‘I’m certainly not one of these women’s libbers’: Revisiting gender in The Family

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In 1974 the BBC screened the 12 part documentary serial The Family. Yet despite the title of the programme and its promise to open up the gendered terrain of the domestic sphere, The Family has largely been conceptualised with regard to discourses of class rather than gender. Given the famous slogan of the second wave that the ‘personal is political’, The Family provides a fertile terrain upon which to consider how discourses relating to the women’s movement were negotiated within a particularly (tele)visible domestic sphere at the time. It was after all often at the level of the micro-political - the everyday oppressions in women’s daily lives - that the second wave often sought to politicise the nature of female subjectivity (Tyler, 1997). In 1974, many critics and viewers lamented the fact that the wider social insight promised by The Family’s publicity failed to transpire, suggesting that it was ultimately about ‘nothing much’. In challenging this view, this article seeks to contribute to the project of writing women, here at the level of representation and critical reception, back into the history of canonical documentary texts, a process which can involve revisiting documentaries that have been untouched by feminist scholarship (Waldman and Walker, 1999). In doing so, it draws upon archival research undertaken at the BBC Written Archive Centre as based upon press cuttings, internal production memos and BBC Audience Research reports.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)300-320
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015


  • feminism
  • second wave
  • documentary
  • housewife
  • class
  • 1970's Britain

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