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06.09.2019- What I’m Watching: Kathy Burke’s All Woman

Friday, 6 September 2019



In a sea of top-quality television programming, it can often be quite tricky to keep on top of what to watch- and even more intense if you’re a militant spoiler-avoider and spend the day/week/month after THAT zeitgeist programme airs desperately trying to dodge finding out what happened. Now that we’re back in peak great telly season (otherwise known as autumn), there’s plenty to look forward to week to week- whether that’s a dose of Peaky Blinders to see the weekend out in style, or a bit of The Great British Bake Off to get you to the middle of the week in suitably sweet style. So far, so predictable- and I’m a real creature of habit as far as TV is concerned, but over the last three weeks I’ve fallen well and truly in love with Kathy Burke’s All Woman on Channel 4. A trio of programmes presented by Kathy and made by an all-female crew, All Woman focuses on three strands: Beauty, Motherhood and Relationships.

The Beauty episode in particular was a really sobering watch, particularly as Kathy explored the notion of appearance, and the value of looking a particular way in our often image-obsessed age. Her meeting with 20-year-old Laura, who was filmed preparing for and after cosmetic surgery in order to attain the impossible Instagram-perfect look was particularly hard to watch, especially as she was so candid about being bullied online. For women of all ages, but particularly the young, the parameters of societal acceptance based on appearance keep shifting- something which Kathy touched on when she asked Laura what she would do if the surgery didn’t make things better. It’s really disheartening to see the negative impact of social media (and indeed the unrealistic ideals of beauty which have been perpetuated by the broader media) in this context, and even more concerning to see that a number of private aesthetic surgeries are happy to exploit these feelings of insecurity amongst their young client base.

More broadly speaking, I think it’s really important to foster a broader sense of self-acceptance, particularly online, and realise that altered images and emphasising physical beauty at the expense of everything else is really damaging. I remember being really surprised that these young women would willingly put themselves through surgery- no insignificant thing- to allay bullies and a broader sense of inadequacy, which I think just goes to show how much things have changed for young women in the short space of time since I left school, and the often inescapable pressure to attain that ‘Instagram ready’ aesthetic. Additionally, having undergone surgery for medical reasons myself last year, I’ve become much more aware of what my body can do and what it is, rather than what it can’t do and what it isn’t- falling down the rabbit-hole of self-loathing is in no way conducive to maintaining a healthy headspace. Also what I think the programme highlighted really well was the necessity to engage in debate and open, empathetic conversation around these issues- which is why spaces like The Insecure Girls Club are so so important. 

The series has also done wonderfully in terms of highlighting what it means to be a woman in the 21st Century- and specifically the power of making your own choices. I didn’t think I could love Kathy more than when she was filmed brewing up first thing in the morning with a double-bag whammy, but her open and warm approach made each of the encounters she had really inspiring, and I think we can all learn a huge lesson from her fantastic, good-humoured take on life- to look at situations, and indeed each other without judgement or preconception, to offer support when it’s needed and a self-deprecating example when it’s sadly lacking elsewhere.

Have you been watching Kathy's Burke's All Woman?

(Image credit: Channel 4.)

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