Tag Archives: women

Morning Ceiling

Many years ago I got a phone call I had been waiting for, it was a call from the television series The Bill (okay it was a while ago). thebillThe Bill had been attracted by a script that I had sent in and some ideas, I was advised not to offer ideas alone, in case they were appropriated and used without me or without credit, some good advice at least, but it was what happened next that was the kicker. I was discussing what progress I could make and we had got as far as the possibility of training to write for The Bill, when my children made a noise in the background. ‘Have you got children?’ said the voice on the end of the phone. I did not disown them ‘Yes bu…’ the words “but I have child care, I can manage” never left my mouth before the voice on the other end of the line said ‘You do not have the commitment The Bill requires.’ and they hung up.

Perhaps I should have pursued that, perhaps I should have lied and said they were my sister’s children (it was before mobile phones so I couldn’t say I was in the street), perhaps I did give up on them too easily, suffice to say The Bill is long gone and I am still writing.

I write this in the light of today’s survey of women who believe they suffer discrimination after having a baby, and also do not protest the injustice to their employer. Of course, in my case I was freelance, hard to bring a grievance and the problem with bringing a grievance is confidence. There is always a reason why you might not be as good as the person chosen to do the job you were aiming to get. If you challenge your employer, aside from the ill will it generates, it is difficult to prove that your particular skill set will do better than your competition because there are two ways to look at your success or lack of it

  1. That you am a talented woman who through lack of opportunity and the presence of a glass ceiling is thwarted
  2. That you are  deluded as to the level of your talent and deserve to be denied.

The truth is that many women might feel there is justification for number 2 and while that argument might have some merit, the statistics for the number of women in senior roles across the country are so poor that it would suggest employment decisions do favour men, not even the unencumbered woman. It is more likely that women step aside when they should really bite the bullet and challenge their employers, perhaps through grievance procedures, to really justify their decisions,. That’s not much good for the freelance of course, but according to yesterday’s news some girls could start honing their negotiation skills at home and at least get equal pocket money!

The Final Girl?

Spoiler Warning- don’t look if you haven’t yet seen SkyFall!

Sofie Grãbel as Sarah Lund

So as Sarah Lund (Sofie Grabel) takes to the screen for the last time and (spoiler warning) and M bows out of James Bond, it’s getting harder, not easier, to find serious female representations for us older or even younger ladies to enjoy. No doubt there are  a variety of young women rushing round our screens in sci-fi (Continium) or in violent high kicking spy stories (Hunted), and there’s female payback in Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) but serious women in authority, certainly on this side of the Atlantic, is hard to find. Recently, that stalwart of BBC Radio 4,  Woman’s Hour has started a hunt for Britain’s 100 most powerful women, which set me thinking, who are fiction’s 100 most powerful women? In fact to be fair to proportions between population and books who are fiction’s ten or twenty most powerful women? If you exclude from power the ability to kick a chin from a standing start and substitute that for being the woman who runs the show, I’m struggling to think of someone… anyone.

Here’s a few:

Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes) in Homeland 

Saga Noren (Sofia Helen) in The Bridge 

Birgitte
(Sidse Babett Knudsen) Borgen 

Jemma (Katey Sagal) Sons of Anarchy

None of those are British – these are:

Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren) in Prime Suspect

Judi Dench

M (Judi Dench) James Bond 

Dr. Grace Foley (Sue Johnstone) in Waking the Dead 

… but they are gone.

No doubt readers can think of other women characters that capture their imagination, but the overwhelming sense to me, at the moment, is that there are not many and that there are less and less examples. Even in one of my favourite shows, that makes no bones (almost literally) about the role and function of women, The Walking Dead, there is no one older than fifty – really in that world?

All the women featured are beautiful and if not young (sorry Laurie Holden but I remember the X Files) they are youthful and beautiful. The only aged member of the cast is that consummate actor Scott Wilson and whilst the lead characters may have to be represented by men in their prime, why is there an assumption that in a post-apocalyptic dystopia some formidable older lady would not still be alive and giving the men what for? Take a look at this lady

I rest my case.

The great thing about Judi Dench’s M and Birgitte in Borgen is that they are roles for women above the men in authority. In so may representations the women may be strong, intelligent characters, they may even be the protagonist, but they must battle the men. Carrie Matheson must battle the men, as must Saga in The Bridge, one wonders whether their mental illness is a metaphoric representation of the attitude to women in authority. Women in the workplace are still defined as aggressive, awkward or emotional if they present their case rationally and forcefully.  In other roles, Jemma in SOA must match the men in her accuracy of shot, as must Andrea in The Walking Dead but both are still subject male authority. Sarah Lund also manages her life in a man’s world, making the decision to sacrifice her role as a mother to her work, but at least she wears a jumper and some sensible shoes! Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), who held her own with her scientific mind compensated for that by some seriously impractical high heels

Don’t get me wrong I’m all for a bit of scopophilia male or female, but that alone is not a satisfying representation, not if you purport to offer insight to the world as it is or could be, women past the menopause do still exist and while young women are offered representations such as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, by the time they are thirty they will be starting to wonder what happens when they pass fifty. Hell! What happened to Buffy?