Every now and then on this blog, Lauren and I like to take a break from waffling on about nail varnishes and write the occasional opinion piece or feature. Usually these are more serious pieces, so you might think it’s a bit odd that I’m actually writing about Celebrity Big Brother. But last night’s episode has caused such a stir and raised so many issues to me that I think it definitely deserves to be addressed.
For those of you who didn’t see last night’s episode of Celebrity Big Brother (what do you mean you have social lives?) the incident in question went briefly like this. Jeremy Jackson, who from what I gather is famous in America for being a child star gone wild, was kicked out of the house after drunkenly pulling open the dressing gown of Chloe Goodman, one-time reality star and occasional glamour model. It happened while they were in the bathroom together as she looked after him while he was throwing up a mixture of vodka and rum. She suddenly left the bathroom, shaken and upset, and went and reported the incident in the Diary Room. When questioned on what had happened, Jeremy denied any malicious intent, saying, amongst other things, that 1. he thought she had a bikini on underneath the robe, 2. he thought she was flirting with him and 3. his actions were just playful and curious.
Most people dismiss these sort of reality shows as complete garbage, claiming there is nothing remotely real about them and they don’t have any relevance to everyday people or lives. However, I think this incident actually flagged up some key issues that go far beyond the action itself.
Firstly, while justifying himself to other housemates after the event, Jeremy said one thing that stuck out to me. As he rambled about how he had misunderstood the situation and that he thought she was being flirty with him, thus making his actions okay, he uttered something along the lines of “Why would she be alone with me in that room naked?” This throwaway comment that nobody seemed to pick up on is actually really disturbing, with elements of the victim blaming mentality. She was in the bathroom with him in only a dressing gown, therefore of course she must be up for it.
Never mind the fact that she was dressed like that before she went in to help him. Never mind the fact he was sweating like a hog and throwing up at this point, making the chances of sexual attraction pretty low (I would rather crack on with Perez, thanks). Although the point wasn’t elaborated on, the lines left hanging in the air after what he said were ‘how was he to know she wasn’t keen? She was giving out mixed signals. She put herself in that situation.’
The other thing that shocked me after the episode was the attitude and comments that the general public were making on social media. On my own news feeds, the most popular opinion seemed to be that Chloe had completely overreacted to the incident. More worrying than this though, were the large amount of people saying things along the line of ‘Chloe gets her boobs out for money, so why is this such a big deal’. I can’t help but think that if Jeremy had done that to one of the older, more conservative women in the house, like Nadia, opinion wouldn’t have been so relaxed. Then it would have been a hugely inappropriate, humiliating and vulgar thing to do to a nice woman who was just trying to help. But because Chloe has been paid for topless modeling, the idea seems to be that her body is almost public property, and that she can’t possibly be upset when exposed against her will.
Chloe, clearly anticipating this reaction, several times repeated “I know that I’ve done page 3, but…” which I think is incredibly sad. As she quite astutely said, the issue for her was one of control. She has chosen to do topless modelling in the past; she had not chosen or consented to that happening. For those who said that Chloe overreacted and was faking her distress, I think I would actually react in much the same way if something like that had happened in a small bathroom with someone I barely knew.
Another disturbing moment came later in the episode, when Ken – this year’s resident gross bigot – took Chloe to one side and essentially reminded her that Jeremy was important in the industry, and that it may be best for her career if she didn’t make too much of a big deal of the incident. To me, this highlights the larger issues that young women are constantly taught to put up with random violations like this from quite a young age. And not even in relation to careers (though we know that does happen), but often just as part of everyday life. I’m sure most girls will have experienced the arse grab in a nightclub, if not worse. And while people choose to deal with those incidents in different ways, in a club they’re for the most part ignored and just seen as normal. Yet if that was to happen to you in a different situation, like at a bus stop in the middle of the day, you’d feel violated and assaulted. In the same way, if someone’s top was pulled open in public or at work, it would be taken seriously; not dismissed as ‘playful’, ‘an easy mistake’ or ‘nothing to cause a fuss over’.
Maybe Jeremy did mean nothing by the action, and maybe Chloe is a scheming attention seeker who decided to blow something small up when she wasn’t really bothered. The actual incident this time is almost irrelevant; what I found interesting was the amount of attitudes, all of which are very prevalent in today’s society, that this threw up both amongst the housemates and the general public. I think it’s so important to look at cases such as these and discuss them in the wider context, which is why I also think shows such as this do still have their place on TV and do still serve their original ‘social experiment’ purpose.
What do you all think of this incident? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below!