Harriet Walker: A strong woman should be able to keep her clothes on

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

And 2012 is supposed to be the year that we all come to terms with feminism: with the fact that we still need it and that it's nothing for either men or women to be scared of.

So how did we kick things off? With a naked lady, of course. Actor Lara Pulver was the subject of numerous complaints after she appeared naked and carefully draped before the watershed as Irene Adler in the New Year's Day episode of BBC drama series Sherlock. Since the brouhaha over her bralessness, she said this week in an interview that she felt the stunt was "empowering".

Call me old-fashioned, but it strikes me that any instance of a woman using her body to get what she wants – whether fictionally or not – is proof enough that we still need feminism. Sherlock, after all, doesn't need to get his kit off to make us take him seriously. He just does that infuriating thing where he works out what colour pants you're wearing from the way you rest your chin on your hand.

Women have laboured too long under the illusion that being overtly sexual, not to mention angry about sex, is a form of empowerment. Being naked in front of an adversary isn't empowering; having sex with someone you despise doesn't give you the upper hand. And who propagates this myth? Male writers. From Steven Moffat's Irene Adler to Martin Amis's Nicola Six, retrograde, two-dimensional women who play their sexuality for power end up losing out.

Don't worry, though, there are plenty of other "strong women" proposed as role models for us this year. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo features Stieg Larsson's tough-as-old-Doc Martens private investigator Lisbeth Salander, hailed as a woman who fights back, who doesn't take any nonsense and who gets what she wants. But Salander is, in fact, a deeply troubled victim of violent rape, whose monomania for finding and punishing men who kill women verges on a revenge malady as heartily theatrical as any such Jacobean obsession. This is not a role model, so much as a cartoon character – and one who needs some counselling at that.

Elsewhere in the new year round-up is Mallory Kane, an undercover agent gone rogue in new film Haywire, touted as the female answer to Jason Bourne. "You shouldn't think of her as a woman," says the trailer. "That would be a mistake." What should we think of her as then? A fembot? Just another cipher, dreamed up by men and by women who have lost any sense of what a "strong female" is because the phrase has been so distorted by the moulds heroines are consistently strong-armed into.

Our new year's resolution should be this then: to be strong women every day. Not in stockings or with guns but with our clothes on, at our desks and in our homes, jeering and throwing popcorn at the big screens that try to tell us otherwise.

Lionel scores another winner

Putting our clothes back on for a moment, footballer Lionel Messi showed up to the Ballon d'Or awards this week wearing a burgundy velvet Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo jacket, edged with a black satin revers and topped off with a matching waistcoat.

It's always strange seeing someone out of their uniform – Cristiano Ronaldo's tiny swimming trunks and clutch bag; Tony Blair's denim shirt; Jeremy Paxman on the Tube in a pair of jeans. It shakes our foundations to see demigods looking like normal people who go shopping on their own, and shouldn't be allowed to.

That's why Messi's raffish concoction is far from an own goal. Your average Brit might steer clear of sensual textures, but outfitslike these serve to reinforce how impressed we all are, as blokes on the continent know only too well. I wouldn't normally advocate velvet on a school night, but in this instance, it would be churlish not to.

React Now

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

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java,Artificial Intelligence)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Front-Of...

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ashya King in hospital with his mother  

Ashya King: Breakdown in relations led to this PR fiasco

Paul Peachey
Jim Murphy, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development holds a carton of eggs during a speech to Better Together supporters  

When the course of history is on the line, democracy is a raw, vicious and filthy business

Matthew Norman
Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York