Archive for October, 2010

In a recent episode of the greatest show on TV (Mad Men of course), Don Draper’s daughter Sally cut her long blonde hair one night when Don had left her with a babysitter. A furious Don sacked the hapless babysitter as soon as he clapped eyes on the resulting hair atrocity. His reaction was mild compared to that of his ex-wife Betty. She slapped little Sally hard across the face when she saw the damage done to her lovely golden tresses. And the poor child had only cut it to bob-length.

When I was slightly younger than Sally (about 7 I think), I nagged my mother for months to have my long fair hair cut short. She was extremely reluctant but eventually gave in to the pestering. The poor hairdresser was similarly reluctant and kept saying what a shame it was and asking if I was really sure about taking such a drastic step. I was, and with a single snip of the scissors the ponytail finally came off. My mother has kept it to this day.

Kate rocking the short hair look

I never regretted it. Over the years I made various half-hearted attempts to grow my hair but it never got much beyond shoulder length. It was always a relief to go back to the salon and emerge with a crop of some kind. Looks I have tried include slicked back like the women in the ‘Addicted to Love’ video in the eighties, a rockabilly style quiff and a full on Sinead O’Connor-esque scalping in the early nineties. I grew it before my wedding in 1996, only to scrape it all back off my face, Eva Peron style, for the day itself. In childhood I was sometimes mistaken for a boy, and had the so-called insult of ‘lesbian’ shouted at me occasionally when I was older. I was never remotely bothered; I never felt unfeminine just because I had short hair.

On Twitter a while ago, someone was bemoaning the fact that some women give up on longer hair as soon as they have children, and that it’s all part of ‘letting themselves go’. But in my view many women cling on to their long hair when they would look infinitely better with a chic crop. I can think of many celebrity women whose finest hour came when they had a radical haircut – Victoria Beckham, Emma Watson and Carey Mulligan spring to mind. And as for style icon Kate Moss; to me she never looked better than when she had her dirty blonde locks cut into a short (and brunette!) elfin style.

It is said that most men prefer long hair, but I doubt that’s the reason women grow it long. I don’t envy the work involved in maintaining long silky tresses – the endless blowdrying, conditioning, GHD-ing – so you must be doing it because you love it. Right?

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Hi. I’m new here. Now, my Aunty Cynthia always said you should start off as you mean to carry on, so I guess I should launch straight into a topic that is weighing on my mind and close to my heart, or at least close to my knickers. Deep breath, and we’re off…

The feminist writer Naomi Wolf recently wrote about visiting a specialist masseuse who had dedicated his yogi-life to helping women get in touch with their inner goddess. He provided this service over a few hours, largely by massaging their inner goddess through the portal of their, erm, yoni.  Yup, yoni. Or something. I was too busy squinting and squealing about actually paying a passing hippie 95 pounds sterling to prod me in the bits, albeit a passing hippie who said he wanted to help, to make me happy. Hah! Like I haven’t heard that one in the pub already. But I digress…

A yoni is better known by it’s biological name, a vagina, or it’s yank-confusing name, a fanny, and then 734 other names bandied about in locker rooms by boys. Ya know the ones – twat, beaver, muff, poon, and so on and so forth including the big filthy C-word, the one I told the teenager off for using on Facebook.
“Is it a four-letter word?” wonders my Little Fella with big eyes, on overhearing the kerfuffle.
“Yup,” I say.
“Beginning with C?”
“What is it?”
“I’m not saying.”
“I think I know.”
“No you don’t.”
“Can I spell it?” he asks.
But he’s off regardless: “C-R-A-P”.
Phew. No, not that one. And no, I can’t tell you what it is, son, but I’m sure you’ll hear it in the rugby maul someday all too soon.

In our house – boy heavy – we call lady bits “fanny”, or at least I do on those rare occasions the vagina comes up, and always to wails of “awwww, mum, stop”. However, boy bits are bandied about willy-nilly, if you’ll excuse the choice of expression.
I like the word “yoni” though, and have henceforth adopted it, although I haven’t yet test-driven it on the kids. It’s completely new to me, yet it’s charming, un-rude and just saying it – “yoni”  – makes me feel a little wave of rare affection for my nether regions. But, while I like the word yoni, I remain disturbed by the general colloquial naming of the female, er, “lady bottom”.

For the vagina, there are precious few of the fondly intimate names that boys have for their knobs/dicks/peckers/todgers/schlongs. Even the rudest penis name of all (sensitive readers should look away now), “cock”, is only really a little bit rude. Boy bits are given names that are all quite pert, and at worst, a little giggle-inducing. There’s the throbbing shaft of romance novels, there’s the one-eyed trouser snake, there’s willie and winkie in the playground, and there are endless pet names like Fred, Dirty Harry, John Thomas, Thumper,  and the notorious you’ll-never-get-laid-calling-it-that-buddy Meat Injection.

There are penis names that big up the business and imply the prowess of the machinery in question, like truncheon and third leg and trouser snake, and penis names that are really filthy in a way that demeans women, vaginas and the very notion of making lurve. Girls don’t have the same easy familiarity with their vaginas though. Why not? Every single phrase I can think of that refers to the vagina – even with the help of the all-knowing Googlemeister – seems, well, unnecessarily rude, and too often downright crude. Or clinical. Or cringe-worthy. Why?

Is it because nice girls don’t mention their vaginas? Because nice girls are supposed to ignore their existence? Because nice mothers say “did you remember to wash down THERE?” like it’s an unmentionable secret? Even modern, forward-thinking parents discuss their daughter’s nether regions with clinical politeness, primly annunciating “vagina” as if it’s something separate, functional and purely biological.

And now Hollywood calls them va-jay-jays – a term gaining in popularity and reducing our most womanly parts to something that smacks of baby-talk, uncomfortably close to Lolita, to paedophilia. And while being rather fond of the term “fanny”, I wouldn’t be saying it to my grandmother. Other than that, just about every vagina name I can think of clearly came straight from boy porn – I mean, what girl would refer to her minge or muff or pussy with any comfort? – and too often these names have girls labelled like pieces of meat, or receptacles for sperm, names like fur burger and meat curtains and feedbag… Oh lord, I can’t continue. What if my mother reads this?
We need to reclaim our vaginas and all their cunning linguist nicknames as our own – and with it all the pleasures and uses and functions they encapsulate – because they are ours and ours alone, these yonis, these fannies, these little bits of heaven that we may occasionally share. And yoni is a whole new name. Well, to me. It’s slips off the tongue with friendly ease, remaining slightly mysterious but also delightfully cheerful. A yoni doesn’t have issues, emotional, hygienic or otherwise. A yoni is upbeat and enthusiastic, but knows when to be serious. A yoni doesn’t care for extreme looks or Brazilians or dye jobs or anything that might make it nervous or paranoid. A yoni is interested and interesting. A yoni wouldn’t be caught dead in anything that made it itch or crept up at the back.

A yoni is pithy and no-nonsense, the Yardley Oatmeal type, holding personality and content of character in high esteem, while eschewing all that would undermine its sense of worth.

A girl could value a yoni’s opinion. And a girl should, because a yoni has got, well, balls…

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The New York State Department of Health says in a campaign targetted at women on low incomes that it can help them lose weight. Some focus group somewhere came up with this or some patronising public health professional?

h/t Sociological Images and more on the NYT Motherlode blog.

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Get those robes off and make friends and family really, really proud.

Amongst the ten or so memories I have of early childhood is one where I went to a hurling match with my father. It was a wintry, lowering midlands day; the kind of bitter cold that makes the ref’s whistle slice the air. It isn’t clear in my memory whether my father played in this match or if he just knew someone who did. All I can recall is the drift of men into the dressing room afterward; the skid of studs on concrete, the white mud-spattered shins, the musky smell of sweat; and my dad telling me I couldn’t come in, that I was to wait at the door till he came out. Then, I didn’t know anything about gender differences, all I knew was that there was somewhere I couldn’t go and it was because I was a girl. I could hear my father talking inside the miserable mucky galvanised hut that passed for dressing facilities back then. There were laughs and a bit of language, it was the place to be and I couldn’t go there. I can only think that until then my sense of self was rooted in personhood, I wasn’t fully aware of being a girl or female and this experience was my first encounter with a boundary. I must have made a bit of a fuss about this at home afterwards because my father bought me a sliothar and a hurl and started to teach me how to pick up and puck the ball.

You could say, were I a boy and outside my mother’s dressing room, back then, I wouldn’t have been allowed in there either and that’s probably true even though the elaborate contortions of female dressing and undressing were unlikely to expose anything other than an elbow or a shoulder. But for the girlhood me it was just the first of many realisations about things a girl couldn’t do or wasn’t supposed to do. At Mass men and women (in mantillas, hats and headscarves) sat on opposite sides of the church, the boys and the girls playgrounds at school were separate, my father got more respect in shops and in other public places than my mother did. Society saw him as a paterfamilias and my mother and brother and I belonged to him. Neither my father or my mother held with any of this and barring that one entirely understandable dressing room ban, my father supported all my efforts to be as good as a boy without laughing. I traipsed after him to marts and matches and funerals – all gatherings dominated by men and boys and he never seemed to mind being the only man there with a little girl in tow (this was the 60s in rural Ireland and as I write I’m amazed anew at the changes, the past is indeed another country)

What trainee feminist hurlers looked like back then

In any case, there was a set of rules and even to the eyes of a little girl it was clear that the likes of mammies or aunties or grannies didn’t make them. The mammies, aunties and grannies were too busy; they milked cows, made hay, delivered calves at 2am and made sure the motley collection of men, children, dogs, cats and hens were fed. They also managed the farm money and had sidelines in selling eggs and rearing turkeys for the Christmas market. They held the reins of power lightly though; I wonder if they actually even realised that anything of any importance was only achieved by their hands, their minds.

Of course the mammies also passed on to their daughters the understanding of what it was to be female in the world. This involved much instruction on how to be ‘a little lady’ – they were great women for diminutives – by putting ‘little’ into sentences you could make something seem both passive and easily achieved. The lady imperative was laced through with religion too. You were not to sit in an unladylike manner with your knickers showing because your body was ‘the temple of the Holy Spirit’. Cursing was ‘taking the holy name in vain’ as well as unladylike and could make you sound like ‘a British Tommy’ (a nice bit of nationalist post-war bias there). Boys could curse like the proverbial troopers, get filthy and hang by their knees from the top bars of swings without enduring similar exhortations; boys were forces of nature that couldn’t be stopped or changed. They didn’t have to worry about being temples or any of that guff. I wonder if in their secret hearts the mammies even believed the guff because the lady imperative was also socially driven, the mammies knew that one day they’d be sending their daughters off to convent secondary school and they didn’t want any daughter of theirs to come across like an uncouth, female barbarian.

By the time I got to the Brides of Christ change was a comin’. There were only rumours of the days when you had to dress and undress under your dressing gown, and in truth, the nuns didn’t talk all that much about being ladylike; their veils had shrunk and so did the length of girls’ P.E. skirts. Even though I didn’t comprehend it at the time, and generally didn’t ‘like’ the nuns, here was a community of women that didn’t live day-to-day under the rule of men (even though the Church was and is a monument to patriarchy) and this independence influenced how they educated the girls in their charge. The best of the nuns who educated me were fiercely interested in our success in the world and I even recall very many discussions about equality in Religion classes. A generation back, in the dank 50s so often recorded in Irish letters, the same order of nuns would have educated girls to be hostesses and wives, but TV had arrived, Liberation Theology had arrived, the comedy (as we thought) of bra-burning Women’s Lib had arrived, and inexorably all these influences seeped into the way us girls and the nuns thought. If there’s a girly version of being prepared to become captains of industry then that’s what we got (as well as some useless instruction on the Billings Method).

Vic Reeves thinks women are regressing

“Even now women don’t have the power that they had in the 80s”

The point I’m getting to is that I was lucky enough to be educated by both my parents and the nuns to understand myself to be a member of 50% of the human race (not a minority), that my brain was more important than my body and that I had the right to argue for fair play wherever I encountered sexism. I got to thinking about all this again recently during one week of reading the newspaper and watching television. Although a frequent question in my own internal conversation is what the hell ever happened to feminism, I’m never quite sure how this is perceived in the world at large. The spur to write this post came from an unlikely quarter: British comedian Vic Reeves. The Observer Woman magazine (yes, I like clothes and make-up) runs a regular piece across two pages entitled ‘What I know about women’ and ‘What I know about men’ where a well-known man and a well-known woman talk about their sentimental educations. In the course of such a piece Reeves said “I had my first long-term relationship with a girl called Lucy in the 80s. A feminist, she went on Reclaim the Night marches, and as far as our relationship was concerned there was never any doubt over who was in charge. Women who were in their 20s then had it really good – us men were right under the thumb, but we sort of liked that. In the 90s it all seemed to go backwards for women – control drifted away, and slowly it regressed to what it had been like in the 50s and 60s. Even now women don’t have the power that they had in the 80s – back then you wouldn’t dare say anything at all to a woman because you’d get a smack round the chops. Women were at their most powerful then”.

I wonder about the under the thumb thing, did that mean parity or dominance, only Reeves knows, but it makes me ask why, if women’s declining status is apparent to a man, is it not apparent to women? Because that seems to be the case; we women are regressing, retreating back into the kitchen (we still do the lion’s share of housework), thinking again about Prince Charming and watching ‘How to Look Good Naked’ on TV. That television programme in particular makes me squirm on my sofa. If you haven’t seen it, here’s the pitch; you get a woman whose self-esteem is in the cellar of her soul, she’s got a shit wardrobe, shit hair and oftentimes she’s coming out the other end of a shit marriage/relationship. What does such a woman need – more friends, a better job, a few good books, or to get out more? No, she needs to pose semi-naked for a coy photo shoot and then she needs to follow this up with prancing up and down on a runway in her underwear in an overlit shopping centre. The pièce de résistance of ‘How to Look Good Naked’ is at the end of the runway show when the lucky, lucky woman, in another extravagance of coyness, gets her full kit off while being blocked from view by a gaggle of models. The programme tells us over and over that this makes the woman feel like a million dollars, and it makes ‘friends and family’ proud of her. She has stopped being a sad old sack(socially unacceptable), has reclaimed her ‘bangers’ (breasts) and has morphed into a sex object again (socially acceptable).

Please tell me it’s not just me that finds this more than a harmless piece of silly television?  Who can’t be shocked at how beleaguered a woman has to be to volunteer for this cynical romp ? Is it  just me who thinks that sexuality is merely one aspect of the tremendously complicated creature that is the human being, that what lies beneath a person’s clothes is just one part of what makes them exciting? It’s like three waves of feminism never happened, women are back to being service bots, they exist to please, they have no mind.

“Did public feminism ever translate to the private world of the family?”

Back in 70s feminism women labeled each other in a really divisive way using language borrowed from politics – women who were known broadly within the wider culture as ‘dolly birds’ were called collaborators, they slept with the enemy (men), some feminists even posited that separatism/lesbian separatism was the only authentic life for a woman of feminist principles. I hated that language, its us and them-ness – and the coverage these peripheral views got was disproportionate to the numbers of women who actually believed in their worth. I’m convinced that this is partly why women started to dislike calling themselves feminists  – it meant you were an intransigent, humourless, man-hater.

I don’t believe however that the feminists landed us with the sorry state of regression we’re in now, nor for a minute do I believe that my life would be anything but poorer were I not reared in a time when angry women got out there and changed the Western world. For instance, I wouldn’t like to be a woman in Afghanistan or India or Africa, no thank you! I think that the ongoing battle for equality is being lost within the family and both men and women are responsible for this. Where the State can intervene with legislation, some kind of simulacrum of equality is enforceable – equal wages for equal work, what questions can be asked at a job interview, the right to take a case if you’re sexually harassed at work, the right not to be discriminated against if you’re a working mother. Behind closed doors, it’s a different story, and we know about the big headline issues here – domestic violence, marital rape – the laws exist but you have to be strong enough and free enough to access them.

What we think less about is how ordinary, undramatic life is lived, by ordinary, reasonably well-adjusted men and women and their children. Did public feminism ever translate to the private world of the family? If a girl is reared in an environment where her mother is the kind of downtrodden slave so beloved of ‘How To Look Good Naked’ what kind of information does that give her about how to be in the world? If such a girl has a father who comes and goes as a free agent, with no responsibilities at home barring putting out the bins and a contribution to the bills, who does she want to model herself on? The slave? I think it might make her want to put on a skimpy dress and drink like a lad – and she won’t have religion or thoughts of being a lady holding her back. I think such a girl might feel that the only thing society values about being female is looking good and being good in the sack cos the stuff her mother does, eh, who cares

“One thing has to happen; that doing it all lark has to stop”

It’s hardly news to anyone that us eejits who believed in having it all (the career and the family) won for ourselves the booby prize of doing it all. Believe me when I say that this experience is the equivalent of what the typical war film says happens to men. You know the story, you go in one side, a raw recruit, full of hope and optimism. Basic training is a bit tough but, you know, survivable. Then you progress to the Front, having babies, working, cooking, cleaning, project-managing the whole thing, and you begin to limp. Then one day, you come back from one tour of duty too many, and you’re a changed woman, brutalised, uncaring, an automaton. You go to the shops, look at the cereal shelves, and you couldn’t be arsed. You’re deranged enough to think that better clothes, a bit of slap and dusting off your cleavage might be the best way of dealing with the PTSD – you’re only a hair’s breadth away from finding yourself patronised by Gok Wan and galumphing around in front of a camera extolling the joys of your naked self.

One thing has to happen; that doing it all lark has to stop – if 90% of the world believes that housework and child-rearing (as apart from mothering) is menial, believe me, there are no brownie points going for it – not even in the eyes of sons and daughters – not even if you’re the living euphemism called a ‘woman in the home’ or a ‘homemaker’. And, the thing is, it’ll make your brain look bad naked; you’ll have wantonly spent all those woman-hours vacuuming and laundering and cooking and bottom-wiping, hours that you could have spent (had you a functioning life partner to share the load) reading or thinking or playing sports or joining clubs or finding a rewarding interest or a fulfilling job. Your brain will be flaccid and unattractive, it’ll mainly be a checklist of chores and how good your body might look bet into Spanx will be no consolation to you then. No, there’s no need to be a prude, to have all those hang-ups about nakedness and sexual desire, but if like Destry, you want to ride again, getting your clobber off in a shopping centre is not a way of proving your high status or your worth, it is instead the female version of the mid-life crisis; of buying that red sports car. It is just as sad and pathetic and hopeful and useless and the day it broadcasts to the nation is the day you’ll begin to regret it. By then you’ll be back to your internal monologue, Gok Wan will have stopped telling you how great you are (so you can undo a few zips and buttons, so what!), and you’ll be able to read in people’s eyes whether they watched the programme or not. Then it’ll dawn on you that the thing that’s wrong is your life, not your body image . The reason you’re miserable is because you’re downtrodden and not because your bra and knickers don’t match. The reason you look great on camera at the end is that you have an inch of make-up on and not because you’re glowing from making a meaningful life journey. I’m sorry to have to say it, I really am, but given a few days of mulling and contemplation, your brain could have saved you from this.

(I  saw the film The Hurt Locker in the midst of writing this post)

Yvonne Nolan is an independent radio and TV producer and journalist. This post originally appeared in her own excellent blog, How We Live Now

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Gina Byrne is a countrified Dub in Tipperary and mother of two. She blogs at http://wordsbygina.wordpress.com and is on Twitter: @Gina_inTipp

In the beginning, there was asking for directions. Which men are no good at, apparently. Then came maps. Which women can’t read, apparently. Then came Sat Nav. Which may or may not get you to your destination, via an incomplete bridge, muddy lay-by or the third exit of a two exit roundabout.

So, given the modern-day choice of some or indeed all of the above, why – oh why – does anyone need one of these?

They festoon a worrying number of rural highways and by-ways lately. The soon to be hitched couple tie them excitedly to traffic lights and lamp-posts. They can be handwritten or printed, laminated or maybe decorated with mini balloons and gold streamers. Isn’t it just so thoughtful of them? Helping their guests find their way while simultaneously adding gaiety to their journey. Bless.

Hang on – let’s just think about that for a minute. Who exactly, going to your average wedding, needs them?

Immediate family:

– All probably brought up near to and Christened/ Communioned/Confirmed in the church you’re directing them to. Or if you’ve chosen a different (ie prettier, more rustic) church or a civil ceremony, then they’ve probably already been dragged to the choosing of same, rehearsals, decorating etc.

Extended family:

– Grandparents, maiden aunts, your parents cousins. They’ll have been on the phone several times already, asking about your wedding list, availability of B&Bs (“much quieter”) and making sure you remember that Uncle Sean can’t eat salmon. All of these conversations will have ended with a full door-to-door run though of the exact directions, by your Dad. And in any event, they will all just follow his car anyway, in a slow but happy snaking convoy from ceremony to reception.

Your friends and workmates:

– Easy. They will have immediately sourced and located the best pub to meet in pre-ceremony. Then similarly have printed out a Google Map pub-crawl route that will get everyone seamlessly from the 1st of the day to the champagne reception – via the poor designated driver. Often the pregnant member of the party, alas…

In any event, a bride (yes this is more bride than groom behaviour) who hangs these hideous signs wouldn’t have stopped at that anyway. Every invitation would also come with a colour-coded map and AA Roadwatch description of the route.

Also, any restaurant or hotel venue worth its salt has printable directions on its website.

In other words – everyone gets there. No one needs a sign. Except perhaps the odd bridezilla who may remain unconvinced. Perhaps she should think about this…

In all the joy and revelry of the day itself, no one ever does the journey in reverse, ie to take the signs back down again. So, your guests returning home are now confronted with your rain-soaked sign; names dripping like mascara, a flaccid balloon and a couple of sad streamers. Doesn’t exactly say Happy Ever After, now does it?

I’m telling you – it’s a sign…

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Moving out

As someone who left home at 16, never to return, I read this article in The Times today with an air of mild bafflement. Mind you, my own daughter is 19 and has informed us–sort of jokingly, sort of not – on more than one occasion that she has no intention of ever moving out. Although there was vague talk over the weekend of possibly maybe perhaps sharing a house next year with some friends.

But like so many of the adult children in the article, I have to ponder why would she bother?  She has her own room, her own computer,  I wash her clothes, Andrew cooks and acts as chauffeur, there is Sky, and broadband and food mysteriously appears in the fridge on a regular basis, as do products like toothpaste and shampoo.

I’m trying to imagine Jordan being an independent adult, no really. But I’m not entirely getting the picture. Who would wake her up and make sure she got to her job on time? Who would make sure she had clean shirts? Well she would wouldn’t she? Er. I suppose so. She’d have to. Wouldn’t she?

But hark back to the days of my misspent youth. Honestly, I don’t remember many of my generation remaining at home beyond 18, certainly it would have been most odd for people in their late 20’s to reside at home. And it’s not like money was in such abundance then either.  It’s not like we were magically more mature and understood the ways of the world. We went out there, we made mistakes, we ran out of money on Wednesdays and lived on Weetabix until the next payday. Many of my friends went abroad to find work or worked two jobs to fund their absolute independence.  The idea of returning home never occurred to us.

So what gives? Why are so many of our younger generation so content to leave their feet under the family table? Softer parents? Entitlement? Comfort? A flashier lifestyle to fund? ( no mobiles and cars for us lot either, not in late eighties or early nineties)  Maybe that’s it, maybe we didn’t know any better, maybe we were content to live in grotty bedsits and walk or bus everywhere, maybe we were happy to run up a flight of stairs to reach the phone in the hall with all the numbers scrawled around it. Maybe, just maybe, we didn’t think we were special snowflakes and the world owed us a favour.

I’m not saying the current crop of would be adults think that either by the way, but something has definitely shifted over the years and I’d be curious to know what y’all think?

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I was tempted to start this post with an explanation of who Katie Waissel is, “for those of you living in trees”, but then it occurred to me that not even the most moss-choked canopy-dweller could have escaped the X Factor 2010 convoy. X Factor updates are, at this point, like Brian Lenihan’s financial discrepancies – all over the place. The front covers of newspapers. The home pages of news sites. The stream of witticisms on Twitter. Your teenage sister’s Facebook status, with your granddad’s comments just below. Simon Cowell has created a monster, but it’s a monstrous guilty pleasure, and the entire global neighbourhood’s been feeding the bloody thing.

Katie Waissel is one of the finalists. She’s in the “Girls” category – female soloists under the age of twenty-eight. She’s blonde, ambitious and ballsy. And everyone hates her. She’s the pantomime villain, the air-kissing personification of all that is wrong with tabloid culture. Katie is not so much this year’s Marmite; she’s this year’s Festival Of Painful Inoculations.

All of this stems from the fact that X Factor 2010 is not her first stab at fame. Katie has previously appeared in an online reality TV show, following her adventures trying to “make it” in the US. She has released an album in the US, and was set to release a second before appearing on X Factor. This does not endear the public to her; no one wants seasoned grafters on X Factor. They want humble, simpering, tearful newbies who shuffle in, cap in hand, singing for a supper they never knew they were hungry for.

Katie is not the only contestant who’s clocked up a bit of experience in her chosen profession; Treyc Cohen, Mary Byrne, Matt Cardle, John Adeleye, and Liam Payne (of cobbled-together boyband One Direction) have all been beavering away diligently at their music careers, from fronting indie bands, to having their own merchandising lines, to winning MOBO awards. Yet none of them have taken the same flack as Katie Waissel.

Let’s take Matt Cardle as an example. The “painter and decorator” fronts indie four-piece Seven Summers, whose album is enjoying chart success on the back of likeable Matt’s X Factor performances. To my knowledge, Matt has said that he could yet return to Seven Summers after his X Factor experience (provided, I assume, he doesn’t win outright). Yet there was no mention of Matt being an experienced singer during his original audition; he was sold to us as a doe-eyed chappie with no idea of how good he really was.

Katie’s original audition was similarly sugar-coated. After Simon Cowell disagreed with her prepared piece, she began to sing We Are The Champions, but forgot the lines, and begged to be given a second chance. She was cute, a bit eccentric, and that was enough of a persona to present to the viewing public. Now we realise that both Katie and Matt have recorded albums, performed in front of crowds, written their own music … why, then, is only Katie sprouting devil horns?

Perhaps it comes down to acting skills. Katie never really came across as modest, and there was always something self-aware about her quirkiness. Matt has the mannerisms, the cheeky grin, and the self-deprecation to tickle our awwww reflexes, not to mention a wavering falsetto that makes him sound like he could burst into tears at any given high note. He is a bunny-rabbit of a man, non-threatening … we feel it possible that he doesn’t even know the meaning of the word “obnoxious”. Katie is far from obnoxious, but there’s nothing fluffy about her, either. She comes across as a girl who’s quirky for the sake of being quirky, and boy, do we hate cynicism in our lassies.

“Simple check-out girl” and shrinking violet Mary gets away with her performing, single-releasing past, because she’s humble and good-natured and piteously overweight. John, because he’s got watery eyes and a thankful smile. Treyc because she’s got a big bum and an even bigger voice (and make no mistake on X Factor – the voice will out). Liam because he seems unassuming and dear God, he’s all big eyes and cheekbones. Katie’s terrible error is that she seems to have a strategy. We find her “irritating” – her clothes, her hairstyle, her poise, even her low, jazzy voice. Katie Waissel simply … doesn’t hide her motives well enough.

And perhaps we still feel that that’s no way for a young woman to behave.

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