Monday, February 23, 2015


Feminism is a funny old game.  It is a classic case of two steps forward and one backwards.  As women move forward in our quest for full equality there seems to be an equal counterweight which balances this progress by reminding us that we still aren’t really that equal.  Just in case we get ahead of ourselves like.

Nowhere is this more clearly evident than in the media and entertainment.  Take the movies, for example.  While there seems to be a feeling abroad that things are improving for female lead roles, research recently published by the Centre for the Study of Women in Film and Television showed that, in fact less than 12% of the lead protagonists in the top grossing 100 movies in 2014 were women.  Less than 12%.  And women only represented 30% of all speaking characters in these movies.

But along with these dismal statistics are the facts that most of the women in film are younger and usually identified by their social roles rather than their careers.  In other words they are portrayed as far less powerful than their male counterparts. 

At this juncture can I just give TV3 a shout out for their superb new soap drama series ‘Red Rock’ which is liberally sprinkled with strong female characters, who operate in their own right.  It’s very refreshing and they are every bit as compulsive as any of the male leads.    

Anyway, back to Hollywood and the fact that we might think that Disney putting a princess into a blue dress means that things are changing.  The reality is that they are not. 

Of course one of the main ways to reduce a woman’s power is by subtly reminding her that no matter what her accomplishments are, she will still be judged first and foremost on her appearance.  And no where will you find this illustrated more elegantly than on these ‘Red Carpet Shows’ that precede all the big awards ceremonies.  In one fell swoop these shows have managed to reduce some of the most wonderful actresses and female performers in the world to beauty pageant contestants. 

E! Fashion Police (yes, an actual programme which used star the late Joan Rivers) leads the charge in this regard with their vacuous presenters, Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic who line up female stars to ask “so.... who are you wearing?”  E! has also championed two new technologies to help them in their task of reducing the actresses to clothes horses.  The Glam Cam rotates an image of the actress round and round and up and down so we can judge her from all angles and then we have the mani-cam.  Yes, you guessed it.  A mini red carpet so the actress to walk her fingers towards the camera so we can view her manicure and her jewellery.  

However the good news is that the fight back is on, it seems to be working and it began on the much maligned medium of social media. 

The Representation Project grew from the success of a film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom called ‘Miss Representation’ which examined how women were portrayed in across all media, from film to news and current affairs.  The mission of the project is to highlight and challenge the limiting depictions of women in media. 

In response to the inane questions that female actors are subjected to on the red carpet they began a hashtag called #askhermore.  This allows users of social media, particularly Twitter to urge broadcasters to ‘ask her more’ than just what dress she is wearing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like a nice frock and wearing too much make up to a ‘posh do’ occasionally.  And yes, I watch these Red Carpet shows and love to see the style.  But I would also love to hear about how the actress felt about the role, or what she was doing next. 

The website Buzzfeed sent a reporter to cover the red carpet at the recent BAFTA’s in London who only spoke to male actors and gave them the ‘who are you wearing treatment’, along with requesting Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton to ‘do a twirl’.  You can guess who did and who didn’t.  But it was the look on the mens’ faces as they were faced with such trivial, banal questioning that was the best.

At the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January actors Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Julianne Moore all refused to parade their fingers for the mani cam. 

But to borrow from Mr Dylan, “the times they are a-changing”.  Last night, as I watched the first hour of E!’s Red Carpet Show the change in emphasis was obvious.  Men and women were both asked who they were wearing – but that was it.  They were then asked more.  And for the time I watched anyway there wasn’t a mani-cam or glam cam in sight. 

The fight goes on but at least the battle to #askhermore seems to have been won.  

You might like this story on the Oscars From My Table Archives  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


I have a fear of clutter.  I throw stuff out at an alarming rate.  I especially hate the idea of the space above our heads being full of rubbish, so things have to pass my inspection before they are allowed to be stored in the attic.  However there are two large bags up there which I insist on keeping.  I rarely investigate these bags but I like to know they are there. 

These bags contain a part of my soul.  They contain my old diaries.  No, not the kind of private journals into which you pour your heart and innermost darkest secrets.  No, these are work diaries.  And they go right back to the early 1980s.

My first career was in the travel business and my oldest diaries date from my days working for JWT.  Although holding no deep secrets, they do provide plenty of clues to what was going on in my life then.  Because along with work related appointments and reminders, my social life is also recorded therein.  Pages that end with a scribble that says ‘Toners’ (pub in Baggot Street in which I spent quite a proportion of my meagre salary in those heady days), or Fridays that often say “the Pink” referring to the place to hang out back then. 

Music gigs were also an important feature with weekends littered with band names like ‘Stepaside’ and ‘The Lookalikes’.  Just looking at these notes, which give away no secrets, I can remember many things that will remain forever secret, well as long as I don’t ever fall out with my oldest friends.

But it’s not just the pages of the diary that hold clues to my previous lives.  My diaries have always been used as storage folders for important bits and pieces of information – everything from other people’s business cards to notes and letters.  My JWT diaries hold copies of memos requesting holidays.  There are long rolls of telex communications that were vital for some reason or other.  Ask your ma or da what a telex is.  These diaries are a window into the world of work in the largely pre computer era. 

At the back of the diaries are lists of vital phone numbers – although in those days I could recite most of them off by heart.  I don’t even know my children’s phone numbers now – something that does worry me.

And there are postcards from various far flung destinations.  In the days before Facebook when we went on holidays we sent postcards back to let friends and family know that we were having a wonderful time.  They’ve lasted way longer than last month’s Facebook posts.

Currently in my work desk I have a drawer that is full of my most recent diaries... the writing and broadcasting ones.  One of the great joys of self employment is getting to pick one’s own diary.

About five years ago, when I first decided to leave the cosy and safe confines of my kitchen table in deepest suburbia in order to market my opinions in the media I came across a diary called ‘A Fearless Woman’.  Knowing that this was what I was going to have to become, I bought it.  It was pretty and colourful and each month began with a page emblazoned with an affirmation. 

I have bought a Fearless Woman Date Book even since.  Let me share what January 2014 said; “From the deep well of her spirit, her brave voice awakens to rise and to roar.  Empowered to say what she knows to be true, she speaks up and doesn’t hold back”.  Great motivational stuff that I cling to on days when I wonder what kind of an eejit I am to think anyone is going to commission me to write anything at all. 

So for the last five years my desk has been graced by my gorgeous Fearless Woman Diary.  Then in the haze Christmas shopping madness, I made a rash decision.  My head was turned by a pretty little pocket diary covered in glitter.  “Sure wouldn’t that be grand” I thought to myself; a nice sparkly diary that I could have in my bag.  Big mistake. Huge.

Two weeks into January I was lost and I’m still completely bereft.  My glittery diary is too small.  I can never find it.  It won’t fit precious photos or slips of paper I may need.  I hate it.

But worst of all, it’s now too late to find a Fearless Woman diary in the shops. 

The moral of this tale is that all that glitters (yes, I know he wrote ‘glisters’) is indeed not gold.  Also - you are not what you eat – you are your diary. And how am I to continue to be a Fearless Woman in 2015 when I only have a stupid glittery yoke to work with?