There is a woman on my television screen. She does not have my face. Her eyes are not mine. Where she used to have teeth is now empty space
I am not that woman.
Her clothes are dirty. They are the clothes of a man and her wasted frame swims inside of them. Her hair I cannot see because of the baseball cap jammed on top of her head but I know it is shorn and sexless.
I do not look like you.
Her face is bereft of makeup, of expression. Etched with lines beyond her years. Her body shakes, her voice thin and reedy, bordering on incoherent.
You do not sound like me.
She may be one, but she follows many and will be replaced time and time again. Her greying cracked trainers filled by another sexless, hopeless, faceless twin.
Who do you represent?
Jeremy Kyle is not the first to fill our screens with a twisted view of female alcoholism. He’s just the longest-serving. He takes women who fit a marginalised sector of society and he gives them a platform. A platform seen by so many, Played out over so many episodes it is now a well-worn dance of despair. The same symptoms, The same dark confessions. The years go by. The faces stay the same.
Jeremy Kyle is not harming these women. If anything he does provide a way out, counselling, stints in rehab, a life raft of sorts.
The women he harms he does through exclusion. Omission. The ones who watch his show and laugh. Or feel relief. Relief that their face does not fit these sorry souls. That to be an alcoholic is to have no teeth. No control. No money. No job. No hope.
That alcoholism is bedsits and cider bottles. It is anti-social behaviour and benefit claims. They use this as a green light to keep drinking, keep hurting themselves. Laughing because they do not take any of it seriously. Which is where the real danger sets in. It allows the images of these sorry shells of women to slip into their subconscious and take root.
I’m still okay. This is not my face. This is not my life. I’m fine. When I get there? Then I’ll have a problem.
Who watches this crap? Who is actually impressionable enough to be swayed by daytime television?
Who is the most susceptible to harm through alcohol abuse. Physical. Mental. Sexual?
Who needs images of honest-to-god actual female alcoholism? Of real people they can relate to on their screens, people who have stood where they are standing? Who have the navigation system to ensure they and no one else have to end up with a life anything like these sexless, hopeless cases that crop up constantly on Jeremy Kyle’s stage?
You will not see a face like mine on Jeremy Kyle’s show even if you need one. The same as I never saw a face like mine on Jeremy Kyle’s show when I desperately needed it. His platform will continue to ignore the real faces of female alcoholism. Just as surely as young women will continue to use it as an excuse to keep drinking. And all I can offer to these women from the limited capacity of my own little platform is this:
These women do not look like me.
But I still ended up like them.
We are all still fairly horrible unattractive examples of a fairly horrible unattractive lifestyle choice. Of alcoholism.
And until Jeremy Kyle decides that alcoholism needs a makeover on his daytime tv show. One that helps women alcoholics rather than harming them by playing to their fantasies of what they now assume female alcoholism looks like? Nothing will happen to change that.
Her face will remain a stranger to us all.