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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor