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Great Scott! We Need a Better Vision of the Future


This week, we all grabbed our hoverboards and flying cars and celebrated arriving in Marty McFly's future; a place where tiny foods get instantly hydrated into massive family-size pizzas and drones walk your dog while you enjoy a 3D visit to see Jaws 19 at the cinema.

Even if faxes still pop up everywhere and the internet is absent, technology has come a long way in Marty's 2015 and life is pretty easy. That is, unless you are a woman.

The Back to the Future trilogy was one of my favourite things when I was young and BTTF 2 - partly set on 21st October 2015 but filmed in 1985 - is still one of my all time top films. But watching it again this week (and annoyingly quoting along with every line), I was struck for the first time by the lack of social change progress. The family unit in 2015 still revolves around a busy housewife catering to a stressed businessman husband, unchanged since the first film hopped over to 1955. And when breadwinning Marty loses his 2015 job he cries 'What will I tell my wife?', enforcing the way female characters rely on men through the film.

An added layer to this is found in the bad alternative universe - the one where Biff is a billionaire in control of the police. There, his wife is a slave to his aggressive rages, and passive observer to his philandering and gambling. (Ok, so that one is not set in 2015 but does serve as a proxy future for my points here!)

Now, maybe I am reading too much into this, like those blogs on 'did you see the ghost in that shot in Three Men and a Baby' (another 80s masterpiece) and, of course, there is nothing wrong with being a housewife. However, we must ensure that our aspirations of the future are not only set around self-tying shoes but also look to greater equality and empowerment, and then instead of the desperate rush to invent hoverboards we saw before Back to the Future Day arrived, we would see a desperate attempt to meet our other visions, those that are built around a more sustainable society.

We have come a long way since 1955, where female BTTF characters wait for a 'good man' to find them, and how timely that the film Suffragette has just been launched to remind us of how far we have come. But things are by no means easy or equal for women in 2015. Far from it. And yet addressing this will solve so many other complex social problems. One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is to 'Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls' by 2030 - so let's stick that in the flux capacitor.

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