Women: Stop Bloody Whingeing

I’m always astonished that the Daily Mail is supposedly read by more women than men. The Daily Mail does employ a lot of female writers, but these writers seem to be employed solely to write the most misogynistic drivel from a female perspective. It’s why their articles always seem to weave this fact into the title, with prefixes like: ‘I’m a woman but…’ or suffixes: ‘something horrible about women… AND I’M A WOMAN!’. Today’s article is written by Sandra Parsons – who I don’t think I’ve ever written about, but it’s a beauty: ‘Whingeing women? now they ARE depressing!’.

It’s the kind of article that doesn’t need any discussion, it just needs to be copied and pasted so that your eyes can widen and your mouth open as you consider that she was paid to write this shit. She starts:

Rates of depression in women have doubled since the Seventies, according to a new study of mental health problems.

The women most at risk are those of childbearing age, and the researchers concluded this is because they are buckling under the strain of trying to cope with that old chestnut, ‘having it all’.

Now, I hate to sound unsisterly. But if I hear one more woman droning on about how hard life is for us today, I may have to set about her with my enormously bulky handbag…

Before taking the favourite Daily Mail editorial line on depression:

We all know people who suffer from genuine depression: it is a terrible, debilitating illness. But there is a huge difference between real depression and whingeing — and we confuse the two at our peril.

The world divides, in my experience, into whingers and troupers.

She picks out one ‘whinger’ in particular:

As for the divorced mother-of-two who writes anonymously for the website Mumsnet under the pseudonym ‘the Plankton’ and claims to have received thousands of sympathetic emails in response to her childish rants about her ‘lonely life at the bottom of the sexual food chain’ — stop acting like a petulant teen and grow up.

She even has some sisterly for ‘the Plankton’:

Try spending a bit of cash on some luxurious underwear or sexy shoes. It will make you feel better and may go some way to staunching the flood of self-pity that is clearly making men run a mile.

Ah yes, the solution to all womanly problems: treat yourself to some underwear and shoes and all will be right.

Meanwhile, in the same column – after she has produced two lists: Top Ten Whingers and Top Ten Troopers (or is it ‘troupers’ – she doesn’t seem to know), Sandra Parsons has a little aside:

One in ten mothers didn’t enjoy their summer holiday because they were just as busy with chores as they are at home.

I’m surprised it’s so low.

For several years we’ve gone to a chateau in France with friends, and I can confirm that the novelty of cooking for 12 soon palls.

Our first year there we thought we were staying in a hotel, but I arrived to find I would be expected to take my turn in cooking for a host of discerning French people (all of whom were cordon bleu standard).

It took me weeks to recover. But this year one of our number, Simon, turned out to be an enthusiastic (and brilliant) amateur chef who insisted on cooking every night. Don’t go on holiday without one!

So, Sandra, please clarify, are you a ‘whinger’ or a ‘trooper’?

You know why

Today’s Daily Mail front page features a big plug for the Daily Mail ‘Femail’ section and asks the question:

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Penny Smith’s article tried to look at the reasons why women might feel this way and she identifies:

  1. Fairy stories
  2. Dolls – specifically Barbie
  3. Playground pressure
  4. Boys – who have posters of glamorous women on their walls

No mention of the role that the media plays, or that the worst culprit is the newspaper that is publishing this article. Worse, Penny Smith at one point looks at the difference between how men perceive their own bodies or image and quotes Nick Ferrari who claims that men look in the mirror and see themselves as fantastic because:

It’s our defence mechanism… we are bullied by the women in our lives, and told that we’re useless at everything from putting up shelves to making a souffle rise – and likewise in the bedroom…

Penny Smith then pretty much wipes out any remaining credibility by admitting:

Even if said in jest, I suspect he’s right.

I’m always amazed at the queue of women ready to write misogynistic drivel in the Mail. Here is a section of the Daily Mail aimed at women and the best it can come up with is this stereotypical tripe. In an article about why 97% of women have at least one ‘I hate my body’ moment every day the writer still manages to admit that men are only different because women bully them so much that they have become delusional as a defence mechanism.

To complete the hypocrisy you only have to turn to page 3 of today’s Daily Mail and look at the pictures of Kate Moss – who at 37 has a body most women would be ecstatic with – but the Daily Mail can easily find fault with her. For starters the Mail prints a big picture of her bottom accompanied with a caption that mocks the small lines visible in the picture. As if that wasn’t enough they also include a paparazzi photo showing what she looks like without make-up – described as the ‘bare reality’.

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It’s no secret that the Daily Mail really hates women, so I wonder why every few months they feel obliged to ask why women hate they way they look. When a supermodel is slaughtered on page 3 you can see why the average women finds it so easy to pick faults with their body.

Daily Mail deals with domestic abuse

The Supreme Court has ruled that courts should recognise psychological domestic abuse as well as just physical violence:

Lady Hale said that ‘violence’ can also include ‘strength or intensity of emotion, fervour and passion’.

She said the legal understanding of domestic violence had moved on ‘from a narrow focus upon battered wives and physical contact’.

The Justice of the Supreme Court said the meaning of ‘violence’ under the 1996 Act should be brought up to date in line with modern thinking.

Lady Hale added: ‘The essential question is whether an updated meaning is consistent with the statutory purpose.

‘In this case the purpose (of the Act) is to ensure that a person is not obliged to remain living in a home where she, her children or other members of her household are at risk of harm.’

The Daily Mail hack covering this story has hidden behind the ubiquitous ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ and the headline writer decided that this headline was appropriate: ‘Women entitled to a council house if they move out because their partner shouts at them, top judges rule’. Yes, that really is the headline. It goes without saying that the hack puts inverted commas around ‘violence’, ‘abused’ and ‘homeless’ because clearly if a women isn’t physically beaten then they are not victims of violence or abuse and they should stay at home to be psychologically abused.

Incidentally the female victim in the case that led to the ruling described her treatment as:

Mrs Yemshaw had told the housing officers that her husband, who rented the property in his sole name, shouted in front of the children and did not treat her ‘like a human’.

Still, she should be grateful that she wasn’t really a victim of ‘violence’ or ‘abuse’, eh?

The Freak Show business model of modern journalism

I attended a blogging event over the weekend which I want to write up at some point – I’m still gathering my thoughts somewhat – and I had the chance to get across my basic disgust at the disinformation printed as a matter of course by the tabloid media. What I didn’t get round to saying was how a substantial amount of journalism had become simply sticking a few pictures of a women in a bikini and writing about how she looks. Every day on the Mail website you will see articles like this one: ‘Wild Thing no more: A fuller figured Neve Campbell emerges from the Hawaii sea in bikini’. You all know the drill:

  1. Said celebrity is a bit too fat for the Daily Mail.
  2. What is worse is that they used to look incredible – here, have some photos of said celebrity 12 years ago so you can all shake your heads in disgust at how she has let herself go.
  3. You will notice that the old photos of said celebrity feature naked breasts, we have pixelated the nipples because we think that might offend you. We do not think this kind of ‘journalism’ could offend you.
  4. The celebrity happens to have a new movie out. We’ll list the names of all the main actors, along with the name of the film as many times as possible. This helps our website get as many hits as possible.
  5. You’ll notice we have also put photos of said celebrity over the years looking nice at film premieres. This is because we have lots of these photos on file, it is effortless for us to print them and we know how many of our visitors prefer pictures to real journalism.
  6. Please enjoy the film trailer. Again, we are just making sure we hoover up as many Google searches as possible. It also helps to bulk up an article that essentially could be reduced to ‘woman goes to beach’.

This kind of article forms the bulk of Mail Online content and it is not journalism. Furthermore, it is creating the atmosphere in which women are reduced to objects that can fit into three main categories*:

  1. A women with a ‘fuller figure’, meaning that they used to look really slender and have let themselves go; or that they have always ‘bucked the trend’ by seeming happy to have a fuller figure. These women are bad because with a bit of effort they could conform to the Mail’s exacting standards of womanhood.
  2. A women who is too skinny. The Mail will inform you of the ‘shocking’ diets these women follow in order to maintain an unhealthy figure – they will accompany this information with photos of said ‘bony’ body in a bikini if possible. This celebrity should in theory gain weight (which would also be covered as they would then enter the unacceptable territory of category 1) but the Mail will sometimes let their approval of category 2 slip by referring to such women as ‘slender’, or having a small frame. This implies that they are not unhealthy and that weight is natural. This category is therefore bad in some ways – in that strict diets are shocking and skinny women look all bony; but at the same time because categories 1 & 3 are even more unacceptable we can only conclude that all women should strive to be in category 2, even if the Mail will still criticise both the end result (whilst also happily ogling the end result) and the way it was achieved (even if they admire their self-control and discipline whilst on such diets, discipline sadly lacking from categories 1 & 3).
  3. A women who is grossly overweight. These women are clearly really fat and as such the Daily Mail will delight in taking photos of them and giving their readers free reign to abuse said women in the comments. Often the worst thing about category 3 women is that they seem proud of their weight, or at the very least they look ‘unconcerned’ when wondering around in public. Generally these women need to be shamed into taking the ‘shocking diets’ which will then lead them into the criticism faced by category 2, along with photographs showing protruding bones and so forth. However, category 2 is infinitely preferable to the Daily Mail.

The same website that criticises Neve Campbell for daring to age and having a ‘fuller figure’ (which appears to be to the untrained eye** a very nice figure) can happily feature an article not far away criticising (ostensibly) a different female celebrity for being ‘skinny’: ‘”I ate 1,000 calories a day”: Skinny Whitney Port reveals her punishing diet secrets’. Yet the Daily Mail only refers to her as skinny in the headline, they use the much more positive ‘slender’ throughout the article to describe her. Women cannot win. The best they can hope for is to be a category 2, which is to be dangerously obsessive about their weight and diet at the expense of their long-term health.

The Daily Mail website is a modern freakshow in which women and men are paraded in order to be mocked by the visiting reader. It is also an unintended freakshow in which the sorry business model of modern journalism is revealed: pack in the reader by appealing to their basest instincts. It seems that body fascism along with a large dose of patronising misogyny sells. Sadly, because it sells it is also here to stay.

* I think you can also put male celebrities into the same categories, except replace really skinny in category 2 with really muscular.
** I am aware after my exposure to proper journalists on the weekend that I am not a real journalist as I haven’t had the formal training which makes real journalists the very elite of ‘writing stuff down’. Presumably real journalists will be mocking my perception of Neve Campbell because they can see her figure in a proper journalistic context, i.e. they will be sat there going: ‘Sure, I mean a casual non-journalist would think she looks OK, but put a photo of her with her tits out taken 12 years ago next to a photo of her now and you can see just how wrong she is.’

Eating disorders

This article: ‘Shocking figures reveal one in three hospital admissions for eating disorders are children’ is currently buried at the bottom of the Mail website. To the right of it are the normal too fat / too thin / too old / too ugly stories that form the staple diet of the Mail website. Needless to say the Daily Mail misses out on a chance to reflect on the media’s impact on these ‘shocking figures’ (a phrase the Mail normally reserves to describe a group of women not conforming to their strict body expectations).

They report that the survey found that more than half blamed their condition on family traumas, whilst 3% said they were influenced by ‘size zero models and skinny pop stars’. The missing percentages are not mentioned.

Just over a week ago the Daily Mail put this picture onto their website:

They accompanied it with accusations that the dress Katy Perry was wearing was  ‘clinging in all the wrong places’ and included the words ‘girth’ and ‘protruding belly’.

Thankfully a commenter underneath the Mail article has posted this under today’s article:

Eating Disorders

The abnormal fatty, not once but twice

I had never heard of Nikki Blonsky before her name and picture popped up on the Mail website the other day*:

Nikki Blonsky

For the Daily Mail wearing a bikini is news, particularly if you are female and have what they consider: A, a great figure; B, are too skinny or C, are too fat. In this case clearly Nikki is no ordinary women, as the Daily Mail Reporter makes gaspingly clear:

She’s known for having a much fuller figure than the average Hollywood starlet.

But Huge actress Nikki Blonsky really doesn’t worry about being bigger than the average girl.

The Hairspray star was spotted today in New York grinning and looking anything but downcast.

Someone, despite having a ‘fuller figure’ she still manages to smile! The Mail writer exclaims, and it gets worse:

Clad in tight black jeans, heels and an embellished tie-dye top and clutching a bottle of water, the 21-year old actress looked like any other stylish young woman going about her day.

She ‘looked like’ any other young women… but here is an article dedicated to pointing out that she doesn’t look just like any other young woman, she’s actually Huge! It’s not even the first Daily Mail article basically saying: ‘look at this fat girl, she seems to be happy with her weight, here, have some photos and then leave horrific comments about her’: ‘I’ll never squeeze into these! Huge star Nikki Blonsky laughs off her fuller figure‘.

Both stories are remarkably similar, for example the opening line is identical in both stories:

She’s known for having a much fuller figure than the average Hollywood starlet.

On the character she plays in the new series there is also an identical chunk of text:

Blonsky’s character will not be trying to lose weight or treat her curves as a problem to be solved, but will celebrate them.

But the Daily Mail Reporter isn’t beyond making some changes:

‘Everybody wants us to hate our bodies,’ her character Willamina says at one point. ‘Well, I refuse to.’

The first episode started with her doing a racy strip-tease to flaunt her body at the beginning of the show.

The above was from the latest article, a real change of order from the orginal article:

The first episode started with her doing a racy strip-tease to flaunt her body at the beginning of the show.

‘Everybody wants us to hate our bodies,’ her character Willamina says at one point. ‘Well, I refuse to.’

There seems to be two reasons for the Daily Mail rehashing this article in the space of just 14 days: one, it gives their readers a chance to vent about how unhealthy fat people are and that they are grotesque freaks no matter how much they seem to enjoy their lives and two, it gives the Daily Mail a few more hits on its website for Nikki Blonsky and searches for the new show she’s in. I’m always reminded by a point that Tabloidwatch comes back to again and again: Mail website editor Martin Clarke actually claims that ‘news is far more important to us than showbiz‘.

As Tabloidwatch pointed out recently, the Daily Mail has a new LA office just so it can constantly churn out more and more inane celebrity drivel to boost website visits. Which is why you’ll keep seeing stories like this rehashed every fortnight as long as the person involved can generate a few hits to the former news website.

* The original article headline was ‘I’m glad to be fat and don’t care what people think’, but ‘fat’ was changed to ‘Huge’ to shoehorn in the title of the new show she was in.


The Daily Mail sensitively covers the story that Whitney Thompson ‘wants women to love their bodies’ and ‘beat eating disorders’ by placing the story directly above an article thanking (‘That’s better, Sadie!’) Sadie Frost for being less fat and pale then she was two years ago:

The useless Daily Mail

As well as concern over Mariah Carey’s ‘ever-fuller figure’. Wonderful.

Daily Mail readers sexually inadequate

It is something that might explain the mixture of partial nudity and anger on the Daily Mail website: ‘Seven minutes ‘is the optimum length for sex”. Currently the worst-rated comment on this article seems to reveal a lot about the sexual expectations of Mail readers:

Daily Mail readers not into long-lasting sex

Whilst the best-rated comment says just as much:

The Daily Mail idea of perfect sex

Features and Distortions in the Daily Mail

In 2007 Susan George was held hostage, violently raped twice and was hours away from what police described as ‘certain death’. However, her determination and mental strength allowed her to beg her attacker for over half an hour to drive her to a 24-hour garage in the early hours of the morning for one last packet of cigarettes. At the garage she whispered to the attendant that the man in her car and raped her twice and was going to kill her. To her eternal gratitude the garage attendant phoned the Police who managed to intercept Susan’s car just minutes before she completed her journey home.

In the resulting court case Susan waived her right to anonymity and when the attacker – Michael Thomas – was named three other woman came forward and eventually Thomas was convicted of 19 offences over a 21 year period and sentenced to a minimum jail term of 16 years. All of this was covered by the Daily Mail back in 2009.

Susan George – even before the court case had been concluded – had decided that she would do all in her power to encourage the victims of rape to come forward, so that serial rapists could no longer get away with multiple offences. She embarked on a counselling course at her local college and successfully completed it – just. This is when she was sent to me for academic support as she wanted to continue in college and pursue a degree, in order to do so she needed to improve her essay writing – substantially. Over the last year and a half I have mentored Susan and have been part of her extremely busy life: she counsels victims of crisis and trauma, works closely with Gwent Police to ensure they improve their services to deal sensitively and appropriately with the victims of rape and she has lobbied politicians across Wales and the UK for more funding for rape crisis centres and better education in schools regarding rape. All the while she regularly made time to come and see me to go over grammar, referencing, research skills and we painstakingly rewrote draft after draft until she became a very capable academic writer.

Susan is quite simply an inspiration, how she finds the time and energy to pursue all of her projects I simply do not know; how she manages to pursue them all with plenty of smiles and laughter along the way is simply brilliant. Her academic achievements in spite of all of the barriers that she faced – the long hours of being on call for victims of crisis, the ongoing counselling that she still receives as a result of her personal trauma, her college work, her campaigning and her volunteer work with local charities – led me to nominate Susan for a NIACE Dysgu Cymru Inspire Adult Learner Award. She duly won the award for Further Education Learner of the Year, which was thoroughly deserved and was in many ways a huge step in Susan moving from being labelled a victim to becoming labelled a ‘winner’ and in many ways an ‘activist’.

Leading up to the awards and in the weeks following (in fact it is still ongoing) Susan was contacted by a wide range of newspapers, magazines and TV channels inviting her to appear on programmes, to sell her story and so forth (she was even asked by a certain magazine: ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’, to which she replied ‘No’; ‘Shame’, replied the magazine: ‘Your story would be worth a lot more if it had that kind of happy ending’). She was also contacted by the Daily Mail, who wanted to write a feature on her. This is where my ears really perked up, how would the Daily Mail treat Susan, a person I hold in great esteem?

Well, let me fill you in.

Firstly, Susan – as above – has already been in the Daily Mail as a news story, she has also already had her story told in a national magazine (she gave the fee to charity) in an attempt to encourage other victims of rape to come forward. She therefore suggested – when contacted by the same photographer who had done her magazine photos – that she really liked the photos used previously, so could the Daily Mail use one of those? No, was the answer from the photographer; because the Daily Mail has strict rules for the photography of women that he must abide by. For starters, Susan was not allowed to wear trousers – because, according to the Daily Mail, only men are supposed to wear the trousers (I get echos of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple here). No, the Daily Mail wanted a victim of an horrifically violent sexual assault to wear a skirt.

Susan hasn’t worn a skirt since the incident and considers white, long-sleeved shirts as ‘underwear’ – she wears them underneath all clothes, all the time; as if they are a second skin. Yet the photographer was insistent that the Daily Mail would not accept his photos unless Susan was pictured in a skirt. In the end the photographer ended up dressing Susan completely, picking a very conservative, prim and proper grey skirt along with a conservative striped shirt. He positioned Susan rigidly, made her cross her hands in a certain way and she was not allowed to smile. When Susan failed to produce any shoes that were ‘suitable’ in the eyes of the photographer, he popped out and bought two pairs and gave Susan a choice between them. Her make-up was applied by a make-up artist and with the strict instructions on posture, facial expression and hand positioning the photo was finally taken.

The end result is that Susan George in the Daily Mail looks unrecognisable from the Susan that I, and everyone around her knows. She appears as if she is a mannequin, completely passive and seems to highlight that she is still very much the victim. Gone is her sense of fun, her amazing ability to make the absolute most of life; irrespective of what it has thrown at her. Here she is not pictured as an award-winner, as an example of how human spirit can conquer adversity, she is merely pictured as the Daily Mail wants all women to be: docile, conservative and ultimately passive. Needless to say, she hates the photo and cringes at the unknown person staring lifelessly back at her.

The article is pretty accurate (although they get her age wrong by 4 years and Michael Thomas never ran his own haulage firm, he merely worked for one – he is portrayed as ‘wealthy’ though, continuing the Mail obsession with personal wealth as some kind of personality trait) but I find a lot of things wrong with it.

My major issue is that even though Susan has achieved so much since the rape and wants to achieve so much more, the article is simply interested in retelling the rape ‘story’. As the writer of the piece makes clear, she is here to tell ‘Susan’s dreadful story’ not to write about how many positive things have been achieved since. The article is a classic piece of Daily Mail voyeurism, preferring to focus on the intrusive, forensic detail of horrific events, rather than address any wider issues or outcomes. Indeed, the retelling of the ‘dreadful story’ takes up so much space that only one paragraph – just 25 words – is dedicated to what Susan has achieved since.

Whilst I can understand the value of forensic detail if it is being used to shock people into thinking about an issue more deeply, the Daily Mail makes no attempt to do anything of the sort. The necessity for the Daily Mail to portray any given event in clear black and white terms prevents any worthwhile points being extracted from the experience that the reader has just been put through. The article concludes with anger from Susan directed at the justice system for the jail sentence given to Michael Thomas (a classic Daily Mail complaint that they make at the end of any article that details sentencing), when perhaps it might have been far more insightful and proactive if they instead spent some time considering why none of the previous victims came forward at the time when they were raped.

No consideration is given to what made Susan different is not just that she did come forward, but that she waived her right to anonymity: she spoke out for herself and for others. Susan may not be satisfied with the minimum length of time Michael will serve, but that is not the area in which she is now most actively working. The area she is most interested in is why rape victims are so reluctanct to come forward. She has questioned the role of the Police, the media (with their tendency to imply the women is normally to blame) and society’s attitude to rape – a society in which often more shame seems to be burdened by the victim and their family than that of the perpetrator. None of these issues, none of the things which really matter to Susan and the whole point in her having any kind of public profile, were raised in this article. Instead it ended with typical Daily Mail rhetorical scaremongering:

‘The reality is that he could be out in eight years, which is a joke. How many years’ torment has he put us all through already?

‘I’ve had three – so, with the others, that makes at least six, nine, 12 years of hell. And that’s only the victims we know about. How many others might there be?’

The amazing thing about the article is that winning the Further Education Adult Learner of the Year award was not even mentioned by the Daily Mail, nor any other of her achievements. Because the Daily Mail treats rape so simplistically they couldn’t possibly mention Susan’s close work with the Police to ensure that any rape victim that comes forward is treated with the utmost dignity, respect and above all belief. Because of their need for fear and horror they could only end with the possibility of other victims, not the possibility that Susan, in spite of everything she has been through, has actually survived not just to be the lifeless mannequin in the photo, but an energetic activist making a real difference to the world around her.

Susan’s is an incredible story, but it will never be a story that the Daily Mail can tell because it does not comfortably fit with the media narratives it tries so hard to create. Susan’s story is not about one woman’s acceptance of victimhood, nor is it (much as a certain magazine wished) the story of a woman whose life had to be salvaged by returning to the arms of a man, a nice one, a different one. Susan has become the one thing that the traditional media hates: an activist.