There’s an essay by Barbara Kingsolver that has a line that’s stuck with me for decades now. She’s writing about her mother, and her mother’s generation, and says, “If you work in the kitchen and have the mind of a rocket scientist, you’re going to organize your cupboards like Mission Control.”
The line stays with me. It reads to me of years, decades, <em>centuries</em> of the silencing of women’s lives and women’s voices. Of the writing of women out of history. Or the sheer uncountable loss to our community, our planet, of women’s contributions.
If you have a mind like a rocket scientist and you are excised from public life, from public participation, from the world of work and science and governance and arts, then, well…
… then you do what you can.
The tv series <em>The Bletchley Circle</em> portrays the lives of just such women. It’s a mystery series, two very short seasons (three epsiodes, and then four) and it’s on NetFlix. I highly, highly recommend it.
<em>Bletchley Circle</em> follows a group on women in 1950s England, as they attempt to live normal lives after WWII. Their lives now are small and circumscribed after their war experiences, because these woman all harbor a secret. They were all intelligence workers during the war, breaking German codes in the top-secret Bletchley Park installation. They are bound now by the Official Secrets Act. They can tell no one, not even husbands and children, of their wartime service.
Minds like NASA.
Because this is a television series, they end up solving mysteries and investigating crimes. But it makes a vast amount of sense, as a plot hook. These women are <em>brilliant</em>. Flashingly, blindingly intelligent. And they are all endowed with intense feelings of public service and community spirit — if they were not, they wouldn’t have volunteered in the war, after all.
They miss stopping the bad guys. They miss being a part of something more important than themselves. And they miss, oh, dear god do they miss, they miss being <em>good</em> at something.
Minds like NASA.
I love this show. It’s extremely well-acted and directed, and the writing is sharp. The plots are good, solid renditions of stories I would expect. The show is both comfortingly familiar and freshly interesting.
And I wince, watching it. I wince because I can’t stop thinking of the centuries of loss the world has experienced because we insist on silencing everyone who is outside the privileged minority.
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