Hi I'm Bertie, this column is basically a place for me to call bullshit on girl related things I think are stupid.
It wouldn’t be Monday without aching temples, dark circles, glaring co-workers and another brain-liquefying article from the Daily Mail. I have a problem, because while I really don’t want to give Mail Online any more attention than they already get (which is, let’s be honest, a whole lot of attention), when a story like the one featuring Laura Fernee rears its head I sort of have no choice but to dedicate more man-hours to unpacking its vast cargo of bullshit. The piece in question, written by Eleanor Harding (who has recently penned such stories as “Female Virgin rail staff to be given £20 voucher to buy a bra if they think new uniforms are too FLIMSY” – their caps, not mine), outlines the plight of what appears to be a female as delusional and arrogant as Samantha Brick, Jan Moir, Liz Jones and, well, any of the other women whose private lives the Mail loves to profile.
According to the Mail, scientist Fernee refuses to work, her parents pay her rent and credit card bills and she uses her beauty and “slim figure” as a means to condemn all her previous co-workers as jealous, lecherous and petty. This woman, the Grendel’s mother of scientific research, uses her looks as a trap, her “beauty,” “body” and “natural attractiveness” as a weapon with which to further her ultimate goal: sponsored unemployment. She’s lazy and privileged and precious, and the comments beneath the article aren’t slow to point that out. Over and over again. Fifteen hundred times. Are we really so lacking in self-awareness as a country that we can’t see these outrageous stories as the follies they are? The shock this piece inspired says a whole lot more about our failure to understand the media than it does about a woman from Notting Hill with a blow dry and a penchant for wearing pearls to work.
Besides, Laura Fernee does not get a fair trial from the Mail. The fact that they employed Sam Brick’s favourite photographer to capture some great shots of Fernee looking like a very bad Nancy Dell'Olio impersonator isn’t helping the comments situation much either, surprisingly. But these articles keep going up and for some reason people are still gullible enough to be totally outraged by the prospect of this monstrous woman, regardless of how suspicious it might be that the Mail are posting a short “news” piece which bears no relevance to literally anything. I read this article, some of the comments, marvelled at how people find the time to care about it and was ready to forget the whole pointless exercise. Until I saw this interview from ITV, this morning (on This Morning) and now I’m annoyed.
First of all, the words “good-looking”, “beautiful” and “attractive” don’t come out of Fernee's mouth in this interview, and in their place instead are “traumatised”, “difficult”, “ostracise”, and “scared”. Weird, huh? There's no sign of the arrogant borderline sociopath who brays her way through the Mail piece, either. Actually, Laura Fernee comes across as legitimately insecure and anxious, and she’s ridiculously soft-spoken. Sure, her accent is super weird, but she seems about 1,000 miles away from the brazen, vain, entitled megabitch presented in the Mail’s article. Even if she is bad, even if she's gone to the media with this story for the furtherance of her own career, you'd have to ask yourself why the DM knocked up the gallows for her to hang herself from. And the answer to that is that it's exploitation – obviously.
It’s also nothing new – shows like Jeremy Kyle and Trisha have been sacrificing small-town villains on the altar of petty daytime TV for years. Why is it any different when it’s channelled through the Daily Mail, and why is it sexist? I guess you have to step back and look at the article from a distance. This is not hyperbolic am-dram being pedalled on Sky, it’s aggressive character shaming masked as news, the reaction to which is intensified – and the Mail are fully aware of this – by the fact that many people in this country are finding it tough to put food on the table right now. It’s more subliminal and subtle than Jeremy Kyle confronting a "benefits mum" lolling about in the street in her pyjamas, but essentially we're being sold the same moral outrage (whether Fernee is complicit in that is moot).
This campaign the Mail have quietly launched – the hashtags, the images, whatever – it’s all part of the same tabloid fuckery. It’s about isolating and ridiculing a woman who appears to feel persecuted because of how she looks. It’s about finding a story that revolves around an attractive, eloquent, mentally fragile person and working out how best to manipulate them for maximum fury. The fact that such a large majority of the UK are still able to read an article like this without questioning the intention of the overall piece is gross. It’s embarrassing that instead of recognising this as sexist, it’s held up as outing an anti-feminist egomaniac. Laura Fernee is a mirror to our own stupidity, and it’s shocking how many people refuse to see themselves reflected in it.
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