The Telegraph: What’s on TV tonight?

Photo: BBC/Silver River

Photo: BBC/Silver River

The Ascent of Woman

BBC Two, 9.00pm; Wales, 11.15pm

By Catherine Gee

“There has never been a better time to be born a woman,” says Dr Amanda Foreman as she opens this four-part documentary series about the fairer sex. True, of course, but gender equality eludes women in many parts of the world and that is the premise of Foreman’s series – that the history of women is one of swings and reversions rather than a linear march of progress. She kicks off tonight’s opener with a fascinating explanation of the ebb and flow of women’s status through time – archaeological finds from Neolithic times in Anatolia, Turkey, for example, suggest a society in which women enjoyed near-equal status with men; ditto the ancient Sumerian culture in what is modern Iraq, until their privileges were stripped by Egyptian invaders in 2300 BC.

Dotted throughout are segments in which Foreman meets modern women from the areas she’s exploring to discuss the plight of their ancestors – it doesn’t bring intellectual weight to her argument, but their anecdotes do pack an emotional punch. Foreman is knowledgeable and her attention to historical detail impressive; it’s a compelling look at a subject worth exploring. VP

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