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Sexism in the media still rabid

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sexism in UK media and parliament, women who are politicians have breasts, Apparently a woman’s breasts are as newsworthy as the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget.

Last week, Theresa May, the longest serving Home Secretary since 1892 and the UK’s most senior female politician, was degraded and mocked by the national press because she dared to wear a brightly coloured dress which showed some cleavage.

The Sun was as tasteful as ever, referring to the ‘Busty Budget’ and claiming that May ‘overshadowed the Chancellor of the Exchequer as she sat to his right in a daring low cut top’.

The Daily Mail also did itself proud with the witty headline ‘It’s not just the economy plunging into the red’, and, like The Sun, wrote that May ‘managed to upstage George Osborne’s speech – not through any political statement but with her daring choice of clothing’.

And then there was an article written by Andrew Pierce for the Daily Mail following the shock revelation that Theresa May is not exempt from having a female anatomy, dedicated to ‘MPs who flaunt their, er, agendas’.

Pierce claimed that through her choice of outfit, ‘the Home Secretary, increasingly overlooked in the Tory leadership race between London Mayor Boris Johnson and George Osborne, reminded everyone that she was still a major player’.

According to Pierce, ‘flashing the flesh is always strategic: distracting from scandals, securing coveted political jobs and sending out powerful messages’.

Has it still never crossed his mind that these women may have achieved success and power through their own merit and hard work, instead of simply by ‘moving a hemline up or a neckline down’?

It is appalling that in 2016 a woman’s looks – or even only parts of them – are still considered the only tool she possesses to prove that she is as important as her male colleagues and worthy of promotion.

Despite the largest increase in the number of female MPs since 1997 in last year’s general election, attitudes towards women in politics are clearly not improving.

Almost a third of MPs are now women – a figure which still isn’t really good enough – but that isn’t much use if they are not taken as seriously as their male counterparts.

In an interview with political commentator Owen Jones, SNP member Mhairi Black suggested that sexism in politics is not confined to the press and is still very much alive in the Houses of Parliament.

When asked how her opinion of Westminster has changed since she was elected in May, Black, the UK’s youngest MP, said: “All of the things that I thought and argued during the referendum and the general election have unfortunately turned out to be totally true. It’s a complete boys’ club.

“I am taken aback by how patronising and sexist people are. It’s subtle sexism, it still exists – the arrogance and the darlings and the ‘oh don’t worry yourself’.

“It’s so excluded from reality, it’s unbelievable. It’s a totally defunct institution that has to drag itself into the 21st century. It allows tradition to rule over reason.”

All high profile women, regardless of their profession, are brutally and relentlessly judged, compared, and slated for their physical appearance, something which men are rarely subjected to. This needs to change.

On a daily basis the media make various ludicrous statements and assumptions about women in the public sphere based on what they are wearing. Failing the public too, as we need to hear what they have to say.

This constant scrutiny of women’s bodies and outfits is used to ridicule and silence all of us, used to detract from what we say and think and used to undermine our credibility.

And it is often also adopted as a means of cruelly and unnecessarily pitting women against each other, further crushing any confidence and unity.

The combination of an unashamedly sexist and misogynistic press and parliamentary tradition and the determination to continue supprting an environment in which women are shunned and belittled isn’t exactly an incentive for women to get engaged in and strive to be a part of major party politics.

If we are brave enough to put ourselves out there attempts will be made to put us back in our place – as demonstrated last week.

Westminster remains dominated by wealthy white men and its striking lack of diversity, and unwillingness to change, is hindering progress within politics and society in general, and alienating the institution from the public.

The solution is not for women to start dressing as nuns. For even if we did, the press would find a way to objectify and deride us.

For any significant change to occur, male MPs will have to join forces with women and take a stand against the media and challenge the out-dated and discriminatory hierarchies and customs within politics.

Once people start listening to women, instead of simply looking at them, we may begin to get somewhere.

We can start by writing to our MPs and pointing this out to them and asking them to do so.

And then please write and complain to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, (IPSO) the apparently independent regulator for the newspaper and magazine industry in the UK, and which says on its website it upholds the highest standards of journalism.

To read the 2016 budget in question, click here.

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