In an old job I used to work a lot of night shifts, and discovered that the gods of late night TV were fickle. They’d occasionally bless you with a late night showing of some obscure movie or a repeat of a quality show, but often it was a wasteland of repeats, infomercials and tedium.
The best options were usually trashy TV- reality shows, light hearted documentaries or the soap operas. At 3am all you really want is something to keep you awake. Nothing too challenging or grim, ideally something fun and light. The two best channels for this were E4 and the now defunct BBC Three.
One personal favourite was Snog Marry Avoid?, which ticked the boxes- light, dumb, easy viewing. But last week I caught an old episode on TV.
It was awful.
I remember it being quite cheerful, jokey and fun. But watching it again it left an extremely unpleasant taste in the mouth.
For those unfamiliar with the show the premise is simple: People are brought in to POD aka Personal Overhaul Device, which was a computer that would give them a “make under”. It announced itself as being pro-natural beauty and declaring “war on fakery”. Hair extensions, lots of make up, fake tan, fake eyelashes- these were what the show was against and it would transform them into more natural vision.
Now, originally I considered this all quite good fun, but maybe I’m going soft but it really isn’t. While still nicer than the US version, which I had to stop watching halfway through one episode, there is a rather nasty side to the show, even if they mask it with montages, upbeat music and Jenny Frost’s cheery presenting.
First of all, the whole premise is dodgy as hell. You’re basically telling people how they should look (it’s predominantly women, but they did have a few guys on the show), and that’s not cool. Watching it back it feels like a massive attack on individuality and choice, with “fakery” being bad and a more understated look being good.
They’d choose extreme cases (girl who applies three layers of fake tan, guy who takes 2 hours to get ready etc.) but even these seem a bit mean spirited. They liked how they dressed or felt comfortable that way why give them grief for it? What makes the natural look so morally superior?
Secondly, the title of the show highlights the meanest part.
Once they’ve dragged the person in front of the camera they’d explain that they’d asked 100 people whether they would snog, marry or avoid the participant (I’m guessing “f**k, marry, kill” would have been a bit too risque a title). We then get a couple of talking heads where the public insult them or explain they would avoid them as they were “trashy” or fake.
It’s quite hard watching a young person hearing people talking smack about their appearance so bluntly. While some fire back you can genuinely see that some of them are getting quite hurt by the criticism, and can you blame them? Imagine having to stand there while some stranger says they’d avoid you because you look a mess.
Making it worse is the fact that they then hit them with a percentage, usually quite high for avoid.
As it’s usually women in front of POD, it’s basically telling them to change for men’s approval and ignores the fact that some of those participants may be lying. I think a lot of the guys were being less than honest about which girls they would snog given the chance. Regardless, just because 80 guys say they would steer clear that still leaves 20 who’d snog you, which isn’t that bad.
The next part that sucks is that POD is actually a bully. She makes quite nasty gags about what they look like and ridicules them. Jenny Frost is the good cop, making a few light hearted gags about how long it must take them to get ready or how much of their hair is actually theirs, and then POD comes in like an insult comic who then turns preachy.
The contestant is then stripped down to a robe, robbed of anything that is unique to them and scrubbed of make up until they are a blank canvass for the show to turn them into a more acceptable version.
For a show that bangs on about people following trends it seems to be determined that women everywhere should wear pretty dresses and only have tans in the summer. That makeup should be applied in a minimal way and that everybody shun hair extensions.
There’s a dull quality to many of the make unders. It turns them into bland, mainstream versions of themselves. For example, here’s Jodie Marsh:
Often this is for reasons like the person has to be “taken seriously” or fit a perceived idea of how someone should look when they’re a mother or professional. Rather than questioning whether it’s fair to judge on appearance the show just decides that they should change to fall into line.
There’s no thought given to the fact that the make up and loud outfits are in any way helpful to them. That it serves as a mask or armour for their insecurities or a way of showing their personality, nope, it’s just shown as being stupid and ugly.
Last of all is a definite streak of slut shaming, with countless of the girls being called out for wearing skimpy clothes. Even back when I was watching the show and enjoying it I thought this was a weird aspect. Being scantily clad wasn’t being fake, was it? And again, this was where the show sided with those who made judgments based on looks.
With a fresh look the cheery, fun vibe starts to crack. The montages are crafted to make them look ridiculous and feature their friends and family ragging on them. Then the partners get involved, talking about how they dress, which smacks of hypocrisy. They started to date the person as they were and now want to change them? That seems like a d**k move.
Jenny Frost talks about how bad the fakery is, but she’s not out there without makeup. It’s all bollocks.
You could make a show about natural beauty, and discuss things like society’s pressure on women to look a certain way. The risks of some treatments and the problems of how important looks are, but this show does none of these things.
It just sits there, smugly looking down its nose at those involved, ridiculing and humiliating them based on their looks. It wants everyone to fit within a narrow field of what’s considered attractive and criticises anyone who falls outside those confines.
If you like to wear makeup and fake tan, then crack on. If people judge you on what you wear then screw them, that’s their problem.
Watching it again the show is terrible, and I’m going to avoid it from now on.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
At the weekend MWG and I watched Plus Sized Wars a Channel 4 documentary about the plus sized fashion industry. It’s available on their on demand service All 4 and I recommend checking it out.
We decided to watch it because one of MWG’s friends is off to work for one of the companies featured and had mentioned the show.
It was interesting to watch as it dealt with the challenges facing both sides. The plus sized brands (Yours, Evans and Taking Shape) had more customers but especially in Evans’ case, they had to struggle to look fashionable. My Mum once described Evans as “the fat lady shop” (she shopped there at the time) and it’s clear this was the brand’s image.
The companies needed to address what their audience wanted, and to do this they enrolled a group of plus sized fashion bloggers, to advise and model their collections. This was something MWG really liked because it showed that the company was interesting in using real women and listening to them.
It was cool to see and the bloggers seemed a nice bunch of ladies who got on well and who were pleased that finally the fashion industry was trying to cater for their body shape. It was wonderful to see these confident, stylish women talk passionately about their bodies and their acceptance of their differences.
Body positivity and confidence is a big deal, far too many women (and men) struggle to be comfortable in their own skin. Constant comparison with the narrow view of beauty the media puts forward is damaging to self esteem, happiness and can ruin lives.
The bloggers were doing good work in changing this, in showing that you can be confident and stylish regardless of your size (one of the designers interviewed said that he wasn’t there to talk about size, but style and said simply “style has no size”). The bloggers showed a different path, a path of acceptance and happiness. They argued that fashion should be for everyone and that bigger women shouldn’t be left out, pushed to the side and given dull, shapeless outfits.
Hear, hear I say.
The bloggers’ online popularity meant that the fashion world had to listen. If there are thousands of people saying one thing or following these blogs it was simply good business to try and cater to them. The bloggers were actually changing things, being involved in the process and helping these companies move forward.
MWG, a voluptuous girl herself, thought this was a very good thing, that “real people” were used as models, replacing the previous use of slightly bigger models who still didn’t really reflect the customer. And she also liked that the people interviewed were respectful and that the show’s tone mirrored this.
Of course, with documentaries like this the real strength and interest comes from the personalities involved and their own stories. The bloggers, including Bethany Rutter (Arched Eyebrow), Callie Thorpe (From the Corners of the Curve) and Danielle Vanier (self-titled) were engaging, vocal and charming in their interviews.
Yours decided to call in the big guns for their new range, hiring American model and social media phenomenon Tess Holliday aka Tess Munster. I’ve mentioned Munster in a previous post and am a fan, especially of her #effyourbeautystandards movement. She appeared to be a force to be reckoned with and it was interesting that the doc captured the changing attitudes of the fashion industry with Holliday signing for a major agency.
It was further evidence of the power of social media, as her large following helped open doors but its hard to argue that she didn’t deserve it or that it wasn’t a big step forward. Bethany Rutter celebrated the decision particularly as Munster was vastly different from anything that had come before. She was a true plus size woman, who many could relate to more than any other model who’d been put forward.
Munster’s trip to the UK also included a meet and greet with fans, which showed the positive impact she and her body confidence stance can have. Nervously on route to meet her heroine was Hannah Boal, a UK based blogger (Fabulously Fat Fashion). Bullied for years it was clear that Munster had inspired her and helped her learn to love and accept herself. Their meeting was sweet, moving and you couldn’t help but appreciate the positive effect Munster’s success has had on young women and how they view their bodies.
The other story followed was that of blogger and model Georgina Horne (Fuller Figure Fuller Bust), who joined others for a photo shoot and who highlighted a problem with the plus size community. Horne was like many of the others in her passion for fashion and belief that the plus sized woman has been ignored, however she differed in one respect. She was trying to lose weight and get in slightly better shape.
It was here that she encountered problems. Like Dylan going electric she was viewed as a traitor by some. I felt this part of plus sized community was mistaken.
Horne was still proud of her body, and confident in it, but she wanted to improve herself, for herself, and I think that’s fine. You can be happy and confident and still feel there’s room for improvement without being a hypocrite or betraying the cause. Horne wasn’t talking about losing tons of weight and becoming a size zero, neither was she hating herself or other larger women, she just personally felt as though she’s be happier if she got in slightly better shape. And isn’t that what the whole movement was about, women being happy with themselves?
It was a great doc, well made and engaging and it’s good to see the plus sized woman finally being treated with respect and catered to on the high Street, and to be introduced to some fabulously confident women. I’ve included links to their blogs because if you’re into fashion and are plus sized I think they’ll be a positive thing to see, and they all seemed quite nice, with no bitchiness.
If anyone knows any male plus size fashion bloggers let me know, so the young men can get the same thing.
I think the show was good and I think it’s great that the internet and social media allows women to express themselves and find a community of people like them and to realise that beauty is a varied thing. This can help them gain more confidence, accept themselves and generally be a bit happier, and that is most definitely a good thing.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Body hair is something I discussed recently in a post, and while I think I got my points across well enough it’s always going to be flawed having a discussion regarding female body hair from a male perspective. Before posting it I talked to female friends about it, but decided I needed a female perspective so tracked down this Kindle Single that I remembered having cropped up on the “Top Titles” list at Amazon.
I’m glad I did because it’s a wonderfully written book, interesting and entertaining. Mara Altman is a self confessed hairy woman and writes this book which examines attitudes towards female body hair, the beauty industry and her own feelings about her body hair.
It helps that Altman is a funny, personable guide on this journey, opening up about her own obsession with removing her own body hair and the lengths she’s gone to do so (including some painful sounding therapies). She intersperses this with research into the history of shaving and the theories behind why it’s become such a big deal for women.
These theories are conflicting but put forward interesting ideas- that shaving became fashionable in the early 20th century when women had less control so it was one area where they were in charge, while another suggests that it’s founded in misogyny and that as men are afraid of women and their power, they’re more attracted to shaved women because they seem younger and more innocent. The misogyny theory is all kinds of creepy, and tied in with robbing women of being proud of their bodies and insecure. I’m not sure whether I fully buy either theory based on this, but further reading might develop them.
The book is rather short, but I think this is a good thing and Altman’s wit and humour throughout makes it a breezy read. It makes you think about the damage beauty standards might be doing and how attitudes have changed, but it’s most interesting on a personal level, with Altman being both bothered by her hair and bothered by the fact it bothers her so much. As the child of a hairy hippy mother she admits to feeling like a traitor when she decided to shave as a teen, provoked by her hairy legs being drawn attention to and standing out compared to her classmates.
It’s this personal story, and Altman’s acceptance of her conflicting feelings that make it an interesting read and finding out that Altman has written other books on issues like motherhood, sex and marriage, which I will be adding to my Kindle wishlist.
It’s not the full story, or the universal female perspective on body hair (there probably isn’t one), but it’s a fun and interesting personal story and Altman is beautifully frank and open. What appealed to a soft git like me is that one of the continuing themes is that she’s kept her body hair hidden from her partner, and the final sequence where she tells him, and his reaction is a funny, charming conclusion for the book.
Verdict: A fantastic read, very easy and fun, with Altman showing warmth, openness and intelligence throughout. It’s an interesting personal view on the issue of body hair. 7/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
The other day while
wasting spending time on Buzzfeed, one of my favourite websites I saw that they’d posted a video where a bunch of dudes shaved their armpits for the first time. It’s only a few minutes long and I don’t mind waiting for a few minutes while you check it out here.
Back? It’s kinda interesting, isn’t it? What I took from it was that all these guys found it to be a pain and a hassle to do it. One of them comments that he couldn’t imagine doing this every few days,
It really got me thinking about female body hair and the beauty standards our society has. Personally, I’d be screwed if I’d been born female because I struggle with the much lower standards that us blokes have to deal with- tidy hair, clothes without stains on, well maintained facial hair.
Women, however, are subject to a whole mess of daft rules that are drummed home by fashion magazines and websites. It’s ridiculous, and is all based around this unrealistic, unattainable ideal of beauty.
Nowhere is this whole thing more evident than with people’s attitudes towards women’s body hair. There’s that story of John Ruskin, the Victorian art critic, who on his wedding night was reportedly disgusted by the fact his wife had pubic hair, which paintings didn’t have. Whether this story is actually true or not is open for debate, but there’s probably a modern day equivalent where some dude, raised on internet porn and photoshopped adverts is horrified when a partner has revealed a bit of body hair.
I’m not going to wade into a debate on pubic hair. Today, I’m focusing more on body hair in general, especially armpit hair, which is what kick started me thinking about all of this.
Back in 1999, while promoting Notting Hill, Julia Roberts took to the red carpet and was splashed all over the papers because she’d not shaved under her arms.
As a fourteen year old, I was a bit confused, my exposure to naked women at this stage was rather minimal and it struck me as odd. According to a lot of the papers this was a European look, so I probably just thought that on the continent women had under arm hair in the way they had different accents.
Of course, as I grew up I figured it out. Women had body hair like men, but they chose to shave it. A guy could have hair pretty much everywhere and it wasn’t a big deal, well, maybe apart from their backs. I heard some women comment that they didn’t like hairy chests, but others said they quite liked a chest rug on a bloke. It was confusing, but as I’ve never been overly hairy, not something that effected me.
Women, however, seemed to universally shave. It was expected, and it’s what they did.
I didn’t really question it much, until I was at uni. There was a slightly hippie-ish girl who’s name escapes me at present, one day at the Student Union bar she’d worn a vest top and exposed her unshaved armpits. This provoked a bit of revulsion from the people I was with, especially the girls, but I can remember thinking that it wasn’t that a big deal. Her armpit hair didn’t make her instantly repulsive, and besides, if she didn’t want to shave who were we to tell her she had to.
This is something I’ve come across repeatedly over the years. There was a BBC show called Cherry Healy’s How To Get a Life and in an episode about beauty she met a group of women who didn’t shave, and during the episode she discussed with random guys their feelings on it. A lot of them were of the “Hell, no!” school of thought and I remember just thinking they were being douches. If a woman doesn’t want to shave, she doesn’t have to. A guy can have a preference for what they like, but they can’t force their partner to stick with that.
Let’s put it this way, if MWG turned around one day and told me she wanted me to shave “down there” I’d politely tell her that it wasn’t going to happen. I’d give it a trim if she wanted it tidier, but I’m not shaving the boys. I did it once many years ago and it was a thoroughly uncomfortable, itchy experience.
You can discuss it, maybe ask, but at the end of the day the decision is the other person’s. It’s their body, so their rules.
Apparently there’s a movement out there of women who don’t want to shave their armpit hair, and are proud of their armpit hair or “pit kittens”, as one girl I know called them, because it shows they’re making their own choice and because that underarm hair is natural.
That’s the key thing to remember, women’s bodies are meant to have hair. Now, a woman can choose to shave or trim her hair anyway she wants, but it boggles the mind the level of disgust people have for something that’s perfectly natural.
What’s even more distressing is that a large amount of this revulsion comes from females. The strongest negative reactions towards female body hair has come from women I’ve talked to about it. While writing this I discussed it with MWG and one of her housemates, and both of them felt that body hair on a woman was unattractive.
It just strikes me as odd, and a little sad, that our society and it’s weird beauty standards has got to such a stage that women are actually disgusted with a part of themselves that is totally natural.
I’m not saying everyone should find body hair attractive, and that if you find it unattractive it’s a problem. It’s not, we all have different tastes and that’s fine. What is a problem is how you act on finding it unattractive, basically, if you don’t like something shut up. There’s probably something or someone you find attractive that leaves others cold, you wouldn’t like it if someone was ragging on it, would you?
So, if you don’t like it, just keep it to yourself.
The fact is that at the end of the day, it’s not really about others finding it attractive. It’s about what the individual wants and is comfortable with, and if they don’t want to pick up a razor, they don’t have to. And if they find themselves more attractive with a bit of armpit hair then good for them, because who wants to take that away from someone?
Feeling ugly and uncomfortable within your own skin is a terrible way to be, and you’d have to be extremely callous to want to make someone feel that way. Everyone should be allowed to feel beautiful and comfortable in their own skin, and to make their own choices about what they do with their body.
I’ve heard and seen these think pieces which talk about body hair and feminism, and for me the two things are only connected on one level- it’s a choice that every woman is free to make for herself. If you chose to shave, great, if you chose not to, great. I don’t like it when sometimes it’s portrayed as being anti-feminist for a girl to shave or wear makeup, or do other things.
Surely the whole point of feminism is that women get the right to make their own choices, and the job of other feminists is to accept and respect those choices, even when it’s not the one you would have made yourself.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Most days while I scarf down a late breakfast I’ll check Twitter, and once I’ve caught up on the people I follow I’ll look at what’s trending. This is so I can have some idea of what’s going on in the world and what people are talking about, and a great way to find out what celebrities have messed up or died. There are also usually some interesting or amusing hashtags floating about.
Today I saw that “National Tell A Girl She’s Beautiful Day” was trending. Now, my first response was to think that this was a rather cute and sweet idea, but I was skeptical.
Sure, we have tons of pointless days floating about but this one seemed a little suspect.
A quick Google revealed that it was in fact balderdash.
It also revealed that a lot of cats were not happy about the made up day. Now, like I said, I’d thought it was a rather sweet little idea to fire off a compliment to someone you found attractive, which I think is a good thing, I mean, everyone likes a compliment.
The naysayers however objected to it stating that it was a shallow thing that reduced women to just being about how they look, and that they need the validation of men’s praise to be complete.
I have to say, while I think it’s a tad of an overreaction and wanted to say “lighten up”, that I get the point. As a couple of people asked “why isn’t there a ‘tell a girl she’s smart’ day?”
We live in a beauty obsessed culture- on TV, in magazines there are constant pictures of edited celebrities and models who are celebrated for their beauty, which is often enhanced in ways that your Joe or Josephine in the street isn’t going to have at their disposal.
Worst of all, when these famous people slip up or have some minor flaw they’re attacked and ridiculed for it. There’s this real malicious glee in magazines like Heat to point out that some singer hasn’t quite lost her baby weight, that some Hollywood star was spotted in trackies with greasy hair or that a television presenter has a bit of cellulite.
One can only imagine the effect has on society’s more vulnerable and insecure members, I’ll admit that as a pretty ugly guy there are times when it messes my head, and I’m fairly comfortable walking around like a scruffy bastard. Like it or not, we judge on appearances a lot. It’s natural in a way, as we often have little else to go on, but that doesn’t make it right.
I try, as much as possible, to never insult someone on how they look. I don’t always succeed and I do catch myself having unkind thoughts about some people. But I do my best not to put that kind of negativity out there, because I’m aware that it can be extremely hurtful. I’ve had jokes made about how fat I am in the past, and the fact I’m not a looker has been pointed out, and it ain’t pleasant.
I think sometimes people forget that while the pressures seem to be greater on women, body image issues are just as much of a problem for guys. I started running to get healthy for myself, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that I also kinda want to look better. When people complimented me on my weight loss and how healthier I was looking, I felt good.
There’s an old line of thought that says it’s okay for men to be fat. A fat guy doesn’t get the grief that a larger lady does.
Sure, we can laugh it off more or dress in certain ways to cover it more, but it’s still there. I’ve had nasty looks from girls because I’m heavy. I’ve seen them. I’ve heard comments.
In fact, it’s worse in some ways for a guy. There’s a massive movement to help women’s body image, and lots of “fat positive” websites and stuff online. I follow some pages that celebrate the curvier woman on Tumblr and the like, because it happens to be a type of woman I find attractive, but from what I can tell, the male equivalent, outside of the homosexual “bear” community, is sadly lacking.
But this is for another day, and let’s back on topic.
Women shouldn’t just be celebrated for their looks. It’s frustrating to see actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Scarlett Johansson get asked questions about their weight or underwear when they’re promoting films where they play strong female characters. Of all the things you could ask about Katniss Everdeen, the thing you’re going to focus on is Lawrence’s diet?
I think we should compliment people on their looks, because it’s a nice thing to do, and it makes people feel good, and celebrating beauty is fine, but we need to make sure that we’re not judging people, especially women, just on how they look.
I’m guilty of it myself- I’m a fan of Lady Gaga, Kate Winslet and Katy Brand’s work, but how often when I talk about them without referencing that I find them attractive. I can’t say that their looks will never come into my mind, but I can try harder to focus more on their excellent work and not just my attraction to them.
So, yes, we should have a compliment day (which apparently we do) because we need to spread positivity in this world, but let’s make it a full week. And every day you try to give 3 compliments, and only 1 can be appearance based. Tell someone you think they’re funny, or clever, or good at their job, or kind, or whatever, because all that stuff is more important than how they look.
By all means, tell a girl she’s beautiful if you think she is, but make sure you tell her about the other stuff too, and that she knows that it’s not just her beauty that matters to you or should matter to her.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
P.S. Rather pleased that I got to use a Samantha Mumba track as a blog title.