The Ascent of Woman, Part 4

So there was another episode of Dr. Amanda Foreman’s wonderful documentary series This one took us up to the present day, and focused on revolutionary movements. It also took us back to Africa, which I was very pleased about.

Foreman started off with the French Revolution and the pioneering feminist, Olympe De Gouges. Sadly it turns out that Napoleon was a right misogynist, and between him and the Jacobins women ended up worse off after the Revolution than before it. And that despite them playing a key part in the Revolution via the March on Versailles.

Women also played a key part in the Russian Revolution, and for a few glorious years under Lenin Alexandra Kollontai made Russia a world leader in women’s rights. Sadly the men gradually took back control, and Stalin was having none of that feminism nonsense. Foreman got to interview Pussy Riot, which was interesting.

Meanwhile in the USA Margaret Sanger was pioneering the concept of birth control, and managed to find a wealthy backer to finance the development of the contraceptive pill. Apparently in the bad old days of the early 20th century the US Postal Service regarded mention of contraception to be “pornography”, so mailing leaflets about it was a felony.

Eventually we arrived in Africa and an interview with Lindiwe Mazibuko who was once Leader of the Opposition in South Africa, and another with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka who heads up women’s issues at the UN. We had some very brief mention of South America thanks to the liberation movements there, but it was very superficial. It is such a shame that they only had budget for four programs.

The overall thesis of the program was that we are moving into a time where social revolution will be driven by women, and will take place through education rather than bloodshed. It is a lovely idea, though I am not entirely sure I believe it. There are other things going on in the world that worry me deeply. At one point Foreman noted, “When a country is in crisis one of the first things to go are women’s rights”. There are plenty of countries in crisis right now, and more being added all the time.

Then again, she also said, “True revolution comes not from the death of millions, but from the death of prejudice”. That’s such a cool sound bite that if I was her I’d already be asking for it to be on my tombstone.

Foreman did a Q&A on Twitter after the show, which is storified here thanks to Gabrielle Laine Peters. The main point of interest is that she’s working on a book, which I will pounce on the minute it comes out.

I have all four programs recorded on my Sky Box. I might just watch them all again if I can find the time.

Now all I need to do is figure out how to persuade Dr. Foreman to do an interview for Women’s Outlook.

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