Histories of Women on British Television

Posted by jcm22 at May 03, 2018 11:30 AM |
Wednesday 9 May 2018 - School of Arts’ History of Art and Film (Film Studies) are proud to present a two hour lecture discussing ‘Gender, television and voice: historicising women’s talk on British television’ (Dr Jilly Boyce Kay) and ‘Making women’s history on television in the seventies: Shoulder to Shoulder (BBC 1974)’, (Dr Vicky Ball)


Date: Wednesday 9 May 2018
Time: 4pm-6pm
Venue: Attenborough Film Theatre

Contact: Dr Gozde Naiboglu

Speakers: Dr Jilly Boyce Kay (University of Leicester) and Dr Vicky Ball (De Montfort University)

All Welcome!


Dr Jilly Boyce Kay, Lecturer in Media and Communication, University of Leicester
‘Gender, television and voice: historicising women’s talk on British television’

Television is often conceptualised as a democratising medium within academic literature - its promotion of ‘ordinary’ voices is frequently seen, over time, to have contributed to a less elitist, more open, and less rigidly class-bound culture. It has also been argued that, through its intimate address to domestic audiences, television has ‘feminised’ the talk of the public sphere, thereby opening up new possibilities for valuing and legitimising women’s voices. And yet, on the other hand, television discussion is still characterised by profound gender inequality, as the ongoing under-representation of women on panel shows such as Question Time (BBC1, 1979-present) and Mock the Week (BBC2, 2005-present) attest. This paper argues that in order to overcome these inequalities of voice, we need a more developed theory of the gender politics of the medium’s communicative architecture, and to understand how television’s imperatives to be ‘ordinary’ might have disciplinary as well as democratising functions. It also argues that we need to situate these debates within a longer historical frame in order to challenge powerful ideas that the situation is getting inexorably better. The paper uses various examples of women’s talk on television from different decades, paying attention to the importance of genre, format and the schedule in relation to gender and voice. It pays special attention to women’s talk on television has been construed as ‘nagging’, ‘hysterical’, or ‘gossiping’ – and argues that such talk should not be precluded from being considered democratic.

Jilly Boyce Kay is a Lecturer in Media and Communication at the University of Leicester. She is currently writing a book for Palgrave on the history of women's talk on television.

Dr Vicky Ball, VC2020 Senior Lecturer in Cinema and Television Histories, De Montfort University
‘Making women’s history on television in the seventies: Shoulder to Shoulder (BBC1974)’

This paper emerges from a book that I am currently writing about the British female ensemble drama (1960 to 1918). One of the book’s central themes of analysis is the way in which television is a mediator of women’s history and indeed how it has engaged with discourses of feminism and femininity within this fifty-year period. In this paper I want to share some of my research findings regarding the British ensemble dramas’ engagements with feminism and femininity in the 1970s. The 1970s is the decade that is most associated with the burgeoning second wave feminist movement and attendant campaigns that attempted to illuminate and eradiate the ways in which media forms, including television, discriminated against women. Yet one consequence of the need to identify the ways in which television has been (and continues to be) overwhelmingly sexist and discriminatory has meant there has been very little research of 1970s British television drama that did engage with discourses of second wave feminism.

To begin to address this gap this paper explores a suffragette drama created by a feminist activist and film-maker Midge MacKenzie entitled Shoulder to Shoulder (BBC 1974). In this analysis I want to illustrate the ways in which Shoulder to Shoulder is sympathetic to the radical moments of women’s history, namely, the militant politics of the Women’s Social and Political Union that was set up by Emmeline Pankhurst to fight for women’s suffrage. Secondly, and more specifically, I want to suggest how the text favours the socialist feminist politics of her daughter Sylvia Pankhurst. I want to suggest the significance of this aspect of Shoulder to Shoulder’s constructions of and engagements with first wave feminism - in terms of its production context of the second wave of feminism in the 1970s.

Vicky Ball is VC2020 Senior Lecturer in Cinema and Television Histories at De Montfort University, Leicester. She is currently writing a book about the British female ensemble drama, entitled Heroine Television, for Manchester University Press. She is also co-investigator on the AHRC funded project ‘Women’s Work, Working Women: A Longitudinal Study of Women Working in the Film and Television Industries (1933-1989)’.

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