Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? No.


2:21 pm - April 23rd 2012

by Sarah Ditum    


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Zombie stats are numerical factoids that just won’t quit, however dead they get. There’s a special pang in seeing their rotten heads pop up in a debate you know and care about, so this week, I am going to bust the mouldering brain pans of feminism’s favourite zombie stats.

63% of young women would rather be glamour models than nurses, doctors or teachers

What an indictment of the grotesque aspirations we feed our girl children this one is: raised in a culture that prizes fame, individualism and female sexual availability above all else.

This one appeared yesterday in a very interesting article by Terri White, who formerly worked as associate editor of Nuts and deputy editor of Maxim.

For her, it demonstrated the damage done by the culture she helped perpetuate.

This dread percentage shows up in Kat Banyard’s 2011 book The Equality Illusion. It lurches its way through the 2009 NUS Women’s Campaign Policy (PDF), where we’re told that “the glamorisations [sic] of lap dancing clubs is linked to 63% of girls surveyed saying they would rather be glamour models than doctor or teachers”.

It’s in Object’s FAQ on lad mags: “We find these findings alarming as it says a great deal about the kinds of aspirations that are being held out for women in our society,” says the campaign group.

From a certain feminist perspective, this is evidence that women are trained by a sexualised media to see success in purely sexualised terms.

But it isn’t particularly flattering to women. It suggests is that young women are grossly impressionable and deeply selfish. By this account, we’re all just boobed blank slates, waiting to be imprinted by our first encounter with a newsstand.

That doesn’t sound very plausible. Well, surprise! Nor is the survey. It’s from 2005, was done for a “mobile entertainment company” which now doesn’t exist (meaning the zombie stat has outlived its creator), and its methodology was deeply dodgy. For one thing, it’s intent was always to secure publicity rather than uncover the secret truth of Britain’s female psyche: with a little googling, you can find the company’s spokesman expounding on the equally scientifically sound subject of “shag bands”.

For another, the study didn’t ask girls whether they wanted to be glamour models. It asked 1,000 girls aged 15-19 whether they’d rather be like “Abi Titmuss, Germaine Greer or Anita Roddick”, and 63% picked Titmuss – who as well as being a glamour model is also a qualified nurse, unlike Roddick or Greer, so there’s a confounding factor to think on.

As Dr Petra Boynton pointed out when the statistic was first published, the survey was both a badly designed and hideously unethical (unless we’re all OK with asked 15-year-olds if they want to go topless), but that may not matter anyway because Boynton has learned since that it’s possible the research was never conducted anyway.

The survey (if it happened) was a shoddy and shady thing. Its repetition over the last seven years (seven!) is down to plain lazy churnalism on the part of news media, coupled with a strong feeling on the part of certain feminists that it fits so neatly with their understanding of a harmful, sexist media that it simply must be true.

It’s not true. Repeating it is insulting to young women – and insulting young women was never part of feminism’s mission statement. And, as people learn what a stinking piece of numerical meat it is, it makes feminism look stinky by association. Next time you see that 63% come towards you, rotting and groaning, look it in the eye and smash it in the head.


A longer version is at Sarah Ditum’s blog

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About the author
Sarah is a regular contributor and a freelance journalist and critic. She blogs at Paperhouse.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Feminism ,Media

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Reader comments


So in short, young women would rather be Abi Titmus than Germaine Greer – who in the eyes of any 15 – 19 year old is frankly ancient, and Anita Roddick – say no more.

Can’t say I’m really surprised, I’ve just asked my wife which one of the three she would rather be… her reply “Isn’t it bloody obvious, Anita Roddick’s dead, and Germaine Greer’s old”.

Nuff said.

Ditum:

The survey (if it happened) was a shoddy and shady thing. Its repetition over the last seven years (seven!) is down to plain lazy churnalism on the part of news media, coupled with a strong feeling on the part of certain feminists that it fits so neatly with their understanding of a harmful, sexist media that it simply must be true.

…which is why both groups will keep using it. The same thing happened with ‘snuff’ movies in the 1980s during the ‘feminist sex wars.’ File somewhere between confirmation bias and ‘cargo cult science’.

PS: using 15-19 year-olds also overlooks that the ones in the 18-19 bracket are adults, and legally able to choose glamour modelling as a job (they could choose to be feminist activists or international arms dealers as well or instead, but clearly we’re meant to get het up about the choice of the sex/entertainment industry).

3. Chaise Guevara

When asked which of three women they would most like to be like, most girls went with the one they’d actually heard of.

Excellent article, this. If statistical rigour is one of your strong suits, I hope you decide to write for LC often.

Thanks for this, Sarah: great stuff.

Just to supply a bit more factual detail: the story (or, perhaps better, press release) was reported, mostly in the regional press, on 6 June 2005.

I’ve just glanced into the Nexis database, and I can see reports on that day in the Belfast News Letter, Birmingham Evening Mail, Birmingham Post, Daily Record, Daily Post, Daily Star, and the Western Daily Press. These are short articles, 77-267 words long, which repeat some of the detail Sarah provides here (though one detail she passes over is that apparently girls don’t want to be J. K. Rowling, either). So it really is churnalism: regional papers filling up space by uncritically reproducing commercial press releases.

The next day the “story” was also picked up by the Aberdeen Evening Express (which ran the longest report, over 500 words, bolstered by an interview with former Miss Scotland Nicola Jolly), the Lincolnshire Echo (owing to the Abi Titmuss, “Lincolnshire glamour girl” angle), and The Morning Star (who reported the “findings” and then carried comments by Mary Davis of the TUC Women’s Committee saying how dreadful this all was).

And then, the following week, Jordan had a baby–so the papers had something else to write about.

I wish feminists were above falling for this kind of stuff, but unfortunately we’re no better than the rest of the world at identifying and unmasking bad science. Saying that, I’m instinctively sympathetic to the approach: combining scepticism with feminism can only lead to goodness. :)

6. the a&e charge nurse

Are people so academically illiterate that they attach ANY importance to such a whimsical bit of fluff?

If other commentators or authorities are perpetuating the, err, ‘findings’ of this so called research then it just goes to show how much dreck can pass for serious analysis.

7. Paul Newman

[deleted for trolling]

Good piece, Sarah. A warning always to drill down when you’re deploying statistics, but only 17.5% of opinionators ever do that.

I remember these stats being touted by Charlotte Raven in a pain-in-the-arse piece about how women in media, by getting jobs by being glamorous and sexy, had let other women down .

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/mar/06/charlotte-raven-feminism-madonna-price

In a recent study of 1,000 British girls (admittedly by a mobile entertainment company), quoted in Walter’s book, 60% said glamour modelling was their preferred career. A quarter said they would consider becoming lap dancers. By all measures, the value map has shifted in Price’s favour.

With that caveat Raven then went on to denounce the media women for ushering an age of women being judged only by appearance by not being good role models themselves and over-doing the stylishness.

I’m sorry to say that we are culpable. Thinking women have turned their backs on feminism. This might not have been a disaster if we had remained neutral.

….
I wore Chanel’s Night Sky at meetings with editors, aware that much was at stake. Large contracts were being handed to women displaying attitudinal oomph. I hoped my nail colour would convey my capacity for reckless candour and a readiness to say the unsayable.

I thought when I read it that Raven was over-stating this (not to mention being full of herself). The HR department (female staffed mostly) in my work hires women of varying appearances by their ability to work in IT or accounts. I guessed the glamour seeking was part of a bit of frivolous dreaming that an otherwise hardworking woman at a normal job would allow herself, a kind of update to the Barbara Cartland fantasy of marrying a duke.

9. Chaise Guevara

@ a&e

“Are people so academically illiterate that they attach ANY importance to such a whimsical bit of fluff?”

If they want it to be true? Yes. Definitely. This is why we ought to be teaching children about the scientific method and cognitive biases in schools.

10. Chaise Guevara

@ 7 Paul

“I cannot help but notice that not only are left wing women rather male, but left wing men are somewhat effeminate.One thinks of straggly beards and thin arms hanging limply from short sleeved buttoned shirts ,often holding baby at a drama class with one of those murals ..you know the ones ..racial mix Hackney , location South Wales.”

I love the way you’ve “noticed” this trend based on a sample of stereotypes straight out of your own disordered brain.

It’s a shame really. You actually had a point in the first paragraph, but then went and wrecked your own efforts with one of your habitual hate rants.

11. Planeshift

“I cannot help but notice that not only are left wing women rather male, but left wing men are somewhat effeminate”

ladies and gentlemen we are dealing with a true intellectual heavyweight. Stay tuned and he’ll be outlining details of how we can cut deaths on the road by requiring women to pass tougher driving tests.

12. the a&e charge nurse

[9] “If they want it to be true? Yes” – implying that preconceived bias in the eyes of the observer outweighs the strength of the actual evidence – strongly agree, Chaise?

13. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 a&e

Hell, yes. Confirmation bias. Plus a lack of understanding about weighting of evidence. People pick a “fact” they like and run with it, deliberately not trying to falsify it and ignoring counter-evidence. I’m sure I’ve done it hundreds of times.

14. Chaise Guevara

@ 11 Planeshift

“ladies and gentlemen we are dealing with a true intellectual heavyweight.”

And you didn’t even mention his biting satire at the end there!

[deleted]

16. Torquil Macneil

Excellent work. Tim Harford has been blazing a similar trail on his brilliant radio show. You should team up.

It should also be said that the survey question is awful in its own terms. It is not at all clear what the respondents are thinking about when they say they would rather be like one or the other examples. Physically? In terms of occupation? In personality?

@ Paul

“Heres a question ,what sort of role playing games would a left wing couple spice up their sex life with?”

I play a character called Mr Newman, who’s a typical Tory basically – you know, ex-military type, tweed jacket, ‘tache, Express tucked under the arm. Then my wife blacks up, puts on dungarees and a CND badge, and makes me read out all the stupid comments I’ve made that week on left-wing blogs while she slowly crushes my testicles between two hardback volumes of Das Kapital. Hurts like hell but she seems to enjoy it.

@ 15.

That’s a fair comment. At the end of the day, there’s no way that journalists can be considered as being much more beneficial than lap-dancers. In fact, in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry, many would argue that lap-dancing is a far more socially benign profession.

There is also the simple thing that nobody has mentioned – money. That a site riddled with marxists fails to spot the gaping hole (excuse the pun) of economic determinism that’s just waiting to be filled. Laws of economics – and drooling men – dictate that a woman who doesn’t wish to spend several years of her life in further / higher education can earn bigger bucks for removing her clothes for a few hours than she can earn through far more hours of work in other “respectable” jobs.

19. Chaise Guevara

@ 17 GO

Ahahahaha!

@ Sunny

Why was Step Left’s comment deleted? Hardly a trollish commenter, and the one response specifically says it was fair comment.

@ 19.

•Abusive, sarcastic or silly comments may be deleted.
•Misogynist, racist, homophobic and xenophobic comments will be deleted.

Also comments deemed insulting to the journalistic profession.

21. the a&e charge nurse

[20] churnalists don’t like bloggers, or at least Rod Liddle doesn’t – remember this “Mr Staines is Bloggsville incarnate — the very essence of that vast network of talentless and embittered individuals tapping away at their keyboards in the intellectual vacuum of cyberspace, only occasionally leaving their computer screens to heat up a Tesco microwave-ready mini filled garlic and coriander nan bread with Indian dip selection (mango chutney, pickle, cucumber raita) before returning to spew out some more unsubstantiated bile. This is anti-journalism, and nobody takes any notice of it” – that still makes me chuckle.

22. Chaise Guevara

@20 Splat

Based on your reply at 18, I suspected that Sunny had interpreted (or chosen to interpret) an honest comment about the relative badness of journos and lap-dancers as random trolling. If so I can see merit in the argument Step Left hypothetically made…

23. Chaise Guevara

@ 21 a&e

“that still makes me chuckle.”

Because of the hypocrisy, the apparent richer-than-thou snobbery, or the fact that he’s taking notice of them to say nobody’s taking notice of them? Don’t get me wrong, if Staines is who I think he is then I’m all for people taking the piss, but that’s still a breathtakingly arrogant quote by Liddle.

24. Matt Wardman

@6
>Are people so academically illiterate that they attach ANY importance to such a whimsical bit of fluff?

Often, yes.

They may know anything about the mechanics of online surveying, or not have a numerically based qualification beyond GCSE Maths and still think they can write about anything. It gets the Guardian Readers’ Editor very frustrated :-).

>I wish feminists were above falling for this kind of stuff, but unfortunately we’re no better than the rest of the world at identifying and unmasking bad science.

In addition to the other places quoted I note that Dr Linda Papadopolous gave the stat prime billing in her report alleging Child Sexualisation problems, and various campaign groups have it on their ‘facts’ pages.

An effective way of liquidating credibility.

Agree that the problem is not any one group, but a whole lot of people (not the author of this piece!) being idiots.

25. Paul Newman

Surprised my comment was deleted, is there really no room for a little amiable banter any more ? Imagine the sort of country these people would make, that’s all I say, just imagine the horror
Anyhoo on the supposed mind bending effect of a diet of pink clad Barbie dolls , I am not convinced . I bought the prevailing wisdom that little girls and little boys were the same thing until evil society started with its toy guns and ovens but there is one problem. Its crap.
Few of you lot will have children but I can promise you that when you do you will be amazed at how not true the whole feminist construct turns out to be .
The tragic fact is that at little Party after little Party what you see is girls drawing and glueing glitter whilst boys use the same implements to stick in eachothers ears or as death ray stand ins.
I have come to the conclusion that slugs and snails and puppy dog`s tail`s are not imposed by society any more than sugar and spice and all things nice . Thats just what they are made of

Try instead:

Men produce twice as much saliva as women. Women, for their part, learn to speak earlier, know more words, recall them better, pause less and glide through tongue twisters.

Put aside Simone de Beauvoir’s famous dictum, “One is not born a woman but rather becomes one.” Science suggests otherwise, and it’s driving a whole new view of who and what we are. Males and females, it turns out, are different from the moment of conception, and the difference shows itself in every system of body and brain.
http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200306/the-new-sex-scorecard

But it doesn’t follow that most girls have a secret longing to be glamour models.

“Girls have increased their lead over boys in top-grade in GCSEs, in another record-breaking year of results. The performance gap between boys and girls has now reached its the widest ever – 6.7 percentage points – at the top grades of A* and A.” [BBC website 25 August 2011]

It might be more interesting if the question was asked of young men.

29. Chaise Guevara

@ 25 Paul

“Surprised my comment was deleted, is there really no room for a little amiable banter any more ?”

If you ever manage to produce any amiable banter, we’ll find out. As it is, your rants about how much you hate lefties (or rather the strange beasts you’ve invented in your head to stick the label “lefty” on) aren’t relevant to the discussion. If you want to indulge in moronic whining, why not set up a blog so we can all be sure not to read it? :)

30. Paul Newman

I real;ly honestly don

It wasnt a troll comment at all, I think there is a startling snobbery amongst middle class professional and the media set towards people who desire to make money in and achieve fame in an easy fashion. The rest of the article was fine, I didnt contest on its points. However, there is something a bit hypocritical and worrying that its people who have achieved a level of fame and success bashing other people for wanting the same things, albeit in a different context.

Might as well and just come out and say ‘stay in that mcjob kids!’

32. Chaise Guevara

@ 31 Step Left

In terms of lap-dancing and glamour models and the like, I think a big part of the problem is that a lot of people find these thing morally objectionable (for reasons I personally reject), which, as you say, leads to them effectively telling young women to stay in a McJob rather than taking a job that would pay better and they’d probably enjoy more. For their own good, of course!

Basically it’s when feminism goes off the deep end and starts dictating to women how they can live their lives, which *ought* to be at odds with what feminism was about in the first place.

Shouldn’t we men complain about the better grades girls are getting in their GCSE and A-level exams? It’s been going on for years. One result is that the majority of undergraduates at university are now women – sadly, it wasn’t like that when I was a student. Within a few years, the majority of GPs will be women. Isn’t there now a strong case for positive discrimination on the part of universities towards applications for places to read for degrees from male school-leavers to compensate for their weaker performance in school leaving exams?

@32

I concur, I also think an unthinking class prejudice informs the discussion too. Journalists, irrespective of their background are middle class, they may have and most likely did work hard to achieve their career, and all power to them. However, being a journalist is quite a nice life, you are paid to write, reasearch and think about things for a living, thats pretty appealing and cosy. Not to mention the status and extra benefits associated with the job, such as being around important people and perhaps, for the lucky few, some measure of fame. Theres nothing wrong with this at all. There is something wrong when a journalist, who sought out this rewarding career acts all sniffy about working class kids saying they want to play football for england, be a pop singer or a model instead of be a teacher or a nurse. Because its not as if the journalists themselves decided to muck in with the rest of us and do a more socially useful job, they chose something more appealing and rewarding (money, lifestyle, status etc). So it smacks of utter middle class and elite hypocrisy to be disappointed that kids want to be famous or make loads of money in an easy fashion.

Let me see if I can get my head round this….

Heterosexual men find good looking women sexually attractive. They don’t, on the other hand, find ugly women attractive.

Am I doing OK so far?

Many heterosexual women would like to be good looking so that heterosexual men will find them attractive but the author of this post finds such attitudes in some way reprehensible and tries to imply that it is no longer the case.

Have I got it?

“So it smacks of utter middle class and elite hypocrisy to be disappointed that kids want to be famous or make loads of money in an easy fashion.”

The trouble is that many may aspire but few get chosen as premier professional footballers or A-list models. Meanwhile, school work gets neglected because of unrealistic career ambitions although girls are now less gullible than boys, which could be one explanation as to why girls strive for those good GCSE and A-level results to get to uni. Recall that old Noel Coward ditty: Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWn3d0_Nyos&feature=related

A local council housing estate with a troubled historic reputation has a substantial community centre – great. The featured activities include a gym and sports opportunities – great. The publicity also features adult learning and discussion group opportunities – whenever I’ve inquired: regretfully, nothing. On the opposite side of the road there is a “Football Academy” – the promotional banner mentions starting with 6 year-olds.

Btw I’m not a journalist, just a social observer.

37. Chaise Guevara

@ 35 pagar

That’s a very selective interpretation. The insulting implication of quoting the false data is that young women are less interested in doing something cerebral like teaching or doctoring. Now, you could call that intellectual snobbery and would probably have a point, but it’s not the same as saying “It’s bad to want to be found attractive”.

In any case, shouldn’t we all support an attempt to debunk poor statistics, regardless of what they claim?

When was very young most boys would have said, if asked by a survey (which didn’t exist at the time) that they wanted to be an engine driver when they grew up. In the 18560s thousand of boys bought guitars, in the 1970s Minis said they wanted to be Rolls-Royce when they grew up. Now we have some girls saying they want to be glamour models.
So what is new?
How many girls actually expect to become glamour models – how many Minis actually expect to become Rolls-Royces?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Nayna

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? Not just a bogus stat but insulting to women says @sarahditum – http://t.co/6BsTbMYW

  2. kyliesturgess

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? Not just a bogus stat but insulting to women says @sarahditum – http://t.co/6BsTbMYW

  3. Lucy Eldridge

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? Not just a bogus stat but insulting to women says @sarahditum – http://t.co/6BsTbMYW

  4. Dan Lee

    "Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? No." Turns out the stat came from a dodgy marketing campaign. http://t.co/a1kK9YjH

  5. Andrew Martin

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? Not just a bogus stat but insulting to women says @sarahditum – http://t.co/6BsTbMYW

  6. Declan Gaffney

    Do 63% of teenage girls want to be glamour models? Of course not. A zombie factoid dissected (vivisected?) here http://t.co/YEJLjiVf

  7. Kelly Oakes

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? No. http://t.co/xtfuDbEx via @libcon

  8. sanaa qureshi

    "Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? No." http://t.co/ybokSoAS

  9. orathaic

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? No. http://t.co/xtfuDbEx via @libcon

  10. Tevong

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? No. http://t.co/xtfuDbEx via @libcon

  11. Hamish MacPherson

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? No. http://t.co/KfbOG48K via @libcon

  12. Catherine Neilan

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? No. | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/jLjev9cv via @libcon

  13. Robin Parker

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? No. | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/jLjev9cv via @libcon

  14. Rob Buckley

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? No. | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/jLjev9cv via @libcon

  15. Paul Southworth

    Excellent. Apparently stat that 63% of young girls aspire to be glamour models rather than doctors or nurses is pure BS http://t.co/PNDlJomi

  16. Tobias Fauntleroy

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? No. http://t.co/KfbOG48K via @libcon

  17. Gods & Monsters

    Do 63% of girls really want to be glamour models? No. http://t.co/KfbOG48K via @libcon

  18. Rob Webb

    @Danni_King however that 60% stat is incredibly flawed & incorrect http://t.co/mgMPj1pz





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