Monday, May 23, 2011

Sexism? Ageism? Alive and Well in Britain

Is this the image of a twenty-first century romance writer in Britain? The Daily Mail certainly seems to think so. Blue rinse, support tights, twin-set, pearls . . . and oh, let's not forget the rain bonnet and perms! Goodness, let me think, what other stereotype can I throw in there?

How about women tootling around for fun, only to top up their pensions?

You can imagine my chagrin when, early Saturday morning, I checked out The Daily Mail, looking for the promised piece on the Romantic Novelists' Association Summer Party . . . only to see this screaming at me: The Blue Rinse and Bodice Rippers: In twin-sets and pearls, meet the ladies behind Britain's steamiest novels.

Um, what?

Sadly, it was all downhill from there. An incredulous laugh bubbled out of me as I scanned the first few paragraphs.

All around me are middle-aged and elderly women in their pearls and support tights. They look like the kind of ladies you’d find working in charity shops or arranging the church flowers — can they really be penning the sort of racy novels that would make a convent girl like me blush?

My mouth actually dropped open. No, really. I know because Mr TR asked me why the hell I was displaying my half-eaten toast.

After snapping closed my mandibles, I decided to double-check the reporter was writing about the RNA Party; the same swanky do -- chock full of glam young things with funky shoes -- I'd been attending. I hadn't made a habit of scrutinising my fellow writers' guts, but I was pretty sure no-one sported support tights. And Lord, please give this momma a rain bonnet, because I'd have given anything to have protected my fine hair from frizz that night. Pearls? True, my chunky gold necklace could have been mistaken for pearls -- if the reporter had been smoking crack an hour before the event.

Maybe she had. Maybe that could be the explanation for all ageist, sexist statements that followed. Because surely now, with the collective experience of the recent past behind us, we all know better than that.

Right?

You can see the real RNA Summer Party here.

83 comments:

  1. How frustrating!!! I think a lot of people just don't want to let go of their stereotypes, so that's all they see ... even when it isn't there!

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  2. Ummmm. That's awful! I guess she saw what she wanted to see? But, like, I'm not even sure how she managed that.

    I LOVE your necklace in the photos, btw. Very snazzy.

    :)

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  3. Happily, I was at the same RNA party as you, Talli, and what fun it was!

    Liz X

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  4. It is terrible, isn't it? I was truly stunned, because it seemed like she was at another part entirely! The weird thing is, she had a photog with her who took lots of pictures -- none of which appeared in the article. Funny, that.

    Liz, I know! It was fab, wasn't it!

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  5. I saw the pictures that others posted about the event, and then read the article by that, obviously, unprofessional and biased reporter.

    It could have been such a wonderful article. Sad, really.

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  6. Ugh, I wish I could say I was surprised. The Daily Fail strikes again.

    Have a Daily Mail headline generator to cheer yourself up: http://www.qwghlm.co.uk/toys/dailymail/

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  7. Oh my God! This is ridiculous. REporters just write what they want to write. It's always been the case unfortunately :-/. So umm, when you gonna put the blue rinse in? ;o)

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  8. If she had to have an 'angle' she could definitely have picked a more truthful one :o(

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  9. I'm thinking a letter to the editor is in order, with pics!

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  10. Well I looked at the photos and all I could think was OMG look at all those glamourous ladies and also OMG I couldn't walk in those shoes. I am guessing the reporter turned up to the wrong event.

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  11. I've been thinking about this for a couple of days now and I'm wondering if the RNA invite the hacks or do they ask to come? How does this sort of thing work? Because I think it would be a nice idea to ask Ms Connell back to cover the winter party in October ...

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  12. Exactly why I do not read newspapers in the US. To slanted for my taste but then that is probably why they are going out of business.

    So where is your rain bonnet? :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

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  13. The reporter actually wrote that?? I think you must be spot on about her smoking crack. I've only seen photos from the event and even I can see the article is miles from the truth. I'd like to know what her motivation was for writing that? It doesn't really make sense.

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  14. How frustrating! How about a letter to the Daily Mail? If nothing else it might make you feel better.

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  15. Wow/ Is it worth writing to the Daily Mail to point out the fact that their reporter either needs glasses or some meds for those halucinations?

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  16. I read the article yesterday and choked. I could not believe the crap she spouted. Maybe you should send in a piece with photographs to ridicule her. :)

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  17. Lots of RNA party attendees blogged the following day - and the evidence of ritzy glitzy glamorous women in fabulous clothes, wearing amazing shoes, having a wonderful time is there for all to see. What party was this woman at? Surely not the one she claims? I read the Mail article in despair.

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  18. Thanks, everyone. Lots of RNA members commented underneath (although they didn't publish some people's comments, for some reason!). And here's hoping the article is lining kitty litter trays at the moment...

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  19. I hate to hear this. Letting of stereotypes is just beyond some people. How frustrating!!!

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  20. When did it become okay for newspapers to start printing outright lies? I wouldn't bother writing to the Daily Mail, I'd write to a rival newspaper and invite them to show the Mail up :)

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  21. It's like people still can't imagine anyone other than old women with chips on their shoulders and nothing to lose freely writing about and enjoying blatant sexuality or sensuality or anything designed to make a woman feel good about herself and her sisters.

    Sounds to me like that woman is seriously repressed.

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  22. Wow...not only are the writers conferences the same on both sides of the pond, reporter bias is also the same.

    I did an interviwed once in which the reporter thankfully described me as being "as far from the dithering housewife scribbling at the kitchen table with kids underfoot" as I could get.

    I think that was a compliment, anyway....

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  23. Blimey, that was an extremely ageist article. I loved some of the comments though. Don't worry...one day said journalist will grow up into an old lady too and I bet she'll be reading raunchy books late at night.

    Pics of the REAL party look great, I do like those gold sandals! ;-)

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  24. Oh, Lordy. What's happened to truth in journalism?
    THe photos you posted were hot hot hot, Talli.
    Karen

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  25. Great piece Talli... The party this DM hack was at was the party she had already written about before she arrived at the real thing. She had her angle and nothing she saw on the night was going to sway her from that... What a bloody shame though that she's still peddling the same boring stereotypical rubbish about romance writers and romantic fiction that have been prevalent for 30 years. It's called lazy journalism.

    To prove my point she obviously got that laughable 100K earnings figure for M&B writers from an article a Mail journalist did last year after interviewing me for the New Voices campaign. This journalist never actually asked me how much I earned (and I sure as hell don't earn that much!), but decided to say I earned that amount by misquoting a much more informative article by the Guardian where the journalist had asked me how much a romance writer COULD earn and I told him anywhere from a few thousand to 100s of thousands (thinking of Nora Roberts and the like).

    So there you have it, why print facts when the made-up ones serve your purpose so much better. As a journalist myself I find it pretty galling, because most journalists are ethical, honest people who are looking for a genuine story, unfortunately I am beginning to suspect very few of them reside at the Daily Mail.

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  26. I think the writer must have been a 17 year old intern.

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  27. I quit reading the DAily Mail awhile ago because of stuff like this. If I wanted to read fiction, I would go to the library.

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  28. That's a bummer! Don't let her bother you though. You ladies are all having a lot more fun than her!

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  29. Someone needs to stop giving those reporters crack right before the events they're supposed to be reporting. I'm so sorry - that's got to be so frustrating.

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  30. I read the Daily Mail article too and was pretty disgusted by the blatant ageism and sexism. Not that there's anything wrong with 'old ladies' writing romance, but I know that many of the writers there were quite young. It's obvious that the 'reporter' simply chose to write whatever sensationalistic story she thought would catch the most attention.

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  31. Hahahaha! Yup, that reporter definitely rocked up at the wrong event!

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  32. Glad to see you setting the record straight!

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  33. Great post, Talli. I'm fairly sure the DM reporter wrote the article before she went to the party and then just pasted in the quotes. She'd obviously decided what she was going to write well before she even set foot in the place.
    And it was lovely to meet you at last!

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  34. Great post Talli. And you were among many of the young beautiful glamorous women there!

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  35. WOW...some people are unbelievable!

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  36. Oh, that's awful! I hate when reporters don't get their facts straight and just try to push their agenda. :(

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  37. Pearls & twinsets? Blue rinsed hair? Doesn't seem to describe you. Was the reporter even there?

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  38. That's insulting? Maybe the reporter wandered into a bridge club party instead. I can only imagine the description if that person went to a science fiction writers convention.

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  39. Which all reinforces my view that anything you read in newspapers is incorrect. We only remember that when we read something that we know more about than the reporter. The rest of the time we believe it.

    "Well it's down there in print so it must be true!"

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  40. It was such a ridiculous article that I suspect all it's done is:

    1. Caused an overload of comments to the DM giving the real story.
    2. Made even more people aware of the RNA.
    3. Embarrassed the journalist (hopefully), who obviously had written her story in advance and made the photographer redundant, as the photos couldn't back up her article.
    4. Given lots of RNA members plenty to blog about!

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  41. Heck I read that article too! And was a load of rubbish!?! What a crap reporter!

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  42. As part of the human condition, it's an issue that will never go out of style, I'm afraid. Not that I'm contributing.

    I gave you a shout-out and tagged you on my blog. :)

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  43. I wasn't at this party, but I've seen the photos and have been to enough in the past not to recognize the people being described in that article.

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  44. I hate it when people are fixed on stereotypes!

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  45. Too bad she couldn't take this great event and write a real fun, energetic piece for the paper. I'm sure there were stories galore there among all the authors, great lines to be quoted and expanded upon. I wonder if all her work has that negative slant to it ...

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  46. I'll bet you anything she went in, saw a couple of older people, and bingo, she had a nice angle to play up. Of course it doesn't matter what anyone's age is, the problem is she directly misrepresented the group, and went too far with her story, IMO.

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  47. Go Talli! Stick the pin in this crazy writer's balloon. Sounds like she had her piece written before she ever went to the event.

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  48. I couldn't understand why you kept taking off your twinset and string of pearls everytime the RNA party photographer came by...now I get it. Sneaky missus...very sneaky ;)*runs away and hides*

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  49. Oh, that must have been incredibly frustrating!! I hate it when people stereotype authors - any author - like that. People can surprise you. A lot.
    ACK!

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  50. That said, if the Mail can arrange for me to be given a steady stream of pink drinks with cherries in, as in the illustration, I would forgive them a great deal.

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  51. Hey, that drawing is me down to a tee!! Sans blue rinse though..!!

    Oh bad bad BAD Mail!! Bad Mail!!!
    :-(

    Take care
    x

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  52. Wow! Reporters and the media love to do things like that. Glad you set the record straight.

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  53. Over this side of the Atlantic, we've an org referred to as AARP (a real thing, btw) American Association of Retired Persons (55+ to join, please). Even they do not fit that description.

    My guess is that she wandered into the Agatha Christy Look-A-Like soiree......Grin.

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  54. Karen Roderick23 May 2011 at 20:56

    I do hope this is enough for you to give up that bloody awful "news"paper. I wonder whether she stumbled on another party instead?? The mind boggles.

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  55. Thank you, everyone, for all the wonderfully supportive comments! Much appreciated.

    Heidi, that is truly a shocking example of such lazy journalism -- recycling non-facts like that!

    Jane, oh, thank you! That is very kind.

    Bad bad Mail indeed. I do love the celeb gossip though, I must admit! *blushes shamefully*

    Thanks again, everyone!

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  56. Hi Talli, I'd love to have a twin-set to wear to a RNA party!

    But seriously, the more we talk about this reporter who got out of bed the wrong side that morning, the more publicity she gets and her next article gets top priority!

    Poor little misguided journo, who's life must be so not enriched by ROMANCE NOVELS!!

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  57. That's sooooooo annoying. And it's sooooooo not the first time a reporter's been an idiot while reporting on the writing world. UGH. :(

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  58. That's ridiculous, Talli. And the old lady cartoon figure writer has a bit of a drink problem as well.
    It was probably just an article she had written already and just filed it to meet her deadline.

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  59. OMG! I mean... OMG! I think perhaps your crack comment was near the truth (and what's so wrong with support tights anyways?!)
    Lx

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  60. Sensationalism sells stories, but unfortunately, always at someone else's expense.

    BTW - Got the book, can't wait to start it.

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  61. It's really frustrating to see that some journalists describe events in a totally non-objective way, and present it as a distortion of reality.

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  62. That's why police have a hard time with witness....

    I was looking at the photos. I love the one with the gold shoes and gold toenail polish!

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  63. OMG! This person obviously doesn't read romance and has no idea what kind of people enjoy it.

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  64. lol! Gotta love the ole stereotype. Maybe you should get a blue rinse and a set of pearls? ;)

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  65. The media does feed on steretypes unfortunately. And the public buys into it. I wonder if someone (you by chance?) will write a letter to the editor to tell the Real story!

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  66. Wow! In hoping to sensationalize a gathering they totally missed the mark. I'm sorry you had to read such crap.

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  67. LOL I couldn't even make it the whole way through. I think I managed a couple of paragraphs before deciding life's too short.

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  68. This is the second time in a month that a reporter seems to have written what they've felt like. In both cases, it seems to have been written before the interview/visit.

    Your hair is too short to perm. But did you wear pearls?

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  69. Holy cow! We all saw the pics, and can attest that you all looked quite fabulous!

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  70. Looks like a fun bash. Who knows a writer with a pension anyway?!

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  71. you can rely on the good old Daily Mail to be stuck in the 1950s

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  72. Too bad this stereotype exists and still lives.

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  73. It's the Daily Mail; there's not much they report that's accurate :P

    Besides, I'd imagine old ladies would make good on steamy novels, since they've the experience to back it up, hehe.

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  74. That's sucky.

    It's too bad romance writers have to deal with all those old old stereotypes.

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  75. Hilarious post Talli. I hope you've written in to vent your exasperation! I once read an article about a woman who it transpired had been emotionally abused all her life by her parents and the agony aunt advised her to take it all on the chin and forgive and forget. The online forum buzzed with our outrage on her behlaf that had she been physically or otherwise abused the advice would have been very different. The agony aunt's column abruptly stopped in that newspaper! :O)

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  76. Grrr. I had this 20 years ago when I became a bank manager for Lloyds! I thought we were making progress.

    I'm off to post my picture on facebook in defiance.

    Super post, as always
    xx

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  77. Wow that article is awful. Perhaps the RNA can send their photos to the Daily Mail to show just what the party was really like.

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  78. Oh my. That's a shame. I always hold out hope that the press will report accurately, but this is often not the case. At least attendees know how it really was. Has anyone considered drafting a polite response noting the differences? Course, might not be worth the effort if they've already made up their mind to print otherwise. So sorry!

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  79. You've just confirmed why I hate The Daily Mail so much. Unfortunately, I can't type what I'd like to do to said journalist.

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  80. As my British roommate says, Britain is too concentrated on the past to really get over and into the future full-force. What a shame to have such a stereo-typed idea about them. You almost wish they would do something about the way reporters write- like a fine!

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  81. Eek! This is how I felt when I told an acquaintance I was writing a romance and she asked me if I had heaving bosoms in it. Eek! We have to conquer these stereotypes!

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  82. Hi Talli .. sounds like misrepresentation to me .. BUT would make a good story?!

    Cheers - and from your description of your party the two items do not match at all .. hope you've got over your frothy by now?! Hilary

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  83. You could make use of this in a future story, of course....

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Coffee and wine for all!