Why I felt sorry for Rebecca Adlington AND Amy Willerton

So, I’m A Celeb is back on our screens. I haven’t watched much of the action yet – all that has struck me so far is that a.) Ant and Dec genuinely make me howl laughing and b.) Joey Essex is definitely exaggerating his doziness for comic effect – but I managed to catch most of last night’s episode, and watched with interest as Rebecca Adlington, Lucy Pargeter and Amy Willerton exchanged tense words on the subject of body image and insecurities.

It began with Lucy questioning Amy, a Miss Universe contestant, on whether she feels like “a piece of meat” when entering beauty pageants and working as a model, and if she feels like she is “self-perpetuating” the industry by participating in them looking the way she does, rather than attempting to shake things up by going against the grain. Amy, in all fairness, defended herself to the hilt – she was adamant that she is never forced to do anything she didn’t want to, and that she exercises to, yes, stay slim, but also to stay healthy. It culminated in Rebecca sobbing as she told the group that, rather than people focusing on her sporting achievements, instead she gets comments about her looks on Twitter every single week, which has left her self-esteem in tatters.

“What’s wrong with recognising beauty?” asked Alfonso Ribeiro, and indeed, what is wrong with it? Intelligence is lauded; great sporting achievements are praised: why shouldn’t beauty be celebrated? The Olympics showcase the crème de la crème of the sporting world, and no-one beats themselves up about the fact that they aren’t as good at sport as the world-class athletes featured. “My shot put technique is below par! WOE!” I didn’t sit in front of the telly sobbing when the clearly more-intelligent-than-my-good-self team from Manchester University won University Challenge in April. However, it doesn’t matter if someone is crap at swimming, or is a few sandwiches short of the full picnic. And that is when the recognition of beauty is wrong – when people who don’t feel like they measure up feel inferior.

Although I felt for all the women involved, for one reason or another, I felt it was harsh of the majority of the group to round on Amy in such a manner; it felt just a tad like the other girls were suffering from a case of the green-eyed monster. Laila comforted Rebecca by saying “you are f**king beautiful…much better than her”, and therefore clearly comparing the two women even though that’s what they were all whinging about, and Lucy, who clearly has on-going deep-rooted body issues of her own, perpetuates the image in a way herself, by having succumbed to the surgeon’s knife in a bid to achieve what she deems to be the “perfect” body. I also felt it was unfair of Lucy to say that it was “easy” for Amy to deal with criticism, based on her appearance. Can pretty people not suffer from low self-esteem? As Amy rightly pointed out, it’s human nature for insults to be traded. Just because she has a slim figure, long hair, big boobs and an aesthetically pleasing face doesn’t mean that she is immune to criticism. For every tweet that Rebecca gets commenting on the size of the nose, I’ll bet Amy has to endure her fair share too – probably ones that perpetuate a few myths of their own: that models are vacuous, or a bit slutty, or superficial.

I’ll be honest – I haven’t got a clue what the answer to this problem is. I do know glossy magazines need to stop luring readers in by comparing one female celebrity’s bikini body to another on every front page. I do know the Daily Fail need to cease their endless obsession with whether a famous woman who’s recently had a baby has “snapped back into shape” yet. I do know we need more positive role models like the glorious Jennifer Lawrence, who laughs in the face of producers who have told her to lose weight in the past for roles, and who is vocal about how she wants to be healthy and strong. I adore this woman – she is fabulous. We need more celebrities like her to promote the fact that aspiring to be healthy and happy is the way forward.

It’s wrong that we live in a world where a woman like Rebecca, who has achieved so much by such a young age, still perceives herself to be inferior to others based solely on her looks. But that doesn’t mean that it’s right to try and make a woman like Amy feel bad about the fact that she is conventionally beautiful in order to make others feel better about themselves.

My response to “Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world”

Another day, another Guardian article that’s got me thinking.

As the headline says, it’s disputing the fact that being a mother is the “most important job in the world.” And I have to say that it’s left me in two minds.

I’ll discuss the aspects I disagree with first. Of course being a mother is an important job. Although I am aware that she is not actually disputing the fact that being a mother is hard work, I felt that the author took the word “job” a tad too literally, when comparing the trials of motherhood with the physical toil involved in “working 16 hours a day in a clothing factory in Bangladesh, making bricks in an Indian kiln, or being a Chinese miner.” I also sensed an underlying bitchy tone (especially in the final paragraph) which seems to sneer at those women who do give up work and dedicate themselves to bringing up their children; you get the impression that she finds these women to not be feminist enough for her liking.

However, I do agree with the majority of it. She’s right when she discusses the importance of the roles of other people who are involved in the care and nurturing of a child. When I was growing up, my grandparents and great auntie were just as influential and important to us as my mother was – they picked us up from school, they made us our tea, they helped us with our homework – to the point where I have much clearer memories of them providing care during my early years than of my dad. That’s not to say that my dad was absent or disinterested; I am just able to recall more instances of the older generations in our family tending to us. (Mad Tam, if you are reading this, do not take offence.) Actually, I would say one of my dad’s greatest strengths is how brilliant he is at looking after young children, to the extent that if I were to start a family in the future, I would hope that my dad has retired and can help to look after them, further cementing the fact that it’s not just mothers who are instrumental in the job of bringing up children. (Thanks in advance, Dad!)

As someone who is not a mother, I do resent the idea that, if I choose to remain childless, that I am less important to society than a woman who has children. For me, this article highlighted the constant criticism women have to endure from every angle. I just wish women could be left alone to do their own thing, without constant pressure and criticism and comment from all sides. “Breast is best.” “Stay-at-home mums are not feminists.” “Working mums are neglecting their children.” It is utterly relentless and it needs to stop. I’ll admit to hoping that, if I were to have children, I would be able to return to work in some capacity as well as being able to bring them up; I worry that if I was a stay-at-home mum I would get bored, and I’m not embarrassed to say as much. However, I am also well aware of the fact that life doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. And irrespective of the path I take in the next decade or so, I know that the job I will be doing will be important to someone, somewhere, whether I’m a mother or not.

List of Love 3, Volume 3 – Best Toys Ever

After writing my Christmas list yesterday, I was talking to Mother Goose about my favourite toys when I was a kid after she’d read my blog (an avid reader of my blog, is Mother Goose. Apart from the posts with swear words in which I pre-warn her about, so she can avoid them.) She confirmed that I adored Judy the doll, and agreed that my decision to give her a fringe trim wasn’t the best I ever made. She also jogged my memory about other toys that I loved, which got me reminiscing.

I’m in a nostalgic mood. Here are some of my favourite toys ever.

BAYWATCH BARBIE

I was a massive Barbie fan. In fact, I can vividly remember still playing with them with my best pal Jenny when we were old enough to know better (we were absolutely certainly wearing Broughton Hall school uniforms. I.e OLD. Weirdos.) The best was Baywatch Barbie, complete with dolphin and obligatory red swimming costume. No Kens though. Ken was, and always will be, a massive divvy.

Obv with dolphin pal.

Obv with dolphin pal.

POLLY POCKET

Another typically girly toy (obviously I was yet to discover feminism at the age of eight), Polly Pocket were tiny plastic worlds of wonder. So tiny, in fact, that the sets remained complete for all of five minutes – most of the Pollys were lost and Hoovered up within days. Poor Pollys 

polly pocket

PUPPY IN MY POCKET

The best things about these were that they were free, and collectable from packets of cereal, and came with fact cards about each puppy, which appealed to my geeky stat-loving nature. I had them all – Maria and I used to create worlds for them in our bunk beds. Toby was my favourite. He was a Newfoundland puppy who was stuck in a flowerpot.

Me fave Toby is third from the left on the back row, the ledge.

Me fave Toby is third from the left on the back row, the ledge.

TV TEDDY

THIS WAS THE BEST TOY EVER. Anyone remember him? He was a big massive teddy who magically spoke to the telly. Amazing!

I loved him, even though, in retrospect, he looks a bit demented.

I loved him, even though, in retrospect, he looks a bit demented.

Unfortunately, our TV Teddy met an untimely end. On the day that Everton won the FA Cup final in 1995, Chez Crilly was shockingly broken into. The evil robbers inexplicably nicked the controller which enabled TV Teddy to merrily chat away, so although he was still part of the family, he was tragically rendered mute forever. Sad, sad times.Oh to be a child again!

All I Want For Christmas Is…

I would like to make clear at this point that I have no time whatsoever for people who are already beside themselves with excitement for the festive season. In fact, I am currently positively Scrooge-like. I’m discombobulated by how fast this year has gone and I’ve only just recovered from the aftermath of our Maria’s wedding. Therefore, I’ll be honest – the thought of Christmas is making me feel a bit tired.

I’m aware that I am in the minority with this attitude – indeed, my friend Lauren would already have her tree up and be sporting tinsel scrunchies and light-up snowmen earrings if not for the fact that her boyfriend is sensible and has vetoed this. (Side note – I know for a fact that aforementioned amiga will point to an ongoing tweet exchange that we’ve recently been enjoying about this year’s inaugural Christmas Jumper Pub Crawl Day as evidence that I am a liar, and that I am actually excited for Christmas – but to this I say the following: said event involves knitwear, and alcohol, which are two of my favourite things, and so are exempt from my current yuletide weariness.)

I have deemed that Saturday 14th December is the date when it’s acceptable for the world to embrace all things Christmassy with gusto (coincidentally, the date of the sure-to-be-infamous Christmas Jumper Pub Crawl!)

However, my love of list-making has, in this instance, triumphed, so for one (rather long and pointless, as it transpires) post only, I’m discussing Christmas.

Firstly, looking at this list compiled by the Guardian about this year’s must-have presents, I am glad that a.) I’m not a kid and b.) I’m not a parent. My sympathy lies with the former because, save for the Lego (I LOVE LEGO AND WILL ALWAYS LOVE LEGO) the choice is fairly underwhelming – where are the fuzzy felts and Tamagotchis? – and the latter because some of them are quite expensive considering you’re purchasing glorified faux computer tat. My favourite presents that I can recall from childhood were a Baywatch Barbie set, complete with dolphin; a doll called Judy that was subjected to the infamous Crilly fringe trim treatment (it didn’t go well, the unfortunate soul); and keyboard lessons, because I was a geek.

It’s got me thinking about what I would like for Christmas, apart from the usual peace on earth and goodwill to all men. Here are my lists:

What I would like for Christmas

A pet sloth (a request I make every birthday and Christmas. Alas, the closest I’ve got so far is a canvas bag with a picture of a sloth on.)

Justin Timberlake’s hand in marriage.

Tickets for Little Mix’s American tour (I’m dreaming big, mmmkay?)

One of these bad boys, which are outstanding.

eBay is a treasure trove of wonder, isn't it?

eBay is a treasure trove of wonder, isn’t it?

What I will actually get

A bag of goodies from Home and Bargain (cotton wool; chewing gum; Curly Wurlies; other things beginning with “c.”)

Drunk.

If this post has achieved anything at all, it’s that I can admit that my frosty outlook towards the festivities is thawing. 30 days until the fun can begin!

Why I love the John Lewis Christmas advert

The John Lewis Christmas advert has become as hotly anticipated a festive tradition as mince pies and making a show of yourself on the work night out (or is the latter just me?) We’ve had, amongst others, last year’s snowman trekking to the shops to buy his snowlady a pair of gloves, and the kid who just can’t wait for the big day to arrive so he can give his mum and dad his (shoddily wrapped, if I’m honest with the tyke) presents. This year we follow the tale of the bear and the hare – the bear has never had any festive fun before, as it hibernates throughout Christmas, so cannot relate to the excitement in the run-up to December 25th, and goes for a season-long kip, the same as every other year. The hare is gutted for the bear and is determined to involve it this year. The hare does this by waking the bear up with a gift of a John Lewis alarm clock WHICH MIRACULOUSLY MANAGES TO DISTURB THE BEAR’S ACTUAL HIBERNATION and they and all the other woodland creatures have the best Christmas ever. Probably.

Here’s this year’s offering:

I’ve seen a few people whinging about it on Facebook and Twitter. “Not as good as last year’s!” grumbled a few. “It just goes to show how commercial Christmas has become!” whinged others. “How are woodland creatures relevant to Christmas?” sighed someone else. Well, I love it. Firstly, I used to work for John Lewis, and didn’t work there long enough to grow to resent it like most other people who worked there at the same time as I did, so I have green blood and am staunchly defensive of my beloved former employer. (The brainwashing worked, clearly.) I watched the advert for the first time with a couple of my former John Lewis colleagues on Friday night – see, John Lewis help to form lasting friendships as well as ensuring that all woodland animals get to enjoy the magic of Christmas! – and was roundly mocked by both of them for welling up slightly when I watched it. I don’t care though. I was just really happy for the bear. Secondly, it reminds me of Animals of Farthing Wood, which anyone who’s around my age will agree was the best and most harrowing cartoon of all time. Next, Christmas isn’t commercial in the Crilly household – obviously we get presents for each other, but it’s genuinely more about the people I spend my festive season with for me rather than the gifts, and I can safely say that I will not be influenced by this year’s advert to the point where I can barely wait to purchase the alarm clock featured in it. And as for the question as to how woodland animals are relevant to Christmas, then I truly am shocked. Why shouldn’t bears, hares and the rest get to enjoy John Lewis’ yuletide wares like all of us? Society is broken if you resent a bear having some festive fun. Cameron’s Britain, I tells ye.

I’ll admit to the fact that John Lewis have a lot to answer for with regards to the ongoing trend for chanteuses who are wispy of voice and physique. But then again, I love Lily Allen, so I am even able to overlook that this year.

Oh, and don’t think for a second that the advert has worked its magic on me to the point where I’ll actually buy anything in John Lewis this Christmas. It’s far too expensive. Plus the service has gone right downhill since we left…

RECORD OF RAGE – why I couldn’t give a toss what size a shop mannequin was

I’m writing this rant because I have been in a terrible mood all day for no reason whatsoever. This ridiculous article has tipped me over the edge to total rage but has, at least, given me a reason for my previously irrational anger.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/07/size-16-mannequin-flat-stomach-debenhams?CMP=twt_gu

For those too lazy to read it, it basically implies that Debenhams’ recent decision to introduce size 16 mannequins in their stores as well as size 6 ones is just as “harmful” to how women feel about their bodies as the stick-thin ones.

Now, I have as many body hang-ups as the next woman – I will never have a flat stomach; my knees are knobbly; my hips don’t lie. However, the reasons for these “quirks” are a combination of genetics, primarily, coupled with downright laziness on my part – I eat too much crispy duck and pancakes, I am a fond of a glass or ten of Prosecco, and, save, for running for the bus, I don’t do any exercise either. I only have myself to blame for the latter part of this and I accept this wholeheartedly.

Don’t get me wrong. Don’t for a second imagine that I wander around in a smug self-satisified haze because I am happy with my body, flaws and all. I’m not hugely happy with every aspect of my body by any stretch of the imagination. I shy away from body-con and mini dresses, because I know they will not suit my figure. I had a whinge last Friday night because I looked like a burst sausage in the dress I was going to wear. Similarly, I wish I could motivate myself to do some bloody exercise – I know my lifestyle is detrimental to my health. However, I can safely say that I have never walked into a shop and been influenced by the mannequins in my midst. Equally, whilst I may admire the majority of supermodels’ figures, I know that clothes will look just a tad different to them than they do on me, because that’s life, and because if everybody looked the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other, to paraphrase Groove Armada.

‘What they [the size 16 mannequins] represent is even more harmful, in fact, because they’re pushed on us as something “real”.’ writes Harriet Walker, the author of this tripe. Errr…sorry to break it to you, but some women are a size 16 and have flat stomachs, and therefore this body shape is real. One contributor to the comment section states that “a tall woman with an athletic build can easily be size 16 without fat rolls.” Quite. It might not be a commonplace occurrence, but such people are in existence, and equally some people featuring the dimensions of the usual mannequins in use i.e tall, size 6 and flat-stomached walk this planet too. I’m size 12 on top and a size 14 on bottom. I’m not represented in mannequin form anywhere. BOO-FRICKIN’-HOO.

My issue is with people like Kate Moss coming out with crap like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” That’s damaging. My issue is with impressionable young girls witnessing the likes of Miley Cyrus morphing from the clean-cut wholesome Hannah Montana of old to a sex-crazed semi-naked maniac. That’s damaging. My issue is with the likes of ASOS employing a number of models that look like they are about to keel over due to malnutrition. That’s damaging.

My issue is with nonsensical articles, such as the one that inspired this diatribe, patronising women into thinking that any of us give a toss whether a mannequin in a shop has got a flat stomach or not. If a woman is truly influenced by the vital statistics of a shop model or a photo of Abbey Clancey’s stomach in Heat magazine, to the point that she feels bad about herself, then I’d hazard a guess that there are far deeper-rooted psychological issues that need to be addressed.

Instead of highlighting how unhappy all women supposedly are because they don’t fit into the body beautiful ideal, can we not focus on promoting healthy body image, and educating young girls that, as long as they’re healthy and happy, it doesn’t matter what size you are?

RANT OVER. (For now.)