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Controversy in Commons: the truth behind the policing of Brabin’s shoulder

Written by Comment

With the Labour leadership campaign, Brexit, and many other issues constantly thrusting British politics into tumult you would think that the media would have a bit more to discuss than an off the shoulder dress. Yes…an off the shoulder dress!

The way women look has always been policed far more than men, and women that stray from these expectations are hounded, and their contribution to the discussion disregarded. Tracey Brabin was the most recent to fall victim to this criticism. This supposed scandal however isn’t about the level of professionalism displayed by Brabin, but about policing women and devaluing their positions of authority.

Female politicians are not there to look nice and professional, they are there to create legislation

Why is it clothes only seem to be an issue when it comes to women? The idea this would happen to a man is unfathomable. But whether it’s Theresa May wearing brightly coloured heels, or debates about whether women should be forced to wear make-up and heels to work, women’s appearances are constantly under intense scrutiny. If you wear flat shoes it’s criticised for not looking professional, if your heels are too bright then its too much. These arbitrary rules mean that women are not simply allowed to exist in the world of politics and business without their appearance being constantly brought up and used to undermine them. Female politicians are not there to look nice and professional, they are there to create legislation, and the constant abuse that they receive only makes this more difficult for them.

This isn’t legitimate political criticism, it’s just old fashioned sexism dressed up

If there was any doubt over the motivation of this criticism, look at some of the messages that Tracey Brabin has received, notifying reporters that people have branded her a ‘tart’ and a ‘slapper’. This isn’t legitimate political criticism, it’s just old fashioned sexism dressed up. And until more is done to combat the toxic way in which we discuss female figures of authority then their work will continue to go undervalued, to the detriment of all of us.

Last modified: 27th February 2020

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