Tag Archives: Lara Bingle

Real housewives: my week in popular culture.

21 Jul

I didn’t watch The Shire. I’ve never looked at Being Lara Bingle. I hate those shows where they have someone cruel on the panel to belittle contestants and make them cry.

As a critic of the reality TV genre  I’d be a failure. I can’t step far enough away from the emotions aroused in me. If I ridicule I feel guilty. After all, these are  human beings making a spectacle of themselves. I have on occasion made a spectacle of myself, though not, thankfully, on television. I might do it again. So who am I to sneer?

Which brings me to Real Housewives of Atlanta. Last weekend, when the infant I was minding had an afternoon nap, I took advantage of his parents’ Foxtel and trawling, came across housewife Kim and her boyfriend Kroy.

Actually, Kim didn’t start out with Kroy. She was finishing up a relationship with someone known as Big Poppa, whom I never got to see. Big Poppa lavished Kim with everything she could possible want, including two exceptionally pneumatic breasts and a feckin’ great diamond. But Kim isn’t the type to be satisfied by the superficial. Having all the stuff didn’t do it for her. Big Poppa was not emotionally (or reading between the lines, sexually) available, and Kim was over him.

And then along came Kroy. No, I have not misspelled his name. Football player. Cute. Shy. Within weeks, Kim and Kroy were pregnant. In three back-to-back episodes I watched them move house, give birth and get married. Kim gave birth in her blonde wig and full makeup. I worried for the baby, trying to latch onto those pneumatic breasts. I don’t know how she changed his diapers with those false nails. I don’t know why I sat there watching this unfolding spectacle, except that I was enthralled in the worst of ways, and I could not look away.

Luckily for me, just as we moved onto Housewives of Orange County the infant woke, and released me from the spell.

Watching this kind of television leaves me feeling as if I’ve scarfed down vile junk food because I’ve let myself get to a stage of hunger where anything will do, and I should really put my finger down my throat and hawk it all back up again if I know what’s good for me.

After watching Housewives, I realise I avoid reality TV not for aesthetic or intellectual reasons, I wish that were the case, but because it makes me far too emotionally uncomfortable.  I cringe and sweat and chew my fingers, and cover my eyes and put my hands over my ears, and want desperately to do something to stop the participants from revealing their tender underbellies. Be more careful with yourselves, I want to shout. Don’t show all this vulnerability to the world! People will laugh at you and mock you and look down on you! You will be judged, oh, how you will be judged!

But none of them seem to care. Indeed, they frequently enter into adversarial public exchanges with their critics, and thrive. Obviously, I need to drink a cup of cement and harden up.

On the other hand, one thing I have learned from the popular series Downton Abbey (which I watch because my household does and it would be churlish of me to absent myself from a bonding ritual and anyway, it is FICTION) is that there’s always been women who HAVE IT ALL. Wealthy women may not have been allowed employment outside of their stately home, but governing the household, which was their task, must have been akin to being CEO of a small to middling business. Add to this birthing the next generation, demanding social duties, responsibilities to the poor, dress fittings, spousal support, and marrying your daughters well, these upper-class women had careers, husbands, families, social lives and the wealth to engage all the assistance they required to maintain the lifestyle. Just look at this picture of Lady Cora.

Nothing much has changed, except having it all is no longer an ambition realised only by the well-bred. It’s far more egalitarian, however, the need for an income to support the lifestyle remains fundamental. You probably can’t have resident childcare if you live in public housing, for example, unless you have your mum or gran living with you and you don’t have to pay them to mind the children while you go to work.

I have to confess that I was almost banished from the Downton Abbey ritual when upon watching Captain Crowley (Crawley?) releasing his fiancée from her vows because the war had left him unable to be a full man, I laughed like a horse.

I would not have done this, of course, had Downton Abbey been reality TV. Even if they’d used the same mawkish language (and of course they would, probably worse) I would not, could not have laughed. I likely would have bawled.

I prefer the protection of fiction when I consume television for relaxation. I want a resolution to the drama, and catharsis. I don’t want to have to think about anybody’s real life issues going on and on and on until the show is cancelled.  I don’t want to watch someone weeping as they endure a verbal onslaught from a self-important celebrity judge of whatever.  And honestly, the thoughts and concerns of some of these reality stars are, well, numbingly, numbingly banal. I can only hope the taste for this unmediated drivel decreases in time. Otherwise we might find ourselves regressed to public hangings.

I’m gonna stand by my woman now

18 Jun

Women bagging women is nothing new, but last week there was something of a spike in the pastime that left me wondering why we need patriarchy to do it for us.

I’m not referring to disagreement or critique, I’m talking about spite, judgement, contempt, and downright bitchiness that does nothing to progress civilisation, of the kind that feeds an exclusionary dynamic and precious little else.

First I came across this piece of anti bisexual woman contempt in the HuffPost Gay Voices blog, from radical feminist lesbian writer Julie Bindel. Ms Bindel is railing against allegedly hedonistic bisexual women “tourists” who “sleep with women on the weekends and go back to hubby on Monday mornings.” They have no sexual politics, she claims, and are exploiting full-time lesbians who have a political as well as sexual commitment to same-sex relationships.

I guess dedicated lesbians are capable of refusing to sex to touristing bisexual air heads lacking a sexual politics. I mean, nobody’s forcing them to put out for a woman who also engages with a penis are they?

Ms Bindel concludes: “If bisexual women had an ounce of sexual politics they would stop sleeping with men.” One could equally argue that perhaps if lesbians had an ounce of sexual politics they’d stop sleeping with bisexual women?

Then I read Elizabeth Farrelly’s column in the Sydney Morning Herald titled “The New Feminism: if it’s girly it’s good.” “Here’s the truth. I’m not a misogynist” Farrelly begins, perhaps not the best first line I’ve ever read. She then gets stuck into women who refuse to leave what she calls “the sewing circle” to take on the wider world of real  things. “Most of what passes for feminism these days… just legitimises girliness” she writes. I can see where Farrelly is coming from on this: I’ve moaned more than once about how feminism seems to be about body hair and lipstick these days. At the same time, I see nothing at all wrong with a bit of girliness: it is possible to have a reputable sexual politics and talk to other women about clothes and lipstick and occasionally have a good giggle over cocktails as well. This insistence on categorising is so, well, patriarchal. Real women break out of boxes, in my opinion.

However Farrelly goes further. She dislikes, she says, “boring” women authors like Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson, preferring instead “writing with a higher IQ and lower pH than most women can manage…”

Ouch. That’s misogynist.

“It is clear,” Farrelly claims, “that to criticise women, or worse, poke fun is considered misogynist.”

Well, sometimes it is misogynist and sometimes it isn’t. Every time someone criticises Julia Gillard somebody else claims it’s misogyny,and while there’s certainly plenty of examples of that, there’s also legitimate criticism that has nothing to do with gender.

Then there’s Lara Bingle. About whom I know practically nothing more than the vitriol I’ve seen directed at her because of her TV reality show, “Being Lara Bingle.” I was initially confused by this title, wondering if it referenced the movie, “Being John Malkovich,” in which a miserable puppeteer stumbles across a portal into the star’s mind and charges people $200 a pop to spend fifteen minutes seeing the world as he does. Great and absorbing complications ensue, of the kind I simply could not imagine in a TV reality show about a young woman who seems to have done little other than perform in a failed tourism promotion and have a public fight with a famous cricketer who then dumped her.

For reasons I cannot fathom, Ms Bingle’s foray into reality TV has provoked quite vile criticism from many quarters, overwhelmingly from women. This caused me to ponder on the way women treat women, especially when the woman in question is young, and has the kind of beauty that is currently favoured in the mainstream. I mean, don’t watch it girls, if it hits your spite buttons. Ms Bingle is merely trying to make a life for herself, and accepted an opportunity practically every girl would if it came along.

“She decided to do it, now she’ll have to pay the price” was one piece of  self-satisfied Schadenfreude from an older woman who sounded as if she’d been waiting her whole life for Ms Bingle to fall flat on her face.

Ease up, girls. We have men to put shit on us.

Finally, this isn’t overtly about women bagging women but behind the scenes you’ll find much anti woman sentiment masked as concern and feminist politics. Many of you will have heard of Valerie Solanas and her Society for Cutting Up Men, otherwise known as SCUM. Solanas authored the SCUM Manifesto, a rabidly intense and sustained attack on men that states, among other things:  In other words, the male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage. To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples, and  SCUM will kill all men who are not in the Men’s Auxiliary of SCUM.

Ms Solanas went on to attempt the assassination of artist Andy Warhol after a dispute with him about a film script.

And so to the current Australian connection with SCUM. In July 2011 the SCUM Radical Feminist Conference was held in Perth. It was advertised as being of interest to  females who want to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex. Workshops, guest presenters and social activities, plus a space to celebrate and re-member the life and work of Valerie Solanas and other radical feminists.

At the top of the updated SCUM Conference program there’s an announcement of the launch of Melinda Tankard Reist’s book, Big Porn Inc.

I was utterly shocked to discover Ms Reist’s apparent affiliation with the SCUM Radical Feminist Conference. I had no idea Ms Reist was so radical in her feminism, indeed there are some leading feminists who have publicly argued that Reist is not a feminist at all. (Another example of women bagging women, I suggest and a serious one. BTW I am the blogger mentioned in this article whom Reist is still threatening to sue. See Defamation category on this blog).

Reading through the program I discovered that Ms Reist’s publisher, Spinifex Press director Susan Hawthorne, gave a paper at the conference on feminist manifestos and SCUM.

I have yet to understand how exploitation of women and girls can be prevented through violence against males. All males, that is, indiscriminately, because they are male, and as advocated by SCUM. I fail to see the logic.

I could just be thick but to my mind, having my name and my book heading the program for a Society for Cutting Up Men conference would imply I was sympathetic to their cause.

And what would Jesus say?

So in conclusion, I’ve had  belly full this last week of women bagging women. Is that all we can do with our liberation, such as it is?

PS This Kravitz song will aggravate many people and is begging for a feminist deconstruction.

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