Monthly Archives: May 2014

Blurred Lines

If you switched on your TV last week, this is what you’d have seen: Two hundred and seventy six school girls kidnapped in Nigeria, Oscar Pistorious on trial for murdering Reeva Steenkamp in his bathroom and media personalities accused and convicted of terrible sex crimes against young women and girls. Tough going. Then to relax in the evening, there was new BBC drama ‘Happy Valley’, which is not happy at all, just very violent and quite rapey.

Sexism and misogyny have always been there. The ‘stay in the kitchen’ jokes, the ‘changing a plug’ problems, the ‘being overlooked at work in favour of a younger and less qualified boy’, the leering weirdos, but just lately, it all feels louder. I’m a girl. I’m the mother of a baby girl. And I’m starting to feel, for the first time in my 31 years, a little bit threatened.

‘Blurred Lines’ (BBC1) on Wednesday night was a heinous patchwork of sexism in all its most gruesome glory and asked where the ‘lines’ are. Is it OK to have a chortle at a sexist joke? Is it OK that young people learn about sex from pornography? Is it OK to play a computer game where your digital self can have digital sex with a digital woman and afterwards, digitally kick her to death? Is that more OK if the ‘game’ is rated 18? I couldn’t imagine anyone would think, ‘yes’, but on Twitter as usual, there were lots of people (men and women) who couldn’t really see a problem with it.

Girls themselves aren’t helping matters. Female entertainers are increasingly naked, and aggressive and so are lots of our young ladies. The ‘empowered’ woman’s reaction to sexism seems to be provocative and goading. Miley and Rihanna are marketed to us as women who can do whatever the hell they like with their bodies (hang on that’s actually a Gaga lyric isn’t it?) as now they’re in control. Yeah! Hi five sister! But no matter what they say, whether it’s about control, empowerment, ownership of your own sexuality, it still feels a bit wrong doesn’t it? It feels dangerous. It feels like giving validation to a sinister sub section of people with bad intentions. And if something feels wrong, it probably is.

I have no problem planning the conversation with my daughter where I tell her she can be whatever she wants. I believe our society has a great and normal structure where women can get any job and be treated respectfully as the citizens which they are. However, I do struggle to imagine how I’ll explain sexism or misogyny to her. Do I explain it? Or do I let her find out about it for herself online, and then blink up at me with those baby blues, puzzled.

Games like ‘Grand Theft Auto’ are profoundly negative. It’s just not possible to see them in any other light. After ‘Blurred Lines’ I went onto Twitter to search desperately for people who felt the same as me and reassure myself that a hell-mouth hadn’t opened up and swallowed our planet. I tweeted that a game where you could be abusive to children or to animals wouldn’t be allowed, so why was this? Someone replied and said, ‘Perhaps if you played the game instead of jumping on the anti-GTA bandwagon, you’d know you can kill animals on it’. Oh. Wow. Well, I am firmly on that bandwagon my friend. I have a front row seat on that particular wagon and you should be sitting next to me, not sitting in your bedroom pretending to mug people and kill animals.

Violence and crime aren’t fun. They’re not games. They’re not fantasies or hobbies and shouldn’t be made available as those things. If you feel like you need to indulge dark sides of your character, I’d suggest having a cold glass of water, taking a very deep breath, doing up your anorak and walking quickly to a psychiatrist. ‘Hello, my name is X and I think I need some help’. Off you go. Chop chop.

Vertigo Roadtrip – Review

Presented by Mel Giedroyc, this programme followed a group of Vertigo sufferers on their journey to overcome fear. Now vertigo, like proper vertigo, not just a little bit of sensible leg wobbling when looking over a cliff, is a terrible and debilitating thing, so our sympathies were with this group from the beginning.

The ‘treatment’ was lead by American phobia expert, Dr Jen and the group’s first assignment was to walk up a flight of stairs. We sat back. This could be interesting.

None of the group were too happy about stairs. We saw a photo of someone’s childhood birthday party, their 4 year old self ominously standing next to ‘the stairs’ that triggered a life-long fear. Gulp.

Anyway, they gritted their teeth and got through it. The stairs were conquered and next it was massive licence payers’ budgets at the ready and off to The Alps. Going straight from the stairs to The Alps seemed like a bit of a jump, but with only an hour programme, they had to get on with it.

The challenge was to travel in a cable car, which even most height lovers would agree is a little bit scary. Hooo hoo, we rubbed our hands together. The phobics are going to flip! But from here on out, the programme was a decidedly phobic-flop.

Forgive my perversity, but I wanted to see screaming, crying, shaking and instead I got slightly anxious people, in a cable car, agreeing that yes, they hated it, but yes, they could handle it.

Dr Jen tried to spice things up. As the cable car climbed she said things like, ‘now let’s all talk about what could happen. Are you afraid the car might fall, plunging us all to our rocky deaths? Are you worried that you might fall through the glass?’ Pairs of eyes blinked at her anxiously, but despite her efforts to freak them out, they arrived peacefully at the top and even enjoyed the view.

Next, a bridge across a ravine. Here we did eventually get some crying from Louise whose brother had (as a child) let go of her hand halfway across a suspension bridge and run off, thusly catapulting her into a life of crippling bridge-related terror. ‘Her fight or flight reaction has been triggered’, said Mel. FINALLY, we thought.

Louise’s breathing quickened and the on-hand medic, who had so far been twiddling his thumbs, seemed concerned. ‘Are you worrying that the bridge might collapse?’ piped up Dr Jen. What a champ. Kick ‘em when they’re down.

Tentatively Louise gripped Dr Jen’s hand and shuffled onto the bridge. ‘Don’t let me go Jen’ she begged. Now come on, you secretly wished they’d get halfway and Jen would let go and run off didn’t you? Admit it. We all thought it.

Boringly though, she got to the other side, incident free. This is ‘unbelievable’ proclaimed Mel and it was hugs all round. One by one, the rest of the group walked across the bridge. Some strolled. Some might as well have clicked their heels. Essentially, it was a programme segment of people just walking across a bridge. I don’t usually have to turn on my TV to see that.

After the bridge, the challenges soared and so did the budget. The group travelled to the 18th floor of the Capital Gate Hotel, United Arab Emirates and Mel promised us, ‘this is going to feel like HELL’. But the group took it totally in their stride. I was beginning to think they were all just in this for the free holidays.

A challenge involving a diving board had group member Lee a bit worried. ‘Eclipse!’ he shouted angrily at Dr Jen, which was the Fifty Shades-style ‘safe word’ for when they wanted out. Mel reassured us that Lee would not be forced to do anything he didn’t want to. Disappointing. I couldn’t help but wish for Lee to be marched to the end of the diving board and pushed in. ECLIPSE! Splash. But no.

Finally, to the world’s tallest building. The Burg Khalifa. If anything was going to set them off, it was this. True to form though, the group just got in the lift and strolled onto the viewing deck. Either this group were outrageous fakes on a free holiday, or Dr Jen’s treatment really worked.

First published by Cambridge News