'I am not particularly despondent yet': the affective life of a feminist film in post war Britain

Hosted by the Department of Gender Studies

Old Theatre, Old Building, London School of Economics and Political Science


Dr Sadie Wearing

Dr Sadie Wearing

Associate Professor in Gender Theory, Culture and Film in the Department of Gender Studies, LSE


Prof Wendy Sigle

Prof Wendy Sigle

Head of the Department of Gender Studies

This lecture explores the affective life of the 1951 ‘equal pay film’ made by Jill Craigie, To Be a Woman.

The lecture  is based on research on the production and distribution history of the film held in the UK National Union of Women Teachers archive and considers the relation of this context to the form and political tone of the film.

The film is informed by, and relates to, Craigie’s interest in a longer history of feminist campaigning but it also offered an occasion for her to articulate a form of manifesto of film practice and politics which speaks to the post-war moment for British documentary and non-fiction filmmaking more generally. 

The lecture offers a reading of the film which draws out both some of the tensions of this context and the articulation of the imagined future of gender equality at this time.  In considering the production and distribution context of the film the paper offers an account of the affective dynamics or (after Williams) the ‘structure of feminist feeling’ within which the film was produced and disseminated. 

This short campaign film, I argue is indicative of Craigie’s attempts at this point in her career to produce explicitly political, accessible and ‘popular’ socially transformative film. The lecture puts this film in the context of ongoing debates within feminism and gender and film  studies over what it means ‘to be a woman’ in the film industry, in the archive,  and beyond.

Prof Wendy Sigle is Head of the Department of Gender Studies and Professor of Gender and Family Studies at LSE. She has worked on a variety of issues related to families and family policy in historical and contemporary societies. Most of her research is quantitative and applies both econometric and demographic methods to the analysis of secondary survey data or data drawn from official government records. However, she has written a number of papers critiquing how quantitative methods are applied and how quantitative evidence is used and interpreted, particularly in a policy context.

Dr Sadie Wearing is an Associate Professor in Gender Theory, Culture and Film in the Gender Studies Department, London School of Economics. Her research interests are in gender and cultural production and in feminist and gender theory, with a specific emphasis on aging, memory and temporality. She has published extensively on these themes in relation to both popular culture (film and television) and literature in both contemporary and historical contexts. She is a member of the Feminist Review editorial collective.

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