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5. Carol Vorderman . . . YOU ARE NOT YOUR GALAXY DRESS:

(This blog entry acts either as a single article or as part of a much longer discussion made up of the this and the preceding four entries beginning with 'The Reincarnation of the Hourglass Silhouette' - Have fun dipping in or if you have stamina read up in parts from below. . . . )

If you look up Carol Vorderman on Youtube you will find a group of videos several of which describe her as MILF (Mother I want to F***) and that at the same time seem to break her down into her constituent sexual parts  - the parts diagrammatically designated by the hourglass silhouette  (Boobs and Bum) and re-play these in a grotesque and humiliating way. Top of the bill and only the most recent is the Carol Vorderman - Arse Compilation - Loose Women March/April 2012. In which a series of about a hundred takes are spliced together to show off her back-side to the best voyeuristic effect in an array of tight dresses. There is obviously no sense of what she or the other women are actually discussing on the show (interestingly in reality these are often topics concerning the roles and exploitation of women), that of course is immaterial.

While Vorderman herself claims that being voted ‘rear of the year’ is ‘just a bit of FUN’ , I could not from the point of view of a woman describe as fun, or even funny,  the gaze on display on YouTube. It is very uncomfortable experience watching another woman being turned into an object from an impolite and sexually aggressive standpoint. It doesn’t seem to be the way one ought to treat a ‘national treasure’.  In this televisual underworld the national treasure seems to have become butt of a national smutty joke about older women.  Here the muttonkin and the cougar are more often than not objects of public scorn and lechery. This is definitely a case of ‘Carol gets a phantasy spanking'.

Many of the clichéd and unjustifiable responses in cases of sexual violence towards women come to mind: This sadly appears to be the price the muttonkin has to pay for her pleasures and for the attention she demands by sexualising herself  ‘inappropriately’ in ‘inappropriate’ attire. She has, arguably, been asking for it by performing her gender with loaded dice. This is what India Knight  in the Times 9th Sept 2012: 'Frolic away, Carol, and all you other muttonkins':  


 seems come down to, because having celebrated the SWOFTY (Single Woman Over Fifty) the writer ends  with a quite dramatic crisis of faith: ‘Obviously’ she writes. . .

‘. . .nobody wishes to lie down and cry, “Sweep over me, decrepitude — I long for white hair and wrinkles.” But as we celebrate Swofties we should also ask ourselves exactly what their evolution and our admiration of them say about us [. . .] I think we should perhaps wonder quite how evolved, quite how pro-woman, that really is.’

There is a visual order of things reflected here, one that suggests that when it comes to femininity ‘this’ is desirable and worth looking at and if you can’t keep up the image making and afford to maintain the performance through extensions, plastic surgery, personal training, implants, make-up artists, Spanx and rolls and rolls of toupee tape, or in other words live up to the lines of your Galaxy Dress, you must inevitably bow out gracefully and become gender neutral. And if you don’t choose to disappear into a strategic androgyny or into the implied (and seemingly inevitable) androgyny of old age you are also always fair game for the sadistic public-sport of exposing the marks of ageing beneath the nips, tucks and other augmentations of flesh overly marked by ‘work’. And similarly caricatured and criticised for any over- exposure of flesh that might be considered inelegant, indiscreet and generally too much in a woman beyond a certain age: to wit the paparazzi’s relish for the straining seems and shortness of Vorderman’s dresses. 

Jonathan Leake’s article in the same issue describes women as having the better deal in the new gender/social order, but the Vorderman 'video nasties' seem to me to be evidence and demonstration of the fact that the ‘new (older) women’ we may not be so lucky after all, that in fact having choice could present an even more painful set of physical, moral and political dilemmas. To call ourselves truly empowered women must very much NOT become victims to the potentially un-pleasurable constriction that the hourglass silhouette can create. The famous scene of Scarlett O’Hara, being laced up after pregnancy, angry because the corset won’t go any tighter comes to mind.  As do images of 19th women fainting from lack of oxygen because of the tightness of their stays.  If as modern women we choose to take on these incarnations of self we have to be informed about the terms of the performance, breath in a full lungful of fresh air, ground ourselves and play our roles like divas . . . the best of the best of actresses. Like Meryl Steep we need to be able to slip from new role to new role seamlessly, with critical intelligence and all the strategic use of parody we can muster.  We need to remember, something that Carol Vorderman seems to have forgotten, that as women of substance and dimension we are NOT merely the equivalence of a single silhouette. So as your stylist don’t ask me ‘is it me?’  Because ladies I will have to remind you that, no matter how hot you look,. . . YOU ARE NOT YOUR GALAXY DRESS. 

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