Another day, another bit of thinly veiled prejudice against women like me.
So I was reading Company, who got major plus-points from me for putting Marina Diamandis on the cover, but losing points by pairing her with the vile Ellie Goulding, and I was flipping through as I usually do to pick out the best bits to read first and the boring bits (anything about home decorating or cooking, or reviews) to read later. Two things jumped out at me. Firstly, the self-congratulatory opening editorial about Company's campaign 'Say No To Sunbeds'. Secondly, the choice by the fashion team to put 'white legs' in the negative end of their 'Cool-o-metre'.
I laughed, I growled, I was totally bowled over by the hypocrisy. I sent an angry email to the magazine's general mailing address and got a reply, from the Editor herself. Here is the exchange:
From RedHead: Though I congratulate you some more on your breakthrough 'Say No To Sunbeds' campaign, I do have to laugh at the glaring hypocrisy in you then placing 'white legs' as going down on your 'Cool-O-Metre', telling us all not to be seen dead with untanned pins. Ugh. I thought Nicola Roberts was involved with your campaign, and she seems perfectly happy to trot around town with untanned legs, sunbedded or otherwise. I applaud your efforts to stop young girls using sunbeds, but I think you undo all that good work by putting the idea out that untanned legs are unacceptable. So nice try, but I'll just be slapping on suncream and embracing my natural shade. At least it won't stain my bedsheets.
From Victoria White, Company's Editor: Thanks for your email. We don't ever claim that saying no to sunbeds means you have to be pale. We are simply saying you shouldn't use sunbeds as they increase your risk of cancer. We happily advocate fake tan if you so desire. And in other months we may well think brown legs are uncool - but for this month when the sun is just beginning to shine I think the point the fashion team are making is how hideous it is to get your legs out for the first time.
From RedHead: Thanks for taking the time to reply - not many would! I understand the point the fashion team were making, it just came as quite a surprise considering your Editors' Letter! I do take these things to heart as I am and always have been naturally pale and do feel less attractive, especially in the summer, as a result, but don't want to compromise what I was born with to fit in any more (that should be reserved for your teens only! and excruciating times those were) I will take solace in the fact that you replied, which was honestly touching, and the fact that this and last months' cover girls (all of whom are incredible and it's great to see the young stars getting the attention they deserve) are pale and definitely interesting!
From Victoria: Am really thrilled you like the mag and I honestly do welcome all feedback. And you should never feel bad about being pale lots of the worlds top models are pale skinned.
So, for about half an hour I felt mildly placated, plus impressed, considering that's the first time an editor has actually responded to a letter I wrote (and I've written a lot).
But the more I considered it, the more pissed off I got.
I'm reading the editorial again now, and in it, the editor makes the naive statement, in reference to the fact that the Say No To Sunbeds campaign is aimed at banning sunbed use for under-18s, that she is aware that 'our readers aren't that young'. I'm sorry, what? I was reading More when I was 14. And I was a late bloomer. The other girls my age were probably using epilators, carrying condoms in their purses and had a bigger collection of lipsticks than their mums did. Newsflash Company, girls are growing up faster nowadays.
And they're reading soul-crushing, stereotype-enforcing material that should be reserved for 25-year-olds with strong wills who are confident enough in themselves not to be influenced by said stereotype-enforcing material.
The obvious thing to do would be to blame fashion; high end, catwalk fashion for putting perma-tanned models all over their catwalks. But they aren't. Unlike budget clogs (and Company got the price of a pair of clogs they put in their fashion pages wrong; another pet peeve), the trend for an alternative type of beauty has not yet filtered down, and women and girls are still under the impression that if you aren't bronzed, waxed and thin, you're ugly. And men, at the same time, appear to be largely conditioned into the mindset that a tanned woman is an attractive woman. While in the past the mark of good breeding and class was the pale skin of the non-labouring classes, nowadays if you're tanned, you can afford to go on holiday to exotic locations, you can afford to go to the tanning booth, and you are brave enough to show off your identically tanned body among legions of others. While if you're a modern pale girl, refusing to conform to the stereotype and as a result forced to trekk miles around the beauty counters for pale foundation, you are malnourished, you are unhealthy, and next to the plethora of tanned catalogue models and tanned bikini campaigns, you are undesirable. You must change.
So the choice is yours, ladies. You can conform, you can bow to peer pressure. You can, like Kelly Osbourne, gorgeous, unique and pale Kelly Osbourne, sell out to a tanning producer and have this heavily photoshopped and heavily criticised photograph taken for a campaign. Or you can, like Nicola Roberts,, Florence Welch and all their alternative ilk, put your stamp on the market in all your natural, pale glory.
Just don't expect to be pin-ups for the modern neanderthal man, or go-to models for the modern, neaderthal photoshoot casting.