CW: discussion of domestic violence
An eight episode series, Las Chicas del Cable (The Cable Girls) begins with a woman killing her friend’s husband – part self-defence, part accident – also shooting her friend. It’s a drama full of love stories, as well as crime and mystery, yet domestic violence is a major theme that runs through the series. Set in 1928 in Madrid, it shows the impossibility of leaving an abusive relationship in a patriarchal society, where even the law protects men who are abusers.
The programme centres on Alba from the very first episode, but throughout the series we also follow the individual stories of three other women. There is Marga, who seems timid at first, but shows herself to be a fearless and powerful woman. Carlota, who is the most vocal feminist, is seeking independence from her father, and questioning her sexuality as a bisexual woman. Ángeles, balancing both her career and her family, is dealing with a husband who goes from bad to worse. Alba, having formed a new identity, must choose between her past and her future, but at times it seems that the future that she is being offered is to permanently be someone else and let go of who she really is.
A wider issue that is being tackled in the show is women’s place in work. Firstly, as switchboard operators, their job prospects are limited. In addition to this, they are viewed as unskilled, with Marga’s love interest at one point suggesting she take a job as a seamstress, which she fiercely argues that she is not, seeming to surprise him by taking pride in the work she does. There is also the fact that improvements in technology are threatening the women’s jobs. Whilst they put up a fight once they realise this threat, I couldn’t help question why the women couldn’t be trained to do the same jobs as the men, that their only possible solution was to stop the progress of technology – or at least that option suggested.
I couldn’t help question why the women couldn’t be trained to do the same jobs as the men, that their only possible solution was to stop the progress of technology
One aspect of the series that some viewers found jarring was the use of modern music in the 1920s setting. Whilst I agreed in terms of when the music came from the scene, it otherwise could serve the purpose of drawing a connection between the stories of these women, and women’s lives in the present day. Domestic violence is still something that affects many people, with a majority of women being affected. It’s estimated that globally, 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence. As a result, two women are murdered every week, and 30 men each year. In Spain, there has been work to change legal systems in order to protect victims, and I have witnessed and heard of many protests since living here on many issues, violence against women being a recurring one.
While some of the legal issues in The Cable Girls may be different for some now, the fight against domestic violence is very much needed. In the UK, for example, Sisters Uncut protested the austerity measures that saw the closure of vital services to women suffering from domestic violence, and continue to speak out and take action on these issues.
It is important that we see these issues represented in stories of women, showing the complexity of their lives, and the realities of domestic violence. It is also important to see strong characters such as the women in this series giving an authenticity to the representation of women, both empowering and inspiring others to take action in whatever way they can to fight themselves for women’s rights.
Featured image via Netflix
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