Take Me Out: a feminist’s dream?

11 Feb

ITV dating show

Take Me Out. It riles me. It grates with all my principles. It makes me feel embarrassed. Most of all, it makes me fear for the giant steps that women are currently making through campaigns such as This Girl Can and No More Page 3 (if you ignore the childish and aggressive behaviour of The Sun with regard to the latter). If I have these concerns then why do I continue to let my 6-year-old daughter watch Take Me Out? It’s all about the lessons she can learn.

“There’s a boy and a girl and if they switch their light off they don’t like him and then there’s one person left and they go on holiday to Fernando’s.” That’s how a child sums up the premise of Take Me Out, ITV’s 21st century (apparently) dating show. Simple, innocent, unquestioning. Of course, it’s great Saturday night entertainment and along with many other forms of entertainment where women aren’t given credit for having anything other than breasts, make-up and a desperate desire to meet Mr Right, many would say that it should just be treated as a bit of light-hearted fun. (Which brings us back to Page 3.) But as with many media portrayals deemed harmless and fun – think back to the racism in British TV shows in the 1970s – the potential for lasting damage, particularly on impressionable minds, is serious.

Why do I let my daughter watch it? Because her cranky mother with her feminist leanings sits next to her and provides a social commentary. Hands up – I enjoy the show. I enjoy it not because it makes me feel good about being a woman in 2015 but because of the constant amused disbelief it generates. It pleasurably raises my hackles and gives me full licence to pontificate to my daughter about everything that is wrong with the programme.

You shouldn’t judge people on their looks alone

In the last episode we watched, the majority of the girls switched off their lights on first sight of the man. What a blast to his self-esteem. We all form an immediate opinion of people based on first impressions – that’s normal – but we have to learn to recognise that shortfalling and then think beyond it.

“Won’t those girls who switched off their lights be really sad when they find out what a nice, interesting man he is?” I venture. Her argument was that the rules say you’re allowed to switch your light off in the first round – “No likey, no lighty, Mummy”. A rule’s a rule and I should probably be proud that she respects that.

It takes some effort to explain to a 6-year-old why it isn’t acceptable to judge someone based on how they look; they are still taking the first steps in developing empathy and mostly they are the centre of their own universe. Yet it doesn’t hurt to prod them in the ribs with a not-so-gentle reminder of how cruel TV ‘entertainment’ can be.

“Look mummy, she’s got trousers on”

As we watched the parade of girls at the beginning of Saturday’s show, I started to tut (quite rightly) about how they’d forgotten to put some of their clothes on. My daughter countered that the studio was probably quite hot. Fair point, but I went on to say how much better they would look dressed a little more … elegantly. My daughter told me that I’m not as stylish as the girls on Take Me Out. And they’re at least 20 years younger than me, dear daughter, and, as they are single and in all likelihood childless, they have a disposable income to deploy on looking ‘stylish’.

All is not lost though. When my daughter pointed out that one of the girls was actually wearing trousers (skin tight but at least no flesh on display) I congratulated myself with unashamed smugness that some of what I’ve preached might just be sinking in.

Fortunately, my 3-year-old son has no interest in Take Me Out. If he did then, yes, I would let him watch it too. And, yes, I would be equally keen to point out its inadequacies to him – perhaps with more vehemence than with my daughter. Part of that is that, whilst inequality continues, women are in dire need of help from men. It’s not up to women to fight alone but it will take more than Ed Miliband and Benedict Cumberbatch wearing t-shirts with slogans to force change from the roots up. Perhaps Take Me Out is another small step to educating the men and women of the future, providing we’re savvy enough to use all that is bad about it to do good.

11 Responses to “Take Me Out: a feminist’s dream?”

  1. simonsometimessays February 11, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    Is this any better? he asked innocently…

    Personally, I find Take Me Out very useful for reducing by 1 the bewildering number of tv choices.

    • Crumbs & Pegs February 11, 2015 at 10:57 am #

      You’re missing the educational component of it. 😉

  2. Mark February 11, 2015 at 8:52 pm #

    I can’t watch it. Not for reasons of morality or taste but once I start watching weekend ITV I’m there for the night. I’ll grumble, moan and slag it off but suggest I turn over and I’m struck by temporary deafness.

    Not so much a guilty pleasure as a guilty addiction. I then have to watch something I don’t understand on BBC4 to cleanse my soul!

    • Crumbs & Pegs February 11, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

      That sounds like TV viewing Catholicism! Praying at the altar of Ant and Dec.

  3. Pinkoddy February 12, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Very interesting post – but I hope you do see some irony in the fact that in the first breath you are telling your daughter not to judge the men on their appearance – and then do exactly that for the women. I do hope that one day things become a lot more equal for both of the sexes.

    • Crumbs & Pegs February 12, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

      Absolutely – that did cross my mind. I started a para on that in the post but deleted it – ie we find out an awful lot about the man but nothing about the women. For all we know they could be rocket scientists and brain surgeons. But the show chooses not to tell us that – all we find out is a snippet like “Which of these two girls has a tattoo of a cupcake on her bum?” This is why I feel embarrassed for the girls – the show is totally undervaluing them.

      • Pinkoddy February 12, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

        I think the whole of society needs readdressing – for both girls and boys.
        Off topic but I am fed up of the constant message that men are too useless to let their other halves know that they love them, and will leave things until the last minute for Valentine’s day. Awful message.

  4. Muddling Along February 12, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    ‘no likey, no lighty’? How have I missed this gem????

    • Crumbs & Pegs February 12, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

      Don’t get sucked in! Step away from ITV 8pm Saturday. 😉

  5. Tash February 12, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

    I Love this, I have a 7yr old that like your daughter cannot wait for her Saturday night fix of take me out…I cringe at the tellybox, whilst my husband and my little lovely cuddle up to watch Mr & Mrs wannabe fernandos enter their love triangle with Paddy! My little lady loves it..but from listening to her take on them all…I think she has people sussed out better than me 😉 xx

    • Crumbs & Pegs February 12, 2015 at 11:37 pm #

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Agree, it’s great to hear the opinion of a child on things like this – they have a knack of cutting through the c**p!

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