Terence Blacker: Why do women still want to be losers?

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The Independent Online

It is difficult not to be mildly depressed while reading about this week's triumphant women, the accidental porn star Paris Hilton and the former bank employee Helen Green.

Both of them are in the money. Paris, it is true, was a millionairess the day that she was born by virtue of the fact that her family owned the Hilton hotel chain, but no one could deny that she has made the most of her situation and her talents. Skinny, blonde and with a face like an Afghan hound, she once made a private sex video with her boyfriend which - whoops! - somehow found its way on to the internet.

Naturally, she was soon an international celebrity and a star for all the family. Last month a loving mother and father whose young teenage daughter was a fan of Paris's paid the star to attend the girl's 16th birthday party - a slightly odd present, you might think, but one which brought in $100,000. Not outstandingly bright in the conventional sense - in fact, downright thick - Paris has a good eye for making money. She has her own line of shoes and of cosmetics, is paid $500,000 to attend a party and recently earned $1m simply by flying to Austria and waving to a crowd. Her turnover last year was $107m.

It is an odd kind of success story, and one which will doubtless have fame-crazed teenagers the world over setting up video cameras in their bedrooms, but the money and the reputation are real enough for her to become something a role-model for a generation. In a recent interview with GQ magazine, Paris Hilton was asked to which person she would like to be compared. "Marilyn Monroe mixed with Diana," came the reply. She could particularly relate to Diana's problems, she said, having herself been in a car which was followed by paparazzi.

Marilyn and Diana, Elton John's two candles in the wind, had one thing above all in common. They were victims. Their legends have been built upon an idea of feminine fragility and loveliness, misunderstood, despoiled and finally destroyed by a harsh, male-dominated culture. They were beautiful losers.

It is bizarre that, for all the talk of equality and girl power, a highly successful 25 year-old woman should choose to be compared not to a strong, brilliant or happy woman of the past but to the emotionally downtrodden, tragic and miserable.

The same mindset lay behind Helen Green's victory, an award from the High Court of £800,000 in compensation for having been bullied at work. It was, openly and explicitly, a triumph for victimhood. A young woman - bright, able-bodied and ambitious - was working for a bank and had ambitions to be a company secretary. She found she was being treated nastily by female colleagues; the fact that she was conducting an affair with her married boss may have exacerbated her situation. In response to these problems, she took to therapy, complaint, collapse, and then went to law.

Bullying, of course, is inexcusable, but a pay-out on this scale for a young woman who has had an unpleasant time at work hardly indicates a society that has been liberated by feminism. Cases of this kind rarely if ever seem to involve men. By confirming the helplessness of someone like Helen Green, the courts prolong and reinforce an image of women as potentially vulnerable and unable to deal on her own with stress or pressure, turning them in the Marilyns or Dianas of the office.

It's a dog's life being Elvis

The announcement by a Canadian singer that she is the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe has been greeted with scepticism - wrongly, in my view. Legends do return from beyond, sometimes choosing the most unlikely host for their restless spirits. Who can doubt, for example, that Elvis Presley has just made a startling reappearance at the Wookey Holes Caves bear museum in Somerset, reincarnated in the form of Barney, a Doberman pinscher guard dog?

Disgusted that his memory was represented by a fluffy toy that he once happened to own, Elvis/Barney went berserk and trashed the joint, ripping the stuffing out every bear in the place. It was the perfect rock'n'roll gesture from a star who brought lust and danger to pop music.

Barney is the Elvis that the man himself longed to be - black, thin, a hound dog. The King lives.

* Let them go. It will not only have been the loyal and the patriotic who will have responded to a new BBC survey with those three simple words. Out of every 100 adults, 13 would now, we are told, like to emigrate, almost double the percentage of three years ago. In the 18-to-25 age group, one in four would leave the country if they could. Their reasons are drearily predictable. They want "a better quality of life" (translation: food, drink, sun) and lower bills. In spite of the survey being conducted during the heatwave, they long for a warmer climate. Good riddance to them. There is something indolent and knackered about those people who, even when they are young, see physical comfort as their most urgent priority. They would be a drag on the country. Fortunately we have plenty of bright, ambitious immigrants to replace these sluggish, fat-bottomed lotus-eaters.

terblacker@aol.com

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