The Feminist Media Reader #4 - Constructed Reality, contradictions, and Lucy Watson, the saviour of Chelsea

by - Friday, October 24, 2014

I would call it a guilty pleasure, but sod it, I've never apologised for my awful taste. Made In Chelsea has fast become my favourite show for it's perfect blend of bitchery, constructed drama and oh-no-they-didn't first-world problems that completely take me out of my own life and into one of glitz and glamour. Heck, it might even be as good as The Hills - albeit with less Lauren Conrad and a whole lot more TopShop.

However, the feminist within me does of course know, deep down, that constructed shows are pretty awful for gender equality (and even worse for racial equality, but thats another story). I mean, let's for instance look at Geordie Shore, who The Vagenda ran an absolutely brilliant article about. Yes, they're reprehensible people, but at least the girls and boys objectify one another equally, gleefully make objects of themselves and always come together as friends at the end of the day. In Made in Chelsea, the same is not really the case - you only have to look at how many times Jamie, Spencer and Andy have competed for the affections of a girl simply because they enjoy the thrill of competition, with the simpering blonde (she's always blonde) almost entirely clueless that she is the 'prize' and isn't really wanted by any of them. 

Of course, perhaps the best example of this is the complex relationship at play between Alex and Binky. This involved him cheating on her 6 times (probably more), leaving her entirely unable to stand up for herself until she was confronted with the harsh news that he'd basically indulged in an 'orgy' (say that in a posh accent) and didn't seem particularly sorry. The sense of testosterone-fuelled-cheating-entitlement is rife within the show - very few male cast members appear able to keep their royal oats in check, and if they do, they talk at great pains about the hardships of monogamy. The incident also led to my most popular-ever tweet, if you ever wondered:

Whilst the decision to be polyamorous doesn't necessarily make for a bad person, or even a bad feminist, the collection of women for the sake of accruing 'assets' to sit alongside the inheritance is definitely concerning. What's more worrying however, is that the women of the show seem happy to go along with this, regularly revisiting exes most likely to be Spencer, the shows resident lothario. I mean, the time he cheated on Stefanie and she was really mad until he paid her off with a handbag? In the 21st century? Please. 

What all of this comes down to, is the need for a cast member who calls people out on their bullshit. Cue stage right, Lucy Watson. Despite being one of the shows younger cast members, she has a moral compass that puts the rest to shame. From the moment this happened, I knew it was a certified girlcrush:

In short, Lucy is just as posh as every single other character in the show, but, shock-horror, she actually has a personality. She corrects anybody who calls her an object. She calls out others who are treating women unfairly. If a guy wrongs her, she rarely allows herself to go back there without good reason, and encourages her friends to have the self-worth to do the same. Funny, stubborn and fiercely loyal,  she is one of reality TV's best role models.

 She has been known to call other girls sluts as well, which I obviously don't agree with. In her defence, it is worth pointing out that this is normally in retaliation to a slur towards her and she often apologises. Considering her age and privileged upbringing, I'm willing to forgive her minor character flaw, which many might things sits at odds with my feminist rhetoric. However, I truly believe that any girl, feminist, whatever, who insists that they have never once made a bitchy comment about another girl's perceived sexual activity, dress sense, provocative actions or physical appearance, is a liar. It's wrong, and it's nasty, and it hurts people's feelings, but we've all done it. And it doesn't mean that we're all terrible feminists: it means that we're human. The same goes for all the times we've gossiped about men we find physically attractive, but feel objectified if we hear them doing it about us. Feminism isn't about getting it right all the time - it's about making the steps towards a more even playing field and thinking a little harder about the suitability of our actions. 

Whilst a show like Made in Chelsea is unlikely to make it to the UN, it's nice to see that Emma isn't the only young Watson who's willing to challenge the status-quo in her community. Even if she goes about it and a slightly heavy-handed way, Lucy's brand of feminism is likely to seep into the consciousness of very young girls who would normally consider it to be something that didn't apply to them. Improvements can always be made, but for now, I'm happy to have someone who could quite easily wrap herself up in her privilege and ignore gender issues on such mainstream telly. And for all the militant feminists who think Watson doesn't mean business, well, here is one for you: 

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