Leila Herandi 13th April 2018
Tickets for Ladies Day at the Grand National this year are completely sold out and those lucky enough to be in possession of one will no doubt be suitably excited. But what should be a day filled with fun and (potentially) sun will most likely end up being tarnished by judgement from every angle.
Let’s put aside arguments about animal welfare, and instead talk about how – at an event geared towards women and centred around alcohol (oh yeah, and horses) – all the tabloids seem to be able to do is judge women on what they’re wearing, what they’re doing and how much they’re drinking.
“Ladies Day is full of colour, style and fashion as we celebrate individuality and creativity,” the Grand National website proudly announces in block capitals. It doesn’t take much googling to argue against this, though.
When looking over coverage from previous years’ Ladies Days, the first thing to jump out of the articles and punch you in the eyes is the photographers’ tendencies to capture the women in the most revealing outfits, often at the most unflattering of moments, and the array of just-about-mild-enough-to-print slut-shaming captions.
“Women tried to outdo each other to win the Best Dressed prize on the second day of racing at Aintree,” one caption from last year reads below a woman with her breasts poking over the edges of her bra and royal blue dress.
Another commented, “Women pulled out all the stops for Ladies Day” talking about a woman in a jumpsuit whose breasts are being framed by the teardrop shape cut out of the fabric.
At Ladies Day, as in life, you’re entered into a beauty pageant whether you want to or not
You are so transparent, The Sun. If you mean tits, JUST SAY TITS. “Putting the racy into racing! Aintree revellers put on an eye-popping display in low cut dresses that revealed rather a lot of cleavage” – at least the goddamn Daily Mail is getting to the point. Stop dancing around the fact that you think these women are drunken sluts parading their bodies around, and either say what you mean or go to bed. Actually, scrap that. Just go.
When every regular day is an unspoken competition anyway, do we need another excuse to be pitted against each other? Whether you’re in the supermarket, meeting a friend for coffee or taking out the bins; as a woman, you’re being constantly judged on how you look and what you’re wearing, as well as how much or little you seem to care about it. At Ladies Day, as in life, you’re entered into a beauty pageant whether you want to or not.
And how do we know if these ladies actually care about this stupid competition anyway? Maybe they just want a great day out with their friends and to have a few bevvies (and maybe watch some horses run).
Funny how there’s no Best Dressed Men’s competition. We don’t seem to be hearing anything about guys trying to outdo each other with their suits and ties. That’s odd. It’s almost as if they – or we – might not care?
As it’s socially acceptable for a woman to wear something other than a two-piece suit, how about we talk about their clothes and how cool they are? Why not “Woman pairs an imaginative fascinator with kaleidoscopic jumpsuit, attracting swarm of nectar-hungry bees” instead of “This woman clearly got dressed this morning in hopes of beating other ladies round the heads with a shoe in order to win Best Dressed”?
Speaking of shoes, let’s.
So what if a gal wants to take off her stilettos and sit down? If it’s a long, hot day, and the patriarchy has made it the norm for women to only look “attractive” and “acceptable” in high heels, then why the hell can’t they take a break from them and have a little sit every now and then? If all these ladies turned up in flat leather shoes like their male counterparts, two things would happen.
Firstly, they wouldn’t be falling over, massaging their toes until the feeling came back or replacing their footwear with carrier bags. Positive.
But, of course, the second thing to happen would be the comments, because women don’t wear sensible flat shoes to fancy events unless they’re deranged/frumpy/lesbians/all of the above, you fool. Not so positive. You just can’t win.
One article’s headline screams: “HAD ONE TOO MANY? Grand National girls go wild as the booze flows on Ladies Day at Aintree”.
Good lord. Women? Drinking? At an event geared towards women and drinking? Let’s all frown and waggle our fingers at them for this gross misconduct!
It’s like inviting someone to an all-you-can-eat buffet, then judging them on how much they’re eating and the speed at which they’re consuming chow mein and miniature hotdogs.
It wouldn’t be a traditional British event if everyone didn’t end up on the floor at the end of the night
At an event where it’s expected for everyone to have a good time, have a few drinks and socialise, why can’t we just leave it at that?
It wouldn’t be a traditional British event if everyone didn’t end up on the floor at the end of the night, weeing in a bush once an hour and then stumbling back out to retrieve the tepid pint from a friend who was ‘keeping watch’.
One key thing the newspapers seem to forget is that these are real people.
Imagine you’d planned this day with your friends: you’ve had tickets for months, been planning your outfits for even longer, and you all get ready together on the morning of the event. You’re excited – today is going to be THE TITS! And it was!
But after a raucous day of boozing and trotting about with your best mates, you wake up the next morning to a picture of you helping your friend who’d fallen over (“What’s she like, that Kelly?!”) in The Mirror; your bum and knickers now plastered all over every newsagent in the country’s shelves, alongside an unkind comment about how much of a mess you are.
That’s not fun. That’s not grand.
Why can’t Ladies Day be more like a Ladies’ Night event? Celebrating women, allowing them to get absolutely trollied and casting away judging eyes from whatever they choose to do, if only for one measly day. But then, this isn’t just about one day filled with tired horses and judgement. It’s bigger than the Grand National – it’s beyond a national-scale problem.
We’re all tired horses wondering why we can’t catch a break. Look at any awards ceremony, high-profile event or social situation ever – women are constantly being commented on: what they’re wearing, whether it’s “provocative” or “frumpy”; what they’re saying, accused of either being “too mouthy” or a “shrinking violet”; and how they’re acting, from “out of control” to a non-drinking “party-pooper”. We can’t win.
And so, I ask on behalf of women everywhere – whether they’re attending Ladies’ Day or not: can we all, for one day in this goddamn calendar year, please just be left the hell alone?
Main image: Charles Roffey
Leila Herandi 13th April 2018