Category Archives: Television

Are we being conned into thinking more about our daily moisturiser?

I like to think of myself as a consumer who is fairly conscious of health and environmental issues. I am a recycling obsessive, I carefully consider what I eat and I avoid buying products which I know could be difficult to dispose of once I’ve finished using them, such as detergents and aerosols.

But a recent trip to the US has reignited my ongoing concern with the chemicals in the beauty products which we use daily, and which seem largely to go undiscussed in the mainstream beauty media in the UK. Many US companies are now mentioning the absence of these ingredients, such as parabens, sodium laureth sulphate and others, as part of the marketing campaigns for their products.

I first became concerned about this problem after watching (the arguably over-exposed but, I think, ethically sound) Sarah Beeny in her 2007 programme for Channel 4, How Toxic Are You?  As a ‘celebrity’, she gained a mixed reaction from the press, who largely chastised her for what was perceived as unscientific naivety. She was worrying about the fact that the products we use on our bodies, including deodorants, moisturisers and shampoos, are not ‘natural’ when we are constantly surrounded by chemicals and artificial products.

(c) miss_yasminaSome scientists have suggested that there could be links between the parabens (which act as preservatives) used in deodorants and breast cancer risk, as they may mimic the effects of oestrogen. However, scientists and charities, such as Breast Cancer Campaign in a letter responding to a Sun report on the topic, are quick to emphasise that these claims are not backed up with reliable evidence and cannot be used to proclaim the use of these products dangerous, since there are so many other sources of parabens within our environment.

So, I am undecided really. Having spent quite some time scanning the ingredient lists of UK beauty products, there are definitely beauty brands in the UK which avoid some of these so-called dangerous chemicals. These include Good Things and some very high-end products like Avène  and La Roche-Porsay. However, it does not seem to have reached the levels of the US market where television adverts mention the ingredients (or lack thereof); we seem to hear more about things being ‘Organic’  or ‘97% natural’, which could mean that the other 3% is bleach after all.

I’m not a scientist and, as far as I can see, the jury is still out on whether these chemicals really do cause us harm directly. Is this just a case of ‘time will tell’, an approach which ought to cause concern when we consider that the PVCs in cling film, for example, were once thought harmless. I do have a sneaking suspicion that the US marketers are pandering to consumer concerns rather than addressing any scientific need, though. It’s no coincidence that the brands which use fewer of these chemicals seem to be more expensive.

What do you think? Do you worry about the ingredients in your shampoo? Or do you feel more inclined to stick with a brand you’re familiar with and can afford, rather than lose sleep over whether there are risks?

Time will tell, I suppose.

Advertisements

How do you like your politics?

If you are a woman, popular opinion would have it that you prefer it alongside your regular gossip fix.
 

How do the sexes compare in their political reading habits?

Governments are always subject to flux in the opinion polls and this month it’s the Conservatives who have suffered from a drop in support shortly after their party conference. According to a discussion on Wednesday’s Woman’s Hour part of this fall in support is due to a shift in the number of women voters, as found in a recent YouGov polling report.

I was surprised to hear that, had it not been for female voters, the Labour Party would have won every election since the Second World War. So, it seems, despite the impression that Labour (or, should I say, the left wing of the spectrum) is generally more forward-thinking in those areas typically associated with ‘women’s policy’ such as childcare, working flexibility and government-controlled measures to ensure pay is more fairly distributed (to varying degrees of success I might add) women vote for the Conservatives in larger proportions.

The Conservatives fall in popularity amongst women is also seen by many as a direct response to the public’s general impression of David Cameron as well as his ‘Calm down dear’ put-down towards Angela Eagle in the Commons, amongst other gaffs. This is also coupled with some high-profile attacks on the government’s strategy of cuts, which are seen as disproportionately affecting women.

The Woman’s Hour discussion then moved on to the way in which parties can attract/make women aware of their policies more effectively. One respondent commented that many women are unaware of policy directly and that parties need to get this information into the hands of OK readers.

I am sure this ignorance and unavailability of political discourse is a problem. But this perception that women necessarily need politics in their gossip mags for them to be informed is also, on first glance, a patronising one. An image of an upper-middle class man with a monocle studying The Telegraph and guffawing about the Tory’s newest childcare strategy whilst his down-trodden but servile wife serves him a cup of tea before settling down to her copy of Closer, because she doesn’t care a thing about real politics being a woman and all, springs immediately to mind.

It cannot be the case that men read serious news whilst women read gossip mags and so therefore have no idea about policy, can it? Or, if there is ignorance it’s not just confined to one of the sexes. I would have thought it’s just as patronising to say that for women to know more about politics we need to get it into OK as it is to say that men would be more aware if Nuts regularly discussed the worldwide increase in the cost of cotton which was thereby having an implication for the Page 3 girls’ ability to stock up on lacy underwear, and what was the government going to do about it?

But, to be on the safe side, I thought I’d look at the numbers a bit more closely. A rough, and albeit not entirely scientific, search of divide in readership of a range of newspapers, from the serious to the questionable, came up with the following proportions:

Daily Mail:

Male – 47%

Female –  53%

Source: http://www.nmauk.co.uk/nma/do/live/factsAndFigures?newspaperID=10

Daily Mirror:

Male – 57%

Female – 43%

Source:  http://www.nmauk.co.uk/nma/do/live/factsAndFigures?newspaperID=2

Guardian:

Male – 53%

Female – 47%

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/advertising/demographic-profile-of-guardian-readers

The Independent:

Male – 59%

Female – 41%

Source: http://www.independentonlinesolutions.com/advertisingGuide/media/indy.pdf

The Sun:

Male – 56%

Female – 44%

Source: http://www.nmauk.co.uk/nma/do/live/factsAndFigures?newspaperID=17

Telegraph:

Male – 53%

Female – 47%

Source: http://www.nmauk.co.uk/nma/do/live/factsAndFigures?newspaperID=11

Although this is not the most scientific or strictly accurate way of establishing how information about politics is disseminated, I was surprised (and slightly disappointed) to find that things are not as 50/50 as they should be. However, the differences between the sexes are not as different as some comment makes out and I think it does show that getting information on policy to women is possibly just as big a problem as it is getting it to men. I agree that policy and the current cuts affect the sexes very differently but is the perception that women need politics in their gossip mags really helpful? Perhaps this is one aspect of political spin for which gender should be left to one side.

How do you think politicians could communicate with the public more effectively?
(polls)

Marriage Material

Why did Peggy Olson’s ‘you’re old fashioned’ rant strike such a nerve when her colleague suggested that ‘Use Pond’s and you’ll get married’ was a suitable tagline for her Pond’s Cold Cream campaign? It’s the first series of Mad Men which I’ve watched, but I’m hooked already…

The New Claustrophobia

Has anyone else noticed the narrowing confines of the BBC’s latest sit coms? First of all I saw Simon Amstell’s excellent (if sometimes patchy and cringe-worthy) family-based piece called ‘Grandma’s House’. The characters incessently wind one another up and this is what makes it work so well. Although insular, other external characters can intrude and even sometimes stray into the front garden of the house. They never do make the ‘Pottery Barn’, though.

The second of these is ‘Roger and Val Have Just Got In’. Dry and touching, this look at relationships and people, and more, is stuck very much in the domestic space and domestic sadness itself. Apparently commentators are comparing the writing with Beckett. I am not so sure. But the peculiar stasis makes watching compelling.

My final example is in the grubby ‘Him and Her’. Again, from a different viewpoint and tone totally, the main characters reside together in idle activity, but one cannot help but like them. The developing series shall reveal more, or go downhill…

What is this new theatre of the domestic to do with? Yes, we’ve always had them from the UK but such a speight in one go must reflect, express or perpetuate some mood. More of us at home, saving the pennies in a pre-cuts austerity? Most likely. But why do we want to watch it on our screens? Have horizons narrowed to such an extent that even to exclude the local shop or ;pub is no longer sit com fodder? I shall watch more examples in anticipation…and hope that comedy as brilliant can keep on coming even if the main characters never need take off their slippers and venture into the outside world.