Watching I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! this week, I found myself wondering if I’d been transported back in time.
When the line-up of celebrities was released, full of young, hot stars, it seemed this series would be nothing more than a flirt-fest. Instead, the domineering and prehistoric behaviour of some of the older, male camp members has stolen the limelight.
Things started to go awry when we voted for Tony Hadley and Chris Eubank to be camp leaders. Tony’s first task was to rank his fellow campmates on laziness, and he unashamedly put all the women at the bottom without a single man to separate them. Tony and Chris then took to their new authority with as much subtlety as Genghis Khan. Chris even took the initiative by trying to introduce his own law, unprompted by the show, whereby anyone who loses a task would be forced to clean the toilet.
Lady Colin Campbell has been receiving the brunt of their aggression. After ranking the 66-year-old as the ‘most lazy’ of all the lazy, lazy girls, Chris tried to explain that the reasoning behind the choice was ‘chivalry’. Obviously the term ‘chivalry’ panders to outdated notions of women being incapable, fragile creatures who need to be cared for, but if you’ve watched two minutes of Lady C, you’ll know she’s about as fragile as a freight train. It’s just a nonsensical conclusion that the pair were being polite and heroic by lumping her at the bottom.
Lady C, who’d been doing most of the cooking up until then – albeit not very well – was quite rightly insulted by the two men who she claims are truly the laziest of all campmates. This is a thoroughly proven notion, as Chris and Tony used their status as camp leaders to refrain from doing anything at all. Chris even refused to look at a date on a calendar for Yvette Fielding, after she asked him to check what day of the week it was, claiming he wasn’t meant to do anything she asked him to. Chris made up for it though, with a charming ‘backhanded morning compliment’ to Yvette. He introduced his flattery by saying: “I know you won’t be expecting this…” Translation: ‘You won’t be expecting me to say how lovely you look because either you don’t actually look nice or you must have low self-esteem.’ It was a vile example of how Chris clearly believes these women are one-dimensional imbeciles whose main concern at 8am in the jungle is whether they’re looking nice.
But it’s not just Tony and Chris who seem to be treating the women like second-class citizens. When Lady C pointed out to Duncan Bannatyne that the water they’d boiled for only three minutes wouldn’t be properly sterilised, Duncan leered over her, commanding she step aside before making sarcastic comments about how she ‘doesn’t seem to understand’. This is the same ‘non-lazy’ Mr Bannatyne who asked second-most-lazy Yvette to put his blister plaster on his foot for him, because he presumably couldn’t do such an arduous and menial task himself.
Lady C backed down over the water, claiming she ‘didn’t want to argue with them and they then cast [her] in the role of dominating bitch’ – which is apparently what she has to fear for trying to save them all from cholera. Tony then read that the water needed to be boiled for twenty minutes to be safe. Lady C came out with the brilliant line: “I hope you guys don’t think three minutes is 20 minutes in all departments. Otherwise your wives deserve a great deal of sympathy.” She was trying to keep things jovial, but Duncan and Tony’s faces were bitter and stony. Am I the only one who thought they owed her an apology?
Now I don’t like Lady C. The woman is clearly a self-entitled classist who, if anything, encouraged the guys to belittle her when she agreed with Chris that women were incapable of carrying logs. Moreover, I bristled with everyone else when she ranted about how many tiaras she had and declared herself ‘fodder for the oiks’ – we, the viewing public, are apparently oiks. But Lady C is the classic example of a woman who’s been repressed all her life by patriarchal forces. Made to take weeks of testosterone injections when she was younger to try and make her male, Lady C’s father eventually suggested she kill herself by rat poison rather than allowing her to be the woman she clearly was. Also the victim of an abusive marriage, Lady C’s argumentative nature seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to when a man tries to tell her what to do. Even if she can’t see it, by telling her she’s incapable of carrying logs because she’s a woman, Chris is just another man belittling her gender.
Tony came back in full force by responding to Duncan’s bad laundry skills with the suggestion that they should ‘just get two of the women to do it’, which makes sense because all they do, of course, is sit at home practicing how to wash cockroach-smeared shorts in a river, so they must be good at it. This escalated into a full debate on the sexism in camp, and Brian Friedman voiced everything I’d been screaming at the television this week. Brian countered Chris’s proclamation that ‘women can’t carry logs’, saying this was sexist and that many women, such as Vicky Pattison, were just as strong as he is. Geordie Shore fans will understand – if you had to choose to fight a grizzly bear or Vicky, you would opt for two grizzly bears with five steaks strapped to your back. Brian is starting to get frustrated with the archaic view of the women as laundry-washing, lazy, feeble little creatures when, in actuality, these are all strong women who’ve managed very difficult and challenging careers.
What does it say about these men that Keiron Dyer, a footballer who’s been involved in a sex tape, banned from driving, and once punched a teammate on the pitch – he’s donating his fee to charity by the way – is the one showing exemplary behaviour? Or that 22-year-old George Shelley is also steering clear of the blokes, spending all his time with Jorgie Porter – admiring her independence, obviously – and mother-figure Susannah Constantine? Perhaps Tony, Chris and Duncan are just behind on the whole ‘women are equal to men’ thing? It seems, to use crazy Lady C’s words, that these ‘men of a certain age, no matter how progressive and enlightened they think they are, are usually very happy to agree among themselves and back the woman to one side’.