Powerful women, powerful wars

Two great things from the BBC this week.

1. Listen to BBC Radio 4’s latest Woman’s Hour – How to be a Powerful Woman – and do it soon. Whether you are male or female, these are the voices of so many of the women I know. Most poignantly for me is the American CEO who explains how embarrassed she was to tell her board of directors she was pregnant – and how upset they were when she told them. To paraphrase: “It was as if they felt they had taken a bet on a woman, and now she was pregnant.” Rather than a conversation about how to be powerful, this was rather more about how, simply, to live satisfactorily as a woman.

After listening, I couldn’t help asking where are the women who want to debate these issues on a personal level, over a drink? I seem to be alone in articulating my worries about children and career down the pub, with most of my female friends simply saying, “well I don’t worry about that yet”, or “it will turn out alright in the end”, or “I don’t have a relationship that would support having children yet”. Research shows that 80% of life-changing decisions are taken before the age of 35

but Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy program, says “I worried that every decision would have irrevocable consequences and that there was only one path. The truth is that there are many paths…”

To worry or not to worry? To remain laid-back or  think actively about the choices we make?

2. When at school, I discovered two great war photographers, Robert Capa and Don McCullin, during that period of adolescence when all things are new and everything reminds you of something else. (I was making an art piece that visually fused the UK 2005 general election, the first in which I could vote, with the rise of fascist Italy under the topic ‘Gesturing Figure’. Ah, A-levels…) How powerful it was to revisit Don McCullin’s work via the screening of this documentary on BBC1 last night. Intimate recollections from McCullin himself and long, rich shots spent poring over his high-contrast, high-impact images from wars around the globe in the last 50 years. The music and the camerawork are enough to bring you to tears: with McCullin’s narrative stringing it together, the effect is almost overwhelming.


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