Valentine’s Day: 2014 or 1814?

by isabelrogers

This is one of those ranty feminist ones. If that’s not your bag, click away now.

I caught some of Chris Evans’ Radio 2 breakfast show on the school run. Usually it’s better for my blood pressure than Today on Radio 4. But not this morning. Anyone else feel a bit peeved listening?

Let me recap.

Chris’ guests included Andrew Lloyd Webber and Harvey Weinstein, both of whom told anecdotes that made me grateful my daughter wasn’t concentrating. Because it was men talking about women as if they were commodities. It was hideous.

Weinstein’s first ramble was about when he was in film school and spotted a ‘girl who was so hot … so hot’ he had to try and date her. His method was to offer to help her with an assignment, and – according to himself – he wrote both his essay and hers, almost identically. She got an A; he got a C. Years later, he asked his tutor about this in front of an audience of hundreds, and got the answer ‘she was REALLY hot’. The audience laughed long and loudly, apparently.

I’ll just park those implications for a moment.

Meanwhile, Andrew Lloyd Webber was diverted by recounting how he and Trevor Nunn refused to cast Catherine Zeta Jones in one of their productions because she was ‘too beautiful’ to play a shunned female character. Lloyd Webber was adamant that every man in the theatre would have been incredulous, because she was irresistible.

In jumps Weinstiein again, unable to leave a story involving Catherine Zeta Jones alone, chipping in about how he once worked with Ellen Barkin on a film, who was being ‘a diva’. He felt compelled to take her to one side and warn her that if she carried on behaving like that, he would call Catherine Zeta Jones, who had been second on their list, implying she would no doubt have snapped up Ellen’s part. Weinstein congratulated himself on putting Ellen Barkin in her place.

All the men in the studio laughed.

At this point I switched the radio off.

How is it acceptable that in 2014, on a radio show listened to by millions of people – some of whom, presumably, might be women? – two famous and influential males can crow about how their assessment of a woman’s attractiveness made a material difference to that woman’s career? I hope the woman who let Weinstein write her essay for her (if indeed she did – we only have his word on this) went on to a glittering working life in films. I wonder how much Ellen Barkin’s ‘diva’ behaviour would have been described as ‘assertive’ or ‘savvy’ if she were a male actor.

Weinstein’s attitude seems to rely heavily on the fungibility of women. Ellen or Catherine? It didn’t matter. What was important was his ability to control them.

Lloyd Webber? While acknowledging Catherine Zeta Jones’ ‘star quality’, he clearly didn’t trust his make-up artists to achieve a believable effect. Perhaps he imagined male theatre-goers might not be concentrating on her face.

Maybe Chris cross-examined them after I switched off. I suspect he didn’t. He was laughing as hard as they were.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Flowers and chocolates? I’d take chocolate every time over those two dinosaurs.

I’ll leave you with the incomparable Jacky Fleming.Image