Belfast Telegraph

Jamelia's crass comments are a fat lot of good to lonely, unhappy girls

By Jane Graham

What a mixed-up, curly-topped, dozy-goat world we live in, here in the privileged, fat, angry West. Even at a time when the soothing soundbite is king and catch-all platitudes fly from the castle of every political party like glittering confetti, bitterness and confusion still reign.

And with every, ostensibly simple, tale of woe, there comes a queue of furious voices listing all the reasons we shouldn't waste our time sympathising with losers.

No, I'm not going to dwell on Katie Hopkins' latest preposterous act. Yes, it's grotesque that she chose the word "cockroaches" to describe African migrants fleeing Libya and advised using gunships to stop them. But, actually, Hopkins provides a unique and valuable service.

If your kids believe in hell, she, daughter of Diablo, is a particularly helpful deterrent from celebrity-seeking soullessness.

More significant this week was, for me, the unexpected onslaught of resentment which met the story revealing the 7% spike in "emotional problems" among 11 to 13-year-old girls over the last five years. This is depressing, but not entirely unexpected news to me, mother of one of them, observer of packs. A brief eavesdrop tells you they're generally more fretful, competitive and over-wrought than their male classmates.

Their hormone-racked bodies betray them, always on the verge of causing embarrassment by not looking right, not smelling right, not measuring up to the ones they see parading as normal on Photoshopped social media. The flow of faked, idealised lives lived by flatteringly Instagrammed faces on Facebook is one new source of stress.

But, recently, they've also been dealing with a lot of mixed messages.

On one hand, they hear they're outdoing boys at school, that they're the glorious new all-powerful generation of women who can have whatever they want. On the other hand, they're aware of a growing murmur of casual misogyny among boys who aren't remotely impressed, who prefer to share internet porn on their phones and judge their female peers on a different basis entirely.

And if girls secretly feel they're not the high-flying queens of the world well-intentioned media voices keep telling them they are, that doesn't help either. Because they often believe their peers really are living that dream and they're still too young to have those serious, intimate conversations with their friends which teach them they all feel like vulnerable, under-achieving odd girls out.

So, woe betide any young girl unlucky enough to catch Loose Women this week.

Ex-pop star Jamelia's suggestion that shops should stop "facilitating" unhealthy lifestyles and get rid of clothes in very small or large sizes in order to make under/overweight women feel "uncomfortable" is obviously crass and risible.

But what's more frustrating is that she's supposed to be the programme's voice of young modern womanhood.

Her regularly exposed lack of knowledge about innumerable issues implies if they're slim and pretty, there's no need for young women to think much, talk sense, or empathise with their less fortunate sisters.

Another journalist permanently seeking a spotlight, Samantha Brick, backed Jamelia up. She said overweight women should be denied fashionable clothes and generally be made to feel bad.

Meanwhile, a bunch of men online agreed the report on young girls' emotional problems was more evidence of the "victim mentality" which was currently encouraging women to complain about bad stuff that had happened to them to get attention. "Men's feelings are being wiped out by the need of women to hold this ground," one lamented.

And there was me assuming the notion of lots of unhappy, lonely girls would provoke a universal urge to give one a hug. Silly woman that I am.

Up with this sort of thing, Father!

Can it really be 20 years since the first Father Ted?

Well, in a way no, as it pops up with reassuring regularity on satellite comedy channels, ensuring that each child with responsible parents is quickly made aware of the dangers of waving out of windows with tiny, face-level rectangles of dirt on them. And of the crucial difference between "small" and "far away".

But, in another way (the factual kind), yes, it is. And what a fantastic tribute, the huge letters spelling "Careful Now" on a bridge over the N11 in Dublin.

The columns and comments were nice, but this was funny and thus better.

Take nothing for Granted online

Can it really be true that Tory party chairman Grant Shapps - or "the gift that keeps on giving", as he is known in some circles - repeatedly edited Wikipedia entries to make himself look good and rivals look dodgy?

He denies the "bonkers" story, a major newspaper says it's true - who are we to believe? I'm sure Shapps has a better alibi than his current "I was elsewhere", which doesn't help much in these modern times of portable internet technology.

Regardless of the truth, it's always nice to be reminded of Mark Steel's comment that he prefers to watch Shapps on TV with the sound down. And the TV turned off.

Belfast Telegraph


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