Series 2: Unfinished Business

The fight for women’s rights is unfinished business. But where do we begin? The British Library’s Curator of Contemporary Archives, Polly Russell, is joined by guests including actor and activist Jameela Jamil, Sex Education writer Laurie Nunn, Olympic gold medal winner Victoria Pendleton, Nubian Skin founder Ade Hassan, and psychoanalyst and feminist writer Susie Orbach, to talk all things sexual liberation, intersectionality, mental health and more.

Find out about the long history of women fighting for justice, discover remarkable characters from the past and hear from women today who are challenging and changing the world for the better.

Creating a space for in-depth conversations on issues that matter across the world, this brand new podcast accompanied the British Library’s major exhibition Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights.

Learn more about the fight for women’s rights, our online resources are a great place to start with articles and videos on everything from women’s work during the war to disability activism and a suffrage map of Britain detailing the true breadth of the movement across the country.

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 or wherever you get your podcasts.

Unfinished Business podcast series is generously supported by Joanna and Graham Barker and The Eccles Centre for American Studies.

A Pixiu Production

Find other audio content from the British Library on SoundCloud.

Women holding up placards

S2 E11 The Anatomy of Activism

In the continuing fight for women’s rights, who is responsible for change, and who should stand up and make a difference today?

Amika George is the Founder of #FreePeriods, a global campaign to end period poverty, which she started at the age of 17. Her campaign successfully persuaded the UK government to pledge funds to provide free menstrual products in all English schools and colleges in 2017. More recently she wrote her first book, Make it Happen: How to Be an Activist.

In the final episode of this series, Amika joins British Library Curator Polly Russell to discuss the anatomy of activism – explaining her journey, and giving thoughts on how women can continue to organise and made their voices heard. They hear from key campaigners including Rachel Grocott from Bloody Good Period, LGBTIQA+ activist Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin from Voices 4 London, Natasha Walter from Women for Refugee Women, and Isabel Cortes from United Voices of the World.

S2 E10 The Accidental Technologists

Too often, men design the technology that shapes our world but in this episode we’re getting excited about the feminist possibilities of tech.

British Library Curator Polly Russell is joined by Alice Wroe, an Augmented and Virtual Realities Lead at the Atlantic Institute. Together, they’re exploring the diversity issues in the industry and hearing from women who are working to disrupt the scene.

Judy Wajcman, a Fellow at The Alan Turing Institute, looks backwards to explain why from the '80s onwards women in the UK became less involved in this field.

Looking to the future, we’re donning Virtual Reality headsets as artist and VR creator Deepa Man-Kler takes us through some of her alternative projects. Co-Founder of non-profit organisation Feminist Internet Dr Charlotte Webb explores how feminist chatbots can change the ways tech can converse with us. And the self-proclaimed ‘accidental technologist’ Stephanie Dinkins will be questioning how technology can care for us in the future…

S2 E9 We Need Space to Party

Having fun is a serious business. In this episode British Library curator Polly Russell joins forces with illustrator and club-night founder Flo Perry to explore how lesbians and queer women have partied, socialised and come together since the 70s. Because it’s in these moments and places that communities thrive and identities are confirmed. And these spaces are under threat.

Polly and Flo are heading back to the 80s to get a sense of lesbian nightlife then, with club promoter Yvonne Taylor. They’re exploring the power of punk with Chardine Taylor Stone  LGBT+ activist and drummer of black feminist punk band Big Joanie. And they’re meeting British Library Research Fellow Eleanor Careless to learn how lesbians found each other in the past using feminist magazine Spare Rib.

There’ll also be lots of metaphorical partying in some of the hottest queer nights happening pre-pandemic  Tabitha Benjamin’s Butch, Please and Xandice Armah’s Gal Pals. Get your glad rags on, it’s going to be a wild one.

S2 E8 Trans Through Time

'It just felt completely natural to me that as long as there were gender roles there would be people who transcended them.' Juliet Jacques.

In today’s episode British Library curator Polly Russell is joined by writer and filmmaker Juliet to explore how transgender lives have been represented in the press, in law and in culture throughout the ages. Because for transgender women in the UK and around the world, there is no finished business. Whether it’s access to healthcare, high suicide rates or being faced with violence on the streets, the issues trans people face are far from sorted. So Polly and Juliet are learning about queer stories from the from 20th century with academic Alison Oram, getting inspired by political activist Christine Burns MBE and chatting to writer Kuchenga about how things stand today.

S2 E7 Intersectionality

Do you call yourself a feminist? For some, the answer is a straightforward ‘yes’ for others, it’s complicated. In this episode focusing on intersectionality we explore why.

The term intersectionality was first used by lawyer Kimberly Crenshaw in the late 1980s to highlight that social justice problems, such as racism and sexism, are often inextricably linked.

In this episode curator Polly Russell is joined by poet, activist and educator Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan as they explore intersectionality: WHY IT'S ESSENTIAL, how has the term been misused and misappropriated and how looking at the world through an intersectional lens is just a starting point, not an end in itself.

They look back to the 70s and 80s with Gail Lewis, psychotherapist, writer, activist and co-founder of the Organisation for Women of Asian and African Descent, and explore why this discussion is so pertinent now with academic Azeezat Johnson.

S2 E6 Serious Laughs

Throughout history attempts have been made to silence and ignore women.  They’ve had to fight for a place in politics, had to use male pseudonyms to get published and often find themselves subjected to trolling and abuse when they speak out.

So in this episode, curator Polly Russell and co-host comedian and writer Sara Pascoe are hearing from some women who stand on stage and command attention. They’re having a laugh with broadcaster and writer Sandi Toksvig and stand-up comedian Shazia Mirza as they explore how the comedy scene has changed over time and what still needs to be done.

Strap yourselves in for some very funny conversations and unexpected revelations…

S2 E5 A Scar in Our Society

We’re living in what some have called an epidemic of domestic abuse in the UK. It’s sadly a large part of the ongoing struggle for women’s rights, justice and the ability to live a life free of the threat of violence. In this episode, British Library curator Polly Russell is joined by bestselling author and Women’s Aid Ambassador Holly Bourne to explore why it happens, how it can affect anyone, what is being done to improve the situation, and what still needs to change.

They’re hearing from survivors as well as Pragna Patel, a woman who’s worked to change the landscape over the last 40 years. Pragna is the Director of Southall Black Sisters, an organisation which has been highlighting and challenging all forms of gender-related violence against women since 1979.

S2 E4 Freewheeling Women

Today, we’re going cycling!

When you see a bicycle today 'revolutionary' and 'radical' probably aren't the first thoughts which spring to mind but for women in the late 19th century hopping on a bike was transformative. They could travel where they wanted and when they wanted at speed. In this episode, curator Polly Russell is joined by cyclist, writer and blogger Jools Walker (AKA ‘Lady Velo’) as they pedal through the epic history of women on bikes and explore the politics of cycling today and why the sport is still so important for women. They get a pep talk from daredevil Olympian Victoria Pendleton, take a ride with Velociposse, an all-women’s bike club and hear from cycling sociologist Kat Jungnickel about the pioneering Victorian women who designed new forms of cyclewear.

S2 E3 “Excuse me, I haven't finished”: Feminist Fightback

Actor and activist Jameela Jamil has unfinished business. She joins British Library curator Polly Russell to explore the intersecting realms of mental health and body image. Polly introduces Jameela to Susie Orbach who created the very first Women’s Therapy Centre in the UK. What follows is a fascinating conversation between a frontline feminist waging war against the patriarchy since the 70s and a woman working against body shaming, oppression and injustice today. How have things changed? What’s still the same? And why is women’s mental health still an urgent conversation we should be having?

S2 E2 The politics of pleasure

Does pleasure exist outside of politics? Can we have feminist sex? And how has the online realm affected young people’s views on the subject?

Professor Amia Srinivasan, a philosopher at The University of Oxford, is delving into these thorny questions with British Library curator Polly Russell. They’re laying things bare with Laurie Nunn, the creator of TV drama Sex Education, examining some unusual objects from the past with historian Zoe Strimpel and heading to a school to hear from a group of 16 year old students.

S2 E1 Pants, pageants and protest

For generations women of colour were unable to buy nude lingerie to suit their skin tone. In 2014 entrepreneur Ade Hassan decided to fix this by setting up Nubian Skin, an underwear company catering to people of colour. Three years on Nubian Skin is going strong but Ade still has unfinished business. In this episode she’s joining British Library curator Polly Russell to explore the relationship between race, beauty and feminism with Jennifer Hosten, the first black winner of Miss World and academic Dr Rochelle Rowe.