Open thread: Are women in pop culture more reviled than men?

by Gerard McGarry

Women in Pop Culture

I’ve been having an interesting debate with @Bang2Write on Twitter about how women and men are treated in the media. It comes in the face of Katie Price walking away from I’m A Celebrity after being consistently voted for a string of disgusting tasks. The conversation started with this comment:

I’m ashamed of the public’s bullying of Katie Price. I wonder if she wld be so hated if she was a man?

To be honest, it got me thinking – how many male celebs get the same level of stick for shameful antics in the public eye? You’ve got Liam Gallagher and Jay Kay (Jamiroquai) hassling photographers, Pete Doherty generally being quite a high-profile junkie. Bang2Write goes on to cite Eddie Murphy and Steve Bing for denying paternity of their respective children, Anton Du Beke for getting off rather lightly for his racial slur.

I found myself thinking she had a point, but I think there’s an important distinction here: the most vilified females in pop culture are the ones who (arguably) have no talent to trade on. It’s the unholy trinity of Katie Price, Kerry Katona and the late, great Jade Goody.

The careers of those three in particular either live or die on the back of their tabloid coverage. Look at Katie Price, who actually went on a nationally broadcast reality TV show saying she needed a break from publicity. The same woman who, when public opinion was turning against her started a story about a miscarriage and then dropped a bombshell about a rape in her past. The relevance? Looking for a sympathy vote. You can ask whether men get off lightly, but would a man ever pull off that kind of sick stunt?

Talent versus Celebrity?

That, I think, is a great contrast with the men Bang2Write mentions above – all of the above guys are generally recognised for their creative output: writing, dancing, acting, presenting. The odd incident shouldn’t be a career destroying thing, although even Du Beke feared that his outburst would cost him TV presenting work in the future. The thing with Price, Katona and Goody in particular is that they capitalise on their private lives and then sell stuff – perfumes, calendars, personal appearances, adverts – based on their celeb status.

Positive female role models

Another comment about Peter Andre (and male celebs in general):

I’m unconvinced, he’s got the same steely look in his eye as Katie, IMHO difference is women are called out for ambition

Women are called out for their ambition? Beyonce Knowles might be one of the most powerful females in music right now, and I rarely see negative press for her. In fact, her conduct toward Taylor Swift recently has a lot of people believing she’s the next Mother Teresa. And look for a moment at Rihanna – the victim of a serious domestic violence incident, a story which she couldn’t deny or hide from. Instead of selling her story and capitalising on it, she kept a stoic silence, kept a low profile and then returned to her music career. It was all tastefully handled.

There are a ton of positive female role models out there: in music, movies and TV. They’re ambitious, successful and entertaining. Whether it’s Angelina Jolie or more close to home, Holly Willoughby, there are women who are totally admirable.

My point?

I don’t agree that women have a harder time than men in pop culture. I think a certain type of female celeb has – the type that sells their private life to stay famous. The personal dramas of Katie Price and Kerry Katona have kept them minted for years, but at the expense of their dignity. And people are tired of it – they realise now that Price manufactures most of her own drama, and they’ve turned against her.

It’s a bit like when we found out Britney Spears was tipping the papparazzi off whenever she went out and about.

Anyway, over to you lot – do you think female celebrities are more likely to get a hard time with the press and the public than males are?

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Gerard McGarry is a jet-setting, world-renowned Reality TV critic. In real life, Gerard works with web and social media strategy. His personal blog is at GerardMcGarry.com or follow him on Twitter @gerrybot