I loved that song when I was a teenager. But there are many more things that make me go hmmm nowadays than ever did when I was a militant 14 year old wearing tie-dyed dungarees, going on marches, shaving my head, and wondering why I couldn’t get a boyfriend. The marches I went on were Free Nelson Mandela (result!), CND and feminism marches. A band called Velvet Fist played at one of them. Terrible band, but the name has inspired a comedy poetry duo that Pippa Evans and I do from time to time. It’s much more fun than anything Velvet Fist came up with.
The thing that really made me go hmmmm this week (and most weeks if I’m honest) is the way women are. Or maybe the way advertisers would like us to think women are. But also, actually, the way women seemingly ARE. It started (a few weeks ago) with a woman unable to walk across a stage unaided, because of the shoes she was wearing. This is a woman who is heralded as something of a role-model for young women (she’s not stick thin, so that’s good, but she is, to my eyes, utterly vacuous and lacking in talent, but she’s a millionaire and on tv so what do I know?) A woman, on International Women’s Day no less, unable to walk without leaning on a man (Keith Urban I believe), because of a fashion choice she had made. That made me go hmmm.
Later, I went hmmm when an advert came on. There were 12 people standing in a sunny field, with butterflies and flowers, each sporting “ooh that’s a nice smell” faces. Then some lift doors opened and we realised they’d all been standing in a lift smelling that smell. How delightful, someone must have plugged in an air freshner. Oh, no, silly me, it’s because one of the women in that lift was wearing a scented panty liner. Getting past the fact that I can’t stand the phrase “panty liner”, what on EARTH is this suggesting? You can just imagine the man who’d been standing behind her, and when she got out pulled a “ooh, she’s quite nice” smug face, saying later to colleagues and friends, “A lady was in my lift at work today and I couldn’t smell her vagina AT ALL.” Ahhh lovely. Firstly, if you need to mask the smell of your bits with a panty liner, you need a doctor, not Always; secondly if you wear those scented panty liners, soon you will have bacterial vaginosis, which will smell much much worse than any natural musk you are masking with aforementioned products.
The next thing that made me go hmmmmm was a discussion on the new lexicon which includes phrases like “nom nom” and “three sleeps til…” Now I’m aware that a lot of my friends use these phrases, and I apologise to any of them if this offends. But STOP USING THESE PHRASES. The infantilisation of adults. Use that phrase instead. Where did these phrases come from? I never, as a child, said nom nom. I never as a child counted down to something exciting in “sleeps”. And if I had, I would have stopped by the time I was wearing badges saying “Make tea not war” and “Save the Whales” and wondering why I didn’t have a boyfriend. “Tasty” is a perfectly good, adult word for something which tastes nice. And “only three days til…” is a perfectly good way of describing an impending event. And it does seem to be, in the main, women who use these phrases. It doesn’t help the cause that I marched for 20 years ago (alright, 23 years ago) and it makes me a bit sick.
I blame the telly. And Nigella Lawson, who has made the infantilisation of experiencing food an art. After she’s sexualised it. Which leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. As do her brownies. And don’t even get me STARTED on the current trend for women to sing as if they are pre-pubescent girls, in reedy “oh aren’t I cute, even when I’m singing about heartbreak” voices. Particularly if they are cover versions of Smiths songs, or aggressive punk rock anthems. SING PROPERLY. Like an adult. You are NOT a child anymore. (I’m going to stop ranting about this because Lucy and I have a great idea for a song in our radio show based on this and I don’t want to plagiarise my own material.) Perky, relentlessly smiling adult “girls” are revolting – especially if they’ve put their hair in bunches – NO. In your 20s you’re pushing it, but by 30? Bunches should never be seen on anyone who ovulates.
I’m aware these things that make me go hmmm aren’t really connected. But they’re all things I don’t like. Dumbing down. Becoming childish at the expense of your own intelligence. Trying to sell me something by assuming I am incredibly thick and will be blinded by pretty pictures of flowers, and/or a tricky “here comes the (pretendy) science”. And I speak as a person who plays for a living, who tries to find the inner child (about which my therapist once said, “the thing about the inner child is, it’s meant to be inner” – I took that as a compliment) and be child-like. But child-like by embracing my intelligence, not belittling, belying or degrading it. Don’t make me get those tie-dyed dungarees out of the loft. No-one wants that. Least of all me.