Saturday 16 December 2017

Why commenting on clothes doesn't make you less intelligent or less politically aware or engaged

Dressed to impress: Amy Huberman at the IFTAs
Dressed to impress: Amy Huberman at the IFTAs
Foot loose: Eddie Rowley at the launch of his book Lady of The Dance at The Citywest Hotel last week
The royal shoes
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

It was a busy week for SIPTU with pickets and drawn-out Bus Éireann talks (which I can't imagine were helped by that unforgettable image of Transport Minister Shane Ross cavorting about in a feather boa).

But that didn't stop them from finding the time to air their dissatisfaction with another source of social and industrial injustice - the IFTA awards. This week an email was issued by the SIPTU Campaigns and Equality Organiser, Karan O Loughlin, in which she criticised press coverage of the red carpet ceremony.

Lots of websites and papers had featured fashion 'Hits and Misses' lists, and this seemed to have irked the SIPTU vigilante.

"These women make serious contributions in their field, and that should be the focus of news reports on awards ceremonies," the statement read.

"A similar approach is not taken to what men wear to these events, perhaps this is because their work is considered to be too important to be overshadowed by fashion. The media needs to wake up to the real value of women in the film and TV industry."

Three words: Get. A. Grip.

I've written before about how utterly redundant it is to suggest that discussing fashion at awards ceremony is somehow undermining the feminist cause.

Commenting on clothes doesn't make you more or less of a feminist. Or less intelligent. Or less politically aware or engaged. All it means is you like looking at and talking about clothes. End of.

The reason women's clothing gets more space in Style sections of websites is because - guess what - the majority of readers are women.

And most women (but not all) prefer to look at pictures of dresses than a collection of men in more or less identical suits. There are plenty of other reasons why the dresses became the main talking point at the IFTAs.

Firstly, the IFTA ceremony isn't actually that interesting. I know it's a big deal if you work in TV and film, but the majority of people couldn't care less who won the IFTA for Best Sound Design or Editing.

Plus IFTA don't let journalists sit in on the ceremony - they're on the red carpet and then shunted into a back room of the Mansion House - so is it any surprise they report on that side of things?

On top of this, there was a real lack of star wattage at the ceremony. There was no Ruth Negga, or Aidan Turner, or Colin Farrell. But there were some very nice dresses. And some not so nice ones.

But, according to SIPTU, focusing "on what is worn to these events feeds into a wider unacceptable culture of objectification which is also increasing the simplistic and diminishing way in which women are being portrayed on screen".

This is not true; in recent years, the number of strong female roles in TV and film - on a national and international level - has increased dramatically.

Big Little Lies, Girls, Catastrophe, Striking Out, Can't Cope, Won't Cope, A Date for Mad Mary, The Beguiled - the output of female-led drama shows no sign of slowing down. Thankfully.

Suggesting that writing about clothes is resulting in women getting rubbish parts is nonsensical.

And finally having your outfit rated and occasionally slated is part and parcel of walking up a red carpet.

The people who attended the IFTAs know this - they stood on a 360-degree 'Glam Cam' stage and threw confetti at a camera for crying out loud.

So before SIPTU proceed any further as Commissars for Public Morality - here's a thought.

If you don't want to read about dresses on the red carpet, turn the page.

And for those who want to attend the awards but don't want to be photographed - sneak in the back door. Trust me, I've done it before and it's as easy as sin.

Rowley honours the legendary Marie Duffy

Foot loose: Eddie Rowley at the launch of his book Lady of The Dance at The Citywest Hotel last week

When Michael Flatley cantered across the Eurovision stage in 1994 in a silk blouson shirt, Irish dancing aficionados were stunned.

He had done the unthinkable - he had lifted his arms in the air.

I don't know a huge amount about Irish dancing but I have it on good authority that this is akin to discovering plutonium. Well, almost.

This week, saw the launch of Eddie Rowley's latest book Lady of the Dance which tells the life and times of Marie Duffy.

Marie was the woman who had a helping hand in choreographing the famous Riverdance line-up and "helped Michael Flatley conquer the world". How's that for an epithet?

The launch fittingly took place at the World Irish Dancing Championships, where contestants glued socks to their legs and pinned mushroom-shaped ringlet wigs to their heads.

"It's like another planet out here," Eddie said manning the stall. "There are 25,000 Irish dancers and prancers here - they've come from all over the world."

Eddie has written books about Joe Dolan, Daniel O'Donnell and Daniel's late mother Julia, and is pretty much Ireland's undisputed showbiz king.

He said working on this book was a real treat.

"Marie has been working with Flatley for the past 20 years and is his right-hand woman," Eddie said. "She's also worked on the Oscars, with the Royal family and on Britain's Got Talent. The woman is a legend."

But Marie cannot be credited with telling Flatley to wave his arms in the air like he just doesn't care.

"That was all Michael," Eddie says. "But she could tell he was itching to do that for years."


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