Juliet Dunlop: Charge of lightly clad brigade brings no victory for women
It’s not a phrase you hear every day but Cliff Richard is flying out of shops. And no, before you panic, an extended version of Mistletoe and Wine hasn’t been released. I’m talking about his official 2013 calendar.
Picture it if you will: 12 glossy pages of Cliff looking playful, Cliff looking thoughtful, Cliff looking eerily young, Cliff looking bronzed and Cliff looking into the middle distance. He appears bare-chested astride a jet-ski; leaning provocatively against a yacht with his shirt undone; and posing in very short shorts while strumming a guitar. Corny and mildly unsavoury as April, June and August may sound, Sir Cliff knows what sells: his 2012 calendar trounced Justin Bieber’s and tied with boy band JLS. Not bad for 72. And all he has to do is strip off to the waist and cling on until Christmas.
Now while the nation’s favourite bachelor chooses to frolic in swimwear for his calendar, others are prepared to bare much more. Charities in particular have chosen to go down this path, thanks in part to the huge success of the original Calendar Girls of the Rylstone Women’s Institute. They, you may recall, used strategically placed buns, butter churns and teapots to preserve their modesty while raising money for a worthy cause.
It was risqué and strangely touching. It spawned a film and a hit stage-show which is still touring, 12 years on. But lately, things have gone much further – the humour has been replaced by sex.
It’s as if the editors of charity calendars have been given leave to be as tasteless and as tawdry as they like. Charideemodels have become Page 3 stunnas.
The wives of soldiers, sailors and airmen are just the latest in the long list to strip off for a calendar. The Garrison Girls even appeared, appropriately enough, on page 3 of a national newspaper this week: “Eyes right!”
Army wives stage charge of the lightly dressed brigade”. Breasts, bottoms and, in one case, a pregnant stomach were displayed, with only the odd beret or helmet to serve as a reminder of the military theme.
The calendar has been put together by Sarah Bennett Thurston, who has been keen to point out that it’s all for a good cause: “It’s very hard being a military wife and I wanted to do something to empower the girls. We have deliberately left out the girls’ faces to show they represent all military wives. It’s about our commitment to the Forces, not about women getting their kit off.”
Really? I’m not so sure that taking your clothes off and hiding your face is exactly empowering. The Garrison Girls have surely got things terribly mixed-up.
The whole point of the ordinary-people-doing-extraordinary-things concept has been lost. Sagging, gently rounded bodies in oddly familiar surroundings have been ditched in favour of faceless, demeaning poses. It’s all about the body, not the woman. Flesh has replaced the fun; the props are incidental.
Recently, there has been a lot of coverage, sorry wrong word, publicity, surrounding the use of topless models in newspapers.
Author Lucy-Anne Holmes launched her No More Page Three campaign this year after realising the biggest female image in her copy of The Sun was a picture of a woman in her pants. The newspaper’s use of bare-breasted women seems to hinge on the belief that it’s just a bit of harmless fun. Yet the same newspaper refused to publish topless pictures of Kate Middleton.
Again, we return to the twisted logic that some naked women are okay. Quite frankly, it must be rather confusing for men.
And let’s be honest, the Garrison Girls are surely no different from Page 3 models. They are, when it comes down to it, all just pin-ups of naked women designed to look sexy.
Of course stripping off for charity is entirely up to the individual.
But pretending that it is somehow about empowering, feminist ideals is misleading. Equally misleading are the newspapers which pride themselves on their “family values” but grab every opportunity to include provocative shots of women. Charity or not, it looks like naked hypocrisy. At least you know where you are with Cliff on a jet-ski.
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