Bryony Gordon wrote a fabulous piece in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday about fat still being a feminist issue. What’s cheering is that she highlights several key women who have stuck two fingers up to ‘society’, the media and done the unthinkable – put on a few pounds. As you’d expect, they look fabulous. What’s not so cheering is the fact that this stupid battle with weight exists at all; but it does, and most of it is fuelled by the media. Take away the insanity of reading about the latest must-have diet and who looks fabulous in a size 6 tube of clingfilm, and I’m sure there’d be less need for anti-depressants.
Also yesterday, a very enlightening report from several agencies was released; highlighting, over a two week period in September 2012, exactly how women were being portrayed in national newspapers. Just the Women does not make for happy reading and in places, especially the section where they highlight the reporting of crimes against women, it’s downright sickening. If you read nothing else this week read this report. Please.
There’s no doubt that the media are obsessed with women’s bodies. This is unsurprising, given that according to the report cited above, only 22.6% of writers on national publications are women. It would seem a large proportion of our national print media is written by heterosexual men, finding endless ways to say ‘look at the tits on that.’ And then again only nice tits, belonging to women under twenty, who can be encouraged to look at the camera in a way that gives the impression that they’re ‘up for it.’
Of course, if you’ve been in the UK for longer than 5 minutes you’ll know who the worst offenders are; but yet they’re still allowed to peddle their pornographic and demeaning wares on a daily basis. And it’s all freely accessible, placed at just the right height in the newsagents and on the coffee tables of the land, so that little boys can be groomed on how you treat women and little girls can grow up safe in the knowledge that they’re only of worth to society if they can fill an E cup. Oh, and they can only feel good about their bodies if they strip off and show everyone what that body’s like. True self worth so the media tell us, can be achieved through getting your kit off in the Daily Star. Well excuse me if I don’t subscribe to that pile of horse manure.
I’m 42 years old and my formative years were spent in the time when we had our first woman Prime Minister. OK, so, looking back, her legacy isn’t too rosy, but what man would have had the courage to do what she did – take on the might of the unions and stare the buggers down until they realised that she was damned serious; she really wasn’t for turning. I can’t for a minute imagine David Cameron doing such a thing to the British press, going on at them for so long and so hard until The Sun stopped producing page 3 and the Daily Star just disappeared from existence. I’m not even convinced he has a spine let alone the balls to do something like that. But that’s what the lancing of these carbuncles of society is going to take. Someone right at the top who says no and keeps saying no until the media realise that we’re no longer willing to put up with this rubbish. We expect and frankly deserve better. But outrage, no! You mustn’t ‘muzzle’ the press, it’s all about freedom and self regulation. What’s self-regulation given us? A print media that feeds us its own version of womankind; a distortion, a mercator projection if you will. It looks like a woman, but actually isn’t any woman any one of us would recognise or want to be.
It’s a sad fact of life that many things that women know about how to be a woman come from the media. It’s they who tell us what to know, how to be, what to see and believe; as the Just the Women report neatly puts it, newspapers and magazines are our ‘first draft of history,’ I’d go as far as saying they’re giving many women the first draft of themselves. And that first draft can be in place for a long time, decades even, before we get to a point as we’re doing now where, stopping and thinking about things and inquiries such as Leveson allow us to discover just how long we’ve been kept in the dark and fed this crap.
This isn’t about burning your bra it’s about one crucial thing: Equality. Men are not written about in the press like this, so why should we be? This is 2012, we should be through all this by now. We should be making great strides into the future, eradicating poverty, cancer, getting Starbucks and Amazon to pay their bills and leading great social crusades to improve the planet we all live on. Instead the media have us still grubbing about in the primordial slime, trying to make us outraged that the likes of Adele and Lady Gaga will not play the game and diet themselves into misery. Bryony Gordon is right, it’s a gleeful affront to them and the more we do it, the more it will drive them berserk.
So let’s do it, let’s drive them berserk ’cause you can bet your bottom dollar that David Cameron won’t. A simple message to you: ‘Don’t buy it.’ Read the Just the Women report, arm yourself with the knowledge of what’s out there, what’s being peddled as ‘womankind’ and take a stand not to buy, or read any publication in print or online that has a reputation for demeaning, spreading lies or distorting the truth about women. Yes this means you’ll have to stop reading the Daily Mail; but think of it in the same category as stopping smoking – you’ll be cutting your risk of dying from terminal bigotry by 100%. Yes Mum, I mean the likes of you hardcore Daily Mail readers! Come on now, how much pain would it actually cause you to read a broadsheet and not a tabloid? Would it really mess with your head if you didn’t know what fab diet Jennifer Aniston was on, or what sector of society was out to steal your pension this week?
So I’m in, who’s with me?
EDIT: And if you’re wondering why I’m lumping the Daily Mail in with the likes of the Daily Star, it’s because they successfully lure millions of women to their website and then fill their minds with all sorts of seemingly innocent rubbish, as Hadley Freeman of the Guardian has pointed out in her article today.