Bronwyn O'Neill looks at the myth that sexism has disappeared from world politics (Legs-it anyone?)
“Clearly we’re less sexist than feminists would have people think,” someone said to me once, in reference to the rise of female politicians. It caught me off guard because I couldn’t believe someone could be that blind to the way female politicians, or any woman in the public eye, are treated. It’s not a question of are we or aren’t we sexist, but rather how sexist are we?
The big international news last week was that Theresa May was triggering Article 50, basically beginning Brexit. This is of course huge, unprecedented news and was covered in almost every news publication in some shape or form. True to form, The Daily Mail’s front cover was a picture of Theresa May and the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, with the headline “Never Mind Brexit, who won Legs-It!” (Yes there was no question mark after the question, but we’re not here to talk about grammar!)
Now, I get that it said “light hearted verdict” and it wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously. The Daily Mail even told critics of the article to “get a life” - a nice touch! But you can be light hearted and satirical without being sexist or stereotypically make fun of women because they happen to own legs. Not once would you ever see an article like this about a man. Imagine a picture of Enda Kenny and David Cameron with that headline. It simply would never happen.
By treating women completely different from their male counterparts, we feed the idea that men and women are not equal. This is of course equates to sexism - you may not be saying “I would never let a woman lead me,” but the fact is is that that clear divide strengthens the ideology of those who already have prejudice against women.
When Theresa May became Prime Minister, the media seemed more focused on her sense of style and kitten heels than her political agenda. Now, I am not saying that women can’t be political and love fashion, I adore fashion and here I am writing about sexism in politics. However, there should have been an emphasis on her work rather than her leather trousers.
Another woman who has been boxed in by fashion is most definitely Amal Clooney. The top lawyer has made several speeches at United Nations meetings about the atrocity of ISIS, however her fashion and growing pregnant stomach have made headlines more times than what she has to say. Her political believes and the immense work she has done should be the first thing we speak about, rather than her daring red dress and the possibility she is stealing Beyoncé’s spotlight by being pregnant with twins (Only one woman in the public eye can be pregnant at any given time, apparently).
An article about sexism in politics cannot be complete without talking about the most clear case of it in the past year. That is, of course, Donald Trump winning the US Presidential election over Hillary Rodham Clinton. Hillary was much more qualified to become president than Donald, but here we are as he denies America affordable healthcare and destroys the environment. There are a lot of reasons why Trump is now sitting in the Oval Office, but sexism has to have played a massive role in his ascent to the White House.
Racism, fear mongering and for some reason the fact he wasn’t a politician, are also in the mix when it comes to the reasons why Trump is president. But America voted for a black president for two terms, so sexism must have played a vital role in electing Trump. Oh, and before people bring up that so many women voted for Trump, there is something called internalised sexism. This is basically defined as the involuntary belief by girls and women that the lies, stereotypes and myths about girls and women that are delivered to everyone in a sexist society are true. Also, 54% of women voted for Clinton; the group of women who voted for Trump over Clinton were white women without a college education.
Whilst sexism is being challenged more and more every day, we still face an uphill battle against inequality in this world. While some people may sexism is no longer an issue, by opening a newspaper or going online, you can see that there is still a clear gender divide.