Sunday, 3 November 2013

Rain and appearances.

According to La Voz de Galicia “octubre fue el más lluvioso desde hace ocho años” – this October was the rainiest for eight years. And even though the month has ended the rain has not. Here is a link to a TV news report about the effect of the rain over the bank holiday weekend (Friday was All Saints – Todos los Santos) on tourism on Galician beaches.

At least I know that it’s not just here in the UK that you have to time your outings for moments between rainstorms. And people keep telling me it makes up for the dry summer. OK but I think we’ve had enough for the time being. 

Anyway, on to other things. 

Over the last few days I’ve been hearing and reading about women in the media again. BBC Radio 4 did a feature on women in broadcasting, taking us back to the days when women were considered too emotional to read the news. And besides, our voices were considered too light for effective broadcasting. As for television, well, women watching the news would be too distracted by looking at the fashions the newsreaders were wearing. 

That last point has a ring of truth behind it, not so much the women being distracted but the importance of what women on TV are wearing. A few years ago we had the chance to take a look behind the scenes at one of the TV news broadcasts. The female newsreader must have spent about 10 minutes spraying her hair so that it did not move out of place while she faced the camera. At the same time she was taking instruction on points she needed to make, questions she needed to ask and how much time and importance she should give to various interviews. A woman, you see, multi tasking! 

Her male counterpart just had to make sure his tie was straight. 

All right, I exaggerate a little. The pressure on men in the media to conform to certain presentational norms keeps on growing, albeit a little more slowly. Nowadays, male politicians and news readers all conform to a kind of corporate image: smart suit, well groomed hair and at the moment a poppy in the buttonhole. You don’t see politicians in duffle coats like Michal Foot wore any longer or even many very large ones like Cyril Smith. They’ve had to adapt to the style rules. 

Facial hair is largely frowned on as well although Jeremy Paxman appears to have made something of a fashion statement by appearing on Newsnight sporting the beard he grew over the summer. This provoked some comment  about how it “aged” him but nothing like the kind of comments female commentators, stars, singers and so have to put up with. 

 The latest body problem selected to harass women in media with is something called the “thigh gap”. A fashion journalist commented about this: “"About four hours ago, as far as I was concerned a 'thigh gap' was something anyone could have if they stood up and placed their feet wider than hip distance apart. A thigh gap is actually the hollow cavity which appears between the tops of your legs when you stand with your feet together. It also means that your body is underweight." 

You just can’t win. 

I caught the tail end of a report on the radio about a film star, now in her late 50s, possibly early 60s, appearing on the front of a magazine, all slender neck and smooth jowl-free chin, wearing skinny jeans and clearly enjoying looking good. She was criticised for this. So, on the one hand you are criticised if you let yourself go – all those photos of famous young women not quite getting rid of their “baby bump” fast enough – while on the other it isn’t permissible to look too good beyond a certain age. 

And then the feminists waged in with the opinion that women who do keep themselves fit and attractive are somehow betraying the feminist cause. But does growing old gracefully have to mean growing old frumpily? And isn’t it possible to be a good-looking feminist? 

Thank heavens I managed to listen to an interview with Shirley Williams, an interview in which she wasn’t asked to comment on what she was wearing!

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