This is a story from the cover of Bella magazine a couple of weeks ago. Holly Willoughby, the bubbly, happy presenter from This Morning apparently can’t stop crying. Apparently she’s suffering some sort of terrible heartache. What is wrong with her? Has a close family member died? Is her marriage failing? I she having some sort of breakdown? What is this heartache that’s clearly tormenting her so?
The actual story was… not a story at all. There were three main points to it. The first was that she’d left her credit card in a shop; the second that she was regularly appearing on three TV shows and finding it hard (as evidenced by the first point); the third that her new show, Surprise, Surprise,had received mixed reviews.
The crying? Well, it turns out that when she presents Surprise, Surprise, a show designed to make people cry with heartrending stories of long lost family members and dead dogs, if she starts crying she finds it hard to stop.
I always knew the gossip mags were bad for this sort of thing, but I suppose I never realised they were so bad. They’ve taken a photo of Willoughby wearing no makeup while she’s out shopping, and yes, she does look a bit ropey compared to how we usually see her on TV but when compared to 99% of mothers out shopping with their children 99% of the time, she looks exactly the same. They’ve captioned it with “I can’t stop crying,” the obvious inference being that she’s having some sort of breakdown, looking awful and crying all the time. When I read the article, and realised what they were actually reporting was a load of old twaddle, I found that it made me quite angry.
Every single other mother of two, I am sure, has gone shopping and left her credit card in a shop in a moment of distraction. Even mothers of one, who don’t present a daily TV show, leave their credit cards in shops. Even men (gasp!), with no children, leave their credit cards in shops – and more besides. Remember that time David Cameron left his daughter at the pub?
The inference that Willoughby should not be working on three TV shows at the same time is, frankly, sickening. Why shouldn’t she take the work while it’s there? Why do women in the media always face this “ooh, she looks like she’s finding it hard to balance work and family life” speculation when they have children? Would they ever, in a million years, fabricate an article like this about the likes of new father Robbie Williams, or his band mate Gary Barlow, who has a few children and is never off our screens?
I’m not some massive Holly Willoughby fan; I really don’t care what she does with her time. I don’t even follow her on Twitter! I like her on This Morning, and I’m sure she’s good in the other things she presents too. This blog post has nothing to do with how I feel about her, though. It’s more to do with how I feel about the magazine.
This article, and millions others published in these magazines week after week, is telling women: you cannot have it all. You must choose between career and children. You cannot do both and succeed at either. You must wear make up at all times, or people will believe you are having a breakdown. And yet, we still buy them! Every time I go into a newsagent I am amazed at how many of these magazines are sustained by our pockets. There are so many photos of celebrities in bikinis, falling out of nightclubs, shopping with no makeup on, all with salacious, tantalising headlines designed to make us think couples have made up or split up, women are depressed about their weight gain or having some sort of breakdown. If you are just casually looking at the magazine covers whilst waiting to pay for your shopping, you never read the articles and find out that they’re actually full of conjecture and quotes from made-up friends or reproductions of Twitter comments. How many people saw the front of this magazine staring out at them the other week, and now think Holly Willoughby is a bawling wreck? I’m sure the woman herself is long past caring about that, but what sort of world do we live in, where a woman can be labelled in this way just because she dares to have children and
a career, and goes shopping without perfect hair and makeup?
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