London - Top Gear starts in Britian on Sunday. ‘Top Gear’ you say? Why is a woman who edits a fashion magazine and writes about being a mother of four talking about Top Gear? What’s it got to do with her, you may well ask?
Well, as Dragons’ Den Hilary Devey would say, it’s ‘making my foot itch’.
Top Gear s trio of presenters Richard Hammond, James May and Jeremy Clarkson.
I’m furious about Top Gear because I’ve just seen the BBC TV trailer for it.
As a mother of three girls, boss to a staff of 35 women and former editor of Cosmopolitan, I’m outraged.
I guess the trailer is meant to be funny, and, maybe, I should just ignore it because everyone tells me Top Gear is a national treasure (Jim’ll Fix It was a national treasure).
But as I said, I have three daughters who are bombarded with this kind of accidental and moronic sexism on a daily basis, so I am obliged to point it out.
Let’s recap the plot first, shall we: three women in the BBC wardrobe department tut about the antics of those daredevil, car-driving, plane-flying Top Gear presenters as they ‘mend’ the boys’ torn clothes. Another younger woman polishes The Stig’s helmet.
The message? Men do the dangerous stunts, women repair their clothes.
Dear BBC, can I have my licence fee back please? I don’t mind paying for Attenborough’s Africa (even the episode where the baby elephant dies in front of its starving mother), but I am not paying for this rubbish.
I got particularly cross about Top Gear because I’ve been reading snippets of Steve Biddulph’s new parenting book Raising Girls, which makes much of the way TV and media bombards young women and pre-teens with inappropriate messages, so I am feeling patronised from every angle.
It’s made me strident, and the children keep telling me to stop shouting at the telly and keep asking who ‘that Biddulph man’ is. I think the neighbours might ask me to stop shouting at the telly, too. God help me, I am in danger of becoming a panellist on Loose Women if this continues.
‘It’s about role models,’ I tell my daughters. ‘You need female role models you can aspire to be.’
They are too busy trying to fake a video of their small brother falling off the back of the sofa for You’ve Been Framed! to take in any of the feminist ranting.
‘Push him harder, it’s funnier,’ I hear them yell before they begin debating if he’d fit inside the washing machine.
They are not bothered about Biddulph’s belief that all the emphasis on looking like a Bratz doll has turned our would-be women into anxious teenagers.
Personally, from the excerpts I have read, I can see he makes some valid points, but there is more at play. I think his first book, Raising Boys, was more on the money. It’s dads, brothers and sons who need guiding in how to treat women equally to help improve our self-esteem and self-worth.
Let’s stop worrying so much about keeping girls ‘safe’ from outside influences - we are quite bright, we can work out when we are being sold to in such a commercial society - and start worrying about making men respect women more.
I don’t care whether or not you open the door for my daughter, but I do care if you don’t pay her as much as a man doing the same job.
And you may be happy to support her as a stay-at-home mom, but respect her for this in the way you’d respect her for running her own business - it is just as hard. I could go on but you’re probably wishing I’d stick to the usual format and regale you with stories of the fearsome foursome.
Interestingly, the girls seemed unperturbed by Top Gear-gate. I think I mentioned the suffragettes at one point as I described why, even though it was a small thing, it was so very wrong in 2013 and shouldn’t be tolerated.
‘It’s just a silly advert starring the little man who presents Total Wipeout,’ they conclude.