Style Voices

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Caitlin McBride: Celebrity Big Brother's 'feminist' line-up is laughable

Ashley James enters the
Ashley James enters the "Celebrity Big Brother" House at Elstree Studios on January 2, 2018 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
Presenter Emma Willis during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
Presenter Emma Willis during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
Presenter Emma Willis during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
Undated handout photo issued by Channel 5 of Jess Impiazzi, one of the housemates for the latest series of Celebrity Big Brother
Undated handout photo issued by Channel 5 of Ashley James, one of the housemates for the latest series of Celebrity Big Brother
Undated handout photo issued by Channel 5 of Ashley James, one of the housemates for the latest series of Celebrity Big Brother
Undated handout photo issued by Channel 5 of Malika Haqq, one of the housemates for the latest series of Celebrity Big Brother
Jess Impiazzi enters the house during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
Maggie Oliver enters the house during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
India Willoughby enters the house during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
Ashley James enters the house during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
Ashley James enters the house during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
Rachel Johnson enters the house during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
Malika Haqq enters the house during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
Malika Haqq enters the house during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

There's something powerful that comes with seeing a group of badass woman in a room together.

Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones' banter in the all-female Ghostbusters was hilarious and ground-breaking and eight of the most incredible names in acting like Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett have teamed up for a female-only adaptation of Ocean's 8. These are exciting projects changing the way we perceive women in film, but to try and put Celebrity Big Brother's attempt in the same category is laughable.

2018 marks the 100 year anniversary of the first group of women being granted the right to vote in the UK after endless campaigning by suffragettes in the late 19th century and early 20th centry. This monumental moment has been marked in the most bizarre of ways: an all female line-up for four days only in the house at Elstree Studios.

It’s an obvious attempt by producers to lure in a new, younger ‘woke’ generation of viewers after 20 seasons on air, but there's nothing feminist about this misguided attempt to cash in on the hard work of others.

More often than not, I can tell when I’m being trolled by brands, tv shows or social media in general – causing faux outrage for the sake of a few column inches – but this doesn’t fit the bill; largely because no one else seems to be in on the joke.

I love CBB, it’s trashy tv at its finest and frankly, Tiffany Pollard confusing David Bowie’s death for David Gest’s in 2016 was nothing short of iconic and will go down in television history with Who Shot JR? in my book. But that’s what CBB is made for: washed-up reality stars and a few talented actors keen to try something new in their golden years. The formula writes itself.

Suffragettes would be rolling in their graves right now to know that the blood, sweat and tears that went into campaigning for women’s right to vote was being used to hock a cheap reality show with D-list stars, most of whom don’t have a full-time job and can ditch their lives for months at a time to hole up in a no-communication-with-the-outside-world programme.

It's a combination of both the producers' short-sighted efforts, the low brow candidates chosen as part of a heralding of a new generation and a somewhat infuriating conversation between two contestants who proclaim that equality is here and the fight is all but over.

So, who are the lucky few chosen to represent such a worthy cause in 2018?

Ann Widdecombe: Like many before her, Ann clearly developed a taste for the limelight while in…parliament. The former Tory MP campaigned against abortion and supported the reintroduction of the death penalty.

Malika Haqq: A woman best known as being a second tier Kardashian’s best friend and she isn’t even the first Kardashian BFF to do it. Kim’s ‘best friend’ Jonathan Cheban couldn’t survive more than a few days in 2016. 

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Undated handout photo issued by Channel 5 of Malika Haqq, one of the housemates for the latest series of Celebrity Big Brother

Ashley James: An Insta-famous model, DJ, do-it-all who appeared on Made in Chelsea FIVE YEARS AGO.

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Ashley James enters the house during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

India Willoughby: India is actually an interesting choice, she was the UK’s first transgender newsreader and is a respected journalist; working as an ITV reporter for 10 years before undergoing gender reassignment surgery at the age of 50.

Rachel Johnson: This year’s group is filled with media-types, including this columnist and broadcaster, who is perhaps best known these days for being Boris Johnson’s sister and daughter of former Conservative MEP Stanley Johnson. She’s a self-styled feminist, who said she only signed up this year’s show because of its female-centric angle.

“I’ve never sat down and watched CBB in the way my children religiously binge-watch it, but when Channel 5 came calling, I didn’t delete the annual email asking me to be on. It was because this one said that the new series was all about female empowerment and 100 years since women got the vote,” she wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

It takes a special type of person to both insult the show she’s appearing on while conniving herself she’s taking the moral high ground by then appearing on it.

Amanda Barrie: The token ‘older generation’ contestant, filling the shoes of a wise Yoda-type. She’s a woman of genuine achievement and talent and frankly, if I was asked to appear on a reality show at 82, I’m pretty sure I would go with the flow. 

Maggie Oliver: In our bid to celebritise literally every single profession (including opticians and dog whisperers), former detective constable Maggie Oliver is undoubtedly a woman of principle, quitting the force in 2010 after claiming that hundreds of cases of alleged abuse were ignored of mishandled by Greater Manchester Police. I fail to see the logical professional jump from respected officer to reality star, but I guess we’ll find out in the house.

Jess Impiazzi: A 28-year-old glamour model best known for her turn on Ex On The Beach. Megan McKenna is clearly the only former EOTB star worthy of post-show fame.

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Jess Impiazzi enters the house during the Celebrity Big Brother Launch held at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

Last night’s conversations were dominated by tales of inequality, with Ann lamenting the days when employers advertised pay discrepancies for men and women. These days, salaries often aren't publicly disclosed, but women, on average, make £400 less per month than their male colleagues in the UK and women are paid 14% less than men in Ireland.

She made the argument that it’s “daft” to consider inequality exists now because women can rent apartments and open up their own bank accounts.

“That’s what the daft thing is…,” she began.

Amanda interrupted: “Because sometimes, so many, so many battles have been won, actually that to harp on sometimes is a little bit…”

“Ann added: “They’re looking for causes of grievance now.”

Sigh.

Sure, some from my generation are quick to bandwagon hop on the outcry-of-the-day, but it's proven that women still make less than men around the world, are often looked over for promotions based on their gender and have to fight for basic rights like maternity leave - let alone the fact we are regularly subjected to the dreaded mansplaining. So forgive me if I'm not looking to the fading television programme whose hallowed halls are filled with washed up stars and wannabes for guidance on the matter.

Online Editors

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