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It's not Karen Danczuk who should be ashamed, but those who attack her for what she wears


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Councillor Karen Danczuk, married to Rochdale Labour MP Simon Danczuk, last week found herself embroiled in a row with the Loose Women of ITV – and it’s all down to her selfies.

The show’s presenters, including Janet Street-Porter and pop star Jamelia, laid into Councillor Danczuk over her penchant for posting selfies (sometimes, God forbid, showing cleavage) on Twitter, condemning her as a bad role model for young women and, in a somewhat bizarre argument, implying that this was in some roundabout way to be associated with the Rochdale sex grooming scandal of over two years ago.

Street-Porter said she felt ‘ashamed’ by Danczuk’s belief that she could be a role model to young girls in Rochdale, because apparently ‘getting your assets out on a Friday night and posting a picture’ completely disqualifies you from such a position, while said she was ‘concerned’ by the clothes Danczuk wears in her selfies – a touch hypocritical given that, as a pop singer, Jamelia herself has been photographed in countless revealing outfits in the past.

I have to say, what worries me far more than what Danczuk chooses to wear, or not to wear, in her personal photographs are the attitudes conveyed by these women to a sizeable daytime TV audience. By affiliating Danczuk’s choice of clothing with her values and even her worth as a woman, the presenters portrayed an astonishingly misogynistic standpoint on the whole matter; the basic message was that, if a woman wears a low-cut top, she instantly devalues herself and leaves herself open to being seen as a primarily sexual object.

Danczuk is happily married with two children, and runs her own business alongside being a local councillor; so, how dare a woman of such credibility be in possession of a pair of generous breasts?! And, what’s worse, have the effrontery to wear a blouse that finishes anything more than an inch below her collarbone, exposing such immoral mammary glands as these! Enough, say the Loose Women, and let us return to the era of buttoned-up blouses and ankle-covering skirts – it’s for our own good, ladies, lest we find ourselves dismissed as buxom hussies by the patriarchy.

In 2014, we already face a huge problem with ‘Lad Culture’ and the objectification of women, and an even bigger one when it comes to rape and society’s inherent victim-blaming; statistics show that over 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales, and over 400,000 women sexually assaulted, each year. Despite messages imploring women that rape is never their fault, and encouraging them to report their attackers, there are countless stories told by victims that share an unrelenting theme – in spite of it all, they still feel that rape is somehow their fault, that people will think they were ‘asking for it.’

There is a persisting attitude in our supposedly advanced society that, if a woman wears a revealing outfit or gets a bit merry during a night on the town, she is putting herself at risk of rape. This was evident even in the NHS’s anti-drinking campaign between 2005-2007, which is still on display in some surgeries and clinics. Its message was that ‘One in three reported rapes happens when the victim has been drinking’ – instantly, the fault is with the victim.

Just last year, Joanna Lumley advised that girls ‘don’t look like trash, don’t get drunk, don’t be sick down your front, don’t break your heels and stagger about in the wrong clothes…don’t be sick in the gutter at midnight in a silly dress with no money to get a taxi home because somebody will take advantage of you – either rape you, or they’ll knock you on the head or they’ll rob you.’ Once again, the victim is to some extent to blame, this time for their choice of clothes. Regardless of your individual fashion sense, women should be free to wear what they please, without fear of unwanted sexual advances; the problem does not lie with a woman’s choice of outfit, but with the society that does little to change such attitudes.

By perpetuating the idea that Danczuk, or any woman, should be ashamed of the way they dress or seen as less worthy of respect because of it, the presenters of Loose Women, albeit unwittingly, lend support to the idea that a woman’s worth is dictated first and foremost by her appearance. It is a pity that, similar to a gaggle of pubescent boys, these presenters can’t see past Danczuk’s chest; surely they – who, like Danczuk, undoubtedly aspire to be positive role models for young women – could use such a powerful platform as Loose Women to better effect? Why not seize the opportunity to have strong female voices raising awareness of women’s issues and actively encouraging change, rather than heaping shame on their fellow woman for her choice, or lack, of shirt?

Image: Karen Danczuk via Twitter

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