Monday, 19 May 2008

In The Stocks: Self-Destructives and Uppity Bitches

The BBC posts an interesting article about the disproportionate hatred for celebrity women. In a poll, four out of the five most hated celebrities were female, and the man was Simon Cowell, who also appears on the "Most Loved" list, along with four other men. Just as an aside, Gary Lineker? Really?

The British, the poll concludes, love Paul McCartney and hate Heather Mills. We love David Beckham and hate Victoria Beckham. The article doesn't comment on this, but it seems a little weird to me. It's almost as though we pick our national treasures and then unleash hate on their wives. It never seems to happen the other way round - the only times we've come close, oddly enough, are with the other two women on the list. When Brian McFadden of awful Irish boyband Westlife left Kerry Katona of awful English girl band Atomic Kitten, we hated him. Boy, did we hate him, and his new girlfriend too. We hated him so much that he's buggered off out of the country. We were right to hate him, too, I think. I don't trust any man who compares having children with his ex to "having a dog we weren't ready for" (they'll read it, you asshole!), or who bashes the mother of his children to journalists and threatens in the national press to sue for custody then does jack shit about it. I think Brian McFadden is an odious piece of crap. But now that he's off in Australia or America or wherever and most people have forgotten about him, we've decided to hate her instead. We claim it's because she's behaving like an unfit mother, smoking and drinking, taking drugs (or so the delightful Mr McFadden informs us), and generally behaving like - hmmmm - someone who's not very well. Kerry Katona, back in the dark ages, was one of the most popular women in the country. She'd just split up from a man who slept with a lap dancer on his stag night, she'd just won an appalling but highly-rated reality show, and she was down-to-earth and Northern and smiley. We just loved her. She won Mother of the Year twice, and got the Iceland ads on the strength of her being a recognisable symbol for good parenting. My unofficial theory is that when she began to break down, we felt betrayed. How dare she not be the perfect mother? We gave her an award! We were proud of her for moving on from her nasty ex, and we expected to see a marked improvement in her future choice of partner. When she yet again opted for a loser - or someone represented to us by the press as a loser - we got impatient. When we heard that she was smoking while pregnant, we got mad. We're not having that, Kerry! We don't care what your problems are, you're a damn role model! Act like one!

Everything she does is now fair game for bile and ridicule. I can't imagine that she's still working with Iceland, but nevertheless she's still attacked for it. She is, or was, advertising insufficiently healthy food to the nation. How dare she? Whether you choose to attack her on a serious level or just make eight hundred jokes about lard, you're perfectly entitled to do so. I mean, it's her fault, isn't it? When she was subject to robbery at knifepoint in her own house, we took the piss. Relentlessly. Not a word of sympathy for her. And it's her fault, of course, because she let us down.

Amy Winehouse follows a similar pattern. When she really came to our attention with the release of her second album, we fell in love with her, bonkers beehive hair and all. So talented! Such a songwriter! Such a voice! Gather round, boys and girls, this is real music. We thought Simon Cowell had done away with actual musical talent. We were impressed. And then Amy, too, turned out not be perfect. A lot of pop stars like a drink, but Amy was old school and turned up drunk on Never Mind the Buzzcocks. I know people who went off her then, because her speaking voice was annoying and she was all uncouth and spat. Spat! On TV! Then she picked her unsuitable man, and all the drug-taking palaver unleashed itself upon us. And we blamed him. He was a useless smug little man who didn't appear to have a job of any description. Ditch him, Amy, we urged, but instead, she married him. And I think that's when the backlash started. Amy Winehouse's husband is currently awaiting trial for GBH or perverting the course of justice or both, depending on which reports you believe. Her parents blame him for getting her onto hard drugs. He has reportedly refused to go to rehab with her, saying instead, "You can go if you want to," which is classic manipulator's language if I ever heard it. Maybe it was never right to put all the blame on him, but no way in hell can it be right to put all the blame on her. She's self-destructing and needs help, which is NOT a hanging offence, but we blame her because she let us down too. She was our great white hope of British music and shouldn't expect to be allowed flaws and issues too. The day after Heath Ledger's death, I read five separate blogs (all male authors, incidentally) who screeched, "If someone was going to die, why not Amy Winehouse?" That, my friends, is not normal.

A commenter on that article claimed he could understand the hatred for all of them except Winehouse, who is talented. But we don't hate people for being untalented. As I said, we used to love Kerry Katona, and even when she had a singing career we all knew she wasn't any good. We used to love Posh too, and her singing ability hasn't deteriorated to any great extent. I've felt stung into becoming a Posh fan. She may look like Self-Tan Barbie but so fucking what? The reason people hate her and Heather Mills is because they married people the public have decided are too good for them. These women are up themselves. We can't have that. Amy and Kerry married below them and allowed themselves to get screwed up, we hate them for that. Victoria and Heather married above them and made a lot of money, and we hate them for that.

It's a terrible mistake to marry a Beatle. The press and public will hate you for it. They hate Heather now the way they hated Yoko then, and the way they've conveniently forgotten they treated Linda. Oh, she may be a veggie-burger-making saint now, but back then she was a damn outrage. How can she have the nerve, we asked. She must be a gold-digger. Only by being silent and supportive and staying at home and finally dying of breast cancer did she win our love, and turn into what might as well be a fictional character. Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror wrote, in a short article that Google is currently refusing to turn up, that it's understandable that we hate Heather when we've been used to the wonderful Linda. She then went on to say (in what I was convinced would turn out to be a parody) that Linda stayed at home like a good wife and mother, supported Sir Paul and raised children. Bless her. Not like this bitch, with ambitions and other such shit that has no place in a woman's brain. This is a charming piece of revisionist history that beyond the appalling misogyny the woman is spewing, shows that we think we get to decide who is good enough for our heroes. If a man picks a woman we think is beneath him, we turn on that woman. If a woman picks a man who is beneath her, we wait five minutes then turn on the woman. Again.

Notice, if you will, that the McCartney divorce is perceived to be entirely, 100% Heather's fault. If Paul gets any flack, it's for being "a naive old man", caught by the surreptitious and scheming wiles of a predator. Notice, if you will, that when the story of Beckham's affair broke, he was the only one who got no flack at all. The mistress got a decent dose, and Posh got the rest. Ian Hislop, who is not normally my first point of reference on feminist issues, remarked on how weird it was: "God, her husband's cheated on her! What a cow! She's been humiliated publicly! Bitch!" If he cheated it was her damn fault and there's no use her crying about it now. The press waits breathlessly to this day for them to split up, even though they seem to have put it behind them and are moving on quite happily. Neither of these women get any points for being a mother, though there has been nothing to suggest that either are anything less than highly devoted and attentive parents, certainly more so than either jet-setting father. Heather Mills has made it acceptable to make horrendous jokes about artificial limbs ("no, it's OK, 'cause she's an evil bitch"), and gets villified daily for apparently being a compulsive liar. People don't take kindly to me when they make a nasty remark about that and I suggest that if that is the case, then she's ILL and shouldn't be subject to your judgement.

I think anyone would be surprised to see me defending these women. They're "offensive" and "talentless" and "selfish" after all. Some of the commenters on the article would be astonished to see a woman defending other women because they've decided we don't do that. One even manages to get in a "poor little white boy" whine, amusingly. Those people especially would tell me I'm wasting my time on these women. Why don't I defend someone who's worth it? It makes no odds that I like Beckham and Winehouse, or that I have no strong feelings either way on Katona and Mills. It would make no odds if I hated the lot of them. They are human beings. Human beings who have made choices that we think are inappropriate. They are women who happened to fall in love, or woman who happened to fall ill. They are women with problems that we'd rather pretend weren't real. They are women whose wretched humanity got in the way of our comfortable assumptions, and we're punishing them for it (some of those comments make me believe that we're punishing all women for it). We laugh at, or condemn them for, their misfortunes. We villify them for their mistakes, and for mistakes we asume or believe that they made. Basically, we're hating them for being women who behave in ways we consider "unfeminine". You married up? You must have chased him. You must be ambitious. Ambition is unfeminine, bitch. Drugs are unfeminine, bitch. Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch. We know how you should behave and YOU'RE NOT DOING IT. You deserve everything you get.

This has been a rant from a pissed-off woman. Thank you.

1 comment:

Sian said...

Media bias like this really depresses me - it's almost enough to make me stop reading the papers altogether.

I think I'm going to post a long entry about feminism on my Livejournal in the near future. God knows I've been neglecting that journal lately.