Does Strictly Come Dancing play into the myth of catfighting women?

// 15 November 2007

I’m not ashamed to admit it – I watch Strictly Come Dancing every week. So devotedly, in fact, that I also blog about it. And before you start mailing in with comments telling me that reality television is rubbish and I shouldn’t waste my time or effort, please don’t bother – I get enough of that at home. I like good-natured performing arts-based Saturday-night television; it doesn’t make me a bad person.

Amidst the whole “the best dancers are in the bottom two!” furore that the voters opted to save Kate Garraway and partner Anton du Beke, there was a train of thought on forums and blog comments that the beauty and dancing ability of Penny Lancaster and Gabby Logan was of no interest to those picking up their phones and ringing in. Of

course, this is because the voters are mostly women, who, rather than watching attractive and talented women, would instead prefer to watch Gabby’s husband Kenny thunder his way round the floor in the hope that he might bare his arms at some point.

I’m genuinely interested – are women really so threatened by talent and beauty in other females and so obsessed with the male form that they would deliberately skew the voting in Strictly? It’s always been thought that men are the visually stimulated creatures; does schoolgirl bitchiness against the gifted, the different, the outsider,

find an outlet in reality TV viewing in adulthood? Did Gabby Logan’s self-belief count against her in the end; do women not like to see confident females competing and winning?

Certainly, this is the general feel over on ITV1. I was fascinated last year to watch how Leona Lewis was presented on The X-Factor – she was pretty and highly talented, but the crucial point, which Simon Cowell stressed over and over again, is that she didn’t know it, and therefore it was fine to vote for her – she was an acceptable cipher of femininity. (Having said that, I do recognise and am equally troubled by the fact that every single contestant on The X-Factor is a cipher of some description, regardless of age, talent, or biology, and may blog about that at some point soon.)

Personally, and maybe I’m naïvely optimistic, I really don’t think the so-called KateGate is a case of women-against-women hate. The voting on Strictly has always been partly dependent on the celebrity commanding a natural fanbase, which Kate Garraway has in its millions through her job as presenter of GMTV. And if women were genuinely antipathetic to young attractive females, the gorgeous Kelly Brook and the beautiful Alesha Dixon would have been out at the first available opportunity. Even more than that, the men are all dancing with incredibly pretty and incredibly talented professional partners – why would the viewers not decide to vote out the lovely Ola Jordan or Camilla Dallerup instead?

If anyone has any thoughts on the gendered skew on reality TV voting – or is willing to admit to ringing in and their reasons for their selection – I’d be really interested to hear from you.

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