Someone help me out here – is Karen Danczuk a feminist role model? Or completely the opposite?

‘Selfie’ culture has redefined what it is we’re supposed to admire in people

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The Independent Online

I'm always wary of straying into the more contentious areas of gender politics, but here's something I don't quite understand. A woman in her early thirties, seemingly in a very happy marriage and a mother to two young children, owns and runs her own business while also working as a local councillor, and is confident enough in her own sexuality to post pictures of herself looking glamorous and alluring. Doesn't she have what it takes to be a feminist icon? Yes, I'd have thought so, too. But instead this woman is denounced as a shameless hussy, an inveterate self-publicist, a disgrace as a role model, and effectively a traitor to womanhood.

And who are saying all these nasty things? Why, other women of course. Karen Danczuk has achieved a certain degree of national notoriety by tweeting selfies of herself in a variety of low-cut dresses or in a bikini top. She's very proud of her breasts. She's also very proud of her husband, the Labour MP Simon Danczuk, whose formidable piece of journalistic work exposed one of his predecessors as MP for Rochdale, Cyril Smith, as a predatory paedophile. And the fact that she's an MP's wife gave permission for newspapers to run sniffy pieces about her (while, naturally, showing her selfies in all their glory).

There can be little doubt that Karen Danczuk is a tireless attention-seeker. Twitter is home to thousands of people waving their arms in the air and shouting, hoping that someone will take notice of them. And the selfie is the flare they put up. Mrs Danczuk knew exactly what she was doing by posting a series of images featuring her impressive embonpoint. Four months ago, she had 402 followers on Twitter: today she has more than 22,000. Job done.

And now she's invited on to television programmes: yesterday it was Loose Women. "It was a pleasure and a privilege to be on your show," she tweeted afterwards. "A dream come true." We'll leave aside the fact that you must have rather limited horizons to regard an appearance on daytime TV as the stuff of dreams, but Mrs Danczuk clearly wasn't in the least discomfited that she'd been comprehensively skewered  by members of her own sex.

Loose Women includes in its line-up women of intelligence and some distinction, notably our own Janet Street-Porter, who was characteristically articulate and forthright in condemning Mrs Danczuk, saying that she set a poor example, given particular sensitivities. "You're a councillor in Rochdale," Janet reminded her. It was only two years ago that nine men were jailed for running a child sex ring in the town. "The young women of Rochdale look to you to be a role model and I think you carry a responsibility as a female politician," added Janet, who also said she felt "ashamed" of her.

Ashamed? This is where I'm confused. It's a bit rich linking her with a shocking sex scandal, and on another day I could hear Janet, or other feminist voices, saying that Karen Danczuk is a beacon for womankind: successful career woman, engaged citizen, mother, politician, wife and, what's more, a sexbomb! In the land of the self-obsessed, the one with the best selfies is Queen.