Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hotter Than My Daughter

Many of the great television shows that we have enjoyed, have been directly based on sitcoms/dramas that have been successful in the U.K.  BBC has recently released a new program called “Hotter Than my Daughter”, which I desperately hope stays on their side of the pond.

Does anyone need to watch a show that is based upon setting mothers and daughters against one another in competition for men?  Could you even see this concept working if it were a father and son duo?

image Of course the more skimpy that these mothers dress, the more that their daughters express anxiety and in some cases shame.  The daughters feel that it is their time to shine and that their mothers are too old to dress sexy and go to the clubs.   Too make the dynamic even more interesting, the show seems to fixate on women that are single mothers.  This sends the message that their supposed wild ways, are what are keeping them from leading the lives that all “normal” women apparently aspire to.  Where is the picket fence, the dutiful husband and the minivan loaded with crafts? These women are wild and savage, and are therefore; counter to the image that we have constructed of the long suffering mother.

Since having a breast enlargement six years ago, Lisa has not been able to resist flashing even more flesh and asks her nan to sew her outfits smaller and smaller.

"I love bra tops, hot pants and fishnets. And of course they all have to be in neon colours."

Amber feels she is the only responsible one of the family, as her father is not around and her little sister loves her mum's look.

Amber says: "My friends get jealous that Mum is so cool, and are envious that when I am 18 she can take me clubbing. But if she carries on wearing those clothes, I wouldn't be seen dead with her."

This program is the perfect combination of slut shaming and ageism.  Mothers are not understood to be sexual beings and in fact, society expects women to give up that side of their identity the moment the umbilical cord is cut.  Good mothers do not pursue their personal desires; they exist to ferry their kids to various events, bake cookies and clean house.  If along the way they manage to teach their daughters the appropriateness of female submission, so much the better.

The media is about youth culture and because beauty as power is understood to be the sphere of women, as they age they become less and less relevant. Women are having plastic surgery at younger and younger ages to erase imaginary flaws.  When they are photographed, their images are constantly photo-shopped to remove any tell-tale signs of age.  A laugh line or a wrinkle is a sing against youth culture.  Aging gracefully is not encouraged and women are expected to fight the process every step of the way.

The daughters on the show frequently state that their mothers are too old to act like this, or too old to dress like this.  How many times have you seen women wonder if they can wear their hair long after a certain age?  What is with the policing based on age?  Ageism often gets ignored, even though it is an issue that we will all eventually face.  When these daughters request that their mothers “act their age”, what they are suggesting, is that they become as invisible as all of the other mature women in our society.

There was a time when age would stand as something important because it meant that a person had lived experience that was considered valuable.  Today we create statements like 50 is the new 30, as though being 50 is something that we should be ashamed of.  The fact that we have behaviours or clothing that are appropriate by age, only guides the process from social relevance to invisibility. 

This show is about judging women and normalizing behaviours that are ultimately “othering.”  We claim to prize individuality; however, the moment anyone decides that they are not content to be just another drone, we instantly move in to correct the assumption that that they have a right to ignore the rules of the game, which have been so carefully laid out.

No good can possibly come of this program because it once again encourages women to judge and demean one another.  Men continually point to the fact that women engage in this form of behaviour as proof that patriarchy is not the systemic force that womanists/feminists assert it to be.  Like all other social structures, patriarchy has long ago learned that the easiest way to police (read: rule), is to encourage  oppressed bodies to attack one another.  Though this program was created by a woman, its profits will go to a man because the media, like every other social organization is male run.  Just because you cannot see the strings, does not mean you are not watching a puppet show.