Tag Archives: Take Me Out

Take Me Out: a feminist’s dream?

ITV dating show

Take Me Out. It riles me. It grates with all my principles. It makes me feel embarrassed. Most of all, it makes me fear for the giant steps that women are currently making through campaigns such as This Girl Can and No More Page 3 (if you ignore the childish and aggressive behaviour of The Sun with regard to the latter). If I have these concerns then why do I continue to let my 6-year-old daughter watch Take Me Out? It’s all about the lessons she can learn.

“There’s a boy and a girl and if they switch their light off they don’t like him and then there’s one person left and they go on holiday to Fernando’s.” That’s how a child sums up the premise of Take Me Out, ITV’s 21st century (apparently) dating show. Simple, innocent, unquestioning. Of course, it’s great Saturday night entertainment and along with many other forms of entertainment where women aren’t given credit for having anything other than breasts, make-up and a desperate desire to meet Mr Right, many would say that it should just be treated as a bit of light-hearted fun. (Which brings us back to Page 3.) But as with many media portrayals deemed harmless and fun – think back to the racism in British TV shows in the 1970s – the potential for lasting damage, particularly on impressionable minds, is serious.

Why do I let my daughter watch it? Because her cranky mother with her feminist leanings sits next to her and provides a social commentary. Hands up – I enjoy the show. I enjoy it not because it makes me feel good about being a woman in 2015 but because of the constant amused disbelief it generates. It pleasurably raises my hackles and gives me full licence to pontificate to my daughter about everything that is wrong with the programme.

You shouldn’t judge people on their looks alone

In the last episode we watched, the majority of the girls switched off their lights on first sight of the man. What a blast to his self-esteem. We all form an immediate opinion of people based on first impressions – that’s normal – but we have to learn to recognise that shortfalling and then think beyond it.

“Won’t those girls who switched off their lights be really sad when they find out what a nice, interesting man he is?” I venture. Her argument was that the rules say you’re allowed to switch your light off in the first round – “No likey, no lighty, Mummy”. A rule’s a rule and I should probably be proud that she respects that.

It takes some effort to explain to a 6-year-old why it isn’t acceptable to judge someone based on how they look; they are still taking the first steps in developing empathy and mostly they are the centre of their own universe. Yet it doesn’t hurt to prod them in the ribs with a not-so-gentle reminder of how cruel TV ‘entertainment’ can be.

“Look mummy, she’s got trousers on”

As we watched the parade of girls at the beginning of Saturday’s show, I started to tut (quite rightly) about how they’d forgotten to put some of their clothes on. My daughter countered that the studio was probably quite hot. Fair point, but I went on to say how much better they would look dressed a little more … elegantly. My daughter told me that I’m not as stylish as the girls on Take Me Out. And they’re at least 20 years younger than me, dear daughter, and, as they are single and in all likelihood childless, they have a disposable income to deploy on looking ‘stylish’.

All is not lost though. When my daughter pointed out that one of the girls was actually wearing trousers (skin tight but at least no flesh on display) I congratulated myself with unashamed smugness that some of what I’ve preached might just be sinking in.

Fortunately, my 3-year-old son has no interest in Take Me Out. If he did then, yes, I would let him watch it too. And, yes, I would be equally keen to point out its inadequacies to him – perhaps with more vehemence than with my daughter. Part of that is that, whilst inequality continues, women are in dire need of help from men. It’s not up to women to fight alone but it will take more than Ed Miliband and Benedict Cumberbatch wearing t-shirts with slogans to force change from the roots up. Perhaps Take Me Out is another small step to educating the men and women of the future, providing we’re savvy enough to use all that is bad about it to do good.

A boob for women’s lib?

Whatever happened to good old-fashioned women’s lib? Those long-gone days when plucky women threw themselves onto race courses and burnt their bras. Bravery and dignity. The liberation of Mrs Smith from the kitchen sink used to be momentous – the arrival of the contraceptive pill, labour-saving devices such as the washing machine, and equal pay (of course the latter is unfortunately yet to be translated into reality but that’s another story).

In 2011, the right of women to be recognised as individuals rather than objects and how that is conveyed to the apparently misogynistic wider public has turned itself upside down. The BBC recently reported on a competition on a radio show in New Zealand that offered the chance to ‘win’ a Ukrainian wife. (In reality it was more of a plush date where the winner got a 12-day trip to the Ukraine and his pick of a Ukrainian lovely from a dating website – no guarantees of NZ visa to the lucky lady of course.) The competition caused quite a furore amongst feminists in the Ukraine. (Really, haven’t they seen Take Me Out? A TV show truly demeaning to both sexes – quite a feat. Funny though.) The BBC summarises so neatly what struck me most about the story:

Nine women protested topless outside Kiev’s marriage registration office, holding banners with slogans such as ‘Ukraine is not a brothel’.

Very good point, the Ukraine is indeed not a brothel. And good for them for taking a stand and making a point, erm, points (I expect it’s chilly in the Ukraine this time of year). But, hold on, they were topless? They’re not happy for one woman to get the chance of a hot date with a Kiwi but they are happy to wave their baps at the world in a display that Hugh Hefner would find more than mildly pleasing?

Femen – the Ukrainian organisation behind the protest – claim that the only way for them to get noticed in the media and the wider world is to stage such naked protests. No, really? Try telling that to the suffragette movement who seemed quite content to keep their knockers under wraps and achieved far more than a half page on BBC News Online. The stated objective of Femen is to “To develop leadership, intellectual and moral qualities of the young women in Ukraine”. Using her body may be empowering for a woman (so goes the argument for Nuts, FHM, Page 3, etc etc) but this somehow jars with Femen’s lofty objective. I should imagine that baring your boobs in the outside air actually causes the blood to rush away from your brain and thus depletes your capacity to exercise your ‘intellectual and moral qualities’. Call me old-fashioned by I’m all for keeping boobs in bras in public, albeit charred bras. I await Radio 4’s competition to win Germaine Greer.