chosen to lead the life they were leading. Some had given up work, but others were juggling work and family. There was some pointed stuff about who cleaned the bath, but little was made about the lower standards that we accept today. (Go on then: how many of you scrub your doorsteps, dust and vacuum daily?) And, since she was interviewing people with money, they all had washing machines and dishwashers. The hours my mum spent bent over her twin-tub, or my grandmother using her mangle, have been replaced by a machine that largely does the work while you do something else. The fifties housewife, of course, not only rarely did the sort of managerial work that a woman can do today, she also had to give up work if she married.
There’s a way to go! I’m not saying we’ve got equality. My adult life has been more different from my mother's than hers was of her mother's. I had a successful career and was on level pay with Husband when I gave up work to follow him to Germany. We had discussed our work and our wish to have children and made a conscious decision that he would support the family that I would bring up. As it happens Husband does a great deal more in the way of domestic chores and childcare than Father ever did. Regular readers will know that housework has never been of great interest to me. The things I do do are many and varied, but while Husband is bringing in the money it must be my task to spend it wisely… as well as do most of the chores.


countrymummy said...

I saw the two programmes and found the second one about bath cleaning hilarious. I thought it was just one of those behind the curtains, sarcastic films that let us peep into other peoples' domestic lives. I got quite irritated with the interviewer who did a lame job of challenging the couple about their division of labour. I agree with you about modern choice - nobody is making us chain ourselves to the kitchen sink anymore. What I worry about is that feminism unwittingly helped to create some of the nastiest bits of our society, rampant consumerism, devaluing of motherhood, mainstreaming of pornography...all that kind of stuff and I feel sorry that the intent for equality led to the notion that men are the enemy. There, my rant is finished. Glad I got that off my bra-upheld chest!

Sarah said...

I didn't see the programme, but there's something for you over at mine.

Brown Dog said...

Oh gosh, don't get me started... Happily I didn't see the progs in question, though I feel I would have been shouting too.

The Coffee Lady said...

I do think that being able to equally decide that you'll put your career on hold, as I have, while you bring up children is as feminist a decision as any other. However I also think that there's a long way to go before that ceases to mean that your career - and the unequal division of chores during that time - will never recover.

And though Mr Coffee is similar to your DH in his household responsibilities, I do believe that these kind of men, sadly, are still very much in the minority.

Scarlet Blue said...

I saw the whole series. The last one - about the feminist movement today - had me speechless. They were still making quiche, doing weird and wonderful things with lentals and dressing as men.
How unattractive.