The Blog

Meditations on Rage

I love rage. Rage is brilliant. Rage gets stuff done. Rage, harnessed and appropriate unleashed, can change the world. Occasionally, however, our anger leads us towards a dead end.

I love rage. Rage is brilliant. Rage gets stuff done. Rage, harnessed and appropriate unleashed, can change the world.

Occasionally, however, our anger leads us towards a dead end. All the important issues of the moment, the things which really impact our day-to-day lives are hurtling down a nearby motorway and we're trapped in a gloomy deserted cul-de-sac of wrath, huffing fruitlessly into the darkness.

There have been two recent events which have emphasised the truth of the above sentiments to me. The first was an email I received last week questioning what the author perceived as the inherent paradox within my dual roles as co-director of a positive body image campaign and one of Cosmopolitan Magazine's Ultimate Women of the Year.

I dutifully replied, as I always do when critique is presented to me in a measured and intelligent way, explaining why my life-philosophies and that of Cosmopolitan Magazine are actually rather compatible. I believe Cosmo to be one of the rare fashion and lifestyle mags that gets the balance right between genuine, thought-provoking fodder on the kinds of topics which should preoccupy women in their twenties and thirties (the laws on rape, closing the gender pay-gap, what life is like for women in other cultures) and acknowledging that it's still okay to get really, really excited about a beautiful pair of shoes. I've never thought feminism necessitates eschewing all the things that we associate with girliness. In fact, I think that's kind of cheating. Walking into a boardroom in killer heels, cleavage on display, wearing lip gloss and STILL leaving everyone discussing your opinions and intellect? Now there's a brand of feminism I can get on board with.

It also occurred to me, as I prepared my defence, that aspects of this particular woman's email suggested to me that she just didn't like lifestyle/fashion magazines very much. Which is of course fine. No one is forcing her to read them. But if, like me, you love the moment when you turn the first page of that thick, glossy wodge and anticipate an hour of your month spent allowing yourself some unadulterated girly indulgence, then I'd suggest you could do a lot worse than Cosmo- with its annual issue dedicated to body confidence, it's tendency towards using models with a broad range of ethnicities and shapes and its generally 'you go, lady!' style attitude.

The second incident happened this morning, when my blackberry suddenly pung into frantic vibration, which transpired to signal some mass activity on my twitter account.

And there, at the top of my stream, was a tweet from a notoriously controversial Daily Mail journalist whose thoughts on body image are so diametrically opposed to my own she might well be branded the Anti-Tash. She was, I suspect, spoiling for a Twitter fight in an attempt to garner some more of the publicity she is quite obviously so desperate for. I told her that I considered her writing to be 'attention-seeking drivel-bollocks' and that I wouldn't be reading whatever piece of purile filth she had propelled into the public domain to cause such a reaction, this time.

The tweets I received imploring me to take a counter-stance told me enough to glean the rudiments, however. Here was a woman who was, apparently, actively promoting extreme dieting and suggesting that fatness was indicative of personal failure. Which any sensible human can see is ludicrous.

My twitter stream and inbox were today awash with righteous indignation. Which of course means that this writer will be re-commissioned. She's caused a reaction and her column will, I would imagine, receive a record amount of traffic.

But what if we just ignored her? What if we avoided the 'sidebar of shame' and read something intelligent and thought-provoking, instead? What if we worked on changing the things we cannot avoid, whilst ignoring the things which are easily avoided? What if we simply starved these kinds of articles of oxygen and allowed them to wither and die?

It's important to identify exactly what it is that makes us angry and whether or not it's worth expending the energy involved in remaining subsequently incensed. Are we irritated by 'the media', or the advertisers which permeate every aspect of it, feeding on our insecurity for commercial gain? Are we annoyed with 'size 0 celebrities' or at the industry which has demanded they conform to an ever-narrower and ever-more difficult to achieve beauty paradigm? Are we really as furious as we claim following Samantha Brick's column this week, or does her writing merely represent everything we despise about our body-obsessed culture?

And if you, like me, have decided that the answer to all the above questions is 'the latter', then vote with your clicks, your tweets, your time, energy and perhaps most crucially, your hard earned cash.

We, the consumers, have more power and influence than we know. If reading the Daily Mail fills you with rage, stop buying it. Buy the Independent instead. Your blood pressure will thank you for it.