Unsafe Space

The Gair Rhydd Column: Loose women needs tightening.

Loose Women should be a brilliant platform for women and feminism, but it’s all tits, tears and tantrums, leaving no place for discussion of the real issues.

I have a dreadful and harrowing addiction. A dependency that controls me from the moment I wake up, every single day. My compulsion is to daytime television. I can’t help it. The fewer brain cells you need to comprehend the programme, the better.

Now I’m not a moron. I know that Jeremy Kyle is terrible and awful and damaging, so I try and limit myself to no more than two episodes a week (particularly after spending a week confined to my bed with illness and having no choice (I had a choice) but to watch hour after hour of JK until I could predict the exact moment that he would roar “WHY DIDN’T YOU PUT SOMETHING ON THE END OF IT THEN!” and was furiously googling how accurate lie detector results are and drafting emails to the production team regarding how unfair they were to Daryl from Rhyl because they can’t 100% prove that he cheated on Chantella-Natasha when she was pregnant).

It is no secret that I am a feminist, nor is it a secret that I have a steady and satisfying relationship with daytime television, therefore one could assume that a spectacle like Loose Women would be everything I’ve yearned for in my life. It has an all-female panel and production team that supposedly confront serious women’s issues and catalysts frank intellectual debate about topical concerns. Panelist Carol McGiffin described it as the only show on television that allows women to have an opinion without a man anchoring or controlling what they say. It should be a utopia for me, a wonderland. Alas, if only it were so.

Loose Women is a shit-show, and I don’t use that term lightly. Although I’ll accept that the panel are likeable…ish. They’re vaguely amusing, in a slightly desperate ‘I’ll attempt to be outrageous and blunt and people will nervously laugh’ way, and they’re attractive enough for you to like them but not really good looking enough to make you feel bad that you’re watching it slumped naked on the sofa at one o’clock in the afternoon with your princess blanket, eating week-old Doritos and dip.

In 2014, the programme was colossally condemned for discussing whether it is always a man’s fault for raping a woman. Although I did manage to source this video online, I made an active decision not to watch it, as I need to know the answer to this question as much as I need to know whether the holocaust was really Hitler’s fault and whether grass is actually green. These ‘advocates for women’ also had a feature on Ched Evans, during which an extremely ‘loose’ Judy Finnigan suggested Evans should be able to return to football as his “rape was not violent, he didn’t cause bodily harm to the person”. Ok and when I set your house on fire it will be fine because you weren’t in it and because I danced while it burned.

The show has more than a few fundamental issues. Where it could be a flourishing example of contemporary and diverse modern feminism, it is instead an hour’s worth of archaic clichés and stereotypes. Their attempt to exude confidence and sass comes across as a desperate attempt to be stimulating and exciting. But it’s not, it’s boring. The whole show circles around their heterosexist and bewilderingly false feminist ideological assumptions.

The majority of their ‘loose’ behaviour focuses on talk about sex, tits and how much they like a glass of wine. Perhaps not necessarily ideal for the cause of feminism, and not an exceptional example of what can be created by an all-female production team. Truthfully, so much of what they spurt makes for extremely uncomfortable viewing.

The way in which male guests on the show are treated usually depends on their appearance. Attractive and charming individuals like Shane Ward and Russell Brand are shamelessly flirted with through desperate sexual innuendos, masked by hysterical giggles and uncomfortable heavy petting. Then blokes like Danny Dyer get grilled and interrogated (despite defending feminism) because he admitted that his wife does some of the housework.

Only last week the panelists canvassed the horror of having a ‘house husband’ because the ‘man should work’, whilst simultaneously getting pissed off when Dyer suggests his partner does the ironing. Come on ladies! Wake up and smell the washing powder. We’re fighting for equality here and you’re fucking it up for everyone.

Suppose there was a male equivalent, Impotent Blokes let’s call it (I initially searched for ‘loose synonym’ and was offered the word flaccid…‘Flaccid Blokes’ didn’t sound like an appropriate daytime television show). A mob of men sit behind a desk, with an all-male audience, and poke fun at women and make willy-jokes. They then behave in a sexually suggestive manner towards female guests. They gossip about how they wouldn’t like ‘their woman’ to go to work, and then have idle chat about cars and football and other dismissive clichés and it would be shit. Just like Loose Women is shit.

Last week TV presenter Fern Cotton took a dig at celebrity photographs and posted a ‘no make-up selfie’ that criticised her own imperfections. She pointed out her greasy hair and eye bags but stated that she was happy. Adorable. Perhaps it’s easier to ‘celebrate the imperfect’ Fern when you’re naturally beautiful and look less like Gollum wearing a blonde wig and a pair of H&M stilettos, although I appreciate your point.

In response to this, an individual at Loose Women HQ decided it would be an insightful and enthralling feature if the loose women removed their make-up live on air. I mean perhaps it was a quiet week in the office for feminist discussion. It did emerge that Howard Stern and Donald Trump suggested “every vagina is a landmine”, another footballer had pleaded guilty to grooming a teenager and Kanye West suggested Taylor Swift owes him sex because he ‘made her famous’, but getting women to take their cosmetics off live was clearly more cutting edge.

Perhaps it could have been a good feature. Perhaps had they done the whole show cosmetic free and carried on as usual this would have been a positive message about body image. Perhaps this would have said, it doesn’t matter what women look like, this is us, we can still do our job, we are still (vaguely) funny, we are still confident.

Alas, rather the four of them spent the whole hour-long episode making the whole façade into such a mammoth deal that by the end of it I was quite literally expecting the scene from The Witches when they all peel back their lady masks and reveal their gnarled hook nose and verminous, crinkly, infected witch skin.

After the colossal build up, when the grand finale came to play and they removed their make-up…and nothing happened. They rubbed off their foundation (kept their eye make-up on, which is the primary tool that transforms one from an Orc to an Elf) and then they said thanks for watching, and that was the end. It was ridiculous, and not only disregarded the exact point they were trying to prove (it doesn’t matter what you look like without make-up-it clearly did matter), but they demonstrated that their show is so trivial and so negligent to the real plights of women, such as Swift supposedly ‘owing’ Kanye sex, that it’s very existence merits absolutely nothing to feminism and therefore should be attributed to feminism what Jeremy Kyle is to counselling and therapy.

It has so much potential to be absolutely brilliant, but instead it fails miserably. When their ‘topical discussion’ is along the lines of ‘how much do you hate it when you are the ugliest out of your friends’ and they neglect to debate anything substantial or significant to women, then they have failed us. My advice, stick with Jeremy K. At least he knows his show is shit.