Opinion: I feel you, Angela. The Mail targeted my mum (an MP) with their sexist misogyny, too

Opinion: I feel you, Angela. The Mail targeted my mum (an MP) with their sexist misogyny, too | Soho House

This week, the newspaper targeted the female politician for her conduct in Parliament. Why haven’t we moved on from these double standards yet? asks Hanna Flint

Friday 29 April 2022    By Hanna Flint

As if there weren’t enough political scandals going on in UK politics at the moment, what with #Partygate, Rishi Sunak’s green card and millionaire wife not paying enough taxes, as well as the recent revelation that 56 MPs were being investigated for sexual misconduct allegations. Now, we’ve also got the reminder that everyday sexism towards female MPs continues to thrive.

The Mail on Sunday ran a piece about Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner who, according to some reprehensible Tory MPs, has been using Basic Instinct tactics to distract Boris Johnson across the dispatch box. If you’re unclear about the film reference, these sexists are referring to the scene where Sharon Stone’s femme fatale character, Catherine Tramell, crosses and uncrosses her legs to reveal her vagina during a police interrogation scene.

Fun fact: Stone claims she was misled by her male director, Paul Verhoeven, into exposing herself on camera, believing her privates would not be shown, and only found out at the first screening that he had kept the shot in. So there’s the added grossness of using a film reference already tarnished by a #MeToo workplace scenario. If this gutter sexism wasn’t enough, these unnamed Tories quoted in the article also made a classist attack against Rayner who was a care worker before entering politics, and left school at 16, compared to the privately educated Johnson: ‘She knows she can’t compete with Boris’s Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills which he lacks.’

Opinion: I feel you, Angela. The Mail targeted my mum (an MP) with their sexist misogyny, too | Soho House

Seeing this issue trending over the past few days and some of the responses to it has boiled my blood, especially those defending both the article and the anonymous Tories happy to defame the character of a political peer, but not put their name to it. Say it with your chests if you really mean it, you cowards. Of course they won’t, and despite a cross-party denouncement of the article, including from the PM himself, there probably won’t be any consequences for this sort of misogynistic story. The world will move on until the next time The Mail targets a female MP for the way they look, sound or supposedly carry themselves in Parliament.

The whole saga reminds me of how often I’d read utterly foul media coverage of my mother, Caroline Flint, while she served as the first woman MP for Don Valley. She was elected during the Labour landslide of 1997 and it wasn’t long before The Mail began targeting her for being an attractive woman from a working class background who didn’t go to Oxbridge like most of the people who become members of Parliament. Mum was variously described as an ‘Essex girl’, ‘the Don Valley Temptress’, ‘the Downing Street vamp’, having a ‘preening ego’, and was accused of using Downing Street as her runway in a double page spread with the headline ‘Hello Boys!’ referring to the infamous Wonderbra advert.

Opinion: I feel you, Angela. The Mail targeted my mum (an MP) with their sexist misogyny, too | Soho House
Opinion: I feel you, Angela. The Mail targeted my mum (an MP) with their sexist misogyny, too | Soho House

They’d reuse the Downing Street catwalk bit for Conservative MP Esther McVey a few years later, because heaven forbid a female politician dress smartly and take care of their appearance when it is constantly under scrutiny compared to their male counterpart. The unwritten rule for women in politics is you’re not meant to care about fashion or beauty, but must look camera-ready at every turn or risk ridicule. Whereas men can look as god awful and unkempt as they want and become Prime Minister, but female leaders have to suffer front page spreads about ‘WHO WON LEGS-IT?’ Yes, that was indeed another sexist Mail story, this time targeting Theresa May and Angela Merkel.

The Mail isn’t alone in its sexist coverage of female politicians, but it’s certainly the vanguard. Every time they print these stories, they choose to perpetuate negative, misogynist stereotypes about women in power and licence its readers to use them, too. It’s beyond time for its editorial team to hold itself and its editor-in-chief accountable.

Opinion: I feel you, Angela. The Mail targeted my mum (an MP) with their sexist misogyny, too | Soho House

Is the Twitter exodus nigh?

With the news that Elon Musk has purchased Twitter, many people are questioning how long to remain on the platform. Jameela Jamil has already jumped ship, though as she pointed out, it’s a ‘win’ for anyone who finds her ability to insert herself into every social justice matter tiresome. Keep fighting the, er, good fight, Jameela!

Musk claims he’s going to make the platform a better place for free speech, tweeting: ‘I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.’ He might be OK with receiving abuse; the Tesla CEO courts criticism and I’m sure the billions of dollars in the bank is a nice buffer. But as someone who has been on the receiving end of aggressive, sexist, misogynist and racist vitriol for having, say, an innocuous opinion about a Zack Snyder movie, and struggled to get Twitter Support to prevent it, I’m not holding my breath that his direction is going to make things better. If anything, more people might be silenced because of people using their free speech to harm, harass, and troll. Maybe this is just the push I need to get off the addictive platform and, I don’t know, read again.

Now there’s a thought.

Read more
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Jodie Comer puts the hard truths behind sexual assault centre stage in ‘Prima Facie’

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