Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ladettes and feminism

Sorry, another feminist topic post, purely because my colleagues have started treating me like the token team feminist and are therefore highlighting every media article they see that they think might get me riled. And one has...

Nina Funnel, a columnist at the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote this article yesterday. In it, she takes a swipe at the TV programme Aussie Ladette To Lady. She reckons that middle aged, upper class feminists are essentially bullying younger liberated women. That having earned freedoms for women they now need to surrender their right to dictate how that freedom is used.

While I dislike the way the teachers in the faux-finishing school talk to their pupils, and pull faces of disgust with a ridiculous level of regularity (and it is noticable that its more extreme than it was in the original two British series) I disagree with her dismissal of the goals and ideals of the teachers.

She says:

Still considered the "fairer" sex, women continue to bear the responsibility for upholding moral standards on behalf of the community. So while binge drinking, public urination and belching are considered unflattering (but routine) among young men, young women who engage in such "male" behaviours are not only unattractive, they are also considered dangerous threats to the moral order.
My disagreement with this assertion frames my whole issue with her article. Call me old fashioned (I may be), call me unliberated (I doubt it), call me a bloody Pom (guilty as charged), but I don't approve of women behaving in this way because I don't approve of ANYONE behaving the way they do.

It is no more acceptable for a man to turn to a superior (or indeed anyone) and pull a moony as some sort of retaliatory argument than it is for the woman who did this in the front room of the finishing school. It merely demonstrates their inability to win their point.

I believe that anyone (male or female) who enters a profession that is all about their physicality (be it modelling, stripping like the ladette in the show, or something else) is going to be overlooked in other departments. The teachers are attempting to give the stripper contestant the confidence to make an impression and be liked for more than her body (and actually, watch this space because I think this particular woman may make the most successful transformation to 'lady').

Funnel also argues:
As a 25-year-old woman (and a feminist) I feel particularly compelled to comment. A number of my friends take pole-dancing classes. Another two have had boob jobs. And many of my friends enjoy big nights out on the booze. They also swear, smoke and have sex. Yet these women are highly successful, motivated, intelligent individuals.
But I think she misses the point. As a columnist for a broadsheet newspaper I can picture the kind of 25 year old friends she has. They will be pretty similar to mine. I have had a pole dancing lesson - it was great fun, in the company of women, and good exercise. My friends and I enjoy big nights out on the booze. Some of them may even have had boob jobs. We swear, some smoke, sex is normal.... I don't doubt for a moment that these are highly successful, motivated, intelligent individuals.

But do they belch? Do they binge drink to such extreme levels they are thrown out of a bar for lewd behaviour? Are they violent? Are they so caught up in their mimickry of disgusting male behaviour that they have lost any understanding of the appeal of doing anything that may be classed as "feminine" such as occasionally wearing a dress? Or being presentable in educated company?

This TV show is like any other, extreme in an effort to win ratings. However the premise is sound. You could replace the women with men, call it Lad to Gent and I would approve equally.

Anyone who behaves like they do should not only be taught of its unacceptability in society, but they need to be taught alternative behaviour so they can (if they, as adults, choose) break their cycle. Let's not forget that these women all applied for their places in that school and are free to leave at any time...


pollyemj said...

I think part of Funnel's argument has to rest on the fact that there isnt a TV show called Aussie bogan man to Lord! So clearly there's some kind of societal expectation of what is 'ladylike' behaviour that initiated the TV program both here and in the UK. And while I agree with you that anti-social behaviour is anti-social behaviour no matter who is doing it I also think shows like this aren't exactly empowering, to anyone. There'll all about shock and ratings. In fact I think it's pretty much the lowest common denominator form of entertainment you can find!

@EmVicW said...

I guess context is also important. Maybe you didn't get it here, but Ladette to Lady came out at the same time as Bad Lad's Army in the UK.

Essentially what they were both saying is that good old fashioned values are not worthless in modern society.

I guess my main issue is for ladettes to be defended as the next logical step in feminism. Because they aren't. Its often plain bad manners. Many women today would benefit a lot from the things they can learn from good old fashioned values and skills.

Learning to cook and sew doesn't undermine a woman, it just adds to her arsenal of skills. She doesn't need to deploy them as a slave to a man. It surely adds to her independence?

You are right, that its a lot of theorising over a very crap programme - but that's what the SMH column did, and it was the column I took umbridge over.

Kitty said...

I don't get what Nina Funnel is trying to say. Is pointing out that her friends take poledancing classes and get bolt-on boobs an attempt to imply that this is normal behaviour and we should be cool with it, ie that women don't need to go to finishing school to have it thrashed out of them? Or is she saying you can behave like a slapper and still be a nice, intelligent person? Because if it's the latter, isn't that precisely the point Ladette to Lady is trying to make?

BTW, Aussie Ladette to Lady is awesome and I am glued to the TV every Tuesday night. I hope Nicole wins!

Em's mum said...

When are you going to add sewing to your arsenal of skills? Is this the girl who staples up hems, or uses paperclips, or even sellotape?
Never let your mother read your blog - the truth will out!

@EmVicW said...

I can sew. I stapled a hem once as I was running into a meeting which I consider the height of genius improvisation.

But Mrs Mottershed taught me well.

I have been caught sitting on the floor of a first capital connect train hemming my trousers ready to change into at work, and right now am half way through an entirely hand sewn sun dress :-p

Knitting however, is another matter...

pollyemj said...

Miranda Devine captured my thoughts on Ladette to Lady - and far more eloquently that I could ever have managed - in her opinion column in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald. Check it out, I think you'll enjoy, and agree!

Anonymous said...

Those 3 teachers are amazing. We need more ladies and more gentleman. I think we need to throw the last 30 years in the bin. Feminism has proved to be a social experiment that hasn't worked, no one is happier. I would love to learn that stuff, flowers whatever and find a real man.

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