If telling women’s stories is, in itself, a feminist act then Call The Midwife qualifies in spades. Iona Sharma reflects on the second series
Content note: Contains a reference to attempted rape.
Call The Midwife, the BBC Saturday evening drama set in the poor East End of the 1950s, was reviewed by Emily Kenway last summer at the close of the first series. As the following series begins, the show is well-established in its basic premise; Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine), the narrator and protagonist, is settled in her job as district midwife, living among the nuns at the convent, Nonnatus House, helping run antenatal clinics and attending the expectant women of the district on her bicycle. Of course, this alone is more feminism than we get with most television: the three young midwives and the nuns occupy an almost exclusively female world and the pregnant women they care for are also supported by mothers, sisters, female neighbours and friends. If telling women’s stories is, in itself, a feminist act – and I believe it is – then Call The Midwife qualifies in spades.
This second series, running between 20 January and 17 March 2013, has seen the writing expanding in scope, exploring the lives of the main cast as well as the women they care for. In so doing, it deftly and lightly engages with feminist ideas through the reality of women’s lives, rather than through the abstract. Jenny, whose role is largely as a viewpoint character and everywoman, nevertheless has her own arc in the second series: having made her choice to pursue the career she loves and shelve romance for now, she is fighting for that choice to be respected by not only people in general but particularly by Jimmy (George Rainsford), her childhood friend who pines for her unsubtly. “My work…” she tells him “…It’s what I need to give myself to”…
[Image description: Jenny, Trixie and Cynthia (left to right) in their uniforms and red cardigans, each holding a baby. This picture is used on the cover of the DVD for series two of Call the Midwife and bears the purple and white BBC logo.]