Thu, Mar 30, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Comparison of May’s, Sturgeon’s legs by ‘Daily Mail’ provokes controversy

NY Times News Service, LONDON

A copy of Tuesday’s Daily Mail newspaper — featuring a photograph of British Prime Minister Theresa May, right, and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon — is displayed in London on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

Britain Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday met to discuss the most consequential of questions: Will Britain’s departure from the EU cause Scotland — joined with England since 1707 — to leave the UK?

However, for the Daily Mail, one of Britain’s most popular newspapers, the question that mattered was: Which leader had better legs?

“Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!” its cover read on Tuesday.

Many readers were appalled that the encounter between May and Sturgeon had been reduced to a comparison of their bodies. By Tuesday afternoon, at least one complaint had been filed with Britain’s media regulator.

“This is 2017,” Labour lawmaker Chuka Umunna said on Twitter. “Sexist does not begin to describe this front page.”

Others, perhaps more jaded, were unsurprised, given how the Daily Mail has represented women in its pages in the past.

“The Daily Mail do this regularly,” said Roy Greenslade, a professor of journalism at City University in London and a columnist for liberal newspaper the Guardian. “And this is a particularly venal example, but if you look at it day on day, there are plenty of similar examples.”

The blatant sexism was done unapologetically “with a sense of confidence on the understanding that they can’t see what the fuss is all about,” Greenslade said.

May and Sturgeon met at a hotel in Glasgow on Monday, two days before the British government was set to invoke Article 50, formally notifying the EU of Britain’s intention to leave the bloc. The leaders stopped for a photograph, sitting next to each other in armchairs.

“But what stands out here are the legs — and the vast expanse on show,” wrote Sarah Vine, author of the Daily Mail article.

Vine is married to Conservative lawmaker Michael Gove, who helped lead the campaign to leave the EU.

The article went on to describe each woman’s stance.

“Knees tightly together,” May opted for “a studied pose that reminds us that for all her confidence, she is ever the vicar’s daughter,” the article said.

Sturgeon’s legs, described as “undeniably more shapely shanks,” were “more flirty, tantalizingly crossed.”

The writer then called the Scottish leader’s posture “a direct attempt at seduction: Her stiletto is not quite dangling off her foot, but it could be.”

The Daily Mail has a readership of about 3.4 million. It has often portrayed what it calls “career women” through the lens of their appearance, rather than through their accomplishments.

“Even though they are great champions of Theresa May — and were champions of Mrs Thatcher — they still basically see women in a 1950s role, as an adornment,” Greenslade said, referring to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. “That’s why so much of their editorial is about how women look.”

For example, the Daily Mail in 2014 compiled photographs of female lawmakers entering or leaving 10 Downing Street — the prime minister’s office and residence in London — during meetings about a Cabinet reshuffle by then-British prime minister David Cameron, May’s predecessor.

The article, with the headline: “Esther, the Queen of the Downing Street Catwalk,” referring to one of the lawmakers, Esther McVey, also caused an uproar.

To the latest criticism, the Daily Mail issued the response: “For goodness sake, get a life!”

Its statement called the article “a sidebar alongside a serious political story” that appeared “in an 84-page paper packed with important news and analysis.”

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