Professional Journalism Legging It


Last Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May signed article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which starts the ball rolling for Brexit. You would think that this would be the most important news story in British newspapers this week – but no. The Daily Mail decided to run with a story on Tuesday which is sexist, demeaning and incredibly degrading. The Daily Mail decided to focus on legs, instead of the treaty. And not just any pair of legs, but on the legs of Theresa May and those of Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland. Matter the fact that these women have managed to work their way to the top and are ruling the country; their legs must be compared…

The picture that The Daily Mail decided to use for this article, if that is what you can even call it, was the two women sitting together, legs crossed. Up on the front page. Two women sitting in chairs. Women who are in government. Women who have legs. Scandalous! It doesn’t even end here. After the disgrace of the front page, the story continues with the headline “Finest weapons at their command? Those pins!”.

Really?! When talking about the finest weapons at their command, you decide to focus on their legs? The woman who signed the form to continue the Brexit, and the woman who is fighting for Scottish independence. And their finest weapons are their legs. Sure.

While The Daily Mail might not be the most representative, and most serious newspaper out there, as you could even call it a tabloid, it is the fact that once again women are being marginalised by focussing on their appearance and completely leaving out all accomplishments and it has rubbed people the wrong way. Ranging from “The 1950s called and asked for their headline back. #everydaysexism” (Ed Miliband) to “This is what happens when you let that drunk, pervy uncle at a wedding edit a newspaper.” (Jane Bradley) comments to this article have not been kind, and they shouldn’t be.

Instead of standing up for their hatchet job of an article, The Daily Mail continues to make light of the situation. The headline of the story was rewritten and made into “Sarah Vine’s light-hearted verdict on the big showdown”. Vine, the author, writes an article on the 29th of March about the response her article got. “Light-hearted commentary I wrote in yesterday’s Mail about, among other things, how nice Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon’s legs looked in a photo of them sitting side by side in Glasgow, got blown out of all proportion when the usual suspects (Twitter, the BBC, The Guardian and subsidiaries) decided to take offence… And what better way to cheer oneself up than by having a gentle poke at a pair of politicians who obviously loathe each other but are desperately trying to pretend that everything is just fine?” If you want to read the rest of it, here is the link.

Both articles blew my mind. The fact that Sarah Vine writes such an article, continues to make fun of everything and everyone in her response to the first article and that this article still hasn’t been retracted. ‘It’s all the snowflakes still stuck in a rut of Seventies-style feminism — the ones wallowing in their outrage yesterday — who need to catch up.” If that is the case, where the new generation of feminism needs to trivialise the accomplishments of women to lighten up the air and once again focus on appearance instead of brains, I think we need a new wave of feminism and quick.

Annick Wijnstra, Class of 2017, is a literature and history major from the Netherlands.

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