The Daily Mail's 'Legs-it' headline is anything but a bit of fun, writes Kara Bryan
The Daily Mail shrugs off the ‘Legs It’ controversy as ‘just a bit of fun’. It is anything but. Whatever your views on their politics, if two of the most prominent female politicians on the world stage can be subjectedto this kind of grotesque objectification, what hope is there for ordinary working class women fighting everyday sexism?
Last week Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon met to discuss whether Brexit would trigger a second Scottish referendum. Instead of a critique on the outcome of the talks, the Daily Mail prompted outrage by featuring a photograph of their bare legs, dominating half the page and went to press with the headline, ‘Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!’
It's difficult to say which is worse; whether it’s the fact that the article was actually written by a female columnist, Sarah Vine, or whether it's that Theresa May has said she ‘doesn’t mind.’ Although that’s unsurprising given May’s penchant for holding hands with misogynists.
Perhaps it’s because they are both depressing examples of how widely everyday sexism is tolerated in 21st-century Britain, which is still so pervasive that it is not treated seriously. As the Daily Mail retorted, it’s ‘just a bit of fun.’ Right. Fun for who?
The ramifications of the talks are cause for serious consideration and commentary. The issues discussed between the British Prime Minister and the First Minister of Scotland could have major ramifications. The pair are effectively deciding on the fate of a nation, possibly even two.
But the issue isn’t where you stand on Brexit or a potential second Scottish referendum. The issue is that in 2017, a popular British newspaper with a daily readership of 1.6 million is still championing misogyny, bigotry and racism on a daily basis as though it were still the 1970s – and last year grossed £242 million for doing so.
The ‘Daily Fail’, as it has become known on the left for its constant vilification of Muslims, benefit claimants, single mothers and the disabled, is the archetypal ‘inappropriate uncle,’ a sort of Prince Phillip. An institution. A ‘harmless’ source of embarrassment that has been tolerated for too long. The paper supported the rise of Hitler in the 1930s and doesn’t seem to have sufficiently progressed in the eighty-odd years since.
The paper responded to criticism of the article by suggesting that those offended should ‘get a life.’ The Daily Mail doesn’t care who it offends, particularly when its critics are not paying customers, but it does care about its shareholders.
Last year the Daily Mail lost £18 million in advertising revenue. Isn’t it time we extended the boycott of the Sun newspaper to the Daily Mail as well? The louder we voice our objection, the less likely it is that businesses will want to be associated with it, and unless we publicly decry bigotry and misogyny whenever it raises its ugly head, we are effectively enabling it, whether or not we subscribe to its point of view, or its readership.
Kara Bryan is a writer and activist and regular contributor to the Counterfire website. She is a member of Counterfire and Stop the War
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