Haven’t yet caught an episode of the BBC/PBS smash hit series Call the Midwife? Here are three reasons from writer/producer Heidi Thomas why you need to watch this groundbreaking feminist masterpiece:
3. Call the Midwife provides female role models who embrace professionalism, not porn.
“I remember an RAF Careers Officer coming to my school and telling us about the wonderful work we could do in the RAF… as catering assistants! We were furious to hear we would never be allowed to be pilots. Now every profession a girl would wish to consider is open to her.
But I think the Spice Girl, Girl Power thing veered a lot of young women off course, because it was about investing your self-worth in your physical persona, sexuality and “attitude”. I love the idea that we have put the notion of professional women right up there in front of a new generation of TV watchers.”
2. Call the Midwife is the antidote to bad girl TV.
“One of the things they enjoy the most is playing women who are actually nice to each other. Because as young attractive actresses, they are often only offered parts where women are in opposition to one another, where they are catty, or bitchy or quarrelling over the same man.
“They love the idea of women living together in a supportive community dedicated to their professions and to the service of other women, which brings us back round to your thesis about Call The Midwife as a feminist piece.”
1. Even the boys in your house will become addicted to this show about midwives, nuns and babies.
“One interesting thing we learnt, from a breakdown of our audience figures, is that numerically, more men were watching Call The Midwife than Top Gear…”.
Set in the working poor East End of London in 1958, the BBC hit has been hailed as “the torchbearer of feminism on television,” mainly due to the attention given to topics like abortion and birth control. But, don’t let the misleading musings of ultra-feminist writers dissuade you from watching the series based on the memoirs of real-life midwife Jennifer (Lee) Worth, the title character in the series. Her Midwife Trilogy upon which the show is based provides a heretofore unwritten chapter of feminist history.
Worth’s memoirs contain powerfully detailed accounts, not only of her own experiences with the nuns of Nonnatus House, but of the history of these brave nurse-nuns who confronted a Victorian patriarchal system that all too often abused and subjugated women in medieval ignorance. (Will Sister Monica Joan recall the tragic story of her maidservant Nancy, or that of her own poor mother in this series, I wonder?) Call the Midwife also provides an essential look into the motivations and blessings of First Wave Feminism: An era in which young women like Jenny Lee were able to find balance between career and sexuality, reaping the benefits of both the Sufragette fight and the style of the New Look, before the bra burning nomenklatura started framing the culture to female disadvantage.
Illustrative of the true power of the sisterhood at work and play, it is all at once a heartwarming medical drama fraught with social commentary, romantic interludes and tales of real life average folk. Oh, and it’s a well written series of characters and stories making it highly addictive to boot.
The Call the Midwife holiday special airs this Sunday, December 29, on most PBS stations. Season 3 will premiere on March 30, 2014, giving one plenty of time to catch up on seasons 1 and 2 and even read the books. Not generally a show for the very young, gather your tween/teenage kids and enjoy some Family Quality Time with the nuns and midwives of the East End.
And, in the meantime, if you’re up for a laugh, entertained by a cultural time warp, or even a fan of Doctor Who, check out this skit performed on the BBC’s Red Nose Day 2013: