Jordan: is she a shameless bimbo or a feminist icon?

She's a sensation-seeking, surgically enhanced glamour model with a highly colourful past and a positive passion for self-exposure. Currently, she is helping to push back the frontiers of taste on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here. So why do so many intelligent women now talk of Jordan as a shining example for their sex? Has the owner of Britain's most famous breasts become a feminist role model? We asked a selection of prominent thinkers on women's issues...
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The Independent Online

Julie Burchill, Journalist

Even today, girls are taught that being conniving, manipulative and coy will get them what they want, but actually that's a castrated, cowardly way to be. I love Jordan's breathtaking bluntness and lack of hypocrisy, and her stoicism and complete lack of self-pity in an age when we are all encouraged to be neurotic cry-babies or be condemned as "in denial". She seems to have been created by some mad feminist genius scientist. She has never made a life in the skin trade seem like a smiley harmless romp, as Page Three girls traditionally have, but rather more like an endurance test.

I have seen her a couple of times close-up in the street in Brighton, and when she's not pulling that fuck-me face she's quite astonishingly good-looking. All in all, I think she's splendid. But I don't believe in role models - they're for wusses!

Baroness Mary Warnock, Academic

Yes. I don't admire her profession, but being a glamour model doesn't disqualify one from being a role model. It is a very hard life. It is ridiculous to think that female role models have got to be either women who have it all - jobs, children and whatnot - or women who keep themselves in the background and are wonderful supportive wives. I don't see why there isn't a role for just showing off. If you want to spend the whole of your life glorying in your own physique, then she would be a role model. Also, she won't be able to be a glamour model forever. It's like being a rugby player - it's really a very short career. So she's being very sensible appearing on I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here. She's ensuring that she will have a longer career. I think that she probably has a very shrewd idea of what she's up to.

Kate Figes, Author

In the bits of I'm a Celebrity... that I have seen, she does seem to be much the strongest, gutsiest woman, although the camera does an awful lot of boob-tracking. Her personality comes through as being quite feisty, and my 14-year-old daughter seems quite taken by her, so I think maybe she is a role model. She finds the Atomic Kitten woman [Kerry McFadden] more pathetic than anything. To see someone who is supposed to be a pin-up being much tougher and kinder to the group than the Atomic Kitten one is a good thing. Any woman who gets up and does things is a good role model.

Cristina Odone, Deputy Editor, 'New Statesman'

If we measure success in terms of whether you have achieved what you set out to do, this woman has achieved it. She wanted to become famous and she is, and she wanted to be a household name and she is. Although the means she used in order to become a household name are rather dubious and let's say anti-feminist - the implants, etc, and the nudity - she has achieved what she wants and at the end of the day that is what we want women to do, to be able to achieve what they seek out. Because of our celebrity culture there are many, many young people who want to be famous for the sake of being famous and they would be the ones who would hold up Jordan as a role model. I think she's a hoot. I've watched with interest the pre-I'm A Celebrity... Jordan - the boobs getting bigger and bigger, the hair getting lighter and lighter, the mouth getting bigger and bigger. It is a distortion of a female body and yet she has so palpably, so obviously enjoyed this transformation and the public profile it has brought her that we can't say that she is unsuccessful, can we? I think she's having a wonderful time. I think she is where she wants to be.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Journalist

Is Jordan a role model? No. Jordan has been through a lot in her life. Her baby was born blind. At the same time, she had a cancer scare. We shouldn't be surprised that she's sane and sensible. By watching I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here and saying, "Isn't Jordan normal, sensible, gutsy!" we are falling into the trap of judging her first on her looks. We live in a world where women are totally judged by their appearance, and I want to banish that pressure from the universe. So, while I respect Jordan hugely, for me she cannot be a role model because she was selected for the show because of her appearance - for titillation. If she had worn a burqa for the entire series and talked about what she'd been through, then she would be a role model.

Victoria Harper, Acting Editor of 'Red'

I do think she's a role model. She's worked really hard at what she wants to do. She's been focused about it and she's followed her own path and she's never apologised for who she is. I think that's something to admire in any woman. Also she's a single mum and she's working hard to juggle all those balls that a lot of women do. She's funny and she doesn't take herself seriously, and that's her best quality. As for what she does for a living, actress are showing off a lot more, she gets paid well for it, and she's made her choice - and she's prepared to be judged by that choice. At least she is honest about what she does. The great thing about Jordan is that she doesn't pretend to be anything else than she is. She's one of the boys, she's one of girls, she's a team player and has shown that she's up for anything and prepared to do her bit. She's an easy target to criticise and sometimes we should think a bit more closely about what we're criticising, because if we're criticising someone who's hard-working and doing what she set out to do and is ambitious then we'd be criticising a lot of women.

Fay Weldon, Author

If she lived in a marrying society, she'd make someone a very good wife. And if she lived in a mothering society, she'd make at least six children a good mother. She's kind, she's nice, she's competent and concerned. She'd get the spiders out of the bath. She's unselfconscious, unafraid and generous. But she lives in a media society: one worries what will become of her.

Julie Bindel, Academic and Feminist Campaigner

Of course I don't think she's a role model. I think it's really unfortunate that she felt she had such limited opportunities that she became an object for men's sexual fantasies. However, she has weathered the storm. She has ignored all of the misogynistic, cruel jibes about her, she has become more than her breasts, and she has shown great courage in bringing up a disabled child. If, like Sam Fox, who is one of my heroines, she is able to crawl out of the pit that men have put her in, I think she could become something really great. But for the moment, I wouldn't want young women to follow her path. And I think if she was honest she would say the same thing too. I don't think her fame sits comfortably with her at all. But I really hopes she wins.

Meredith Etherington-Smith, Writer and Broadcaster

Yes. I used to think she was a camera junkie. But I should think that having a child who was blind may well have made her grow up. She's had such a maturing reality in her own life that the jungle is a doddle for her. A spider's one thing; a blind child is quite another. Any glamour model who is courageous and tough, as she has proved to be, isn't a bad role model. There's nothing wrong with being good-looking. Normally, female role models have chins like pelican pouches and you think, "You're only a feminist role model because no guy is going to look at you." Jordan shows you can be both highly desirable and highly sensible. Not a bad role model.

Sandra Gidley, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Women

I think that she has probably surprised people and knocked some of the stereotypes on the head. But she came very close to losing it at one stage. I think that if she manages to bat off the men who are hovering around her like bees around a honey pot then she will be a positive role model. But sadly that will depend on how she reacts to that situation rather than anything else. I think it does show that you shouldn't really stereotype people, but I think it's a bit early to say whether she's a positive role model. "Shows early promise" is what I would put on her school report.

Marina Warner, Author

I applaud her attitude to spiders, although I think they should be more than endured - they should be welcomed. They are wonderful creatures. They are the absolute providing geniuses of writers as they weave their webs. So she is a role model in that way, yes.

Miranda Seymour, Author

I think that she's a fascinating example of a woman who seems to have successfully protected her own identity while exploiting an alter ego. As a member of the jungle team she is showing how both sides of herself can work together with compelling effect. She's a tough, shrewd woman. I admire her. She isn't a role model for anything particular. I'd say that she is a role model for being able to control one side of herself.

Arline Usden, Editor of 'The Lady'

No. Anyone who builds a career on big bosoms cannot be a role model. Isn't that obvious? Who cares whether she's self-assured and likes spiders? I'm surprised the question is even being asked. It's totally demeaning. If that's what we've come to, then God help us.

Interviews by Clare Rudebeck and Julia Stuart

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