Thursday, 19 October 2017

Sanitary towel ads turned from blue to red this week – and so it appears did the Government

Bodyform is leading the way in breaking the taboo around periods by ditching the infamous blue liquid in its demonstrations for a vial of menstruation blood. This comes as part of their #bloodnormal campaign, which aims to end the confusion that millions of teenage girls experience when they start their periods.

At the centre of Bodyform's campaign is an advert which ditches the usual smiling faces of women playing volleyball and roller-skating and instead shows a menstruating woman in the shower with a trickle of blood running down her leg. It then moves on to an image of a woman floating in the pool on an inflatable sanitary towel and ends with the absorbency of the sanitary towel being demonstrated with red liquid rather than the usual blue.

Research has shown large numbers of women have dented confidence because periods are not discussed openly and sanitary towel adverts have only exacerbated this up to now, reinforcing the idea periods should be hushed up. Bodyform hopes to show that periods are normal and talking about them and showing them on TV should be too.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has demonstrated he too has wings by masterminding a subtle but distinct shift of power in the House of Commons from blue to red.

It all began last week in Prime Minister's Questions when Jeremy put forward the motion for the Universal Credit helpline to be made a freephone number after it emerged callers were having to pay 55p a minute on their mobiles for help.

Prime Minister Theresa May and work and pensions secretary David Gauke dismissed any need to scrap the charges, saying the Universal Credit helpline was a 0345 number, charged at local rate, not a premium rate number, but it looks like they have since felt the pressure to rethink. The Tories declared this week that all Department of Works and Pensions numbers would now be free, a move Jeremy can certainly take the credit for.

Then Labour secured another victory yesterday (Wednesday) when MPs voted to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit whilst major problems with the system were ironed out. Again the Prime Minister protested there was nothing wrong with the new system which sees family's benefits bundled up into one payment.

But around two dozen Tory MPs said they would support a Labour motion to pause Universal Credit after it emerged many families were facing rent arrears and even homelessness due to the six-week delay over the first payment. The Tories were whipped into abstaining on the vote which was carried 299 votes to zero.

And finally, Jeremy has set out to prove he is the one to steer the country to a successful exit from the EU. As Theresa May lurches from one Brexit blunder to another – the latest being the declaration that Brexit is in 'paralysis' as discussions over the EU Withdrawal Bill are shelved until numerous amendments are addressed – Jeremy is packing his overnight bag to jet out to meet with Michel Barnier the EU's chief negotiator in Brussels today (Thursday).

The Labour leader will clearly set out that his party is ready to take up Brexit negotiations and will do so 'in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, with the aim of achieving a strong settlement for Britain and a new relationship with Europe'. That's going to annoy Theresa.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The female voice has never been stronger since Harvey Weinstein's exposure – but the battle is not yet won

What has been remarkable over the week and a half since Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a misogynist predator, is the rise of the female voice.

The media has stood witness to a constant flow of actresses and models coming forward with their own stories of how they were sexually abused as a matter or course during their careers – not just by Weinstein but by other men in positions of power within the industry. Whilst women from all walks of life have brought their own tales of harassment and abuse to light through the #MeToo campaign on Twitter.

Never has the plight of women been spoken about with such fervour and with such frequency before, and, most significantly, never has there been such an available platform from which to do so.

The bravery of this movement cannot be undermined - despite many voices in the media castigating these women for not speaking out before. And the fact we are witnessing this uprising in our lifetime is amazing, but there is still more work to do.

There is still the overriding idea that the man is not to blame for his actions because the woman provoked something beyond his control. Harvey Weinstein has so far used this narrative to his advantage - in turning the now 30 or more accusations of sexual abuse and rape on their head to bemoan that he is the victim. He couldn't control what he was doing because he has a sex addiction.

But what Weinstein has not reckoned with is the fact this movement has only just started. We listened in startled silence when he mumbled an apology and asked for a second chance just before booking himself into his swanky rehab.

Since then there has been a ground swell of opposition to Weinstein and all those like him. One of the most empowering stories has to be from a long-time friend of the late, great Carrie Fisher. Screenwriter Heather Ross told of how the Star Wars actress personally delivered an animal tongue from the local deli to a producer after Heather confided in her about how he had tried to take advantage of her in the back of a car. Carrie swore if the producer touched her friend or any other woman again he could expect another delivery, of something of his, in a much smaller box.

The concern remains about whether Weinstein will be duly punished. The perception is men as rich and powerful as him, who are unafraid to manipulate the legal system with a few backhanders, end up evading jail.

The last thing we want to see is a shiny, beaming Weinstein emerging from rehab saying he is a new man and has seen the error of his ways - only for him to go back to making movies as though nothing has happened.

So women have to keep the indignation going. These are new times and victims of sexual abuse can now feel empowered to speak out on the basis they are not alone and they are not to blame. If this becomes the new narrative, when it comes to Weinstein taking to the dock no one will be able to hear his contrite grovelling over the tumultuous roar of women declaring they will not be shamed.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

This week's must-have purchase – a Carrie Bradshaw-inspired ballerina skirt and a spade

The fashion world has proclaimed we must all start dressing like Sex and the City character Carrie Bradshaw.

To pull off this 90's-esque look we must dash out and purchase a knee length fuzzy coat – or dust off your old one if you were inspired by the cult TV show the first time around – and pair this with bare legs –  I'm sure we all have some knocking around somewhere - and finish it off with kitten mules. That's your first look.

Second we have the bustier top, a strapless, fitted number which, to be optimum Carrie Bradshaw, should be in a metallic fabric such as you would upholster a slightly dubious three-piece suite with.

Then of course we have the tulle ballerina skirt. But don't panic, you are allowed to dress this final number down with a vest – but preferably not an old thermal one - and some bog standard four inch skinny strap sandals.

My problem with this – and my only problem naturally – is how this spring/summer 2018 trend is going to fit into MP Chris Grayling's decree that post-Brexit we will all be growing more of our own produce the Good Life way.

I can't quite see Barbara Good, of 1970's sitcom fame, digging up the potatoes in kitten mules. It's more Margot Leadbetter, the next door neighbour, when she volunteered to help out in brand new wellingtons, a paisley headscarf and marigolds.

But this could well be the reality – not the kitten mules or the marigolds, unless you would rather - should the government decide to take us off that 'cliff edge Brexit'. And going on reports about how Theresa May's dinner went with top members of the EU Commission last night, we really had best stock up on tomato seeds.

A think-tank report from the Resolution Foundation and academics at Sussex University has predicted that should we leave the EU without a deal the average household will see costs of food and other goods go up around £260 a year due to higher tariffs.

Chris Grayling has, as a result, said that Britain should become self-sufficient in food after Brexit, much to the horror of farmers and much of the food industry who say this is impossible without any government policy on how they would go about it.

Perhaps the government is anticipating Labour leader and confirmed allotment-lover Jeremy Corbyn will take to YouTube with a series of vlogs on preparing the ground for planting, transferring seedlings and the optimum soil conditions for growing Swiss chard.

Who knows. But the scene which will greet visitors to these shores – should any make it as all the planes will be grounded – will certainly capture that good old British eccentricity. All of us in our tulle ballerina skirts and bustiers tilling the land. “We're living the dream”, we will declare between thrusts of the shovel into the unyielding earth. “Theresa May told us so.”

So I'm off to buy a knee length fuzzy coat. And I'm seriously consider hibernating in it like the brown bear I will no doubt resemble, until all this is over. Failing that I'll be back tomorrow with another scintillating instalment. Until then ciao bella.
On no, sorry, I mean, TTFN.

Monday, 16 October 2017

The Charlotte Olympia embroidered cat slippers – deal or no deal?

I liken this week's Brexit shenanigans to a game of Deal or No Deal but with shoe boxes.
Instead of Noel Edmonds of Crinkley Bottom fame presiding over the contest, we have Theresa May and her haul of 'I'm the Prime Minister loot'.

It is an incredible fact, that a woman who looks like she's holding onto her job by her chipped gel manicure could be showered by gifts. But the weekend papers revealed that Theresa has received gifts from all over the place including a bumper delivery from Stella McCartney and the must-have flat shoes of a moment or two ago – the Charlotte Olympia embroidered cat slippers, which have graced the feet of high rating fashion types like Alexa Chung. She also received shoes from online brand Hotter.

The sting in the tale is after former leader David Cameron decided there had to be more transparency about the gifts MPs were receiving, everyone has to not only declare what they have received but must pay for it too, even the Prime Minister.

As a result Theresa hasn't been keeping everything she has been sent. The Hotter shoes went back, obviously, but she gladly stumped up for all the Stella McCartney gear and the cat slippers. But has Theresa closed the deal too early? Should she have held out for the Manolo Blahnik's decorated with real unicorn tears? Because if we know one thing about Theresa, it's that she isn't good with deals.

As we speak, she will be winging her way over to Brussels with her Brexit side-kick David Davis to see if she can try and woo Juncker and Barnier over a candlelit dinner tonight (Monday). This follows a reaching of an impasse with the EU over the Brexit divorce bill and their relationship moving forwards.

The EU is demanding to know how much cash the UK is going to stump up as part of the Brexit divorce and Theresa and her clan are unprepared to give an exact figure, insisting the big reveal will only come once talks on their future relationship start.

This has left Juncker fuming that whilst Britain has been a good ally during the war and 'everywhere and in everything' they must now pay. He likened it to buying a round of drinks for 28 people in a bar and leaving without paying. Quite.

Theresa showed all the signs of a desperate woman last week when she started to talk about walking away from the EU without any deal at all – an option which has been branded the 'cliff edge'. This has provoked extreme anxiety amongst many MPs including chancellor Philip Hammond who has been lambasted for refusing to put aside the £250million which would be needed to put the UK together again Humpty Dumpty style should Theresa decide to walk off that cliff edge.

There are talks pockets of Tory and Labour MPs are getting together to form a strong coalition against any no deal legislation being passed through Parliament. They claim the cliff edge would be the ruin of this country leaving it with insurmountable difficulties over trade, customs, manufacture and aviation.

Let's hope Theresa is able to ply Juncker and Barnier with enough Peroni to make them more amenable to beginning the next stage of talks then. And let's for goodness sake hope they don't start fighting over who is going to pay the dinner bill.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Weinstein's dressing gown, Trump's right royal snubbing and the fabulous Emma Thompson - It's MDT's Review of the Week

The news has been saturated this week with nauseating revelations of how Harvey Weinstein abused his power as a top Hollywood producer over a period of decades.

From stolen kisses and requests for massages to accusations of rape, actresses have been coming forward in droves since Ashley Judd came out in the New York Times last weekend saying she had been sexually abused at the hands of Weinstein.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie are some of the big names coming forward to say they were taken advantage of by Weinstein as up-and-coming actresses but had felt too fearful of losing their jobs to speak out.

The latest on the story is both the London Metropolitan and New York police are investigating accusations of sexual abuse on their respective sides of the pond but a big question mark still hangs over whether Weinstein will face a criminal conviction due to the lack of evidence. MDT says Weinstein's dressing gown surely bears the best witness.

However said dressing gown was unavailable for comment as it is enjoying a relaxing vacation with Weinstein who has been checked into a luxurious rehab in Arizona to get over his 'sex addiction'.

Not holding back is British actress Emma Thompson who has spoken eloquently and honestly about how Weinstein is the tip of the iceberg in an industry made up of 'many men' who 'interfere' with women. She threw out any suggestion Weinstein was a sex addict and said there was a real problem with excessive masculinity – a problem the man who held the top job in the world also shared, she added.

Donald Trump is a man very much guilty of interference with women - but his actions appear to be going unchecked. Indeed, despite the revelations last year he thought it completely acceptable to grab women by their most private parts he was voted in as President of the United States rather than made to face any legal recompense.

A man who does not face up to any criticism of his actions, simply labelling it 'fake news', Trump will probably fail to see the parallel between himself and Harvey Weinstein. However, if we go on Emma Thompson's well-thought-out definition of what makes for a male predator – the fact that it doesn't have to be several interferences, it can just be one – then Donald Trump is unequivocally as guilty as Weinstein.

We can rule out any denting of the man's ego, however, over the fact all pomp and ceremony has been taken out of his state visit to Britain at the beginning of next year. Trump had apparently asked for a carriage ride down the Mall, golf at Balmoral and tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Instead, due to the protest sparked when Theresa May invited Trump on a state visit shortly after his inauguration, everything has been scaled down to a 'working visit' which will involve opening the new London embassy in Battersea.

Trump will no doubt address any accusations Britain is showing how much it dislikes him as yet more 'fake news'.

In Blightly, Brexit has shuddered and stalled over the government's inability to come to any compromise agreement with the EU. The government is being forced to go back to the drawing board to make a host of amendments to its withdrawal bill and Chancellor Philip Hammond is being made to carry the can, due to his 'pessimistic attitude'. An attitude shared by much of the British public then.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made the wise political move of distancing himself from the mess by declaring if there was a referendum tomorrow he would vote remain. This follows Theresa May's refusal to answer the same question, but in so doing made it very clear she would vote remain as well. Maybe we should get Emma Thompson's opinion on Brexit. She is the only person in this country talking any sense.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Harvey Weinstein – the lumbering lothario enabled by the Hollywood machine

If Harvey Weinstein, the big-shot producer, didn't have Hollywood who would he be?
He would probably be the man hiding behind the bins at Walmart feverishly flicking through a dirty magazine. He would be that guy on the train with a newspaper on his lap edging ever closer as the carriage emptied.

He would always be Harvey Weinstein, the lumbering lothario, but unlike so many other lumbering lotharios who have gone before, this one got his lucky break. Due to an exceptional talent for film making Hollywood snapped him up and enabled him to become the predator he dreamed of being and simultaneously provided him with his prey.

Hollywood has always been a place of escapism, born out of the 1930's depression when people visited the cinema to get away from the drain of their everyday lives. They wanted to see glamorous, beautiful people live out gilded dreams upon a silver screen and this basic premise has not changed.

Neither has our inability to see beyond the perfect images with which we are presented to the sad, rotten machine which is clanking on behind. The male gaze of the camera is persistently focused on the exploited female who got there on her aesthetic advantages and how well she faired on the 'infamous' casting couch.

Now Harvey Weinstein has made us confront it and the world is uncomfortable. To try and cope, the whole saga has been blown up into a spectacle to rival any of Weinstein's films, clinging onto Hollywood's stereotypes like a life raft.

The victims of Weinstein's persistent sexual abuse are being dealt with like any film billing, with the most beautiful and famous leading the charge. Those who suffered more greatly, the alleged rape victims lagging behind, because they won't sell newspapers. The men meanwhile are castigated for failing to live up to their leading man personas by not speaking out in support of the women.

But despite all the smoke and mirrors, the true picture is slowly leaking out. Countless of Hollywood's leading ladies were victims. It makes no sense that those working with and around them did not know. Everyone was quite obviously hushed up by the Hollywood machine - which makes you fearful of truth telling - and Weinstein's bulging wallet.

We are also slowly seeing there is nothing glamorous and aspirational about Weinstein the predator. A picture of a pitiful man who had to steal his physical interactions from women without permission is starting to emerge. A man who would open the door to his hotel room wearing just an open dressing gown, who would beg women to watch him shower or let him massage them, a man who would 'lumber' around his hotel room naked trying to grab his prey. It is reported he would cry if he did not get his way.

Whatever happens next – and I don't doubt Weinstein will be back once he has atoned and done a session in rehab – Hollywood has unwittingly performed its own indecent exposure. The golden walls are still up but are ever so slightly beginning to crumble. Weinstein has hopefully put doubt into enough people's minds that all is not so hallowed and great beneath that magical veneer and as a result there won't be many more Harvey Weinsteins. Next time women will feel a bit more emboldened to speak up and slowly but surely these men will not be welcomed back.

Instead they can go far away to where all the other lumbering lotharios hang out, behind the bins at Walmart.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Ivana Trump claims she is the real First Lady and other tales from across the pond

Ivana Trump. Wow, where did she spring back up from? I know we have been talking about the resurgence of 80's fashion this week but that is one style mistake we could have done with keeping firmly in the archives, along with the poodle perm.

However, here she is promoting her book 'Raising Trump' which sounds like a health guide on indigestion but I have been assured, is actually about being mother to Donald Junior, Ivanka and Eric, and I'm sure to some degree Donald Senior.

And just to make sure we pay her the attention she feels she deserves she has come out with the sensational claim that she is the real First Lady, being Donald's first wife and all, much to Melania's chagrin.

Thirty seconds of intense analysis concludes, Ivana, it just doesn't work like that. And poor Melania, she hasn't cracked a smile for 12 years – the First Lady title is all she's got.

Melania has fired back on all cylinders with the comment: “There is clearly no substance to this statement from an ex. Unfortunately only attention seeking and self-serving noise”.

It's good but it does little to drown out Ivana who continued that she has a direct line to the White House but doesn't like to use it too much as it would make Melania jealous.

And my personal favourite Ivana quip - she revealed she had to turn down the role of Ambassador to the Czech Republic when it was offered by Donald - I know, try not to dwell on it – because it would interfere with her holidays to St Tropez.

Ivana certainly won that war of words and proved she is still very much Donald's match. Imagine if Ivana was still married to Donald and they were shacked up in the White House together. Both with their inflated sense of self, their outpourings of verbal lunacy. It would make fantastic entertainment for a reality show, but not so great for running the world.

And really this boost to Donald's ego couldn't have come at a more crucial time for him – what with him feeling a little under par this week. He has only managed to boast about his massive IQ and his millions of policies.

On hearing that his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson had called him a 'moron' he challenged his colleague to compare IQ's. He added: “And I can tell you who is going to win” - without actually saying who would win. Not your cleverest move there Donald.

On a roll, he also took an interview with Forbes to brag about the fact he has passed “just about the most legislation of any president, in a nine-month period”. Well it would take a lot of work to undo all the good Obama did during his time in office.

Pitching like he's still on The Apprentice Donald blustered on; “I also have another economic development bill, which I think will be fantastic”. Under that bill companies that kept jobs in America would be rewarded while those sending operations offshore would “get penalized severely”. It's both the carrot and the stick, he enthused. Well that really is, quite something.

Women fighting over him, a massive IQ, a carrot, and a stick. A nice bit of an ego massage for Donald. And one thing we have learnt this week – out of control egos like massages.