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Dancing on Ice has fallen into the same insidious trap as Strictly

amber davies and simon seneca, dancing on ice
Dancing on Ice makes the same mistake as StrictlyKieron McCarron/ITV/Shutterstock

Dancing on Ice caused controversy in its latest episode (February 25), when West End star Amber Davies was saved in the skate off over skiing legend Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards, securing her place in the semi-final.

The public backlash to the result has been intense, but it has also brought to light a worrying double standard that has plagued the show for years, and has previously affected reactions to BBC rival Strictly Come Dancing.

Amber has performed some dazzling routines throughout this series alongside partner Simon Proulx-Sénécal, portraying characters from Matilda to Barbie.

She might not be quite as confident skating on her own as some others left in the competition, but she has proven time and time again that she has become an accomplished skater. Plus, several weeks ago she did the scary ‘headbanger’, showing that she is taking risks and attempting difficult moves.

amber davies and simon senecal, dancing on ice
Kieron McCarron/ITV/Shutterstock

You could argue that Eddie should have been saved last night, as he did a lot more solo skating in his skate off routine – but he wasn’t. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, of course, but nothing excuses the vitriol that Amber has experienced online as a result.

Amber and DJ Adele Roberts, the other female remaining in the show, both finished in the top three on the leaderboard, with Adele receiving the highest score of the series so far. Yet out of the remaining contestants, the two women have undoubtedly received the most flak from the public.

You only have to look at Instagram: the comments under the posts about the male celebs are completely positive but the posts about Amber and Adele are flooded with people saying that they’re overmarked and aren’t as good as their high scores suggest. It really feels like viewers are desperate to undermine their success.

amber davies and simon seneca, dancing on ice
Kieron McCarron/ITV/Shutterstock

The men get rightfully praised for lifting their professional partners, but the women are somehow criticised for not being able to do the same (even though Adele did lift her partner a couple of weeks ago!), and their routines seem to be less impressive to viewers as a result.

The female celebs deserve more credit for their role – it’s harder than it looks to be lifted and to create beautiful shapes in the air, and the reason it might look easy is because they are performing these tricks so effortlessly.

Maybe the men are just more popular this year, you might ask. Maybe they’re just better skaters? But this is a trend that has existed for a long time.

It’s hard to believe that the last woman to win Dancing on Ice was gymnast Beth Tweddle in 2013 – a fact that was mentioned on air when the former champ was in the audience during last night’s show.

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Matt Frost/ITV/Rex Features

During the original run of Dancing on Ice, there was pretty much an even split of male and female winners, with Hayley Tamaddon, Gaynor Faye and Suzanne Shaw all triumphing in their respective series. But since the show returned in 2018, not a single woman has won.

Not only this, but since 2018 only two women have made it to the top two and skated Bolero, with talented women like Kimberly Wyatt, Libby Clegg and Saara Aalto all making it to the final but missing out thanks to the public vote.

So what has changed in the last decade? It’s difficult to say, but it feels like the rise in social media hasn’t helped things.

The online treatment of women isn’t something that has gone unnoticed by those involved in the show. Instead of celebrating his own success from last night, Adele’s professional partner Mark Hanretty today posted a video on Instagram calling out online abuse related to the show, and he recognised that a lot of it is aimed at women.

adele roberts, mark hanretty, dancing on ice 2024
ITV

In a reply to a negative comment about his partner on the platform, Mark also wrote: "There does seem [to be] online vitriol against women in this show and a fascinating ability to [overlook] whenever the women do skate solo within choreography."

And this is exactly where the double standard lies. Both Amber and Adele skate on their own within their routines, but this is ignored by viewers who want to push the narrative that the competition is fixed for them – even though it is clearly much harder to be a woman on Dancing on Ice.

This is a narrative that crops up every year on the show and is why it is now incredibly difficult for a woman to win, with the men always perceived as more deserving of the victory.

However, this disappointing statistic could be set to change very soon. Despite the criticism she has received online, Adele is yet to face a skate off, and it feels possible she could take the trophy in two Sundays' time. As well as developing into a very strong skater across the series, her journey has also inspired many people around the country.

adele roberts and mark hanretty, dancing on ice
Kieron McCarron/ITV/Shutterstock

Following her treatment for bowel cancer in 2021, Adele is the first ever contestant to skate with a stoma, and her appearance on the show has broken down barriers and changed perceptions. Adele has previously spoken about being given a "second chance at life", and with Mark’s beautiful choreography, each week she has skated with a joy that you cannot teach.

The standard on the show is incredibly high this year, and it is still too close to call between the five remaining contestants. But could this be the series where a woman finally wins Dancing on Ice again?

Dancing on Ice airs on Sundays at 6.30pm on ITV1 and streams on ITVX.

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