This post is a result of me doing something I have learned from past experience that I should never do: I turned on ITV1 when Loose Women was on. I noticed, quite to my surprise, that this horrific, demeaning, estrogen-fueled “chat show” was being anchored by Carol Vorderman.
Carol Vorderman, for those who may not know, is most famous for being the “maths lady” on British TV show Countdown. She has remarkable maths skills, as anyone who watched the show while she was presenting will know. Vorderman studied engineering at university, graduating with a third class degree. So far, in my mind, Vorderman looks like an ideal female role model. Here is a woman who already ticks two of the four STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) boxes, with skills and experience in subjects in which woman were, and still are, grossly underrepresented.
However, in recent years, Vorderman has become more famous for her image than any of her exceptional skills in maths. Typing “Carol Vorderman” into Google results in the following top suggestions:
Vorderman seems to be more famous among women for her “life changing” detox plan than her impressive academic skills and achievements. And after her rear end was crowned “rear of the year” 2011, one can only assume that has attributed to the high number of searches for this particular… asset. Vorderman was also famously against the MMR vaccine, and there has been much attention paid to her face in the last few years, which looks like it has been heavily treated with botox and fillers.
Who can blame the woman? When she resigned from Countdown, it was reported that Channel 4 said she could only stay on the show if she was willing to accept a 90% pay cut – one can’t help but suspect that they perhaps wanted her to resign, and there was some speculation that this was down to her age. Whether there is any truth in this or not, we all know that such sexist ageism exists in the media, and it is no surprise that someone would want to make herself look and therefore feel better. And certainly, Vorderman looks great for a 49 year old woman.
But I can’t help but feel this is really, really sad. Now, this is certainly not a personal attack on Vorderman herself. It’s an attack on how society treats women: Even women who, on paper, appear to be the perfect role models for the kind of girls and women that we want and need in our schools, universities and in the workplace. Why has there been so much focus on her appearance? Seeing Vorderman anchor Loose Women made me sad and frustrated. And I couldn’t help but feel angry when the panel sat there criticising teenage girls for spending too much time and effort on looking good, and all wanting to look the same, when the head of the show is doing exactly the same thing and suffering the same pressure, albeit as a 49 year old woman.
Girls do not need role models who feed into this media circus where women have no wrinkles and the perfect hip-to-waist ratio and big, pert tits. Girls need to know that it’s possible to be just as good at boys at things like engineering, maths and science. They need to know that they can potentially have careers in such subjects. They need to be reassured that their worth is measured by more than their cup size.
A woman with a degree in engineering and exceptional maths skills should be a wonderful role model for young girls. Instead she is selling bullshit twice-a-year detox diets to them and exemplifying everything that is wrong about women in society.