I am the first to admit that I’m far from being a feminist. Perhaps not quite as far as my father-in-law (to be), who has been heard to say that women are not equipped to use measuring tapes. But far enough that I’m more than happy to take a “traditional maternal” role in our household. Now, before we get into any kind of feminist debate about whether I’m letting the sisterhood down, let me explain…
I do not think that cooking, cleaning and parenting are women’s work. I do not think that pink is for girls or blue is for boys. I do, however, do the lion’s share of the cooking, cleaning and parenting, whilst driving a pink car*. But this is largely because myself and Daddio have an understanding that we play to our strengths. And his strengths do not lie in laundry, breastfeeding or shopping. Just as mine do not lie in spider disposal, car washing or taking the black bags out.
I do not think that there are boys toys and girls toys. I do not think that any job should be awarded to a person based on their gender. In fact, unless your job requires you to use your genitalia to perform it (and outside Amsterdam, there are few jobs which do), I think anyone should be given the opportunity to do any job they damn well please. However, that does not mean you’d ever find me on a building site with concrete on my face and hard hat on.
But what I also think is most important is not to base your treatment of people on their gender. Preferential treatment is equally as despicable as discriminatory treatment in my book. I’m all for people holding doors open for me and pulling out my chair, but I’d like to live in a world where people did this for each other despite the inferred requirement due to their ownership of a uterus. I also think that having a “women and children” first mentality is largely counter productive. As if you truly believe that we need looking after, why would you want us to out live you?
For me, however, it’s not just women who are objectified, patronised and ridiculed based on gender. In fact, I personally feel that the balance has tipped in the other direction. Where we may well still be fighting for equal rights in the employment world, the British media has decided that men are now brainless pieces of meat. And they shall be treated as such. Mum’s are portrayed as troopers, fighting through their colds and flu and continuing to fight the good fight. Men are obviously at home in bed, crying about their “man flu”. All men. No men are good patients. They never go to the doctor. But they are total hypochondriacs.
Oh, and they are rubbish with kids. Absolutely crap, actually. And it’s hilarious. Children run rings around them. They can’t change a nappy without it immediately falling off. Oh my, the poor cretins. They never stood a chance as they’d never been biologically able to carry a child. At every hospital appointment during and since pregnancy where Daddio was present, a health professional made a joke at his expense. About how clumsy he’d be with baby. About how he’d sleep through the night feeds. About how he’d have to learn how to change a nappy. Not one of them thought that I might be the clumsy one. Or wondered if I’d ever changed a nappy before. Or even enquired as to who would be the main carer of our child. It was all assumed.
And as for the objectification, well, the Lorraine show has really taken the biscuit on this one for me. It’s 8.25am and my 7 year old is glued to the TV, waiting for Daddio to take him to school. What’s on? The lovely Lorraine Kelly, voice of Scotland is beaming away on the screen, talking about their latest competition. “Hot Pants”. Yes, Hot Pants. Now, is this a challenge to find the warmest Long Johns this winter? Is it an Americanized title of a segment about the perfect pair of trousers? No. It’s a competition to find a man who looks “sizzling hot” in his pants. I shit you not.
So, the premise is this, Lorraine is looking for a man who’s modelling potential is “waiting to be exposed”. The winner will be catapulted to fame as the front man in a Debenhams underwear campaign and will also be awarded a 2 year modelling contract with an agency. To enter, they must be over 18 and send in photos of themselves in their pants. The photos will be judged by a panel of men and women, most of whom have a sexual preference for the male gender. Women all over the country have sent in pictures of their sons, husbands, boyfriends and friends. Lorraine is cackling like a hyena about it all. I, however, am not.
Let’s, for a second, turn it on its head. Imagine a scenario where a father finds a photo of his 18 year old daughter in her knickers. He decides to send it into a show which is fronted by a middle aged man who says he enjoys “ogling” photos of the young women in their underwear. The daughter is then selected as one of the finalists by a panel of men older than her, interviewed by the middle aged man, then asked to stand up beside 2 other finalists, in her pants, on national TV. The public are then asked to vote for their favourite. And all of this before the school run in the morning.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m aware these men have a choice. And that beauty pageants, wet t-shirt competitions and such like exist. And that, in some countries, women are objectified, tortured, raped and abused on a daily basis. I’m not about to forget any of that. However, we are talking about daytime TV and the fact that this, entirely mainstream show, feels that this scenario with men on show is perfectly acceptable, yet with women it would be highly offensive.
It’s also the same channel that regularly has their “Loose Women” scoffing about breastfeeding in public and calling it “disgusting”. (I’m almost certain those Loose Women wouldn’t see a problem with wearing low cut tops which show as much as breastfeeding does and would love the chance to judge the Hot Pants competition…) But let’s just pause a minute and again, flip the programme around. What if we had a show called “Man Sluts” which was all about slagging off women and their inability to build houses, carry heavy things and pee standing up. I’m not sure that would win quite as many TV awards.
There just is no equality when it comes to the media. And there is a massive amount of outrage assigned to the “body shaming” of women. Any slight hint that any woman would be made to feel in any way ashamed of her body and the whole world is shocked and appauled. Get an overweight man, dressed as a builder to do some dancing with his gut hanging out and you’ve got a Money Supermarket advert ready for launch. You can’t tell me that the overhang isn’t part of that particular joke.
And one last show to be up for a flip on it’s head is, again on ITV, Take Me Out. This is a dating show where a man is made to parade himself in front of 20 odd women who decide firstly on appearance alone whether he is worthy of their time. Paddy McGuinness urges them “No Likey, No Lighty” while the man is made to dance or in some other way show off his talents, or lack of them. In some cases, there are no lights on after he initially walks out to his theme song, meaning that 20 women have immediately disregarded this man based entirely on his looks. Charming. I’m pretty certain that in reverse, this show wouldn’t have made it past the pilot episode.
So please, whilst we are all empowering our daughters and asking them to love themselves as they are, spare a thought for our sons. Because not all men are cack-handed morons. There are wonderful men in this world. And no one should be mocked, ridiculed or treated badly due to their gender. Nor should they be judged becaused of it. There is no personality trait or ability in the world that can be assumed due to gender. And there is just no excuse to aim all the sexism that was once used against women towards me, just because things used to be shit for us. It’s totally counter productive.
Just be decent people, please. And don’t be ogling anyone in their pants on breakfast TV…because it’s wrong, Lorraine. Just wrong.
* Today is the last day I will own a pink car…tomorrow I pick up an orange one…how will I demonstrate my gender without it???