If you saw a friend’s post on Facebook celebrating her graduation what would you comment? “Congratulations!” Or “what a lovely photo – you look so pretty!”? I saw a post of a woman graduating just the other day and not one comment mentioned the fact that she had graduated. They all commented on her appearance.
Why is it that we are all so obsessed with a woman’s appearance? A disturbing example of how successful women are often depicted in the media was the front page of the Daily Mail showing the Prime Minister of the UK, Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, meeting to discuss Brexit. And what was the headline? “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it”!
And what about this astonishing article by Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post about Melania and Ivanka Trump during Donald Trump’s current international tour. link The headline is “Melania and Ivanka Trump show the world what feminine power looks like” and Kathleen Parker’s reason for this claim is the clothes they wore and “Preternaturally beautiful, they seemed as apparitions above the sea of dark suits and white robes”. What on earth does this have to do with feminine power?
Any woman in public life is likely to be subjected to sexist comments, many of which are negative, but it seems to me that female politicians are particularly targeted. Laura Bates’ article in the Guardian link Sexist Coverage of Liz Kendall and female politicians insidious and demeaning discusses this issue. She points out how UK labour candidate at the time, Liz Kendall, was described as a “slinky brunette’ with a “lithe figure” and that she had been heckled as a “childless spinster”.
It’s really important that we don’t just ignore these comments from the media and make our displeasure known. We also need to make sure that we don’t comment solely on a woman’s appearance, while ignoring her achievements.