There’s a magazine called Good Housekeeping. Never wanted to read it? Me neither. It caught my eye last week because Sandi Toksvig was on the cover. She’s been a hero of mine since she helped set up the Women's Equality Party here in the UK. She writes cool books - ‘Valentine Grey’ and ‘Whistling for the Elephants’ are just two that happen to be on the bookshelf in front of me, my daughter has one about a slightly inept tooth fairy and her favourite book of all time, ‘Girls are Best.’ Sandi Toksvig also hosted the News Quiz on Radio 4 in a really inclusive way. She writes about interesting women who do cool stuff or invites them to be on her panel show and is a brilliant role model for women everywhere. Oh, and she has just started hosting Q.I and has a play coming out soon so must need to plug one or other of these things.
So, back to Good Housekeeping Nov 2016. The cover photo is quite glamorous and very unlike any other photo I have seen of Sandi before - perhaps it’s the leopard print? Anyway it is a lovely but magazine-y image, so they have photoshopped her wrinkles away - her smile lines earned in the service of carving a path for generations after her - gone in the click of a mouse. They’ve kept her make up minimal which seems reasonable as she doesn’t normally need any. If I was Sandi though I’d be pissed off. The cover reads Sandi Toksvig: ’Losing 4st gave me the confidence to live my dream’
What has fat shaming got to do with housekeeping? What on earth is housekeeping? Is it meal planning? Is it cleaning? Is it making women think that they need to lose weight to live their dreams? I guess I needed to find out so I bought the magazine. I don’t usually buy women’s magazines as I have a policy of choosing to read things that boost my confidence, educate me or make me happy but I made an exception. I wanted to know whether they really were pedalling such a pathetic message or was the interview twisted a little for an exciting/exploitative of women’s insecurities, headline? Well, I’ll start at the beginning.
The introduction says: “Since meeting weight loss guru [name is irrelevant] Sandi has quit Radio 4’s News Quiz… married her long term partner, Debbie, launched a political party and was appointed the new host of BBC Two’s QI… “ (p14).
Is it causation or correlation I hear you ask? Well, in the interview, we discover that Sandi lost weight for health reasons; she is the new host of QI and no, she doesn’t want to be a female Stephen Fry, she is her own person and will host the show her own way. She is still eating healthily and exercising but is very busy - she has done four TV series, written a novel and a play and been on tour, she might have stayed on radio instead of TV if she hadn’t lost a whole lot of weight BUT in her words she was not cast due to her weight loss: “It’s lucky chance. I lost the weight and then got QI. I don’t think the program makers are the type of people who would have anything to do with that… “ (p16).
We then learn are that Sandi Toksvig is thrilled to be the first female presenter of a mainstream comedy, she is still quite private and doesn’t like internet trolls and being a ‘triple whammy’ - a woman, gay and on TV; people have been really mean about her on social media. She thinks that "it must be perfectly possible to make a troll free garden” (p17). Oh yeah, I forgot, she is really funny too. Anyway, there's more: She launched the Women’s Equality Party, might one day sit in the House of Lords, and worries about the gap between rich and poor, young and old. The QI staff have all been to her home for a Danish dinner, she has a play on in Chichester in February about how we treat older women, she has a children’s story coming out in spring, she also has a dog.
So essentially Sandi Toksvig is a busy successful woman - oh and she lost some weight. Good Housekeeping has some other rubbish articles and some quite good recipes.