Snog, Marry, Avoid?

// 1 July 2008

BBC iPlayer - Snog Marry Avoid?.jpgIt’s like the execs at BBC3 sealed themselves in a room and tried to think of the most sexist idea for a makeover show ever. Thanks Flying Saucer for letting us know about Snog Marry Avoid, a “make under” show presented by Jenny Frost and a reality TV version of HAL. Presumably the mean comments would have sounded a little, well, meaner if not delivered by a children’s TV-esque fake AI.

During this make under, the apparently overly made-up volunteers are asked to select whether male members of the general public would, you guessed it, “snog”, “marry” or “avoid” them. Then they predictably get to watch footage of random blokes saying they’d avoid them, only to be informed that around 75-100% of men agree (I’m sure the sample size was very reliable).

Where to begin? With the reduction of women’s self worth and image to what percentage of men on the street want to get off with them? Or the fact this is yet another addition to the ranks of programme that centre on ‘fixing’ women? (And one man, but even he came with a wife to make over too, and co-incidentally they had their original look validated as an expression of individuality by the presenter).

UK readers can see the latest episode on the iPlayer.

Comments From You

Shea // Posted 1 July 2008 at 9:16 am

This is grotesque and utterly pointless except as yet another way to belittle and denigrate women who aren’t supermodels or goddesses.

From the photo posted- the bloke would be lucky to get a peck on the cheek from the blonde in question, overly made up or not. Sorry, but the male members of the general public in Britain need a reality check and fast.

Why do they even believe it to be any of their business? To link it back to the posts on street harassment, it appears too many men feel they can comment on and disparage a woman’s appearance as it is, so this sort of program is yet more fuel to that fire. It seems to represent a form of collective ownership and objectification – some men (though not exclusively) feel they have the right to trash womens’ appearances.

Flying Rodent // Posted 1 July 2008 at 9:58 am

Incidentally, I’m sure one of Chris Morriss’s shows once did a pisstake of dumbed down TV, featuring an up-coming show in which a man looks at pictures of women and “points out the ones he’d hump”.

Cue middle aged man being shown photos, droning “…No…No…Yes…No…”

They called it satire then, of course.

Qubit // Posted 1 July 2008 at 10:29 am

I find this very hard to believe, surely they access both men and women in the same way? I know I shouldn’t comment on what I haven’t seen but can I can’t believe something like this would just be about women. Do episodes switch between women and men?

Anne Onne // Posted 1 July 2008 at 11:43 am

Heh, no doubt there’s no male equivalent where women get to discuss whether they’d ‘snog marry or avoid’ average looking men. Because of course, whilst men have ‘standards’ (ie desirable women should look something like a cross between a page 3 model and hollywood actress), women should be grateful for every grain of attention flung their way!

This reminds me of when I watched a couple of episodes of Chantelle’s make-over show (yes, I really did get that bored), and when a woman was being made over (I think men got made over, too sometimes but can’t remember.) the men would give their opinion on what she looked like. Dear Lord, the women all looked lovely to begin with anyway, even in the ‘before’ picture. They might have been wearing casual clothes, or had no make up on, or glasses or something, but they were, as all women are, perfectly normal and lovely.

But the way the men reacted! It was all ‘Nah, I wouldn’t go for her!’ posturing. All about how they would ignore this perfectly genial woman at a bar, because she wasn’t good enough. Even after they were made over, you’d often get the men going ‘She looks better, now, but she’s still not attractive enough for me…’ and other posturing comments about how they usually only really go for absolute stunners. Heh, and they were on a dating show because they couldn’t get a date, but considered dating normal women beneath them, because they have to play up this playboy image of only dating ‘really attractive’ women to impress other men!

I can understand not being attracted because there’s no spark etc, but most of them weren’t even polite enough to phrase it as such. It was simply plainly put forward that these women just didn’t meet some hotness standard that men never need to live up to. I remember after one particular episode, the woman was so incensed with the rudness of the men’s comments, she chose to have the date with Chantelle rather than one of the men!

But this seems to be even worse. What is so wrong with us as a society that we feel compelled to judge women publicly based on what some random bloke on the street thinks?! Why should we care what he thinks? I couldn’t care less whether most men would find me attractive, because you know what? I’m not trying to date most men! It never occurs to society that regardless of what they think of us, we couldn’t care less for them. I mean, any man willing to judge women that shallowly is pretty much off my scale. Do I really want a partner who will spend the rest of the relationship complaining I’ve let myself go by ageing when he practically doesn’t even wash? Not on your life!

Jess McCabe // Posted 1 July 2008 at 12:00 pm

The only man in the episode I watched was married – both the man and woman were put through the make ‘under’ process, and they were the only ones not subjected to trial-by opinion of random people on the street, and the only ones given a makeover and told they were better off as they were (they were goths).

Rachael // Posted 1 July 2008 at 12:56 pm

Reminds me of that poxy show – “Average Joe” where “stunning women” had to prove their worth by chosing a partner from ordinary-looking guys and hunks. Of course – the inference was that if she picked one of the hunks that all women really are just superficial.

And no – there was no female equivalent to that show: no “Average Jane” where men had to put their superficiality to the test and go for the ordinary looking women rather than the “stunner”. Because that would insult the male ego, wouldn’t it?!

Soirore // Posted 1 July 2008 at 1:29 pm

There is a boy band on the next episode apparently so it isn’t just about women but its focus on “you’re too dolled up with cosmetics” is sexist whoever the participants are. According to the Radio Times this programme is about convincing people they are beautiful naturally and don’t need all the products and makeup and that this is really positive. Oh really? Why is it called snog, marry, avoid then? A makeover show where people were given comfortable clothes and low maintenance appearance would be great. The presenter could say things like “by spending 20 minutes each morning styling your hair you are wasting 120 hours a year that you could use to do xxx”. That would be marvellous.

Qubit // Posted 1 July 2008 at 1:44 pm

What I mean to argue is shag, marry, kill is a common game played by both genders and isn’t limited to men judging women. Obviously only having it one way round is slightly weird. While I disagree with judging people only on how attractive they are out of principal, if it is equal between both genders I don’t think it is sexist.

Cara // Posted 1 July 2008 at 2:45 pm

OH yes. Agree with all the comments so far, this is the most idiotic sexist pile of bull$hit to be on TV pretty much ever. How rude and insulting. And “snog, marry avoid” sounds like a playground game.

“Make-under”, yeah ha ha, as someone has pointed out – the message wasn’t “spend less time preening and slapping on, er, slap, you could be out there doing something interesting” – it was just that the particular type of hair and make-up they go for is not the kind that pleased men. So they replaced it with “subtle” hair and make-up that probably takes just as long. Grrrr.

SO many “makeover” programmes around though…all telling pretty average women they look crap…OK they feature a man/ couple occasionally just to show they are not sexist, ha, tokenism much? (And he is always AWFUL looking).

I was just thinking on the bus to work today, the women had all made an effort and the men…well I really didn’t have to guess where the smell of BO was coming from, euw. Metrosexual – ha, I wish, at least they would smell nice and make my journey to work pleasant! I am sick of looking at (and smelling) guys who rolled out of bed and shoved whatever clothes were to hand on! There is only one guy who bothers in my office, and yes, he’s gay.

Double standard, anyone?

And men who are average looking but think they are entitled to date a freakin supermodel, hmmm, don’t get me started, the entitled sexist pigs. I don’t think all men are like that by any means though. Some actually date normal looking woman and, what’s more, prefer them not to wear excessive make-up, fussy hair and heels, so, you know, they can get ready in less than 2 hours and get out and do things…a show that made *that* point, I could get behind, but being insulting and sexist…no thanks.

kate // Posted 1 July 2008 at 3:04 pm

It’s a trivial name, but seems like a good concept. I’ve watched it and it does seem to be m/f mixed; they even did a married couple this week, a heavily-pierced goth pair, and it was decided that they were best as they were originally…but it gave them both a giggle to see each other dressed conventionally.

I like the message that you don’t have to go out with gaffer tape covering your boobs and a thong to feel confident and happy. With *made up percentage I keep hearing about here* of girls wanting to be glamour models, it’s good to see something to balance that a little.

I less like the fact that a couple of these girls have said “i thought I could only get attention (from men) by dressing like a drag queen, but now I realise I can look like me and still get attention (from men)” as it’s confirming that gok wan thing; “See, it’s ok…men do want to sleep with you! You must be alright!”. However hateful it is to admit it though it works…for the majority of the women on these shows, and also, a little, for me. Shame.

Clare London // Posted 1 July 2008 at 7:35 pm

I can’t understand the above reactions, having just watched the show. I thought it was a wonderful, witty attempt to awaken women. These women are indoctrinated by consumerism into paraodies of real people. The programme is a timely reminder to these poor, igrnorant girls that they are people first, not made-up puppets.

I think the show is the opposite to a disaster for feminism. I think it is a serious attempt – serious – to present the possibility to young women that they can be ‘just them’ and be the more attractive for it.

I’m genuinely bafflied by this not being the consenus. I watched the programme. Did you?

I loved the character of POD, too. A less offensive, funnier, wittier and cleverer device for ‘criticism’ and suggestions for improvements that wouldn’t offend or upset, it would be hard to imagine. Whoever thought of ‘POD’ has an inspired imagination and is very clever.

I think the programme is fantastic, unreseverdly. Thank goodness someone somewhere had this idea. Long may it continue. I’d like to see millions of people go through a make-under.

I’m also dead keen on getting girls (and men) to understand how deeply unattractive flashing their bum cleavage is, and bulging midriff.

Yuk, the beauty pop culture these days is hideous. Flaunting a plastic sexuality, these girls think they’re cool and attractive. They’re just stupid and unappealing.

Go – programme! I want this to become a hit programme that goes on and on. It’s educational.

BUT a big but. The CLOTHES some of these people ended up in – dreadful. It didn’t help that the piercings couple were dressed so badly. And yes, that cap the piercings bloke wore was dreadful.

Get the gear together. The girls with dodgy legs, put them in good quality linen suits, make them look really groomed and sophisticated – then they won’t revert.

Laura // Posted 1 July 2008 at 7:50 pm

Clare, I haven’t seen the programme, but I think your differing reaction may have something to do with the fact that you seem to think it’s OK to judge women’s bodies and the way they present themselves: “deeply unattractive”, “yuk”, “stupid and unappealing”, “dodgy legs” and implied disdain for those who are ungroomed. You might be against the mainstream presentation of women and the images against which they are judged, but personally I think the judging needs to go, full stop.

Seamus MacDhai // Posted 1 July 2008 at 8:00 pm

I’m utterly bewildered that anyone who visits and/or participates with this website could approve of such a vacuous show.

It reminded me of `Your Face or Mine` from Channel Four from a few years ago, where male and female faces were rated by a studio audience.

Jimmy Carr presented and his catchphrase was “yes, we know this show is vapid and shallow – and that’s why you love it.”

I’ll never forget some of the crushed expressions of those (again, both male and female) who were deemed facially unacceptable.

These shows are like something from `Brave New World`.

George // Posted 3 July 2008 at 4:41 pm

“I’m utterly bewildered that anyone who visits and/or participates with this website could approve of such a vacuous show.”

I don’t think all feminists automatically disapprove of anything that isn’t gravely serious…! It is possible for something to be vacuous but also inoffensive – it’s just that plenty of people seem to think that this program is offensive.

Seph // Posted 3 July 2008 at 6:06 pm

I don’t like any king of “what you’re wearing is *wrong* you should dress like this to be attractive!” shows but this one seemed slightly better than others, they weren’t telling women to get plastic surgery or lose 3 stone.

I still found it annoying tho, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why any Visual Kei fan would wanna go on a ‘makeunder’ show.

Sabre // Posted 4 July 2008 at 3:48 pm

Why is it so important to look beautiful anyway?

I Haven’t seen the show but seems to me like yet another one about trying to make women beautiful (one way or another, in this case less ‘artificial’), rather than giving the message that beauty will only get you so far in life so get out there and DO something useful! Who cares if a random stranger wants to snog you? (BTW I have a feeling that ‘snog’ is being used a coverword for ‘shag’ here – am I wrong?)

Even if it applied to men as well as women this show is still ridiculously superficial. Ane one more thing; can’t you snog AND marry someone? Or do we only get to be lovers or wives, not both? Classic slut/good girl dichotomy.

Andrea Lee // Posted 9 July 2008 at 10:38 am

How can Laura interpret WHAT Claire thinks without having spoken to her or watched the programme? And Seamus, can Claire not as a free thinking individual, decide what shows she’s finds acceptable AND visit a feminist website? To say not seems to be incredibly judgemental, which is what you accuse the programme of being….Double standards anyone? Also I think the point is being misssed here. The programme is not aimed at exposed feminists who have been party to a revolution in attitudes. To my understanding, BBC3 aims at younger women. We fought for the right for women to NOT wear makeup and oversexualised clothing? They have not reaped the benefits, and so I think its an excellent idea to show them that they can be confident without being parodies of a Barbie Doll or a glamour model, which are the predominant image being given to them. And if they DO revert to their original style, they are not in any way castigated, which is refreshing. As for the judging, its difficult, but ultimately I think you have to bring young people to a programme to have the debate in the first place. I think its clever, if slightly questionable marketing.

Cassy // Posted 26 July 2008 at 7:38 pm

I am a woman and I think it is a great show. I know people can wear what they want in this free world. And to those who think it’s sexist need to know a real summary. I think it’s the opposite and actually supporting women because:

Many women nowadays are unfortunately believing that they are ugly and unattractive if they don’t get boob-implants and makeup. This shows them that they don’t need slutty clothes and makeup to be attractive, and less is more. I got alot of beauty tips and it is quite cool.

I think it’s what the 21st century needs for women, especially by what some celebs are representing us by though with all the extremes.

Most of the women participating the show are willing. However, I don’t like how the men give their comments though, but it’s usually honest atleast.

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 26 July 2008 at 11:24 pm

OO I’d not seen this post before, but I watch this programme a lot. It’s repeated late at night on BBC 3 and it’s brilliant – I love it. While I appreciate that the title may be a little off-putting for some, this is not a distinctly sexist programme. Firstly, this is not a show that concentrates exclusively on “making-under” women – there have been a number of men featured in the episodes I have watched. I’m sure the number of males shown are representative of the percentage who apply for the show, it’s just unfortunate that women do tend to gravitate more towards applying for these sort of shows than men (for a number of reasons). And those men who participate are assessed in exactly the same way as the women.

Secondly, I agree entirely with Clare London, as the premise of the programme is to show young men and women that they are naturally attractive, and do not need to artificially enhance their appearance in order to be so. I think it’s great, it’s a different take on conventional make-over programmes and I hope to watch it again in the very near future!x

Aimee // Posted 27 July 2008 at 10:31 am

“Get the gear together. The girls with dodgy legs, put them in good quality linen suits, make them look really groomed and sophisticated – then they won’t revert.”

I’m sorry, but comments like this, in my opinion, are just hypocritical. What constitutes a ‘dodgy leg’? Is it a leg which doesn’t conform to the dictatorial standard of what a (woman’s) leg should look like? Because that sounds to me like Mr. Patriarch talking. My suggestion would be this; instead of inserting a woman’s ‘dodgy leg’ into a ‘linen suit’ so she can look ‘sophisticated’, how about we leave all women’s legs, dodgy or otherwise the hell alone, because a women’s leg has the god damn autonomy over it’s own god damn legginess to look like any leg it bloody well wants to without someone telling it to cover up because it’s considered unsightly. I have to agree with the majority of the comments about this programme. That someone has the pretention to think it’s alright to judge a woman’s value based on her aesthetic appearance, via it’s appeal to MEN is ludicrous to me. If this was really about trying to show women that they’re ‘okay as they are’, it wouldn’t exist at all.

Jane // Posted 28 July 2008 at 10:33 pm

I actually liked parts of it. But it was a bit spoiled by the whole “snog, marry, avoid” thing where random blokes basically judged women they’d never met.

I like seeing the more unusual dressers and yes I understand they’re trying to show the Jordan wannabes that’s more to life than fake tan/cleavage but isn’t it just replacing one set of rules with another i.e. women should be demure and sophisticated then they’ll get more respect

Lindsay // Posted 29 July 2008 at 12:47 am

I would just like to say that I was on this programme with my friends and we were not told what this programme atually was. We were told that the working title was ‘Filthy Gorgeous’ and that it was a celebration of a style. We did not apply for the show, we were asked to do it. Before going in to film the ‘pod’ bit, we did not know what to expect or that the general public would be asked questions about us. I imagine this is the case with most of the people on this show. So please dont judge the people who are actually in it because we didnt even know what it was until we watched it on the tele! Thanks xx

Laura // Posted 29 July 2008 at 12:57 am

Lindsay, that sucks!

Aimee // Posted 29 July 2008 at 9:53 am

Lindsay, surely being lured to do something like that under what appears to be false pretenses is illegal??!

Soirore // Posted 29 July 2008 at 9:57 am

Lindsay, that’s really disgusting and confirms for me that the show is exploitative and offensive. The makers think it’s ok to judge the appearance and sexiness of other people but don’t feel the need to be honest about what they’re doing. Rather nasty really.

Qubit // Posted 29 July 2008 at 10:30 am

If people volunteered to go on the show knowing what would happen then I don’t think it is anywhere near as bad as what Lindsay suggests is happening. If you are going to be judged by the public like that I feel you should have consented to the process in full.

lindsay // Posted 29 July 2008 at 8:07 pm

no, its not illegal as you sign a consent form. we were not informed of what the show was though and when i first found out i was really annoyed and i was really worried about how it would be edited because we did alot more filiming than was shown but after watching it i was actually quite pleased. it could have been alot worse. at the end of the day, i dont find it offensive what so ever. it is showing people that you dont need to hide behind aload of makeup and fake tan to be somebody. these girls dress like this because they want people to notice them and to have a positive opinion of them but really it does the opposite. it lets them have a higher opinion of themselves and realise than they actually are pretty and they dont have to walk round with their boobs out to prove it. it is refreshing to see a program which is not telling people they need plastic surgery to be beautiful and to feel good about themselves.

Leigh // Posted 1 August 2008 at 9:57 pm

I love this show. It shows that to be pretty you don’t need heavy make-up. I myself used to were really heavy make-up (and still do sometimes) until I watched this show. The one where a girls boyfriend didn’t like the way she dressed really made me realise why my boyfriend is always making comments about what I wear. Since watching the show I have presented myself with a more ‘natural look’. I am going to continue watching and taking tips. Its hardly judging girls just giving some advice and there is not harm in that!

Amyz // Posted 8 August 2008 at 11:26 am

Is it Just me or on everyshow its exactly the same members of public who are commenting.. the sample size seems to be only 10 guys at the most!

Jacqui // Posted 15 August 2008 at 10:39 pm

It does have a lot of the same guys answering the questions, but I assume that’s because they did more than one show/makeunder in a day, so simply asked the guys “What about this one? And this one?”. But I think (I’m not sure, but I seem to remember them saying) that they asked 100 guys in total – makes it easy to work out the percentage!

As for “making under” men – how many men do you know who wear enough make up to be made under? It can’t be as many as women! Hence there being an average of 1 man to 3 women on the show. And it isn’t just men or goths who get told that they’re better the way they end up, everyone does – and Jenny Frost compliments them no matter how they look, whether it’s the madeunder state or the original state or something in-between.

It’s obvious that a lot of the comments here are from people who didn’t watch the show, or haven’t watched it enough to know what it’s actually about. They are trying to “make everyone into natural beauties” (emphasis on “natural”, returning them to how they were made), and saying that all women are naturally beautiful and that they don’t need to hide it under tonnes of slap! How can this possibly be anti-feminist? Not to mention the fact that everything they say about makeup aging you and putting people off talking to you is true.

Now time to talk about the idea of “snog” being a euphemism for “shag”. Let’s look at how the typical fake-tanned, hair-extensioned makeunder subject dresses originally. She isn’t exactly covering much – surely this attracts the “wrong” kind of attention, saying that it’s all about her body and sex. Yet so many of the men say they’d avoid her, and few say snog. After the makeunder, she is modestly clothed, generally looks younger and prettier, and men say they’d snog her or marry her. I think if a number of men are saying “marry” (bearing in mind a gross generalisation of men as being scared of commitment – especially to a girl that they haven’t met and whose picture they have just seen that day!) then they’re probably not going for “just a quickie”.

All in all, I can see no harm in this program. It’s certainly an enjoyable watch (especially some of those beauty tips – I won’t be trying any in a hurry!), and can teach young women today who are constantly exposed to Barbie-esque standards of “perfection”, TV shows which are oversexed and the pressure to conform to both of these that they are beautiful without any “fakery” and that no matter how they decide to look in the end, those who know them will say that they are beautiful (as Jenny does at the end), because it’s how they express themselves (i.e. in their looks/style, and so what they are on the inside) that counts.

Bee // Posted 3 March 2009 at 9:23 pm

To be fair, when anyone dresses up they do it as a mating tactic, or at the very least to win friends and influence people, so railing against it because it involves male judgement is missing the point. I think its great that there’s a show telling girls that actually this mania for cosmetically and sometimes surgically destroying themselves in the name of some ridiculous porn star version of beauty is pointless since its a fantasy created by people marketing products, not the real men on the street they foolishly assume they’re attracting. And, since these market forces don’t influence men in the same way, and men are notably less likely to get boob implants or fake tan themselves to death, there aren’t really male equivalent contestants these lessons would apply to. Personally i love the show, i think its epic trash television and actually, its a kick in the face to the pussycat dolls et al, which, as a feminist, pleases me greatly. and if the message is ‘men want to sleep with you so it must be alright’…well… since when did feminism involve not wanting to have men want to sleep with you? have we gone all 70s lesbian seperatist now?

Lara // Posted 4 March 2009 at 1:56 pm

Has anyone seen ‘Would like to meet?’ It’s not on anymore (not on terrestial anyway) and it took men or women who were finding it hard to meet someone. They filmed them on a date at start and end. The improvements were in what to say/what not to say, body language tips from ‘sexpert’ Tracey Cox (god she’s sexy…) and dress sense, but overall confidence and helping them feel more self-worth. It was a great programme, so much better than this shit. xxx

Kuja // Posted 4 March 2009 at 8:45 pm

@ Bee:

“All 70s lesbian separatist”? That’s hardly fair. The point is that it’s offensive to think that attracting men is ALL women are about. Or that if a man sleeps with you, that’s it! Life fulfilled. I like to think that there’s a lot more purpose to my life than that.

Anne Onne // Posted 4 March 2009 at 10:05 pm

Er…feminism really has nothing to do with wanting you to have men sleep with you. Some feminists are into men, some aren’t. Feminism really isn’t about attracting a sex partner, it’s about equality.

And in the context of the idea that women MUST spend all their time, money, effort and brainpower on appealing to as many men as possible to be proved worthy, it’s specifically non-feminist to imply that women’s lives should focus primarily on attracting men.

Men don’t have to live their lives working to appeal to every woman in order to feel validated.

Yes, I remember that programme, Lara! That’s the thing, makeover/dating programmes can actually be decent (well, as decent as you can get on mainstream TV). You can have a programme encouraging people to be more confident, learn to talk to new people, try new things, pick up hobbies, start a new form of excersise, make new friends, and indulge themselves a bit, i.e. you can treat them like a person not a problem, and acknowledge that they can have a more fulfilling life without hinging it all on appearance, fuckability or falling into a narrow category.

I don’t like the focus of the programme being about appealing to a random selection of men, and having women’s lifesyles or looks rated by men. Treating women’s bodies as public property to be judged, controlled and tailored to our whims is a very real problem,and whilst this programme may be partly well intentioned (though definitely with a mean streak) it doesn’t mitigate this problematic aspect. In the end it sets up women to be judged as if all women need to do is to appeal visually to as many random men as possible. I’m no fan of huge amounts of make-up, but I don’t see laughing at women who look different as a particularly constructive thing. Since at the end of the day, its still playing us off against each other.

Madeleine // Posted 5 March 2009 at 11:59 am

What struck me about S-M-A was that the girls in it seemed to feel the need to be ‘mad make-up minxes’ out of a basic sense of insecurity. And after the make-under they got the confidence to go without so much slap and seemed to feel much better about themselves. So that was good. The thing which annoyed me was the constant references to ‘the public’ judging them – ‘the public’ was ALWAYS some fella who looked in dire need of a major image overhaul himself!

Jazmin // Posted 5 March 2009 at 1:32 pm

I think you’re all overreacting a little.

Yes, the members of the public bit is a tad dodgey, but it’s shock tactics – some of the people that go on there truly look appalling and need to be told that they do not look good. With the exception of the italian girl on it (had no idea where she was coming from), a lot of those on the show seem to act out – the best defense being an offense.

At the end of the day, the girls and boys are being shown their natural beauty, which can only be a good thing.

As for “Get the gear together. The girls with dodgy legs, put them in good quality linen suits, make them look really groomed and sophisticated – then they won’t revert.”, there’s probably a more tactful way to say it, but you are right. Not everyone suits the same look, because naturally we are all quite different, it’s the ‘fakery’ that begets the ‘Jodie-clones’.

George // Posted 5 March 2009 at 6:06 pm

@ Bee –

“since these market forces don’t influence men in the same way, and men are notably less likely to get boob implants or fake tan themselves to death, there aren’t really male equivalent contestants these lessons would apply to”

I think, as a small suggestion, that it would be more helpful to problematise this sentence (i.e. ask “Why?!”) than using it straightforwardly in your argument.

“if the message is ‘men want to sleep with you so it must be alright’…well… since when did feminism involve not wanting to have men want to sleep with you? have we gone all 70s lesbian seperatist now?”

Christ on a bike, have you been taking MRA pills?! Isn’t that a bit of a homophobic strawman argument?

@ Jazmin and others –

Although I think there are various valid arguments against using lots of cosmetic products, or the societal pressure to conform to certain dangerous body types, I don’t think recourse to “natural beauty” really works that well. What we think of as beautiful and natural is something incredibly contingent – for example, compare the ideals presented in Renaissance nudes to the Playboy models of today. Or, what a white academic bluestocking looks like compared to a champion bodybuilder compared to a Bollywood diva compared to a Suicide Girl. Or, consider lip plates, foot binding, Botox, pube waxing, nail cutting, ear piercing, face shaving, steroid usage, blah de blah de blah. Point is, what we think is right and natural and beautiful really depends upon who we are, and the singling-out of various (lower class?!) women and making them look like a paragon of (middle class?) respectability, according to someone else’s standards, is just another brand of woman-hating.

Cara // Posted 6 March 2009 at 1:12 pm

George – exactly. ‘Natural beauty’ is problematic. Not everyone *is* naturally beautiful. The point is that average or frankly unattractive men don’t feel the need to cover this with make-up, dressing in certain ways, etc. The show is still sending the message that the most important attribute of a woman is her appearance, and that she will be harshly judged by others on it.

I am not sure the new looks the women are given are less high maintenance; it takes as long to do barely noticeable make-up as it does very unsubtle make-up, in my experience. George is also right that there is an element of classism; the new looks are definitely ‘classier’, and while dressing in the ‘Jodie Marsh’ type way isn’t restricted to working class women at all, there is definitely an association between certain types of clothing and ‘chav’-ness.

And there is (relatedly) an element of ‘slut shaming’, in that the women are told (or say themselves) they get ‘the wrong kind’ of attention from men in their ‘before’ state, and the new looks always cover more.

So, the concept of ‘stop worrying about your appearance – every woman is attractive in her own way, and anyway, there are more important things in life’ is great, but I’m not sure the show is saying that.

I think it makes women feel ‘but I’m NOT naturally beautiful, I’ll wear more subtle make-up so people might think I am’ – rather than ‘hey, I like my smile/ nose/ hair/ ankles/ whatever actually, I’m not hideous, and yeah, shove unrealistic beauty standards’…

And yes. Less of the homophobia, please. As a straight woman I would quite like to think some men would like to sleep with me, which is not unfeminist, and no-one has said that it is; I also hope that if they do it’s because of my personality rather than *just* physical attraction.

Anne Onne // Posted 6 March 2009 at 3:07 pm

@ George: good summary. There are definitely arguments against using lots of make up, for example we don’t know the effect of all those chemicals constantly on one’s face, the self-confidence issue of feeling like one NEEDS to have it on constantly to look human, and the time and cost aspect.

However, demonising women who are doing what society tells them to do, and giving in from the pressure of magazines and cosmetics adverts, that we don

As for what’s natural, I’ll have to disagree or clarify. None of the ones you mentioned above (foot binding, botox, pube shaving, steroids, etc) are actually remotely natural, nor were they considered as such, they are all signifiers of being a particularly desirable woman/man of a certain class, and the very reason people do many of these things is that people seem to be afraid of the natural state of the human body.

Nails are probably in a different category in that not cutting your nails seriously limits how one uses one’s hands. Not cutting one’s nails, rather than cutting them is closer to the examples of women’s lives and bodies limited by beauty.

I don’t know about how to define ‘beauty’, but natural means not modifying one’s body for the sake of appearance One can argue that how far one might wish to modify one’s body is subjective (haircut versus full plastic surgery), but the meaning of natural is not. All these signifers of beauty are considered ‘normal’, desirable and something to aspire to, but not ‘natural’. Of course,people may think one form of naturalness is OK (eg not putting on lots of make up), but feel that they should conform in other ways (putting on some make-up, wearing lots of deodorant and shaving legs). What we think of as beauty is not innate most of the time, and changes, as you pointed out, but there is a difference between that and people believing it’s natural. To me saying people believe their cosmetic regimes are actually natural implies that they have no awareness they are deviating from the ‘natural’ nature of the body. People don’t want to ‘smell’, they are aware their cosmetics are not physically essential to their body, but as a society we demonise our bodily functions in yet another way to appeal to ludicrous body standards. It’s not foot binding or corsetry, but we make a conscious effort to change people.

Of course, we’re probably just approaching the same point in a different way.

Anne Onne // Posted 6 March 2009 at 4:16 pm

Heh, on topic for this, the folks over at Shakesville have a post up for everyone to discuss ‘what part of your body do you find most difficult to manage for modern expectations of public appearances?’

Interesting reading. If we didn’t have to all work so hard to have just the right look to be socially acceptable, imagine how much easier life would be for everyone…

Bee // Posted 11 March 2009 at 4:22 pm

“I think, as a small suggestion, that it would be more helpful to problematise this sentence (i.e. ask “Why?!”) than using it straightforwardly in your argument.”

of course i wonder why, every day. but my point is, there is no male equivalent to counteract. whereas the world, if you ask me, is a better place for programmes that counteract this fascist ‘hotness’ regime on women.

As for my supposedly ‘homophobic’ comment (and i’m not going to do the ‘some of my best friends are lesbians!!11’ defence but seriously, if you knew anything about me you’d understand why i find the suggestion i am homophobic quite absurd) i’m just saying you seem to be interpreting this show through the same logic that certain older branches of feminism have, and i just thought modern feminism, given how nice an awful lot of men are these days (a lot nicer than the 70s), might be able to make space for those of us who make no apology for wanting to attract and sleep with men. That kind of attitude had a place in the 70s; i might even have held it myself; but i think it turns a lot of modern young women off feminism that they suspect they may be bullied out of healthy sexual urges towards the multitude of nice modern men as somehow ‘letting the side down’.

at the end of the day, the decisions i make about my appearance on a night out are based on wanting to attract a mate. the premise upon which many people here are arguing seems to be that this is ‘wrong’, that these women should be ‘dressing for themselves’, whatever that actually even means and if any young single person interested in meeting sex partners on the planet does it (prrft). this, to me, is not harmful, or something i should feel ashamed for, and a tv show which at no actual discernable point (despite what people here are suggesting) claims this is the only thing anyone should worry about but merely treats it as a normal aspect of a young girls life – which it is – is not a problem.

what is a problem is people like Jodie Marsh encouraging girls to have dangerous surgery to rip them open and remake them as barbie dolls at great financial cost and risk to their health.

George // Posted 11 March 2009 at 10:23 pm

@ Bee –

This sort of programming does not break the fascistic regime of hotness on women, it just moves the goal posts.

The reason why your comment struck me as homophobic is because you were using pretend ‘feminazi lesbians’ as an object in your argument – please do put me right if I’m misreading you, though. Also, I really don’t think there are very many feminists who really want to curtail other women’s sexual freedoms, and I think this sort of argument puts people’s backs up.

The problem isn’t that people dress up to attract a mate. Rather, it is that this is seen as the final and most overpowering point upon which women are judged – and that the only way a woman can have a healthy sexual relationship is by dressing herself to please all the men around her, often to her own detriment.

@ Anne Onne

I guess I’m thinking of a philosophical definition of ‘natural’ – that is, I don’t see what it could look like objectively, and the only way we can understand either normal or natural is in terms of our own standards. There is a massive range of bodily expression that comes from even non-intentionally ‘modificatory’ bodily acts, such as difference in athletic frame, and I don’t want to essentialise and dictate where the boundaries are drawn. Having said that, I do agree that some of these acts do seem to have a more drastic and technologically mediated impact on bodies – I just don’t want to draw on ideas of ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ in order to say why they might be bad (especially because that would disinclude a lot of people).

You’re right, it’s really interesting! :)

Lindsey // Posted 12 March 2009 at 9:50 am

This show has nothing to do with natural beauty, just correcting women with deviant appearance to currently accepted fashions, then usually returning them to their boyfriends so that he can approve and tell her to stay that way (why go out with her in the first place if he didn’t like her style?).

I saw an episode the other day that made-over a *male* candidate – he was clearly involved in alternative subculture, wore make-up, piercings and had spikes on his head. Unlike the females he flatly told them he didn’t like his make-over (a boring suit) and wasn’t shamed for it. Most appalling of all: THE GENERAL PUBLIC WAS NOT CONSULTED. Total double-standard, making the show doubly appalling.

Bee // Posted 12 March 2009 at 10:16 am

“….the only way a woman can have a healthy sexual relationship is by dressing herself to please all the men around her, often to her own detriment.”

Exactly, and its to her detriment if she’s spending money she doesn’t have amid a credit crunch on extensions (like the girl the other week who spend £2000 a month on her appearance) or on dangerous operations. Whereas I don’t really feel its to her detriment to put on a nice pair of jeans and a cute hat, which is the alternative being offered.

I think where we have crossed wires here is that you believe this is claiming to be the be-all-and-end-all of a womans life, whereas as a liberated woman myself, I can watch the show, feel pretty good about the fact that this relentless march of the plastic brigade and all the adverts that keep popping up on the internet all over at the moment telling me to ‘make myself amazing’ hasn’t actually had any effect on the men i share my universe with, and then get on with the multitude of other things that concern me during my day.

It just seems to me that if a woman wants to do well at her job or at evening classes, its all well and good, but if she wants to know how to look nice to attract a mate, its obviously the be-all-and-end-all of all she cares about, she has her priorities all wrong, and she should presumably be going out dressed in a bin bag.

My ex boyfriend spent as much time as me worrying about his appearance and whether women found him attractive or not but no one suggested it was to the detriment of his integrity or made him or any of the millions of other men who want to look good for women a puppet of matriarchy. Its just normal and healthy to want to attract sexual partners.

The only thing that isn’t normal and healthy is dangerous surgery and blowing your student loan on orange tan to do so.

Kez // Posted 12 March 2009 at 11:07 am

I don’t know – I haven’t seen the programme, but I think I kind of agree with Bee in principle (though the 70s lesbian separatist comment was a bit unnecessary!)

Plenty of women (and men) ARE interested in their appearance, and DO want to look attractive. This is not a bad thing in itself, unless (as is indeed a danger for many) that becomes the ONLY thing you regard as important about yourself. As long as it is taken in context – that appearance isn’t everything, that many other things are equally/more important – then I don’t see any harm in a programme which advises on appearance.

Anyway, it can’t be as bad as the awful 10 Years Younger, which demolishes any self-esteem its participants may have had left (by getting members of the public to tell them they look old… obviously a fate worse than death), then tells them the only way to rebuild it is via plastic surgery.

George // Posted 12 March 2009 at 6:17 pm

@ Bee

I don’t think I’ve got a problem with people dressing any which way they want, from miniskirts to boiler suits – for whatever reason they want. It’s just that this program is about blaming some women for ‘getting it wrong’, or as Lindsey says, for *deviating* from middle class acceptability, and asking men to comment on them as a sexual object. Which I think is pretty degrading and sexist, can be seen as massively classist, and also emphasises the role of appearance as women’s only worth.

However, I also want to remove this argument and notions of “normal” and “deviant” from the argument surrounding invasive surgery or the consumerist beauty industry – otherwise it all gets confused.

@ Lindsey –

Urgh, awful – do we need any more evidence that we don’t evaluate men with the same superficial standards?!

Bee // Posted 13 March 2009 at 9:51 am

Lindsey – the general public was also not consulted for all the goth women that go on at the end. the last candidate never gets consulted because they’re there to illustrate that some forms of technically ‘unnatural’ beauty are subversive and done for positive reasons. i watch the show every week, and i suggest a couple of viewings to understand what its about. :)

anyway, thats the thing with tv. it degrades people. i don’t think we should be upset at the show degrading women. maybe those people feel degraded on an individual basis. but thats not the same thing.

its not as if, would this programme not exist, men would completely reserve judgement on all women and wait until they knew their personalities really well to decide if they fancied them. people operate on a level of surface judgement and when you go out on the town dressed to the nines, you are inviting a quick surface judgement deliberately anyway, so its no skin off these girls noses. i look at men with the same surface judgement too. this show just makes a bit more explicit the fact that such a process underlies most of our social transactions. but, given that its message to clearly quite insecure girls is that you are capable of facing the world without a protective layer of warpaint, i think thats a good thing.

ultimately i think you expect too much from television – you seem to be expecting it to deliver beyond what any silly, frivolous, vacuous tv show can offer. if you take it for what it is, a silly once a week half hour bulletin about how to look sexy (and it doesnt really claim to be anything more than that, unlike, say, gok wan) then maybe you can appreciate that its quiet little message to the nation of women is positive.

it doesnt say anything to me about a man’s right to judge me on appearances- although since i’d judge him the same that doesn’t bother me a whole lot if it does. but its the highlight of my monday, and i know a number of other girls who also find it strikingly edifying for bbc three froth, so my conclusion is, long may it continue.

Chris Lartey // Posted 14 March 2009 at 1:10 am

Mmm.. well where to begin. Maybe I am missing something but, honestly if this programme is such a bone of contention then isnt society losing out?

It is an entertainment show, albeit under the pretence of making under people.

To me, a thirty someting black male, to me it does one thing, stopping perpetuating the myth that you have to wear next to nothing to be attractive; that being attractive is the only thing worth thinking about.

Now I am going to get slated for this but, if women don’t change the perception of what beauty is and how improtant it is on the larger scale of the world then you only heve yourselves to blame. Men are pre-conditioned as well, we all just have to make our own choices.

This done, then programs like this would not be needed, I wouldnt go near a girl with too much “fakery” and the show DOES highlight the fact that while most men would not say no to looking at a woman in skimpy clothing, it might not be and usualy is not what they would want in a prtner / friend / equal /whatever.

Anne Onne // Posted 14 March 2009 at 12:07 pm

if women don’t change the perception of what beauty is and how improtant it is on the larger scale of the world then you only heve yourselves to blame.

Because it’s 50% of the population’s job (in addition to raising children, unpaid or poorly paid housework etc) to singlehandedly change beauty standards that men have as much, if not much more, of a hand in than women?

the show DOES highlight the fact that while most men would not say no to looking at a woman in skimpy clothing, it might not be and usualy is not what they would want in a prtner / friend / equal /whatever. You’ve come to the root of it, right here. Men are brought up to want to have their cake and eat it. To want skimpily-dressed, highly made up (and photoshopped, can’t forget that) women in the media, in their newspapers, everywhere around them. Yet, it’s somehow unacceptable for the real women in their lives to emulate the examples that men themselves say they want.

Patriarchy’s hypocracy in action. Women should be attractive, but not like the artificial. Maybe if certain types of men don’t want women to think they need to spend hours on their appearance and look like a glamour model, they should stop all activities which are paying for, or otherwise supporting the idea that physically perfect sex objects are what a woman should be. So, no lad’s mags (because the pictures in there are photoshopped, and of highly made-up women with tons of cosmetic work done on them), no frequenting strip clubs to ogle more enhanced, skimpily dressed, women for sleazy entertainment, and actively campaigning against photoshopping or the exploitative cosmetics/cosmetic surgery industry, because they make women feel that they are always inadequate unless they change everything about themselves.

Otherwise, men are just fuelling the very thing they say they despise. If they don’t support women who decide to go natural and reject pressures (and believe me, many people are very quick to tell you how ugly you are if you’re not plastered with make-up or revealing most of your body!), then what do they expect but women trying to fit the category that all the media tells them is what men want. If men don’t want this, why the hell do they pay billions a year to perpetuate this myth? I’m sick of the idea that women alone perpetuate the beauty myth by buying creams, as if men don’t purchase anything with photoshopped or very made-up, or cosmetically altered women on it, and as if it’s all out fault that the male owned and mostly male staffed (at important positions) media, which aims most of its attention at male consumers is making women feel bad when society wants us to believe that women should only care about what men think. And even the men in this programme don’t disagree. Oh, they want to move the goalposts, but they don’t want women to think that maybe male approval isn’t the be-all and end-all. Because that would be radical. Or lesbian. Or feminist or something.

This here bad/slutty/sexy women vs. good/virtuous/not-too-made-up women dichotomy is not acceptable. It’s unrealistic for society in general (and many men) to perpetuate a myth that only a highly made-up, cosmetic-surgery, photoshopped, sexualised, time-intensive appearance counts as being beautiful, and then lambast women for trying to achieve that standard. This is the only thing these women are told matters.

The first thing I learned is that nobody makes truly irrational decisions, but that they make ones rational to their environment. To women who believe beauty is all that counts, then look at women’s magazines and lad’s mags, or how women get treated if they don’t wear make-up or try to be sexy, it is perfectly rational to try to look like the millions of photos of such women you see, which everyone tells you are sexy.

That’s why this programme is problematic: it reinforces the idea that women should fixate on men’s approval. Men don’t get judged and improved by women on it, and society treats men’s and women’s beauty differently. Like and watch whatever programmes you want, but that doesn’t make a programme where women’s appearances are rated by men, and then changed to suit some arbitrary standard feminist. It’s not a progressive, positive programme. It could have been, but it’s not.

And damn right I expect something more than complete dreck from TV programmes. When did TV become immune from criticism, and when was it decided that programmes by definition must be full of backwards messages and hypocritical rubbish by definition of being entertainment? Something being ‘entertainment’ is not an excuse for the content being problematic. Admittedly, a lot of television is, but that’s hardly inherent to entertainment or the medium of television.

Bee // Posted 14 March 2009 at 12:51 pm

I’m stepping out of this discussion before i have to start reposting what i’ve said because i can tell i’m going into ‘banging my head against brick wall’ phase.

i’m not saying tv is ever immune from criticism but i think reacting to this in particular, we have the wrong target. maybe you feel it falls short of its aims, to be honest i don’t. i think its aim is simplistic, but when every time i go on the internet i see an advert for dangerous fake enhancements at least twice i think its a reasonable enough aim for a program, especially in the credit crunch, to simply want to tell girls they look nice as is, even get them to stop spending four hours getting ready to go out, thus giving them time to think about the other things in life.

as a final point, i’d like to establish that there is a difference between a lesbian and a 70s lesbian seperatist, for a start a lesbian actually loves women whereas the latter, from my reading on the subject (article in the nice and suitably lefty guardian acccctually) were motivated by a hatred for men, and women who wanted to sleep with men. i’m sorry if me wanting to know what men like to look at is a problem for you, and makes me not a proper feminist or whatever, and if its not a suitably pro-woman! motivation for dressing, but i absolutely love this programme.

and actually, dick, alongside my student life, my dissertation, my friends and family, all the books i want to read, the language i am attempting to learn and what i’m going to have for dinner tonight, is a concern of mine, for which i refuse to give up my feminist badge or apologise for. i live in the real world, where both men and women dress to impress and never feel bad about it. i just want to keep those women safely off the operating table and persuade them to stop spending all their money on fake hair and nails so long it hinders them even being able to hold a pen. that, for me, is going too far.

whereas for you, wanting to look nice at all seems to be going too far. this is where we differ. fine.

Matty // Posted 18 March 2009 at 5:53 pm

I totally agree with Clare London who says that this show, minus all the political correctness that leads to this debate we’re having, helps to show girls and people in general that dressing naturally and keeping to your own aesthetic strengths can really only reap benefits to yourself, minus what anyone else thinks anyway. A good show, a miles away from previous cosmetics / makeover based shows which I have never ever bothered to watch. People who comment that this show is somehow damaging to women’s reputations need to either watch the show or get out of the cycle of considering anything that ever comes near the subject of women and cosmetics to be immediately detrimental to their reputations. This is a well made show with a good implementation of POD’s character to aid the guest with advice and criticism on how they can feel more confident and also infact, genuinely look better. I cannot see even a trace of the admittedly very sexist makeover shows of the past. This show is a fine cut above the rest and for once is very well made and shows women they can look good, without makeup. Every single woman who has been ‘madeunder’ on this show looks fantastic compared to their makeup application and whatnot before it happened, regardless of my personal attraction to them. Add this to the fact that it is in fact cheaper for young girls, (as they do not have to purchase so many beauty products) and less time consuming, I can’t see how this cannot be beneficial for the UK as a whole in terms of erasing our ‘eurotrash’ stereotype, which although unfamiliar to some of us is shared by a fair number of people on different continents than ourselves. Far from discrimination, stereotyping and general signs of vanity, dim wittnedness and shallow programme making, this is an insightful, intelligent and good move forward for younger and older girls in the UK who should know they can look great without the need to degrade their appearance.

Rachel // Posted 30 March 2009 at 9:57 pm

I can see no problem with this show. most of the girls on this programme are vapid and obsessed by appearance, often claiming that they dress up the way that they do to attract men. therefore, the “snog marry avoid ” concept seems perfectly sensible. it shows those that are obsessed with “fakery” that they dont need to flash flesh to be found attractive, and encourages all of us natural lovelies, that we are all attractive and beautiful. It isn’t exactly misogynistic is it? it is made for women, to show them that having a little bit of dignity, is the way forward. Anyway… this is BBC3… did you really expect full on feminism?

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