That is, the first of many feminist rants. I hope not, but I’m all too certain that this won’t be the last time I have a bitch and a moan about women in society today in the Western world, to say nothing of the lot that is being a woman elsewhere in the world. I wouldn’t say I was a feminist per se, more that I’m in favour of equality and this is something we don’t yet have.
I’m not watching the Olympics, but I’m obviously aware (vaguely) of what’s going on. And it’s struck me, as it does every Olympics, that this is the one real event where sportswomen get as much attention as sportsmen. Attention, that is, for their achievements. Someone here is clearly going to object: what about Wimbledon? I don’t watch that either, but what filters through to me is that everyone pays close attention to how the men are playing, and they pay equally close attention to…what the women are wearing. Or, worse, how ‘manly’ the women are on court — who grunts or shouts with every shot, and who plays a more feminine game. Otherwise the only women to regularly appear on Sports pages are the WAGs. The Olympics are the only real place where attention is paid to women for what they can achieve (other than, of course, Paula Radcliffe — has she cried/thrown up/fainted/committed suicide yet? I have no idea).
Women who get to high places in other arenas fare little better: One of the few things I know about, say, Angela Merkel, the German president, is that she is known for wearing tops that show more cleavage than most people wish to see on a woman her age. Hilary Clinton was once vociferously derided for wearing a yellow suit. Carla Bruni and Michele Obama are as well-known as their husbands (Nicholas Sarkozy, French President and Barack Obama, US presidential candidate, respectively) because they dress well. The dress-sense of male politicians gets nothing like the same number of column inches: we’re just not expected to care that such-and-such a president wears Armani, but so-and-so is channeling JFK by wearing blah. And the sheer number of celebrity women who are only known for their drunken antics and bikini-related slip-ups rather than for whatever originally made them famous — their acting or singing, say. Off the top of my head I could list ten such women, and I can think of only one male celebrity who is better known for his bad behaviour than his musical talent — namely Pete Doherty (who I met once in a pub in my home town – a very surreal moment. One suspects he’d just escaped from the Priory, a branch of which isn’t far away). I don’t object to stories of Wino warbling out of time and key to one of her songs at huge festivals and so on, or any of those things: yes, they amuse me. But where are the men who make similarly bad ‘role models’? (Celebrities as role models? What, being a famous singer automatically means you have a moral duty to your audience? Don’t be silly!) Surely it’s not only the A-list women, songstresses and WAGs that make this much of a fool of themselves?
Basically my point is this: it’s so easy to think we’ve made it, but if the media still have this kind of a bias, and if I can still walk into my newsagent and pick out articles that talk about being a strong woman by changing your physical image and wearing more heel-inches and makeup, then it’s fair to say that the same bias runs throughout. As is proven by so many other recent news stories I could point to. We still have some way to go.