Love Island

Dear T

The last six months really have flown by. It feels like you were only settling into the Spanish way of life five minutes ago, yet here we are, already midway through June. Looking forward to hearing what’s next in store once your feet are firmly back on the ground in this neck of the (dreary) English woods.

While you’ve been cavorting about in the sun, I’ve been losing myself in Hampstead Heath, disposing of drowned squirrels (I don’t want to talk about it), and preparing for the long awaited Summer Vacation (details TBA).

However, there’s something else I’ve been doing. Something that I’m not particularly keen on admitting. Something that I’ve been devoting myself to for an hour each weeknight (and Sundays) for the last three weeks.

I am a Love Island addict.

The first step is acceptance.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not even ashamed. I love Caroline Flack, Iain the voiceover guy, the ridiculous tasks, the unnecessary drama, and the countless couplings/uncouplings. It’s an hour a day of mind-numbing, wonderful, outrageous filth.

I’m not going to pretend that I watch it for any other reason than for pure, uncomplicated enjoyment. (I have two Whatsapp groups with two different sets of friends dedicated solely to the discussion of Love Island.) However, surprisingly, it has given me a lot to think about. I know. Who’d have thought.

As you may be aware, one of the Love Island contestants this year, 20 year old Zara Holland, is the current Miss Great Britain. Or should I say was, because her naughty antics in the villa (she had sex. Just like everyone in the villa) have cost her the crown.

The big cheeses at Miss Great Britain announced this to the entire nation (before they told Zara, which I thought was a particularly cute move). Their statement said:

We pride ourselves on promoting the positivity of pageants in modern society and this includes the promotion of a strong, positive female role model in our winners.

The feedback we have received from pageant insiders and members of the general public is such that we cannot promote Zara as a positive role model moving forward.

So there we go. The pageant, which has no qualms in judging who looks sexiest in a bikini, have washed their hands of their winner because she had sex. Is it just me, or is this totally damaging a century of progress? It’s basically implying that it’s ok to objectify women for the male gaze, but it isn’t ok for her to do what she wants with her own body.

A hundred and fifty years ago, this kind of ‘misbehaviour’ would have resulted in electroshock therapy, brain surgery, a life sentence in a mental institution.

Now, I’m not saying the consequences today are at that same horrifying level. However, Miss GB’s reaction does promote a more subtle handling of the same message: a female taking control of her own body is shameful and punishable. Zara Holland was punished and humiliated, not just by those close to her but by Great Britain. One of the saddest parts about Zara’s dismissal is that actually, it was completely apparent that the Miss GB crown was Zara’s whole world. It’s more or less all she talked about. It was her identity.

Well, not anymore.

And why? Because she’s not a ‘strong, positive role model.’

A positive role model wouldn’t have sex because she knows better than to deviate from cultural expectation. A woman who doesn’t just have agency, but uses it for her own wants and desires is not a positive role model. If being a positive role model means living by oppressive rules to fit into some Victorian notion of femininity, then I’m glad not to be one. And I hope, now that she’s had time to process it all, Zara feels the same way.

Because of course, she is not a slag. She was not the only person in that villa to have sex. She is not the only woman in the world who has ever, and will ever have a one night stand. Why should she be showered with judgement while Alex (the man who she had sex with) gets a high five, a pat on the back, a ‘how was she, bro?’ Why did Zara’s friends in the villa shake their heads and tell her she ‘shouldn’t have done that’? Why isn’t Alex ‘slut shamed’ for doing exactly the same thing? Why are there numerous derogatory terms for a female who has sex – slag, whore, etc.- yet not a single male equivalent. (All I can come up with is ‘player’, which, for the boys in my sixth form was a tremendous compliment.) I think we all know the answer to those questions. Hint: inequality still exists.

Maybe I’m asking too much from society.

But I’m not. In fact, I can’t understand why I’m having to ask it at all.

Now I bet you didn’t think a blog entitled ‘Love Island’ would be so heavy! Looking forward to catching up soon. Enjoy Glastonbury, too!

Lots of love

Alex xoxo

ps. watch Love Island

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