by Bridget Minamore, cross-posted from her blog, 19 Years and Counting. This poem was first performed at the launch of Women’s History Month, January 2010.
Let’s pretend for a minute I’m a female celebrity. As a woman in our society, I’m expected to be 20 years younger than my male co-host but am still told I dress too slutty when I show cleavage on Saturday night TV. Basically in our society, me & my boobs have gotta be Holly Willoughby.
But in our society I also have to be Amy Winehouse. A no-good junkie with a loutish husband – who apparently only writes good music about him, when I’m high. Or I’ll try and be Keri Hilson. A decent singer for a while but no-one listens before I show my crotch and then I’m desperate for attention.
In our society I’ve gotta be blonde, and have an easy name like Sophie, or Jessica. 20 years old from Manchester my news in briefs adorn page 3 convincing you that you & me have mutual interests in common. Apart from the things on my chest. A box by my head to say I’ve said I’m not happy about tuition fees or VAT rises. In our society I’ve got to know about politics while showing off my double D’s and accept those two things empower me & make me a feminist… but being a feminist is a ‘bad thing’ because then obviously a lesbian who doesn’t wear a bra.
And it might be hard, but I’ve gotta be Natasha Kaplinsky. The champion for the working woman who can win Strictly Come Dancing and be the highest paid female news host in modern history, before I go on too much maternity leave, then abandon my kids with a nanny to come back to the show before leaving the show to stay home with the kids and so ultimately, I’m a disappointment on all counts.
In our society I’ve gotta be Naomi Campbell aka the Black Model Italian Vogue puts on the cover after they’re accused of being racist. And the first time I decline being the token black girl I’m told I think too much of myself and I rejected a chance to further enhance the black female model cause. But the second time I’m asked and I agree, I’m told I’m enforcing black stereotypes by wearing a leopard-print bikini so basically, I hate my own race and don’t deserve to be the famous face of black female models.
But at the same time I’ve gotta be Tyra Banks. Second in command of the Famous Female Ethnic Models society, which at the moment only really has two and a half members. Me and Naomi (and occasionally Halle Berry). And I’ve gotta stay number two because any more black female faces might make Gucci or Prada explode. And when they decide to make me look like the other models, Vibe magazine says I’m letting them make me look white, with too much weave on my head and clever lighting at my photo shoots to make my nose look smaller, and after all that, when I leave my natural hair out I’m told it’s too messy. Then I complain and I’m told that I’m expected to take criticism as that’s what I signed up for when I wanted to be famous and you can’t take it back love so get over it. Forgetting the fact you wouldn’t say the same things to a man.
In our society I have to be Jennifer Aniston, aging apparently too quickly, the jilted wife whose husband left me because apparently I didn’t want to have a baby. In our society I have to be Angelina Jolie. Give money to charity but I’m still a home wrecking husband stealer with far too many kids. But in our society I don’t have to be Brad Pitt because in our society, there is no way he could ever be responsible for his marriage break-up.
In our society I have to be Kate Moss. So I’ll have the perfect figure for everything in Topshop but the newspapers say I enforce and promote anorexia. And it’s a good thing I can multi-task, as in our society I’ve gotta be Beth Ditto too, loving my curves and being proud that I’m a ‘real woman’ because anyone below a size 12 isn’t, but still too fat for anything but Evans on the high street because my weight’s a bad thing; I’m enforcing and promoting obesity say the magazines.
But don’t worry, it gets better, ‘cos in our society I should be like Cheryl Cole, basically, seen as perfect in the media on all counts. And I can do that easily; flick my hair back while fluttering my fake eyelashes and judging people singing badly. The Nations’ Sweetheart. Let’s just hope I don’t get the phase before that, where I’m weak and pathetic for taking my cheating husband back or the phase before that, when I’m a racist thug for beating up a black woman in a nightclub or the phase before that, when I’m the third best slash worst singer in a TV band that has men watching the videos with the sound off and only 7 year old girls know the words to my songs. And God knows, I better not get the phase after all of those, when I’m racist again and getting death threats because it’s me, apparently, and not the Border Agency that let people get deported.
And I’m irritated now, I’m being sarcastic now, so I’m sorry. But being a woman in our society isn’t so easy, and I’m angry. See, in our society, we glamourise women. Idolise women. In our society, we tell women we can have it all, and at the same time tell women we have too much, and pride comes before a fall. In our society, you’re either virgin or a whore. Beautiful or Heat magazine feature-worthy eyesore. In our society, women are equally adored, and victimized. Told our clothes are too tight but still looked at with appreciating eyes, I know it’s not right but it’s how it is. Bitch slapped on one cheek so you can give me a kiss on the other side – our society doesn’t see things clearly, our society’s a little bit blind. In our society, we have to be celebrities, but at the same time, we’ve gotta be wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers and any combination of the above, not to mention the criticism we get for simply never being good enough. It’s too much sometimes, and I’m sorry if I look at things with negative eyes, but I’m sick of it. I don’t fit into it. See in our society, I don’t wanna be a celebrity, in our society I wanna be me.
But it’s not so easy. What chance have I got if I can’t think of a famous woman treated fairly by the media or not condemned by other ladies? Saying the same old miserable things. In magazines, it’s too fat, too thin, stars without make-up so she’s hideous. Advertisements on tv screens, eat kellogs cardboard for just 3 weeks so you too can fit into a shit red dress. Lose baby weight with little stress and c-sections make you less of a woman. Four kids, three men, twice divorced so she’s a slag. Our society says equal opportunities but we still judge as much as we ever have. In our society we fight for equal rights but we still hide behind our criticism and we give unasked advice, and I am sick of it. I won’t fit into it. I’m not prepared to be a faceless pair of page 3 walking tits, it isn’t me to look down at my feet and wait my turn to speak, I know I’m not the simple sexy girl with boobs but without brains and I refuse to dance round poles to prove what I can’t bear to say. I’m not asking for role models, I’m just looking for fair play.