“Bad Girls” in the Spotlight
So, after Becki’s article, ‘Shut Up Liz Jones’ is looking like it’s got the potential to be a series. Or at the very least, I have another bone to pick with her. The Daily Mail writer recently published an article calling out singer and X Factor judge Tulisa on the ‘depressing message’ her new autobiography puts across to young, female fans that may see her as a role model. Her unsavory article serves to warn concerned parents that their daughters may attempt to replicate Tulisa’s drug-fueled, self harming adolescence in which she was the victim of rape and domestic violence, in order to reach the glittering world of showbiz at the end.
I only need pick out one extract to show how horrendously blatant Jones’ victim blaming of Tulisa is:
‘…still she plays the victim, unable to see a pattern. She was drunk aged 12; four years later, at that rave, she was drinking again, which indirectly led to her being date raped. If she does not learn from her behaviour, then how will her readers?’
We all know male and female journalists alike make a living out of picking women in the spotlight to pieces, but there does appear to be a marked difference in how exactly women from certain backgrounds are targeted that reflects the more disguised and deep seated problems of sexism in our media driven society. That is, women from less privileged backgrounds, who behave ‘badly’, and generally have a tough time of it, are thrown under the bus with reckless abandon.
Let’s have a think back to the Kate Middleton scandal of last month. Kate’s privacy was grossly invaded by a paparazzi photographer taking topless pictures of her with a long distance lens while she enjoyed a private holiday with her husband, heir to the throne. Cue absolute outraged shared by all big media companies in the UK. Watching the (needlessly 24 hour rolling) coverage, I noticed unanimous sympathy amongst the big news dogs, interspersed by sombre recordings of statements by Will and Kate themselves expressing their mutual disappointment and disgust at the violation.
Kate’s predicament brought to attention several problems with the press. No woman who doesn’t want a (unclear, poor quality) photograph of their breasts bared to the nation should have to experience that. Why we apparently care so much about a snap of a princess’ tits is another big question mark. But my main issue here is, there was outrage at the violation of privacy and general treatment by the media of a wholesome, upper-middle-class princess and all round golden girl by the exact same people who are responsible for the tearing apart and total mistreatment of other women who come from a far less privileged background.
Kate is a good girl; let’s look at a bad girl. Lindsay Lohan has had quite the troubled time: a talented child star affected by her own parents’ turbulent marriage and legal issues, the media followed Lindsay through a downward spiral of drug abuse, shocking homosexual relationships with problematic partners, a drastic decline in appearance and even shoplifting arrests. And the support they had to offer this clearly distressed and unsettled woman? Upskirt shots, vilification, and a healthy dose of victim blaming.
If you’re a woman in the celeb-o-sphere, the media will most likely treat you fairly well as long as you conform to their acceptable standards of what a female should look, act, and present oneself like. If you’re standing next to your husband in a LK Bennett shift dress expressing your mutual distaste for the press’ actions in a highly dignified manner, you’ll get the apology and sympathy you certainly do deserve. If you’re legitimately angry and expressing it, if you’re struggling with a highly unladylike drug dependency, if you look a little ‘trashy’ or speak with a ‘common accent’, if you talk openly about your less-than-perfect past experiences, you only seem to get further vilified.
I expect a retort to this kind of claim might be that such women ‘deserve’ that kind of treatment, that they are poor role models and should hush up lest any of their young fans attempt to follow in their footsteps. But women like Lindsay and Tulisa are victims of toxic people around them; partners who treated them awfully, parents who didn’t provide the care and support expected. Kate in comparison lived a charmed life, and it’s not so hard to be the golden girl of the nation if you come from that kind of background. Even the apparent free choices they make, like Lindsay’s drug use and Tulisa’s (according to Liz Jones) refusal to learn to stop drinking after getting date raped, are not a valid excuse to relentlessly hound and criticise them for the sake of entertainment and selling papers. Their stories are painfully sad however they came about, we should want them to get better, not worse, and I struggle to see how even the best intended invasion by the media of their privacy and dignity is going to achieve that.
Furthermore, does Liz Jones really think that young fans are inspired by struggles experienced by women like Tulisa and aim to replicate such a life in the quest for stardom? Readers of her autobiography may be easily influenced, but it seems insulting to assume that girls will read the horrific things their idol goes through and only feel envious yearning. I for one am far more inclined to believe this is just an excuse to rip the shit out of an easy target. It is unfortunately true that words like ‘rape’, ‘drunk aged 12’ and gory descriptions of self harming draw in readers and attract attention, which the cynic inside me would say is not only why Liz Jones wrote her article, but why Tulisa wrote her autobiography. But regardless, it’s vital not to forgot that these are not empty buzz words. These are hugely damaging experiences and violations that not only Tulisa is a victim of, but millions of women worldwide, and for journalists to throw them around disparagingly is utterly unhelpful.
It’s all too easy to see female celebrities as puppets in a scandalous production of look-what-a-mess-she-is and forget that they’re real people, struggling with issues or dealing with the permanent effects of hardships past. Whether or not you believe fame comes with the price tag of becoming a role model and having a shared public life (and I’m inclined to believe it in fact might), the way some young women from troublesome backgrounds are treated sends out a disgusting message to people with similar hardships, and it isn’t acceptable.
Written by Laura Kent
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