To be heard these days it's best to be a monotonous man
Hilary Fannin: If you are a woman the media is more likely to critique your footwear - just ask Amal Clooney
Amal Alamuddin speaking at the United Nations in New York on March 9th. Photograph: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty
In a life fairly crowded with incident, I was busily sticking the hoover nozzle into one of those vacuum-pack storage bags, which I’d filled with well-worn winter wear, unfortunately preserving the viability of various bobbled fleeces for yet another season, when, overcome with domestic ennui, with the sheer tedium of first-world storage challenges, I abandoned the suction solution and rolled around the bedroom floor looking for something to read.
A magazine I’d abandoned, or possibly stored, poking out from under the wardrobe, caught my attention. In it was an article – which I suspect I must have diligently saved, then forgotten – featuring passionate testimonials from steam-cleaner aficionados, eco-scrubbers testifying to the hours of chemical-free fun they’d had with a turbo jet. It’s depressing to realise you’re the kind of person who saves features on steam-cleaning. The phrase “get a life” slipped unbidden into my dustballed mouth.
I suppose it’s tempting, when one is feeling creatively arid, overwhelmed by savage histories and bluntly pessimistic about the future of the shagging universe, to place one’s fragile faith in domestic appliances. It’s not a good plan, however. Clean windows and smoke-free oven hoods do not a better world make.
Alongside the article, though, was a piece about Amal Alamuddin, the Lebanese-British human rights lawyer who, in her working life, represents, among others, refugees, victims of Islamic State and women who have been sex-trafficked.
Alamuddin was pictured addressing a meeting of the UN, urging delegates not to let Islamic State get away with genocide. It was an impassioned speech, apparently, but a varied cross-section of international media ignored her plea that evidence of slaughter be gathered before it was too late, and that testimonials be collected before the tellers give up hope of ever being heard. Instead, it preferred to map the precise circumference of the woman’s growing womb under her yellow dress.
Some of these media outlets also used their column inches to criticise Ms Alamuddin (who, as you probably know, is pregnant and married to a silver-haired actor who can regularly be seen in coffee commercials) for wearing shiny high heels. One publication even went so far as to consult a renowned podiatrist on the lawyer’s choice of footwear. Doubtless thrilled to be asked about anything at all that didn’t include the phrase “bunion paring” or “corn plaster”, the contributor stepped up to the plate and declared that the wearing of four-and-a-half-inch heels while pregnant was “questionable” – in case she fell over.
Worth its weight in golden nail clippers, that expert contribution, I’d say.
For what it’s worth, I’d like to add my own voice to the debate and say, as someone who ate my way through two pregnancies in a large purple jumpsuit (bearing, along the way, a striking resemblance to Tinky-Winky, the particularly inelegant Teletubby with the fetching handbag), that the psychological benefits of looking like a human being rather than a furry asteroid would, for me at least, far outweigh the risk of any potential ambulatory mishap.
And for crying out loud, if the woman turned up at the UN in hobnailed boots and a ra-ra skirt, wearing a pork chop and a fez on her noggin, it’s what she says that matters.
Or maybe it’s precisely what she does have to say that has people rushing to click on the next image on their browser, a more palatable snapshot (to some, a tad nausea-inducing to others) of princess Amal and her genial silver-haired prince taking up residence in their multimillion-pound mansion in the English countryside, replete with the daffodil-yellow Aga. I do it myself when the news gets too painful to read – shoving nozzles into plastic bags, investing my energy in researching eco-cleaners while our history unravels like a filthy bandage.
Anyway, if you wish to be heard, and have your words judged rather than your fashion choices, your best bet is to be a man – oh yeah, and to sound monotonous while you’re saying them.
Experts (I’d love to know who these people actually are) have apparently ascertained that men who speak in a monotone (Clint Eastwood and George Clooney are two of the examples they cite) have more success, sexual and otherwise, than men with varied uppy-downy voices. Seriously. The “experts” believe potential partners (in the scratcher and out of it) associate a steady, measured tone with confidence and power, with independence and dominance.
Tinky-Winky is a shoe-in for next secretary general.