Snog, Marry, Avoid styled itself as the first make-under show, although it was not as modern or progressive as it claimed. The message was these (occasionally fluorescent) girls would be a lot happier were they to rid themselves of fakery and become Plain Jane and settle for an Average Joe who will marry her now. Essentially BBC 3 managed to get 4 series out of an idea based on a great aunt’s fondness for spitting on her hanky and wiping it around her “such a pretty girl, once” niece’s face.
The women on the documentary promise to let us in on their rinsing secrets. Somehow the Metro manages to interpret this as “gender equality hurtling back to the Dark Ages – only this time, the girls are on top.” I believe the formula of cleavage = free Smirnoff Ice is as old as time. Or whatever the equivalent to Smirnoff Ice was in The Olden Days, let’s say gin, which only recently edged into ‘classy’ territory.
Call them Dirty Old Men, call them Sugar Daddies, call them Rich Idiots. These girls are only “on top” for as long as these men are willing to pay. These are not the creaking sounds of the gender equality tables turning. It’s a rebranding of the mistress, the maîtresse-en-titre, the bit on the side, only with less perks. At least as a maîtresse-en-titre you were likely to go down in history as being witty and an expert conversationalist.
Whilst I am of the Beyoncé school of “I bought it” and I find this resurgence in a search for Sugar Daddy style support is deflating I respect the decision to go down that route. What I find odd now is the media’s notion that these women are representative of all women. That this must be seen as either A) a raspberry to feminism or B) a post-feminist triumph.
The utterance from one of the women participating in this documentary that “men take more from me than I take from them” rather belies the Channel 4 voiceover’s insistence that these women are: “Receiving glamorous gifts…but on their own terms.”
Let’s be very, very clear about this. These women are relying on men to pay for things. Whether or not “legs remain firmly closed” this is not “redefining relationships” Channel 4. This is a regurgitation of materialism used as a justification for actions (sorry, inactions). I don’t know if these women could throw their hands up at Beyoncé and declare themselves independent women. That’s fine, there are other Destiny’s Child tracks these ladies can be a part of. You just wouldn’t think it from the media coverage women seem to receive presently.
Squeamish Kate - Pitch us some new ideas you would like to see on Channel 4 or BBC 3 on Twitter @SqueamishBikini