Thursday, 18 March 2010

Perplexed by ...

(Image from From 'Women', three part documentary showing on BBC 4, by Vanessa Engle)

Okay so Kate 'sausages and mash' Winslet isn't everyone's cup of tea, but in a week that follows revelations about Chelsea footballer's infidelities and the news of kindly Mark Owen's pre-marital affairs, I find it incredible that certain sections of the British press are so quick to respond to the end of Winslet's marriage to Sam Mendes with the 'oh we never really liked her anyway' retort. For it seems where no tangible betrayal can be reported its easier to just blame the woman for a break-up. It must be her success, her beauty or her Oscar. Where the Jennifer Aniston's and the Cheryl Cole's have our unconditional sympathies, Winslet in all her pretence to 'ordinariness' must rather be scrutinised and critiqued. Perhaps that the difference between great hair and intelligence: one is intimidating, while the other is just, well, great hair.

Anyone who was (at least in my opinion) fortunate enough to see Revolutionary Road last year knows that while the hermetically sealed world of a marriage is a private, often inscrutable affair, at least in the very fact that no one really knows 'what goes on behind closed doors'; it was blatantly obvious from the movie that whether you are in one or not, there are hearts and lives at stake. Husbands,Wives, Children. Perhaps its time we all just butted out of celebrity marriages and got on with the business of keeping our own houses in order.

To that end and in a sort of coda, I also want to talk about the second part of BBC 4's Women series, charting the women's lib movement to present day activism. As a feminist it pains me that my generation are all to compliant and now often complicit in the sexism and de-humanisation of our gender from middle-England grade bitchiness displayed in rags such as The Daily Mail and of a calibre not dissimilar to what I have discussed above, to the more blatant practices of our hyper-sexualisation: glamour modelling and the mythology of sexual empowerment. Next week's final installment of Women will hopefully go some way to redress this imbalance by provided a much needed highlight into the fantastic work many 3rd wave feminists are doing to highlight issues still facing gender equality today.

For now though you can catch 'Mothers' (the second episode) on iplayer. I have to say I found this, as a follow up from the previous episode on 'Libbers' to be a rather less satisfactory exploration of what happened to the generation immediately after the 2nd wavers. Documentary maker Vanessa Engle focused her research of mothers from the working, to the stay at home solely in the middle class realm. The viewer's eye darts from one Sunday supplement home to the next, while women (some more tired looking than others) discussed the discrepancies between the domestic and economic roles, while their husbands squirm with embarrassment. There is a case for saying a basis in the white middle class home might be the most likely place to find 'stay at home mothers' as 21st century models of 1950's housewives, for economic privilege is one factor which affords women the right to choose to stay at home. But in light of teenage pregnancies, and the changes in British demographic it was a rather limited world in which to focus. Perhaps that was the point. The hermetically sealed world of the 2 point 4 nuclear family fitted the documentary's remit and to hell with all the 'social deviants' and politically and economically dis-emplowered the 2nd wave fought so hard for.

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