The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Ladette To Lady Comes Down Under

Posted by hannahcolman on July 31, 2008

Fellow Australians, be warned! A local version of the UK reality program Ladette to Lady will be hitting our screens in the very near future. In an article published in The Sunday Age, Peter Munro examines the controversial show while providing us with the eye-opening attitudes of some young women at a bar in Bundoora. The women interviewed for the article seem to have been strategically chosen to illustrate the type of participants that the Australian version of the program will most likely feature. For starters:

“We are real classy girls, but when you get a drink into us we are f–kin’, like, oh, my God, the dirtiest people ever,” says Lynda Evans, 18, waving an alcopop in the air. “Having fun is the main thing in life. Who cares if you can arrange flowers or bake a cake — you can buy cakes from a cake shop.”

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Ladette to Lady format, the program basically takes a bunch of ladettes – “foul-mouthed, loud and uncultured young [women]”, and transforms them into ‘ladies’.

Now, I’ve seen bits and pieces of the English series and the whole premise of the show really irks me. Essentially it’s just a platform for reinforcing seriously outdated notions of a woman’s role in society, thinly veiled as ratings-grabbing, shock value viewing. Munro explains:

Successful ladettes will be flown to an English finishing school, where they will study floristry, cooking, elocution and needlework.

Needlework? I’m sorry, what year is it again? He continues:

The finale will be a debutante ball, where the budding ladies will parade before young male suitors.

Once I’d finished cringing, I had a flashback to an excellent article that Catherine Deveny wrote for The Age about the tradition of the deb ball. In it, she compared girls at their ‘debs’ with cows in a saleyard. Enough said.

Don’t get me wrong- I think some of the behaviour that these young women are engaging in is cause for concern. But surely teaching them how to cross-stitch isn’t the answer.

If my memory serves me correctly, most of the participants in the English series displayed a range of serious issues: with their bodies, with men, with alcohol and/or drugs, and with their femininity. We were shown footage of these girls drinking themselves into a stupour and muttering things like “I’ll f**k whoever I want, whenever I want,” whilst flashing their knickers at the camera. Presenting these girls at their most vulnerable and then shipping them off to arrange flowers is humiliating and degrading. I think it’s also worth noting that most of the UK show’s participants appeared to be from low socio-economic areas and therefore probably wouldn’t have had the best resources available to them in terms of alcohol/sex education and counselling. And if the interviewees in Munro’s article are an indication of what we’ll be seeing in the Australian series, I think we can safely assume that rural lasses will outnumber the chicks from Sydney’s North Shore and Melbourne’s Inner East.

The article takes an interesting turn towards the finish, though, with Australian deportment doyenne June Dally-Watkins criticising the focus on young women’s errant behaviour:

“Why is it always the young female who is expected to conduct herself in an acceptable manner and no one thinks it is important for young men?

“I find young Australian females want to do well in life, and Australian males couldn’t care. It’s off to the pub with their mates.”

And then, University of Queensland cultural studies expert, Graeme Turner finishes with this:

“Part of the appeal of that kind of format is it’s more shocking and salacious to have women doing this than to have men, so it is going to attract more controversy and more viewers,” he says.

“I think part of the interest lies in watching how far women have sunk in their attempts to become equal to men.”

Oh, ouch, Graeme! I dare say there are a few people out there that agree with him, though.

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5 Responses to “Ladette To Lady Comes Down Under”

  1. audrey said

    I wrote about Ladette To Lady a few months ago. I generally treat it as a bit of fluffy train wreck entertainment, but do tend to trip up on how problematic the whole thing is.

    You can read the article here.

    Also, I really f**king hate Liz Bruer. I remember fondly the words of Ladette Simone in series three: “You, you and you are all lovely. (Pointing at Liz) You, I don’t know where they got you from.”

    Honestly, Liz is the true epitome of a social climber with zero class.

  2. katie swanson said

    hahaha jes and i printed out applications for it but it’s being filmed during exams!!

  3. […] feminist bloggers. Hannah Colman, one of the authors at the Aussie feminist blog The Dawn Chorus, gave her perspective on the show last year: Don’t get me wrong- I think some of the behaviour that these young women are engaging in is […]

  4. lucy said

    Your not a lady you’re feminist scum so wouldn’t expect you to understand

  5. Lucy said

    Lucy, wtf? Feminists are not scum! What is scum is trying to make all women into housewifes and force sexist roles down their thorat, how the hell could you ever support that!? It is sick! I never want to be a mother or a wife and I have a right to that choice and it sickens me when sexist folk like yourself have a cheek to say we’re scum.. You are so wrong in many many ways

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