Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Why have women their knickers in a twist over M&S?

It may shock some of you enlightened beings, but there are still some joyless Victorians in this country who hate nothing more than the sight of a gorgeous young girl dancing around in her underwear.

Last week the glamorous Christmas M&S ad — which also features a deliciously twinkly Jimmy Nesbitt savouring the thought of a festive jumper — attracted complaints for alleged ‘sexism’ in light of its finale, in which a leery Gene Hunt from Ashes to Ashes rubs his hands at the thought of the beautiful Noemie Lenoir bouncing around in her bra and pants. Noemie obliges, and the season of goodwill to all men, M&S imply, can truly begin.

Rather than tell complainants to wind their necks in, the Advertising Standards Authority is currently ‘considering’ the complaints in order to decide whether an official investigation should take place. Don’t the ASA members have anything better to do with their time? Why do they feel they have to respect the views of those shrivelled up lemon-suckers who find the suggestion that a heterosexual man enjoys seeing a lovely young woman cavort for three seconds in some (actually very tasteful) lingerie demeaning to women?

I’ve thought hard about this and I can’t understand what is supposed to be demeaning to my sex here. The idea that Gene Hunt fancies Noemie Lenoir? I don’t know a man who doesn’t! The notion that a scantily-clad honey is a treat comparable to a Christmas jumper or a mince pie? For most of us married women, the idea that it isn’t is far more worrying. Perhaps these people are just offended by the female body or upset because Gene Hunt is allowed to look at one and they aren’t. Maybe they’re just professional whingers, like taxi drivers and people in Post Office queues. (I can’t help wondering if any of the complaints came from Northern Ireland’s fusty ‘never on a Sunday’ brigade.)

It seems likely that most of the offended viewers are women. And comments on YouTube, where some may be perturbed to note the advert has been viewed over 50,000 times, suggest that more people than you might imagine find it ‘filthy’ and ‘degrading’.

Women are often their own worst enemies in the fight for equality, focussing too much on insignificant symbolism when the bigger fights — equal pay, equal opportunities, equal respect in the workplace and in law — have still to be won. Displaying a total lack of humour, or insisting that we all live in denial of the simple preferences of heterosexual men is missing the point.

It may well be true that behind every good man there’s a woman rolling her eyes, but we could still learn a few things from men’s ability not to sweat the small stuff. Television is overrun with ads presenting men as incompetent idiots who can’t complete a simple household task or read a cereal packet, but men generally take them on the chin. The current ad in which a woman fantasises about getting rid of ‘life’s little pains’ by pulling a lever on her husband’s ejector sofa-seat so that he rockets out of the window would have caused consternation had the genders been reversed, but the men I know just pull a face at it. They may be a simpler breed, but women could learn something from men’s easier attitude to life’s annoying, but ultimately unimportant little niggles.

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