There are many joyful aspects to a temporary break from commuting into London. I know I can get home and back, I don’t have to sit rubbing knees with the carriage oddbod and no more daily commuter rage. Yet I do miss the insightful and hard-hitting journalism of the free commuter papers (and the lower back relief they give when folded and sat back on). I now have to rely on those who continue to battle into the Big Smoke to flag up the snippets of excellence that the free papers provide. Many thanks to (A)nother Lawyer Writes for bringing to my attention Metro’s recent poll to find the most influential woman in London, providing yet another moment when I have to check the calendar and confirm it isn’t April 1st.
The Metro poll was timed to coincide with this year’s International Women’s Day. A worthy exercise, absolutely. But who was named by Metro readers as their most influential woman to live or work in London in the past century? (Just take a moment to appreciate the gravity of this – most influential in the past century.) The woman who got the most votes was none other than Leona Lewis. That’s right, the Leona Lewis. You’ll know her as the winner of the 2006 series of X-Factor, pop diva and …. er, errr … that’s about all really. Astonishingly, Ms Lewis got 70.9% of the vote. Margaret Thatcher, who we may not all like but is certainly up there as someone who could be genuinely described as influential, limped into second place with 5.14%. What on earth were people thinking? Something has gone seriously wrong when Leona Lewis storms home ahead of women such as Emmeline Pankhurst, Betty Boothroyd and Shami Chakrabarti. If we must luxuriate in the bubble bath of celebrity then where was Katie Price? To be upfront (no pun intended), she’s a darned sight more influential than Leona Lewis.
10,000 people voted in the poll. Two thirds of them voted for Ms Lewis. That’s a lot of stupid people. The only thing that makes me feel slightly better (about the world and about Metro) is that 1.3m copies of the paper are distributed across the UK each day so in reality that makes only 0.5% of their readership utterly daft. Even better, if the poll was web-based then 6,666 people out of 3.5m site visitors is positively microscopic. However, if the poll was for London’s most influential woman then the pool of readers may have been smaller and thus the proportion of idiots higher. How sad.
Whichever way you look at it – as someone clever once said, never underestimate the stupidity of the common man.
Midday on Radio 2 and it’s time for the Jeremy Vine show. Those of you with too much time on your hands will have seen my recent Facebook updates and anticipated that a Vine blog post was brewing. My posts are normally inspired by something that raises my temperature a little and Jeremy Vine (or the format of his show at least) does this on a daily basis without fail.
The format is described on the BBC website as “Jeremy Vine and guests discuss the news headlines and talk to the people making them”. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, the stories are even (on occasion) interesting. The BBC site then goes on to say: “Jeremy loves music. But he’s also a journalist. There aren’t that many shows that do music and news. In fact there’s only one.” Thank the lord for that. And there’s the nub of what I object to – the juxtaposition of ‘serious news’ (Japan earthquake/tsunami) and banal local news (today – whether it’s right to pick daffodils in parks) and jolly pop songs. Hold on folks, we’ll have to leave our Japan correspondent now as here comes some Sister Sledge … Is it just me or is this just plain silliness?
For those who think Jeremy doesn’t do enough damage on his own, the show is not short of ‘experts’ seeking airtime to make their point (as quickly as they can before the intro to Billy Jean takes over). Oh but really Jeremy, drafting in the Daily Mail science correspondent does not add to your show’s credibility in any way. What tipped me over the edge today was a pre-recorded snippet from an expert we all associate with hard-hitting news and serious journalism – Madonna. If I want to hear serious news and great music I listen to Jeremy Vine blah blah blah. Thanks Madge, there’s a Pulitzer on the way.
Jeremy Kyle – sorry Vine – is a serious journalist having presented Newsnight and been a political correspondent at Westminster. Okay, so there’s no harm in wanting to branch out and seek the attention of the broader public but as a clever man can he not see how pop-peppered news leaves it devoid of any seriousness?
Whatever happened to good old-fashioned women’s lib? Those long-gone days when plucky women threw themselves onto race courses and burnt their bras. Bravery and dignity. The liberation of Mrs Smith from the kitchen sink used to be momentous – the arrival of the contraceptive pill, labour-saving devices such as the washing machine, and equal pay (of course the latter is unfortunately yet to be translated into reality but that’s another story).
In 2011, the right of women to be recognised as individuals rather than objects and how that is conveyed to the apparently misogynistic wider public has turned itself upside down. The BBC recently reported on a competition on a radio show in New Zealand that offered the chance to ‘win’ a Ukrainian wife. (In reality it was more of a plush date where the winner got a 12-day trip to the Ukraine and his pick of a Ukrainian lovely from a dating website – no guarantees of NZ visa to the lucky lady of course.) The competition caused quite a furore amongst feminists in the Ukraine. (Really, haven’t they seen Take Me Out? A TV show truly demeaning to both sexes – quite a feat. Funny though.) The BBC summarises so neatly what struck me most about the story:
Nine women protested topless outside Kiev’s marriage registration office, holding banners with slogans such as ‘Ukraine is not a brothel’.
Very good point, the Ukraine is indeed not a brothel. And good for them for taking a stand and making a point, erm, points (I expect it’s chilly in the Ukraine this time of year). But, hold on, they were topless? They’re not happy for one woman to get the chance of a hot date with a Kiwi but they are happy to wave their baps at the world in a display that Hugh Hefner would find more than mildly pleasing?
Femen – the Ukrainian organisation behind the protest – claim that the only way for them to get noticed in the media and the wider world is to stage such naked protests. No, really? Try telling that to the suffragette movement who seemed quite content to keep their knockers under wraps and achieved far more than a half page on BBC News Online. The stated objective of Femen is to “To develop leadership, intellectual and moral qualities of the young women in Ukraine”. Using her body may be empowering for a woman (so goes the argument for Nuts, FHM, Page 3, etc etc) but this somehow jars with Femen’s lofty objective. I should imagine that baring your boobs in the outside air actually causes the blood to rush away from your brain and thus depletes your capacity to exercise your ‘intellectual and moral qualities’. Call me old-fashioned by I’m all for keeping boobs in bras in public, albeit charred bras. I await Radio 4′s competition to win Germaine Greer.