Friday, 28 May 2010

Worth It?

Cheryl Cole, as featured in The Sunday Times' Style supplement. Photograph of magazine taken by Dora Petherbridge.

Perhaps it would be fair to say that before I write what I am about to write, I think the point of this has nothing to do with Cheryl Cole. I think that if she were not the ‘nation’s sweetheart’ another woman would be in her place. That’s the problem with this kind of thing - the women are to all intents and purposes replaceable. Dare I say it their appeal depends on a delicate bank- balancing act, one in which they are marketable for as long as they are ‘in’. This makes the comparisons between Cole and Vera Lynn all the more disturbing. For if Cole were a talented musician in so far as she wrote her own songs and composed her own music she would perhaps be in a position in culture out with a time and space continuum that begins and ends with a man called Simon Cowell. Indeed she might not need at all to have been reduced to the sum of her parts: hair, legs, face, the clothes.

As it stands fair play to the woman, she’s making an honest buck and she’s living the ubiquitous reality TV star’s dream - the one that other young people believe is only a hair-extension’s breadth away. Nope its not about Cole. My problem is with the media. For it has been a while since I’ve read anything quite as sycophantic as this interview by Edwina Ings-Chambers (from The Sunday Times’ Style supplement) prefaced with the strap-line ‘She’s Worth It’. I’m sure she is, but aren’t all women? Or are we to believe that it’s only the photogenic, cellulite free, fine-featured amongst our wretched gender that are deserving of attention?

Take this dazzling piece of prose for example:

‘She’s clad in a white T-Shirt, a striped APC blazer, stacked Stella McCartney wedges and micro blue shorts that reveal legs so toned and perfect (and, yes, cellulite free) that your eyes follow them round mesmerically while your brain registers simple disbelief.’

Well that’s just lovely, but what if anything, does it have to say about Cheryl Cole, other than, in case you didn’t get the point, she’s blooming marvellous to look at?

Is it any wonder then that Cole goes on to say this? -

‘If you could just give me one word to be, ‘inspirational’ would be the one, I think ... Like, one woman said to me, ‘I’ve got you on my fridge door to inspire me to go to the gym,’ and I felt that about Britney when she did I’m a Slave 4 You. So to think that I can be inspiring someone like that – or in any kind of way.’

While I’m not against anyone going to the gym or making the best of their appearance I do wonder whether a picture of Cheryl on my fridge door would be inspiration enough to make my life that little bit more ‘worth it’. Indeed once detached from the hyperbole, the clever marketing and the agendas, when we separate the gods from their perfectly formed legs, what exactly do cellulite free thighs actually mean? Are they the marker of success, above achievements beyond the body beautiful? Do they inspire generosity, kindness, goodwill, spirit, motivation, ingenuity, creativity and empowerment? Will I need them around if I get ill or if my heart is broken?

Nah, I don’t think so.

So in a vain bid to restore some kind of balance to the madness, I give you some women of note and inspiration.

Whether any of them have (or did have) cellulite is none of my business.

Virginia Woolf – novelist, diarist, publisher, feminist
Mary Woolstonecraft – writer, philosopher and feminist - vindicator of women
Michelle Obama
The Suffragettes
Nina Simone – Jazz artist and civil rights activist
Marie Stopes – pioneer in the field of family planning
Marie Curie – physicist and chemist, pioneer in the field of cancer research
Jane Austen - writer
The Brontes - writers
Margaret Atwood – writer and feminist
Susie Orbach – writer, psychotherapist and psychoanalyst and campaigner for body diversity
Naomi Wolf – political consultant, writer and spokesperson for the third wave feminist movement
Lionel Shriver – journalist and author
Meryl Streep - actor
Crystal Renn - plus size model and author of the memoir 'Hungry'
Susan Sarandon - actor
Melody Gardot – musician, writer, Buddhist and helping to develop a programme for music therapy and pain management
Toni Morrison – Nobel Prize winner, writer and professor
Doris Lessing – Nobel Prize winner
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir - Prime Minister of Iceland, first openly lesbian head of government
Tori Amos – pianist, singer/songwriter
Kathryn Biglow – First woman to win an Oscar for best director

None of these women inspire me to go to the gym.

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