Something has been bugging me recently. Well, mainly since last weekend but it’s something that annoys me anyway.
The treatment of Sarah Millican on Twitter after her BAFTA awards appearance was horrible. She writes about it eloquently here, so I have nothing further to add to that. She said it beautifully.
What bothered me is the attitude of people after the event.
“She’s an enormously wealthy comedienne who could afford to have anyone dress her if she wished”
“£400 on a day with a stylist or even decent personal shopper and she wouldn’t be crying in her car. That’s all.”
I’m sure she could do all those things. She could have her hair moulded and poked, she could buy the most expensive dresses, and have haute couture draped off her frame, and hire jewels for the evening. She could learn to walk in heels, do all kinds of things, but the one thing that comes back to me is WHY THE HELL SHOULD SHE HAVE TO? Plus the fact that even if she had, it wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference.
She is a comedian. She is famous for being a comedian. But her worth as a woman in the media was judged, not by her talent, but by her looks.
This ridiculous argument about “If she’d done [X] then [X] wouldn’t have happened.” I call victim blaming. I also call it total and utter bullshit.
Sarah could have hired out the whole of Nikki Clarke’s staff, bought a Dior dress and worn Jimmy Choo’s all night but I tell you, she would still have been Twitter and Media trolled.
Lost weight? Too thin/eating disorder/on drugs. Put weight on? You’ve let yourself go. This is how it goes when you are a woman who dares court success or fame. Oh yes, and then there’s the old chestnut of “Well, if you want to be famous, this is what happens.”
This is life ruled by media. In many cases it’s trial by media too.
Please, DO NOT tell me that men are judged the same way. They aren’t. Oh yes, Adrian Chiles and Eamonn Holmes get the digs about being fat, or scruffy, but it’s absolutely nowhere near the extent that women do. If a man wears his shirt open too much, or his trousers a bit too tight, I doubt he will get called a slut. In fact when Wogan wore very too tight trousers, people made sly digs, and poked fun, but nobody suggested he would be a poor father or that he’d let himself go.
The bitchiness and the scathing comments, the judgments and assumptions about their lives, those are far more common for women. If you tell me that men get it just as bad, then you are not only deluding yourself, you are totally blind to the layers of misogyny that still exist. Look deeper, see what is really going on. Just take it one level deeper, look beyond the surface and investigate the reasons behind the so called jokes and banter.
“It’s only a joke.” doesn’t wash any more.
“Where’s your sense of humour?” Well, that’s gone.
My sense of humour with regards to the habit of people being scathingly critical of a woman’s appearance and judging her by it, when it has nothing to do with her role in life, went the same way as outdated mother in law jokes and Chalky White jokes.
A woman’s achievements, her merit, her worth, should not be judged on her appearance. What has her appearance got to do with anything? Unless she has specifically made how she looks a part of her act, then it has no bearing on who or what she is. And even if she has made it a part of her act, then that’s what it is. An act. A show. A persona. It still has no bearing on the worth or the character of the person inside.
If a woman wants to be a mother, a business person, a banker, a sex worker, an actress, a builder, a brickie, a welder, a rocket scientist, a rock star, a busker, an artist, a secretary, Prime Minister or any combination of those…they can.
And if they make a success of it, it isn’t just because of their looks, (unless they are a model, of course) or whether they wore sensible shoes or not. If they are good at what they do, it’s because THEY ARE GOOD AT WHAT THEY DO and they should be given the credit their experience/years of learning/study/training deserve.
If they want to wear short skirts and make up, or jeans, or trouser suits, or a kaftan with floating sleeves and a turban, or men’s suits and boots, or leather trousers and a cleavage enhancing top then they can. Because women shouldn’t have to mould themselves into a certain thing just to please everyone else, or to avoid criticism, or to be seen as ‘proper’.
Sarah is good at what she does. Whether you find her funny or not, that’s not the point. The media chose to pick on something that was so inconsequential it wasn’t actually worth mentioning beyond “You look lovely, pet.” Because that’s what they do.
Just because they’ve always done it is no excuse to continue it.
“That’s just the way it is.” Is no reason to ignore what is actually going on.
Operation Yewtree has brought the error of that kind of thinking to light, and I see no reason to apply the same “But everybody does it.” logic to the public shaming of women.