Kate and Pippa: Influential for the wrong reasons?

Friday, 20 April 2012

The fragrant Middleton sisters are among this year's most influential people. Why? For looking nice and keeping their mouths shut, apparently.

Time magazine's new list of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" is out, and I have to admit it's so exciting seeing the Duchess of Cambridge and her younger sister among such luminaries as Tilda Swinton and Barack Obama. Our girls, Kate and Pippa, flying the flag for all that is quintessentially British and awesome and now according to Time, influential in 2012. You know I'm being facetious, right?

At first glance the blurb about the sisters appears to be giving the finger to the snobbery of the press and "society", in years gone by full of sneering asides about the Middleton family's background (a former flight attendant for a mother!), supposed ruthless social climbing, and snark-worthy heritage (they had to make their money: so nouveau riche). But then you look closer. Kate has "successfully scaled the palace walls". Pippa is now "globally recognized, especially from behind" - and British newspapers are offered up to 400 paparazzi photos of her every single day.

Oh yes, this is what it amounts to. As "avatars of inspiration", Kate and Pippa's influence comes from the fact that one married a prince, one has a good backside, and they both wear outfits that women want to copy. We know this already, of course, because they're never out of the press. Pippa goes to a party and it's news for a couple of days. Kate goes out in public: what is she wearing? How is she looking? Could she be pregnant? When the two wear high street clothes, they fly off the rails. A few weeks ago, Kate was photographed playing hockey with the British Olympic team. Days later, the papers were reporting that stores had seen sales of hockey equipment go through the roof.

Yes, apparently there is nothing the nation's women won't do to become that little bit more like the Middleton sisters. But the best thing of all, according to Time's Europe editor, Catherine Mayer? Kate and Pippa are keeping quiet about it all.

"Latter-day Mona Lisas, they smile mysteriously and keep their mouths closed. In an age of bleating, tweeting, confessional celebrity, the middle-class Middletons show real class."

We all grow tired of those celebrities who constantly embarrass themselves via social networking, public spats with each other, and foot-in-mouth interview moments. But what does it say that these two women are lauded for keeping their mouths closed? When you think about it, it completes the checklist nicely. Attractive. Bagged a prince. Well-connected. Thin. Classy outfits. Glossy hair. Safe. Mouths firmly zipped. Everything that's to be expected from a real lady. Everything us mere mortals should strive to emulate. Like one of those sexist Twitter hashtag games where very sad men list what they expect from a "bird", it makes you disappointed and ragey in equal measures.

Everything about it harks back to a bygone age, where women were women and knew it was their place to look nice, marry well and not let their lives be tainted by having opinions or rocking the boat. You might be thinking "What do you mean?! They're modern gals! Pippa was recently in attendance at what the Daily Mail has termed a "dwarves and chastity belt party"! She's known as 'Her Royal Hotness', for crying out loud!"

This may be true, but slightly risqué nights out aside, it's all about the class and being demure. The being totally uncontroversial and the sensible skirts and jackets. And according to Time magazine, it's about being two of the world's most influential women due to all of the above, but also for keeping schtum about it. Last year I was bemused by the incessant press coverage of William and Kate's "very modern marriage". It may have been 2011 and they may have - gasp - cohabited before the Big Day, but Kate was being hailed as the ultimate specimen of womanhood for all the same reasons we would have been encouraged to look up to someone in, oh, the 1940s. It's like that thing they used to call "women's lib" never happened.

Cheers for the inspiration, Time, but I'd rather keep on with the bleating and tweeting, having bad hair days and not having to be regarded as the Nation's Premier Womb.

This post originally appeared on BitchBuzz. Image via WeSpeakNews.


Anna said...

"show real class"?!
at least Tilda is on the list.. all is not lost

Eve Maria said...

great post. I have mixed feelings about the issue. As a feminist I cannot stand the 'women should be seen and not heard'/ 'lie back and think of England' idea for obvious reasons. But...I do sort of like Kate and Pippa's style as it's very close to my own and I like that it's being lauded as 'classy' (or something like that).

I think where the press starts to compare Kate to Diana is where it gets interesting. Diana was criticized for speaking out too much- speaking to the press, basically speaking out when she shouldn't have, and Kate is being seen as the opposite, and the press (now) are praising her for that. Which I'm not sure is a good thing as it lies very close to the 'seen and not heard' ideas.


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