Amy Jenkins: Don't think pink, girls. It will only turn your brain to mush

Share
Related Topics

Kirsty Moore said she decided to join the RAF at the age of 13 while watching the Red Arrows loop the loop in the Lincolnshire sky above her home. Luckily she didn't know that the RAF didn't allow women to fly fast jets at that time – the excuse being that the G suits weren't "female friendly". And equally luckily, the kit problem had been sorted out by the time Kirsty was old enough to apply. Now, at the age of 32, Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore is the first woman to break 45 years of male monopoly and join the Red Arrows.

She has flown Tornados on combat missions in Iraq and has been an inspiring trainer at RAF Valley in Wales. Soon she will be flying "Red Three" at speeds of 400mph only six feet away from her neighbouring Arrow in the world's most skilful aerobatic team.

And – as if all that wasn't enough – she's also been named role model of the month by my favourite feminist campaign, PinkStinks. PinkStinks aims to counteract the enduring media obsession with women who are famous, thin, rich or married to famous men, by celebrating women they see as inspirational, important, groundbreaking and motivational. They also, as their name suggests, despise the culture of pinkification – that is, the world of putrid pink princesses and ponies that young girls are subjected to during childhood – at what PinkStinks calls "the pink stage".

The campaign is a timely response to evidence that body-image obsession is starting younger and younger in girls. The seeds are sown during this "pink stage" when children receive narrow and damaging messages about what it is to be a girl. The board game Monopoly is now available in a pink edition. The dog, thimble and shoe player pieces have been replaced with flip-flops, a handbag and a hairdryer. Instead of houses and hotels there are boutiques and malls and the utilities are beauty salons. It all comes packaged in a box that can double up for jewellery.

"It's all a bit of fun," say the makers of some squishy high-heeled shoes for babies (yes – that's babies who can't even walk yet) – but a report from the American Psychological Association shows how sexualisation harms girls, not just in that it makes them aspire to the wrong things, but that it actually compromises their brain function.

One study showed how anxiety about appearance does just that: girls were asked to try on a swimsuit or a sweater in a private dressing room, supposedly to give their opinion. While waiting they were asked to do a maths test. The girls wearing swimsuits did much worse than those comfortably clad in sweaters. The anxiety they felt about their bodies – the negative thoughts they were having – actively undermined their intellectual self-confidence.

There are some terrible websites. "Are you ready to become Queen of the Bimbos!?!" exclaims MissBimbo.com. "Become the hottest, coolest, most intelligent and talented bimbo the world has ever known!" MissBimbo, it turns out, is a virtual fashion game and community. You're invited to look after a Bimbo character as she "goes through life". Scarily MissBimbo boasts 1,931,773 "registered Bimbos!" They might talk of being intelligent and talented, but last time I looked, bimbo meant an empty-headed woman.

It's mind-boggling. They've taken a term of abuse and sold it back to young girls as if it were a badge of honour. And don't tell me they've reclaimed the word like some black people supposedly reclaimed "nigger". There's no "girl power" in lipsticks, handbags and mini-skirts. There's just the tedious reality that there are still far fewer women in top jobs than there should be.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission reported on the snail's pace of women's progress. At the rate we're going, it calculated, it will take 200 years for women to be equally represented in the UK Parliament – almost as long as it would take a snail to crawl the length of the Great Wall of China.

Girls need strong, independent women as role models – not bimbos. Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore is a great candidate. Her arrival as a Red Arrow has already triggered queues of girls looking for signed photos at publicity events – and that's exactly what's needed to counteract the stink of pink. Moore has said she hopes girls will hear about her appointment and think they can be part of the RAF too. "They should go for it," she says.

Moore's father taught her to aim high and go for what she wanted. He is a retired Tornado navigator and he took her to the air displays as a child. But if his daughter had looked up into the sky at the age of 13 and seen not a team of exhilarating acrobatic fighter jets but a pink princess on a pink cloud putting on pink lipstick, would she be joining the Red Arrows today?

More to this family feud than meets the eye

Angelina Jolie is reportedly healing the rift with her father, the actor Jon Voight. They haven't spoken for nine years, having fallen out over Voight's commenting to the press that Angelina had mental problems – although Jolie has also cited the fact that Voight was unfaithful to her mother as one of the reasons that the father-daughter relationship has been difficult.

Jolie has said that blood bonds don't make a family. She says that familial love is earned by time spent together – she's bringing up three adopted children alongside the three she gave birth to. I know what she means, of course, but the reference to blood immediately brings to mind the vials of blood that she and second husband Billy Bob Thornton famously wore around their necks at the height of their passion. I guess blood didn't do it, though. The marriage ended pretty much overnight – by Jolie's own admission.

It's reported that Jolie's partner, Brad Pitt, is supporting her in the reconciliation attempt – the implication being that he's provided the impetus to end the feud.

But is that really it? Andrew Morton has a book out soon about this former wild child. It reportedly alleges an affair between Jolie and her mother's boyfriend when Jolie was 16. Jolie's mother is now dead but Jolie doesn't exactly come out of all these rumours looking the dutiful daughter. And she can hardly take the moral high ground with her father if there's any suggestion she cheated on her mother too.

Even with addiction you can see the funny side

This week, Rapt, the charity that takes 12-step recovery for addiction into prisons, has launched 19 Raptures – 19 health education and self-help leaflets rewritten by the likes of Will Self, Tracey Emin and Sebastian Horsley, among others, to give their own personal – and amusing – take on the pitfalls of addiction.

Emin's leaflet, entitled A Brief Guide for Professionals (a rewrite of a leaflet for addiction counsellors), describes a catastrophic night of her own "professional drinking". There is a wonderful moment when her toe gets caught in her crocheted rug and she trips over some lamb hearts she was having earlier for supper.

Such insights into the life of our most fashionable artist. What with the crocheted rug and the offal it sounds more like the sort of evening my grandmother might have been having – although Emin did fall against the wall and crack her head open.

The next morning she wakes up to find blood smeared every where. What the hell was I doing, she thinks. Then she remembers about the offal. She was eating lamb hearts, apparently, because she'd been ill and they're meant to build up strength – not, as I'd hoped, as part of some kind of angry and sensational Brit Art installation, performed alone and in the privacy of her own bedroom.

My favourite leaflet, though, comes from Julian Keeling. His is a rewrite from his own life of a series of dry questions meant to help you establish if you are an addict:

Were you among the five top customers that your heroin seller (Massud) invited to a movie and supper to celebrate his birthday?

Have you found tablets in an envelope behind the cistern in the loo of a pub in Hammersmith and, obeying the logic that if they're worth hiding, they're worth taking, injected them?

Are you on first name terms with the guys (Sami and Raj) at the all-night pharmacy?

Can you sleep standing up with a knife in your hand?

Humour and misogyny – who can resist?

The DVD box set of Californication is out. Now that's what I call a guilty pleasure. Californication – in case you haven't seen it – is an American TV series starring David Duchovny as a sex addict novelist living in LA and suffering writer's block. Anything as witty as this show about the trials and tribulations of writing is always going to be a pleasure – to this writer, anyway. But here's the guilty bit: Duchovny is very sexy – it's just a shame there's a tinge of misogyny in his storylines. My head says no but my heart says yes.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

For once, Kerry Katona had the right idea

Dom Joly
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick