Oh the irony…… I am taking a few moments to reflect on the recently opened exhibition by Jennifer Dalton “Cool Guys Like You”…..an exhibition that shows through drawings, graphs and photographic image a startling, and in these troubled times, seemingly irrelevant conclusion that most of the guests invited onto critical cultural and political tv daily's are in fact male.
In an open letter to the hosts Jennifer askes :
“….I assume you like to see yourselves as critical thinkers. Might it be possible to get a bit more critical about the internal and external forces that encourage all of us to think that men produce the best ideas and cultural products out there? I think it might…..”
“…..In 2010, the most lopsided show among you featured only 17.5% female guests. The most balanced among you still only featured 34% female guests. The rest of you are in between, but mostly huddled around the more lopsided end of that spectrum.
If I may be so bold, WTF?…”
I am in Spain, I am on a roof terrace taking some sun… so far so good you might say. I am reclining on the roof of an apartment building that is barely occupied, apart from a few ex-pat retiree, saga-ready-sun-bathers.
I ponder Jennifer Daltons letter.
It is peaceful, no noise other than the gurgling of the pool. I have no bikini top on, I notice a few tuts…wondering the cause I look up, and as one lady leaves and walks past, she utters “appropriate clothing”. Given the baking poolside circumstances I then begin to ponder the meaning of the word appropriate. And, while her male friend passes by, who, if I’m not mistaken gives me a sideways leer which leaves me feeling decidedly uncomfortable, I ponder some more.
And, setting aside the fact that I had not suddenly developed a weird case of clothing tourette's. Nor indeed had donned a pair of hobnail boots for a poolside splash. I assumed the comment to be directed at my shameful inappropriate state of bikini bottoms only…. And hoped that they, and not I, had lost a few marbles in the heat.
I am in Spain, nothing surprises me, least of all an oxymoron of attitudes…so I took both with a huge pinch of salt.
So suitably distracted I began to address… sigh!… this obsession with women's bodies.
Specifically a cultural thing this was not. I was not on a remote beach in rural Africa or transgressing some obvious cultural opine. Nor out of *the usual context* of beach/poolside, distractingly flashing in the office or on the bus.
The scene was set in a country, for good or bad, who’s beach culture.. ahem …embraces the female form in all its glory. And a media that never fails to pass up a newsworthy moment to show a well formed pair of tits just to liven things up.
But taboo it seemingly still is.
Why is it women and their bodies are deemed justifiably to be co-owned by everyone else?.
Either simultaneously being ignored, objectified, or repulsed.
This goes deep into history. And deep into the female psyche.
And...Ok.. I’m going to leave breasts out of it for now, but, cop a feel of this ….
Not since the likes of the Emily Pankhurst protests, or Germaine Greer and Susan Sontag has the female mind and her body been talked about so much in the media and yet is still is not represented. Only misrepresented.
She is either over achieving in school by beating all the boys. Or over achieving in the home by still doing a juggling act with family and career… errrm… job (..was this ever only in the domain of the 80’s ?). Or failing her kids by not sending them 3 times a week to after school Nuclear Physics club.
I think a suitable term was coined way back in the 20’s… “nurse, cook and bottle washer”. Only now you can add a few helpful electrical appliances, offset by stressed out school runs and high achieve low pay day jobs, like teaching for example. And of course a good dollop of societal guilt.
Things have changed; we’ve come a long way from the sentiments of Some Like It Hot and even ‘80’s Tootsie. When a man gets inside the female form and mind by cross-dressing and confiding …..her metaphorically, into bed.
But when we still have Rhianna prancing about in her latest vid offering all the female gumption of a modern day Whitney in Body Guard…..errrm? …here comes that sigh.. again.
It seems the current nature of any general discussion about female value is not about taboo particularly anymore… but a free for all female bully fest. And that, as always, includes women's opinion on women.
This furore along with the quagmire status quo of media institutions, including film, with its actors, directors and writers. Hides the fact that women's presence, is seriously worrying ( count em! - Jennifer is right …).
So in this current media scape with its constant image stream. Another skewed projection is feeding the collective female psyche, already bolstered by previous generations and history.
The subject of women is a whole vast and sweeping category. And all gender has a whole host of intricacies'….
Judges and Politicians are at the legislative and policy coal face. But our perception of regularly represented women in media (and therefore society as a whole) is deceptively weak and wrong for such a large populous.
The back room boys and their elders are still, it seems, stultifying efforts of *achieving* women to front of house window dressing.
Apart from a few... people like Kirsty Walk who battles away weekly with a more often than not, male panel, and Stephanie Flanders wrestling with financial debate. Along with people like the retired Joan Bakewell (who had a run-in with the BBC contesting institutionalised chauvinism in the hiring process....).
This, along with put your feet up main stream film rarities like Julie Delpy’s directorial debut 2 days in Paris which was a pretty neat achievement given the romantic label…rather than a war.
Informed media, whether online, on paper or big screen is still the main shaper of how we discuss, react and perceive ourselves.
The balance of women included in this area is still thin on the ground. And with this imbalance, are slow to be generally encouraged, hired….or educated.
A catch 22… A riddled endemic state.
A responsible? image-factory with a glass ceiling that could just as well read why bother. Female presence in a media that shapes us is still usually first and foremost preened, smiley and fit, by default.…
30 something's, staving off their sell-by-date. A mixed message, voyeuristic projection.
The knock-on political tone and, in effect reality, is that cuts and policy are now also reflected in that disadvantaged imbalance.
What kind of example for a healthy, indeed I stress, a mentally healthy society is that.