As my childhood was in the late sixties and through the seventies, I’m a bit of a sucker for any form of nostalgia TV about that era. But there can be few more important trips down memory lane that which tells of the pivotal moments and people who were instrumental in furthering the fight for the equality of women.
And in this film by Vanessa Engle, we got to see just that. Furthermore, it’s not often that I label a piece of television as ‘important’, but I believe this was. In fact, I think it should be part of the curriculum in schools.
Granted, the bits about sexual liberation might have to be toned down a tad for younger audiences, but the overall narrative of this film is one that needs as wide an audience as possible, and it presented this important bit of history in an exceptionally entertaining manner.
But apropos of memory lane, this film evoked a little trip of my own…
My first inkling that things were changing was when I started at secondary school; for my first year or so, we girls had to take Home Economics – it wasn’t an option, we had to – while boys got to play in workshops making wooden ashtrays and interesting shapes out of metal.
However, while at the time I had zero awareness of the seismic shift the activism of political and social pioneers such as Susan Brownmiller, Kate Millett, Marilyn French and Germaine Greer caused, I did feel the effects of their commitment…
They worked and campaigned tirelessly to get women out of their metaphorical second class carriages – and their collective kitchens – and this new liberation malarkey found its way to me and my peers when it ceased to be compulsory for girls to learn how to make a Victoria sponge. For the first time, we were allowed into those hitherto no-go workshop areas and could learn to make our own cheese boards, right alongside boys.
So this BBC4 film held a special magic for me as we heard from several sources how that all came about. As well as the women mentioned above, there were contributions from many others who all – to a lesser or greater degree – played a part in the women’s liberation movement.
One rather surprising bit of archive footage contained Cilla Black – not the first name that springs to mind when pondering upon likely political activists – singing a heartfelt song about emancipation. However, as she crooned “I want equality” her arguably subversive and divisive message was perhaps watered down somewhat by the presence of dancers in high heels and figure hugging leotard affairs.
But there, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and decades on, we women are still struggling with stereotypes and inequalities, and I believe we always will be, but thanks to those vociferous and determined women of the sixties and seventies, at least we can now make our own cheese boards. And I would like to personally thank them for that.
If you missed this extremely interesting film, you can catch it on BBC iPlayer.