Women Review: Balls Out Bra Burning

March 8, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

WOMEN: Monday 8th March, BBC4, 9pm ALERT ME

The women’s liberation movement of the late 1960’s to 70’s resulted in equal rights and legislative changes in many areas of women’s lives. Most of us have heard about it but how much do we really know?

In this programme, the founding faces of feminism leave no stone unturned as they uncover their motives, their part in the movement and how it has affected society today.

And – no – it wasn’t as easy as setting up a Facebook group. Speaking of which, the largest contains just over five thousand members. Perhaps showing we take for granted how different life was for women just forty years ago – and how some individuals struggled to change it.

Marilyn French, one of the leading American feminists recalls the limited number of jobs for women in the fifties, restricted to clerks or secretaries, highlighting women’s oppression in a patriarchal society. While she married young, Susan Brownmiller resisted feeling “unnatural”, as she puts it, for wanting a career. Anne Oakley, on the other hand, set out to prove domestic roles were a social construction and could therefore be directly challenged.

As for raising awareness, they did everything from holding ‘conscious raising’ talks to writing books (Marilyn’s, ‘The Woman’s Room’ sold over 20 million copies) and appearing on talk shows. Authentic footage tells a true story of what life was like, from the “picture perfect” fifties families to the public and at times violent political protests.

Germaine Greer discusses how marching wasn’t really her thing, and talks about the “difficult relationship between women” while Sheila Rowbotham, as an activist, thrives on it. With so many speakers and points of view, one gets a well-rounded description of what the feminist movement entailed.

As women became more assertive and articulate, controversial ways of life were adopted, including the abortion movement and lesbianism. Subsequently the journalist addresses her subjects with questions others would be afraid to ask.

With so many “shockumentaries” on TV these days, it is refreshing for something to appear on our screens with meaning and thought put into it. Whether it will go by in a haze or encourage further revolutionary action, well, that one’s up to you.