Is Celebrity Culture Making Women Stupid?

17/06/2011 12:34 | Updated 22 May 2015

Hands up if you get quite caught up in The X Factor, enjoy flicking through celebrity magazines and sometimes – whisper it – tune into The Only Way Is Essex.

Yep, me too.

I don't think there's anything wrong with switching off in front of some frothy reality TV at the end of a busy day, or reading about Cheryl Cole's career calamities during your lunch break.

But American lawyer and writer Lisa Bloom sees things differently.

In her book, Think: Straight Talk for women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, she says that celebrity culture is creating a generation of shallow and stupid women and we should spend our time thinking about more serious issues instead.

She believes that women have "veered off track into a culture of empty-headed narcissism" because we're too busy looking at pictures of celebrity cellulite to use our brains in a productive way.

"We have a problem," she says. "The generation before us fought like hell and won for us equality in education and employment. Let's use that for a higher purpose than sending pictures of kittens on Facebook."

And that's not all. She says: "We become almost as bad as the egomaniacs, drunken starlets, and arrogant attention-seekers we read about."


Now I take issue with Bloom's argument on a number of levels.

Firstly, is it really necessary to fill our heads up with serious stuff all the time?

I mean, aren't we allowed to take an hour off here and there just to, you know, relax.

I once shared a flat with a committed vegan and women's rights campaigner. She had many great qualities and was passionate about her beliefs, but there's a time and place to talk about female circumcision and it isn't the kitchen at 8am when you're tired, hungover and trying not to burn the toast.

First thing in the morning I don't have the energy or inclination to ponder anything more pressing than Christine Bleakley's wedding plans or Nicole Scherzinger's latest outfit.

But that doesn't mean I'm stupid or lacking in ambition and I think it's rather condescending of Ms Bloom to assume that's the case.

In fact, I'd say that the desire to escape into the world of light entertainment actually increases in direct relation to the pressures of studying, building and maintaining a career and juggling all those complicated adult responsibilities.

If you're spending the day dealing with a demanding boss – or if you are the demanding boss – then it can be quite comforting to spend an hour Keeping Up With The Kardashians, precisely because you don't have to use your brain.

I also think it's curious that Lisa Bloom doesn't talk about the effect that celebrity culture has on male intelligence.

Her focus on women implies that men are either far too sensible and important to concern themselves with celebrity gossip, or that they're capable of consuming trashy TV without turning into braindead celebheads like us girls.

Yes, women probably are more inclined to read celebrity gossip magazines or set the Sky+ for Gossip Girl, but I know plenty of men who enjoy it too - and last time I checked, no one was accusing them of being thickos.

And isn't it funny how women get slated for showing an interest in Jennifer Aniston's lovelife, but men don't get the same amount of grief for indulging in equally stereotypical male hobbies?

Some might argue that it's bit boring to live with a man who likes to spend the entire weekend in front of the TV watching sport. But, as far as I know, no one has yet been motivated to write a book about how men's love of football or golf is all set to create a generation of serial philanderers who make a mockery of the institution of marriage and threaten the breakdown of society as we know it.

So credit us with some intelligence, please.

We know that celebrities have fabulous clothes and expensive handbags because they get most of them for free. We're well aware that J.Lo works out for hours to look that way and that all her pictures are re-touched before they make it into the magazines. And we've got the message that good looks don't last forever, even if you pump yourself full of Botox and fillers every six months.

Celebrity magazines and reality TV have become our favourite guilty pleasure not because we're trying to be celebrities, but because we enjoy taking time out from the routine of our lives by having a nosy into theirs.

So, Lisa Bloom, please leave us in peace to speculate about Kate Moss's wedding plans and Blake Lively's love life.

And don't call us stupid, OK?


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