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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas