It's hard out there for a lady, but it's especially hard out there for a lady in the public eye. They face a unique brand of sexism in which reporters constantly pry into their private lives, asking deeply personal questions that would never be posed to a man. Luckily, women like Liz Kendall, the British politician who shot down a reporter who asked about her weight, are doing their best to change that.
Kendall is in the running to become head of the Labour Party after former leader Ed Miliband stepped down in May. As a result, she has come under scrutiny for everything from her stance on healthcare to her marital status — the latter of which I'm willing to bet would be unimportant if she were a man. As the potential first female leader of the Labour Party, Kendall already attracts attention, but recently, she has been making headlines for her choice words for the Daily Mail reporter who quizzed her about her workout regimen and weight for reasons unknown. Maybe he was looking to also become a "slinky brunette," as he describes Kendall in the article?
Whatever the reason, the reporter in question, Simon Walters, was most likely unprepared for her beautifully concise response: A simple yet effective, "Fuck off."
Although Walters reports that she asked him not to print that particular avenue of conversation, he carried on anyway, with the exchange appearing in the Daily Mail as follows:
Her jacket, navy blue "vest" and trousers are from Reiss. L.K. Bennett and Reiss are two of the Duchess of Cambridge’s favourite fashion brands — and slinky brunette Liz, or Elizabeth Louise, to give her full Royal-sounding Christian names, looks as good in them as slinky brunette Kate. In fact she looks the same weight as the Duchess — about 8st — though when I ask she slaps me down with a raucous "f*** off!," adding quickly: "Don’t print that."
There was a predictable uproar, but surprisingly, most of the furor seemed to applaud Kendall's response. To make things even better, she took to BBC News Radio to address the incident, where she was beautifully unapologetic.
"It's unbelievable that in the 21st century, women still get asked such very, very different questions than men," she said, later adding that she "cannot wait for a world when women are judged the same as men."
This kind of sexism is far from harmless. Previous research has shown that focus on the appearance of female politicians actively hurts their campaigns, even if it's positive. A similar 2010 study found that sexist insults like "ice queen" also negatively affect their public image. Women in politics have to deal with all kinds of sexism. Some prefer the grin-and-bear-it method, but others, like these six politicians, are rather more outspoken in their responses:
1. Hillary Clinton
The list must, of course, begin with the ultimate lady politician of the moment: Hillary Clinton. When asked which designers she prefers to wear, during a discussion of how women are criticized for their appearances no less, she turned the tables and asked, "Would you ever ask a man that question?"
2. Margaret Heckler
The Republican politician frequently showed up on "prettiest woman in the Capitol" lists during her time in the House of Representatives during the '80s. Fortunately, according to Slate, she had a sense of humor about the subject. "I suppose when compared to most of the men, I am among the prettiest congressmen. But what does it all prove?" she asked.
3. Julia Gillard
4. Nancy Pelosi
Pelosi called out both sexism and ageism when she was asked whether she thought she should step down to make way for a younger politician. (Like they thought she would say yes?)
"It is just interesting, as a woman, how many times that question is asked of a woman, and how many times that question is never asked of Mitch McConnell," she said.
5. Larissa Waters
When asked if she was married during a proceeding, Australian politician Larissa Waters shut. It. Down.
"I question whether he would have asked the same question of a male Senator," she responded.
6. Christine Whitman
When the former New Jersey governor was chosen to respond to the State of the Union address in 1995, she claims that the Republican party attempted to use her gender as a way to show they weren't sexist. In a 2014 interview with the LA Times, however, she called them out.
"Sometimes Republicans think that just putting a woman up front means somehow that women are going to feel good about the party," she said. "It is not about the messenger. It's about the message."
Praise hands all around!
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