Weldon takes on feminists in TV series

David Lister@davidlister1
Friday 12 June 1998 23:02

THE FIRST feminist television drama is to be screened next month on Channel 4.

Big Women, written by the novelist Fay Weldon and produced by the one- time revolutionary activist, Tariq Ali, chronicles the rise of a feminist publishing house through the Seventies.

The series, which starts on 2 July and stars Daniella Nardini (Anna from This Life), Clare Holman and Anastasia Hille, seems certain to re-ignite the debate on the state of feminism, not least among the original feminist publishers, Virago and Women's Press, who may not like the way the fictional publishing house is portrayed.

Fay Weldon, who has already published a novel based on her TV script, has suffered accusations of feminist revisionism and betrayal. Polly Toynbee, the social commentator, has called herfeminism's Winnie Mandela.

In the series, the women set up the company, Medusa, after much drinking and debating. They celebrate by dancing naked together. One decides there and then to leave her husband and children, before going naked out into the street.

Weldon, said yesterday: "The series was Tariq's idea. But I go on thinking that anything that is done by men and women together has a kind of energy and life as God intended. Things that women do together tend to be more dutiful.

"It's amazing this is the first drama about feminism there has been on television. But for so long we haven't been able to see the wood for the trees.

"Perhaps the series will show how dangerous ideologies and isms are ... you've got women with permission to hate men now and that's what we have to pull back from."

Big Women opens with feminists putting up posters declaring that "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle", and defacing sexist posters with the words "This exploits women".

But Fay Weldon said yesterday: "I would like men to go around now saying 'This advert diminishes men'. Look at those ads with women putting a stiletto heel on a man's face.

"Imagine it the other way round. It's appalling. In the under-40s, sexism exists even more now from women to men than from men to women.

"In the last episode I have a young woman who goes around firing all the men. I thought she was dreadful, but all the young female reviewers love her."

According to insiders, making the series has had a radicalising effect on the young actresses involved.

Anastasia Hille who plays Stephie, the woman who leaves her family, said: "Some of the things feminists were saying in the Seventies sound ludicrous now. But I respect Stephie and feel a sense of indebtedness to women like her.

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