Wednesday, February 6, 2008
The Week the Women Went
The production company Paperny Films claims their show The Week the Women Went (on CBC Monday nights) "looks at the roles of men and women in the 21st century. We are interested in what each gender does at home, at work and in the community."
But by picking a small town, the show has chosen a place where the career roles for women are more limited than their city-living 21st century sisters. Many of the men work for the oil companies, often gone for days or weeks at a time. The majority of women shown on the series stay home and raise the kids. A few help run family businesses. One works part-time at the post office, one at the library, a couple at the hospital, and two run beauty salons from their homes. One woman wanted to be a veterinarian when she was a teenager, but she got pregnant and has not yet made it back to school, though she works on their sheep farm. The single moms on the show have multiple jobs to raise their kids.
To be fair, the cost of living in cities is such that parents who want the option of staying home with their kids often have to work to pay for the city housing costs and lifestyle. And it would definitely be interesting to see how city-dwelling women would describe their male partners' contribution to child-raising and house-cleaning.
One of the teenage girls we meet says she plans to find out - she wants to get out of town the second she graduates from high school. She's also realized that having sex with the local boys isn't necessarily the best way to spend her time, especially if she wants to make sure she gets out.
What's eye-opening is that the show leaves no doubt that leaving the men home alone with the kids for a few hours, let alone a week, is for many of the women, an unusual occurrence, even in the 21st century. Several remark that this is the first time in years that they've been away from the responsibilities of childcare.
The bonding of the women while away from their daily duties is so-far an underplayed part of the show. One woman is working her way back into the group after gossip left her an outcast. When another woman falls in the water on a rafting trip, the group tries to rescue her, and comforts her when she gets back in. Seeing the men back in town get together to work on a community project brings home the point that the point of living in a small town is that you don't need to arrange bonding to get people to come together to help each other out.
While several of the women complain at levels ranging from of good natured to bitter about the lack of men's interest in child-raising or helping around the house, many of them also describe their strong partnership and mutual devotion.
In the first couple of days of the week, the men have so far projected that "It shouldn't be too hard" to do any any of the challenges they face -- what it will be like without the women, creating a gazebo for the town centre, or planning a wedding in a week. The question hanging in the air is whether their bravado will hold up as the week goes on and they have to put the kids to bed for more than one night.
Participants and viewers of the show have gotten a good discussion going over at the CBC blog. In one thread, a man asks when CBC will air a show on "The Week the Men Went"? A few of the female respondents reply that men always get to leave - for work, fishing trips, or just leaving their families. For many of the women on the show, this is their first, but hopefully not the last, chance to have some time for just themselves. I hope we'll see more of what they talk about and discover in this time on their own and with other women.