The Vagenda

Made In Chelsea – A Feminist’s Defence

I bloody love Made In Chelsea. I love it so much that I gone done a book. This happy happening came about because lots of other people love the show too, and my ‘light hearted online catch ups’ were spreading about the internet faster than face herpes spreads across an upper lip. However, when I tell people what I write about, not all of them respond with “you’re AMAZING! Here, have this chocolate Hob Nob!” Quite a few of them make a face and tell me they “don’t really watch telly”. To which I reply “me neither – I used to watch everything on my laptop but then I moved in with my boyfriend who’s got a flatscreen, which is brilliant.” And then sometimes they start asking me whether I find the show “problematic from a feminist perspective” and I say “no, not really, and if you haven’t got any chocolate Hob Nobs I’ll eat Custard Creams if you’ve got something I can dunk them in.” Anyway, here is my feminist defence of Made In Chelsea. 
Fake tan, false eyelashes and feminism can all co exist happily
The Chelsea set are groomed. Millie is so good at false eyelashes that she’s made it into a business venture. Every cast member has a tan so golden and glorious that you wonder if SW3 is covered in a Centerparcs dome made out of a giant Kelvin filter. Everyone seems to spend more time getting their hair cut than most people spend on the toilet. But being dedicated to maintaining a certain aesthetic doesn’t get in the way of pursuing your career, or being a good friend, or eating lobster, or going fishing, or making cocktails, or playing your guitar, or having your bust cast in bronze. 
I think the feminist spirit of Made In Chelsea is most evident in its celebration of the dandy. What’s good for the goose is a full, oiled, plumped, pummelled and straightened spa day for the gander. Chicks and dudes are flagrant fans of fluffy dressing gowns and scented candles. If we learn anything from the show, I hope it’s this: TREAT YO’SELF. Buying make up for fun does not make your interpretation of The Female Eunuch any less valid. Camille Paglia is not going to come over with a cross face and a trowel when she hears about your predilection for Molton Brown. You might not want to live your whole life like it’s the last days of Versaille – but there’s no harm in doing it for an hour or so on a Monday evening.
Put down other members of the sisterhood at your peril
Hey, Victoria! You might be mates with Mark Francis, but you are not chic. Want to know why? Elegant ladies don’t doorstop their peers outside swank shoe shops and make patronising remarks about their work experience. They don’t publicly threaten their rivals and their boyfriends. They don’t trouble themselves with slut shaming (Victoria tweeted that one of her castmates had “fucked half of London”, and her tone was not one of admiration.) 
This is what happens when you live to bitch. Producers don’t throw any juicy storylines your way – on average, you pop up once every other episode, have a bit of Patty and Selma-esque business with Rosie, scowl and bugger off. The producers have also signalled that you are morally problematic by dressing you in a designer frogman suit every time they do deign to allow you an appearance. Also, everyone thinks you’re a bit of a fun sponge. You wouldn’t get my last Rolo if I got near the end of the pack and then suddenly developed a fatal allergy to Rolos. I would sooner go into severe anaphylactic shock than let you near a bit of potentially pleasurable caramel chocolate fun. I’ve asked around and no-one I know would ever want to go to the pub with you. Not even my teenage sisters who don’t have ID and will tag along with anyone who can be persuaded to buy them gin. 
Own your Thelma and Louise moment
Living well is the best revenge. Apart from when someone you have been schlonging goes off with one of your mates and doesn’t tell you about it. In that case, flinging icy, pricey vodka in their face is the best revenge. 
One of the things that sucks about being a girl now is that feelings aren’t fashionable. When someone hurts you, you shrug, light a fag and say “whevs”. You might Instagram a picture of a slightly miffed looking miniature puppy in a mug. That’s all you’re allowed. Especially when you have been “engaging in relations” with the scoundrel. The further someone has been up your vagina, the smaller the amount of brain space you’re allowed to let them dominate when everything goes tits up. Being “all sad” is a bit Jeremy Kyle. 
But when Millie threw a drink in Hugo’s face, she made a stand for chicks. She said no to letting romantic partners treat our hearts like monkey meat (c. Lena Dunham). Hugo was less sensitive to Millie’s feelings than someone trying to give a deep tissue exfoliation treatment to a burns victim. A little Grey Goose to the retinas is a much more effective and elegant protest than pretending you’re completely fine now because you have a brand new, imaginary lover called Javier and he’s got an ENORMOUS dong. In the words of Laura San Giacomo in Pretty Woman, “Take care of you”. Protect your brand. If some bell end you’ve bonked goes out of their way to wreck your equilibrium, let ‘em know about it. 
Even if everyone says he’s for you…he might not be for you.
There’s lots to love about Caggie Dunlop. I don’t know anyone in the public eye who is better at collecting, and wearing denim shirts. Also (and I mean this with all the love and respect in the world), we have a similarly laissez faire approach to our partings. But Caggie really won my heart when she decided that romantic convention could go suck a big bag of dicks. When Spencer high tailed it to Heathrow in hot pursuit, she didn’t fanny about in Tie Rack, buying pashminas until the time came to pitch herself into his arms. She got on the plane and went to work. 
Even the smartest of the smart can fall victim to their sense of dramatic narrative. We want our lives to be like the movies. And in the absence of easily accessible volcanoes, animated fish or trips to outer space, we look for dramas in love. We’re not solving any conflict until the fifth act, but we’d better be getting smooched when the credits start to roll. (Hopefully in the foof.) When someone has wanted you and waited for you, fought goblins and storms and scary girlfriends with scarier dogs to be with you, there’s an awful lot of pressure to put out. It takes a brave lady to sack off someone else’s sense of entitlement. Caggie did the Right Thing, and Spencer didn’t get what he wanted. Lord knows, it was probably the first time. 
Boys who don’t like your job can go fuck themselves
To paraphrase Churchill, Funda, I question the wisdom of your heading to Dubai to grind in your pants – but I shall defend your right to do it to the death. Spencer might have liked the idea of dating a sexy nearly naked dancing lady, but when he dropped in on one of her rehearsals he reacted like a marginally less fully follicled Mr Barrett of Wimpole Street. He grudgingly said he could just about get his head around it if it “paid the bills” – as if Funda’s work was only suitable for fallen, desperate women who couldn’t get a job in Morison’s as they’d run out of tabards.
Funda’s career choice might not be for everyone, but it is her choice. She’s successful and talented – she’s not some poor creature who was found and drugged at a Victorian railway station and woke up with feathers in her hair. When Spencer offered to “take care of” her, Funda’s refusal was a triumph for women and economic independence. She is the Aphra Benn of reality telly.
- DB
P.S. You can read all of Daisy’s hilarious MiC catch-ups and find out about her book here.

5 thoughts on “Made In Chelsea – A Feminist’s Defence

  1. Really? I’m going to have to take your word for it though as I can’t even sit through the trailers. There’s one particular lad in this that as soon as I glimpse him, the red mist descends – it’s the mantan, the mouth like a ferret’s arse, the hair-fiddling. And the accent, oh my god, the accent!
    I need a lie-down now with a damp flannel on my forehead…

  2. I have no issue with Chelsea in fact fluffy robes and scented bathing are so on the menu after reading this :)

    What I have an issue with is the identification of Camille Paglia as a feminist that I or anyone else should give consideration to. She practices an extremely restrictive brand of feminism that is in denial of the politics of privilege and the need to include a communal or political approach to addressing this; she ascribes to a single outdated model of sexuality that legitimizes a certain male type of sexuality over female sexuality; but beyond that and most horrifically she practices victim blaming and subscribes to the republican party notion of real rape.

    Paglia Quote: “Feminism…does see what is for men the eroticism or fun element in rape, especially the wild, infectious delirium of gang rape”.
    Excuse me while I puke,

  3. Ahhhhh and people wonder why feminism is often branded as a white middle class movement. the whole franchise of MIC is SO yuppy, SO tory, SO smug.

    Feminism, to me, is about helping women in crappy situations due to gender roles/constructs. This does nothing about that! Yes they look great but what is it really doing in the grand scale of things? Nothing.
    Unlike AWESOME television shows such as Buffy, it doesn’t challenge anything.

  4. Didn’t you find the whole “Candy Kittens” thing a bit demeaning? You have to admit, that whole set up was pretty unnerving, I stopped watching after that point.

  5. I totally agree with the first and the last points Daisy :) Ollie Locke in particular de-bunks gender stereotypes for men and women and Funda truly stuck two fingers to patriarchy when she ignored Spencer. My problem with arguing that Made in Chelsea as feminist is that I feel that the large majority of female characters are constructed within the programme as having no employment. We only ever see them out shopping. Whilst Caggie and Millie are trying to make their hobbies into careers there is apparently no employment which are they are using to gain an income whilst they are trying to start these careers. These female figures supposed jobs falls under very specific ideas of women’s jobs: secretary, assistant, fashion blogger, gossip journalist. Even though Amber runs her own business it is notably in fashion rather than finance for example. No one is working down a mine, these are stereotypically “soft” jobs.