What the *$*% does 'mumsy' look like, anyway?

Melissa Doyle’s had a makeover. And she looks amazing. But really, why is ‘mumsy’ the worst thing a woman can be?

“Who are you calling Mumsy?” screamed the newspaper’s front page at me yesterday, as I passed by pushing a pram, a four-year-old ramming my heels with her scooter.

Mumsy, me?

Mel Doyle on Sunday Style. 'Mumsy'.

I stopped. A blonde ice queen in a shoulder-shrug-coat glared back at me. Oh, no, definitely not mumsy... Wait, what? Was that Melissa Doyle?

Yes. It was. And she looked freaking amazing. She had a bit of extra hair going on, which is always a short-cut to photo shoot glamour (note to self: more hair). She looked like she's been heading to pilates in the morning since leaving Sunrise instead of sitting at the desk, shuffling papers with Kochie, and she'd been styled to within an inch of her life by professionals who knew what they were doing.

Gorgeous. Woah, Mel...

I pushed on. But hold on a minute. Why was Melissa Doyle, talented, attractive, smart journalist with more than 20 years experience under her belt, so desperate to announce that she is not 'mumsy'?

And what the hell is 'mumsy', anyway?

Look, it's not cool to admit this, but I've always loved Melissa Doyle. The old Mel n' Kochie double act was a regular fixture in my lounge room before Peppa Pig finally kicked the adults off my morning television for good.

I liked Mel because she was straight-up, smart and nice. The 'nice' thing is often used against her, but seriously - another moment where I display my non-coolness - what's wrong with being nice? She didn't flirt, or simper. She knew what she was talking about. She always looked great, slick and professional, and, call me a sucker, but I always bought into her and Kochie's on-air friendship. They gave good TV.

Spot the difference - Sam Armytage: Not 'mumsy'.

And when Mel moved on last year I was happy for her, too. I mean, really, just how long can anyone keep getting up before the young people even go to bed, trying to make current affairs appeal to the coffee-slurping, kid-wrangling masses, while being constantly criticised for what you're wearing rather than what you're saying? Good on you, Mel, I thought as she said she was going to pursue things that were more compatible with her family life. Like host the 4pm bulletin, and write a book.

But then the whispers started about why Mel really moved, and that's when the 'M' word was mentioned. Mel, 44, was (whisper it) 'mumsy'. Her replacement, the also excellent and talented Samantha Armytage, 36, is not.


Clearly, describing anyone - and especially a woman with a career, with ambition and experience and drive - as 'mumsy' is not a compliment in 2014. It is reductive. Not because being a mum is some small thing, of course it isn't, but because 'mumsy' is not what we want modern motherhood to look like.

Mumsy means cardigans, means no-make-up, means flat shoes. Mumsy means self-sacrificing, means non-sexual, means non-threatening.

Mumsy = bad. Not mumsy = good.

Yes, women worry that after they become mothers they will become invisible, become irrelevant, become, yes, mumsy. So it's the sort of word you don't want in big letters on your CV. As Melissa Doyle told the Sunday Telegraph's Style Magazine in the interview that accompanied her 'non mumsy' shoot:

"You know what? I am a mother. I have two children. It doesn't mean I can't rock a pair of high heels as well as any other chick out there, and enjoy life.

"There are so many labels that seem to come with motherhood. Beyonce is a mum, but she's not called mumsy. I don't know where it comes from, but I know who I am, I know what I do, I'm ok."

Right on, Mel. But that point you've raised, right there, about Beyonce, has got my attention, because if being seen as 'mumsy' is the death knell of staying relevant and desirable after you've procreated, is that why Queen Bey is busy making borderline soft porn videos with her husband? Is that why every day brings a new sexy selfie from Kim Kardashian?

Because being a MILF is good, right? And being mumsy is not.

Sam Armytage is not a mum.  These things shouldn't matter, except they do. Because if you read any of the media around morning television's musical chairs, it's always pointed out. And it's thought to be a part of why Sam has boosted Sunrise's ratings. Insulting? Yes. 'Sexy' Sam has a lot more going for her than her single status, but many women on TV are still reduced to a sum of their vital statistics and reproductive life stage.

Mel, so 'mumsy' at the Oscars last month.

The men on mainstream TV do not need to worry about being labelled 'Dadsy'. 'Dadsy' is not a thing. But apparently, 'mumsy' is, and it's a thing we need to avoid.

I don't know about you, but I don't look around and look at the mums I know and think, 'mumsy'. Some of them are glamorous, fashionable women, some of them couldn't care less about 'rocking' heels. Some of them are working in male-dominated careers, where mentioning your children isn't the done thing, some of them are running a home, and have both feet firmly planted in 'mum world'.

They are 'Mum'. They are 'Mummy'. But they are not 'mumsy'.

What do you think - should we reclaim mumsy as an adjective to be proud of?