I have a holiday job at a fuel garage where I mainly work on the tills, clean the forecourt and stock the shelves. Part of my job is also focused on getting to work at 5:30am in order to put the newspapers out. I was therefore not surprised to see the headline and picture combo that the Daily Mail chose to caption the talk between Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May, arguably the two most important politicians in Britain. Most people know this is not just an exception to the glowing reputation of innocence that the Daily Mail has built (a tone of heavy sarcasm), but my blog will therefore focus on what this specific example tells us about the wider media perception of women, politics and Brexit.
So let us first consider the relationship between women and the media. It would be ignorant to suggest that women are referenced in the same fashion they were 50 years ago, yet there still seems to be a worrying theme. Whether it be the female form of a page 3 girl or this example of objectification, the media still has an out of touch view on what women can portray. In this instance of course the Daily Mail has used its upmost wit and perception to use the fact that the two women in this meeting have legs and that if one was to put ‘legs’ in front of ‘it’ it would rhyme with Brexit. I know, first class journalism right there. I often wonder if for many tabloids, an apprentice goes through an intensive 6 month ‘pun-tastic’ training regime to produce the kind of headlines Rupert Murdoch can smirk at over his morning brew. I can imagine the following suggestions were also front-runners:
‘Nicola and Theresa skirt around the issue’
‘They’re both digging their heels in!’.
Of course numerous journalists, editors, politicians as well as some of the public will point out that men are objectified in the media also, referencing pictures of Boris Johnson in shorts or Cameron in sandals. This is of course true to some extent and I believe that any objectification, body-shaming or political nip-slipping is inexcusable, male or female. The point however is wider than a picture in a newspaper as I believe the relationship between women and media, reflects a suggested relationship between women and politics.
Again things have improved. Yet it is still true that in Britain there are currently 195 female MPs, out of a total 650 members of parliament. These MPs gained their seats at the 2015 general election or at by-elections held since then. However female MP’s aren’t just in a minority, they are also vulnerable. I’m not saying they should have a louder voice than the average male MP and I’m certainly not suggesting that their capability is the cause of such the vulnerability. An investigation into the security of female MP’s has concluded recently than the image of female MP’s can make them open to potential threat. Lindsay Hoyle, the deputy speaker leading on the security crackdown, said preliminary results showed women and ethnic minorities were by far the most heavily targeted. “All MPs, I believe, are vulnerable to abuse, attack and threat, but more so for women MPs – that is the one thing I’ve picked up since I’ve taken over this jobs,” he told the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday. “Then you can break that down even further to ethnic minority MPs and in particular ethnic minority women MPs who’ve suffered more abuse than other MPs on the evidence that we’ve gathered so far.” As a society I believe we have to look to why this is the case and a possible factor to this maybe the impact of the media.
So finally to what this means for the current issues of the day. Brexit and Scottish independence are the two big subjects at the moment in British politics. Trivialising the very important questions are not helpful, unless done in a satirical manor which inadvertently makes real statements on such issues. Maybe this is to some extent a protection of my own work on such issues, but I believe it is the main responsibility of the newspapers to project a view point on current matters. I believe a free-press should exist and that different opinions should be both accepted and promoted. Yet I don’t believe the publishing of lies, deceptive rhetoric and the misogyny represented in this article really add anything valuable to a very important social debate on current issues. I want to also add that I don’t just believe this misguided information or unhelpful analysis just comes from the likes of the tabloids or even just newspapers. The BBC news recently used ’emoji paddles’ to gauge what the feeling amongst ‘the British public’ was, using 8 people within the research experiment. John Oliver has done a brilliant sketch on this and the wider news on Brexit on his tonight show in America (I have linked bellow).
Again I apologise for the length of this blog, I felt I had to get it off my chest. The next blog will look at the on going punishment of Ken Livingston and will hopefully contain better puns than any front-page title of the Daily Mail.