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What Can We Learn About Feminism From Big Brother?

25/06/2013 14:35 BST | Updated 24/08/2013 10:12 BST

Normally, I am something of a Big Brother refusenik. I failed to see the appeal of not exactly average showbiz wannabes being given a platform and being excruciatingly irritating for the summer. But in a sentence I never thought I'd write Big Brother: Secrets & Lies is beginning to draw me in. Producers seem to have taken the show back to basics and that makes it compelling viewing for me. Not people trying to find fame or a career just people with a camera on them 24 hours a day.

I think the first thing which interested me was the idea of a 'People's Puppet' being allowed into the house to work on behalf of Big Brother and the public.

There has long been talk of a mole entering the Big Brother house but up until now it has never materialised. I guess the introduction of a Secrets and Lies theme was the ideal time to introduce one. A mole of course adds interesting dimensions to the group dynamic. There is no equilibrium between them and the other housemates. They do not have housemate status. They are there simply to fulfil a role in the same way as an actor in a soap does.

I didn't believe in Michael as a postman when I first saw him. He was too poised and too refined. Amongst the unpopular choices he made on behalf of the public were to shred the housemates suitcases, containing clothes and other belongings. Plus he was asked to nominate the housemates up for eviction but based on the public vote.

More controversially he was asked to rate certain housemates characteristics on behalf of the public. The tour de force was though that the nomination results were not his personal choices but those of the public. As a consequence housemate Wolfy Millington ended up basking into rather unflattering victories. She was voted for by the public to win in the category of 'least attractive housemate' and 'most unhygienic housemate.'

Now understandably she took it badly and was very upset firstly at the decisions Michael the people's puppet had made, but even more upset when she heard that the decisions reflected the thoughts of the public and not of Michael himself.

For in the microcosmic world of Big Brother popularity is everything. Your stay in the Big Brother house is in the hands of the public, and therefore by extension your life is in the public's hands too as the shy and reticent Sallie Axl found out to her cost in the first eviction last night.

However the public are a fickle bunch. I personally think the public's decision to label Wolfy as unattractive is pretty horrible. The thing is in the lesbian world, attractiveness is a much wider telescope that in heteronormative society. Lesbian is a pluralistic term, and therefore there are many more shades of attractiveness. I have spent a long time on the gay scene and I would say that my definition of what is attractive and not has definitely broadened. This is a win-win situation as it makes me a more open person. Yes Wolfy may not be a conventional attractive beauty queen from a moisturiser advert. However it doesn't mean that he does not have beauty of her own that transcends the boundaries of heteronormativity.

Before you start thinking this is my page to take Wolfy Millington on a date when she leaves the Big Brother house it isn't.

I think the next part of her monologue with Big Brother teaches us something about feminism too. She says, and I quote;

"I'm here to do this for everyone that is a bit different and overweight who thinks they haven't got anyone - and feels alone I will do it for you I will win this."

This message is not without schmaltz.

But more positively we can see emerging here a role model for those who do feel different and who don't feel they quite measure up to the rigidity of the beauty standards laid down in the mass media. Higher standards of perfection are expected from women, and it is a certain type of identikit perfection. When I walk down the street, the majority of women look similar to me. They dress in similar ways, and in similar outfits. Often in my view, some harsh criticism of women comes from women themselves, misogyny notwithstanding.

For those who fall outside of that paradigms, as a Shamanic fisherwoman definitely does facing off against the ruthless public that are the Big Brother audience can seem an altogether more gargantuan task. Wolfy did break down after learning she had been nominated in the categories of least hygienic and most unattractive housemate who wouldn't?

She may not be getting the straight male vote either as she is not eligible for them to be attracted to.

But what I saw later was a woman fighting back against the public, but in a way also as an ambassador to the public who feel the same way as Wolfy does.

Undoubtedly they do exist. If she has that image in mind of doing it for those who are different, overweight single and lonely this will resonate with a lot of the voting public who will hopefully pick up the telephone and vote to keep her in.

What is beauty anyway? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have seen lots of people like Wolfy on the gay scene. Those who are different. They get my respect because they have courage to be themselves, regardless of what anyone thinks. They are their own beautiful. Difference is uber cool really.

As to Wolfy's hygiene I have not even bothered to address that here. Whoever voted in that category has a very puerile mind. If somebody has invented smellovision though, can they let me know? I'll switch it on when there is an advert for apple pie on.

Just because Wolfy is a nonconformist woman it doesn't mean she's any less beautiful, any less hygienic or any less of a woman. Men would not I believe be judged so harshly. I look forward to seeing the rest of her journey progress.

To clarify I am no longer a Big Brother refusenik. Secrets and lies have got me interested. What does that say about the human condition? I think that's for another article.