LETTERS FROM LONDON
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
23 January 2016
Every Man For Himself

“Oh look. A woman on the telly. Wait. There’s another. Oh oops. Gone.” So you
would think the medium would be egalitarian, representing the 51-49 per cent
population split…women being the 51 of course…despite the general attempt at
elimination of the gender across the planet…wouldn’t you.

A few statistics to seriously annoy you – hoping they will naturally. Erm, enraged
would be better. Women are given two per cent of on-screen time for sport.
Thrilling. Women do actually participate in sport. Claire Balding and Gabby
Logan are there to represent all the others you say. And the others? Thought so.
Presenters, pundits, guests made up two per cent.

Between 7pm and 11pm on all major channels, men appear at least twice as
much as women. Surely you have noticed. The Communication Research
Group, commissioned by Channel 4, watched 500 hours of men being
men…preening, finding themselves amusing, insulting women. More than five
sexist incidents each hour of prime-time. I don’t think we’re talking hand-on-the-
thigh here. Although it can’t be ruled out can it? These demeaning insults
showed up in comedy, entertainment, films. These are considered ‘low-level’
rather than as blatant as in the 1970s and 80s. So it’s demeaning by a thousand
subtle insults. And no, it isn’t ‘just a bit of fun’ and women shouldn’t ‘calm down,
dear’ (CallMeDave’s suggestion of course).

Considering EastEnders, not subtle at all. “Oh. You’re such a girl!” Don’t you
wish? No. But at least they are allowed on the soaps. Oh thank you. Written by
men, produced by men, for men. Is this not total madness? And let’s not even
bother with films. OK. If we must. Just 26 per cent of on screen roles are being
filled by women. Aren’t they generally naked? Objectification, dismissive attitude,
trivialising, sexism – and that’s when women are actually on screen.

Fawcett Society research found that 70 per cent of people over 65 thought more
should be done to create gender equality, whereas only 55 per cent of people
25-34 thought the same. What? Really? And while on the subject of age – you
know this isn’t going to be good don’t you? – once women have celebrated their
50th birthday, they are categorically blanked and the ratio of men to women is
75-25. Something to look forward to.


Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

The other 98 per cent of women not on telly are surely out buying pink razors at
twice the price of men’s blue razors. So this is the best way to recognise
women. Ironic really. 5 for £1 vs 10 for £1. Surely women could/should/would
have noticed. Why would you ever even buy pink razors? Are we to assume the
use of pink has now become Pavlovian?

Women are charged up to 37 per cent more than men for nearly identical
products. 100 items prove the fact. Deodorant? Chanel Allure por Homme at
Boots: £23.50…for women: £30. River Island men’s jacket: £35…women’s: £55.
Men’s Levi 501 jeans: £42…women’s: £80. OFGS. Isn’t there more fabric used
for men’s jeans surely? But even when the waist and length are identical the
price difference remains. Topshop sells white T-shirts for men for £8, equivalent
for women for £12. Let’s not forget the kids. At Argos a children’s scooter is £5
more expensive if you choose pink. Playmobil for boys £12.59 while £14.99 for
girls. I’m thinking the latter is pink. And the best you ask? BIC pen packs for
men: £1.98 and for women: £2.99. Huh? Pens? BIC pens? I believe there was
some mention of women’s hands being smaller, thus requiring smaller pens.
Huh? And the male logic behind that? Oh I see. Women crave small pink pens.


Paying Lip Service

Just what the acknowledged as second-class citizens need: a role model for
modern women. Grotesque, vile, the ever-shrieking in that shrill-ear-bleeding-
high-pitched voice, “I can see Russia” Sarah Palin stepped in to add more
Trump believers to the passionate devotees. For those willing to watch, listening
to her squeals was simply excruciating. I had to leave the room before I began
talking to the telly. OK. Screeching to the telly. “Stop! Make her stop!
Somebody!” Evidently she shrieked for 20 minutes. Yikes! Palin blames Obama
for her son’s domestic violence arrest; no need for details really. To say the
woman is an idiot is to insult idiots everywhere.

That ridiculous repeated Republican mantra, ‘Make America Great Again’,
should at least raise a smile of derision, unless the reference is to using military
might and covert operations to take over and/or destabilise countries. As you do
– when you are the greatest country on the planet. Note use of sarcasm here.

Destroying the planet with GM, undermining the development of less powerful
countries, global corporate control, cultural dumbing down (how low can you
go?), Uber, G4s, ad inf… Possibly the reference is based on land-grabbing and
the near annihilation of Native Americans? The list of what made America great
is endless. Palin told the cheering audience that Trump [was] a future
“commander-in-chief who will kick Isis’ ass!” Great. “Can I get a hallelujah?” All
together now….


Black Listed

And then there are the Oscars. And yes, it’s the second year in a row where
black talent was ignored. Hmmm. Really more like 20 years. Spike Lee, Jada
Pinkett Smith, Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent are urging boycotting the show. That
should solve the blatant ubiquitous racism in America.

But people in the industry say most Academy voters are happy to preserve the
status quo. 6,300 mainly white men 40-65 vote. 94 per cent of Oscar voters were
white. 2 per cent are black and 2 per cent are Latino. The median age was
62.34 per cent. And don’t they watch the films at home on their living room TVs?
And the award for cinematography goes to?

Academy critics have said Idris Elba in
Beasts of No Nation and Samuel
Jackson in
The Hateful Eight should have received nominations. And when were
the Oscars ever ‘fair’ and legitimate? Never. Chris Rock will be the token black
face when he hosts the 88th ceremony. Nice.

Pressured, the Academy now says it will try to make appropriate changes.
Nevertheless, those who know say don’t count on it. One Hollywood Foreign
Press Association member, Husam Sam Asi, who votes in the Golden Globes,
said, “They don’t see it as a problem because they don’t think they’re doing
anything wrong. It’s the status quo. As you get older the last thing you want is for
things to change because it’s uncomfortable. With just 2% black membership
why would anyone be surprised that there are so few black nominations?”
Doesn't look exactly promising, but then hardly a surprise is it?

With panic behind the scenes, there is an attempt to enlist prominent black
presenters to dole out its top awards, particularly Best Picture. The insider said,
“Names they are talking about include Oprah Winfrey and Morgan Freeman.”
Oprah. Oh that should solve the problem.

A statement posted on the Academy's website states now “the goal is to commit
to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by
2020". Doubling that 2 per cent then. By 2020. Very impressive.

Well, if Charlotte Rampling thought she had a chance of winning best actress
category this year – she doesn’t now. When asked for her take on the all-white
lists of nominees: “It is racist to whites,” she said. Oh dear. “One can never
really know, but perhaps the black actors did not deserve to make the final list.”
Asked if quotas should be introduced she responded: “Why classify people?
These days everyone is more or less accepted ... People will always say, ‘Him,
he’s less handsome’, ‘Him, he’s too black’, ‘He is too white’... someone will
always be saying ‘You are too’ [this or that] ... But do we have to take from this
that there should be lots of minorities everywhere?” When the interviewer
explains that black members of the film industry feel like a minority, CR replied:
“No comment.” Living in France a little too long?

These controversial comments were naturally followed with a clarifying statement
to CBS News. CR said: “I regret that my comments could have been
misinterpreted.” As you do.

“I simply meant to say that in an ideal world every performance will be given
equal opportunity for consideration. Diversity in our industry is an important
issue that needs to be addressed. I am highly encouraged by the changes
announced today by the academy to diversify its membership.”

The next day her photo made the cover of every newspaper. Oh finally you
might say. Here a woman was recognised. Comment tragique really. But wait.
What about former Oscar winner Sir Michael Caine? Nearly no mention at all
about his opinion.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “You can’t vote for an actor because
he’s black. You can’t say: ‘I’m going to vote for him, he’s not very good, but he’s
black, I’ll vote for him’. You have to give a good performance and I’m sure
people have. There’s loads of black actors. In the end you can't vote for an actor
because he's black.” The double Academy Award-winner offered the advice to
black actors to “be patient”. He added: “Of course it will come. It took me years
to get an Oscar, years.” No comment.
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