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Question of Choice, A (1982)

Courtesy of Sheffield Film Co-op

Main image of Question of Choice, A (1982)
Production CompanySheffield Film Co-op
SponsorYorkshire Arts Association
 Sheffield City Council

Documentary illustrating the limited choices available to women who see family commitments as their first priority and extend this commitment to their community.

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A Question of Choice (Sheffield Film Co-op, 1982) features a small group of low-paid women workers - two cleaners, a cook, a lollipop lady - and a male caretaker in a school in Walkley, Sheffield. The participants describe the limited employment choices available to women when family remains their first priority. While the work they do is hard and poorly paid, it does offer them flexibility, with hours that fit in with their family lives, as well as affording them close contact with the community and their children's education. Beyond the work that they do in the school, these women run activities at a local community centre and organise events for children in the local area.

The male caretaker's comments about the way the women work, and the conditions under which they work, highlight the disparity between their roles and the continued assumption that women are prepared to do this kind of work and are better suited to it. The fact that the women find it hard to attend union meetings and are therefore reliant on him for maintaining good working conditions means they are trapped in a closed situation.

Displaying some optimism about the way the women successfully organise community activities and support one another, the film raises particular questions that other women viewing the film might recognise in their own lives, with the aim of provoking discussion.

The film was shot without sound, and recorded interviews were added to accompany images of the women at work. This gives it a more personal, reflective feel, and the intimacy of the still photography sequences highlights the difference between the women's domestic lives, their relationships with their children and their working lives. However, the women appear always to be cleaning, and we never see their husbands.

Emma Hedditch

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Video Clips
Complete film (17:42)
Extract 1 (2:45)
Extract 2 (2:49)
Women's Film and Video Collectives