Women and Money Management: Problematising Working-class Subjectivities in French Television Programmes During and after the Post-war Boom

  • Laetitia Overney ENSA Paris Belleville Umr AUSser
Keywords: Social Housing, Working Class, Women, Television Archives, Moral Economy, Consumption, Home Account Book, Welfare State


This article looks at French television during and after the post-war period to explore the relationships that programmes systematically established between home-making in social housing, housekeeping money management and women. It sheds light on the gendered dimensions of thrift and dwelling. French 1960’s Television reflected a range of urban transformations characteristic of the period: the development of high-rise estates, social housing, shopping centers. How should people inhabit these new environnements, new structures of dwelling and new services in order to keep up with regular household expenses such as paying rent, utility bills, buying food or covering child rearing costs? Since the 19th century, women had generally managed household budgets as part of the everyday domestic cultures. These heavy financial responsibilities were relayed by televised documentaries prompting questions about the types of in/appropriate activities and attitudes, knowledges and expertises shown on mainstream TV at the time. Television was constantly problematizing working-class subjectivities through women’s voice. On the one hand, television reports showed women always counting the money and thrifting in order to control the household comsumption and to avoid debts. In the documentaries I analyse, the women describe in detail their economic problems and moral economies they are conditioned to operate within. On the other hand, TV programmes were replete with the specialist home economics tips that were meant to spread normative representations of dwelling in order to educate housewives. Women’s activities are tied to the welfare state which is revealed in all its complexity, controlling with one hand the rationalisation of domestic budgets and practices, and, with the other, improving living conditions and protecting individuals against vulnerabilities.


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