We’re not even going to mention everyday politics; that’s for other blogs. But really, Tuesday was a bad day for body politics. Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon on the front page of a daily newspaper, being rated on their LEGS?

It makes me so angry. Whatever you think of the politicians in question, they are undeniably two of the most powerful women, no, people, in the UK. It’s bad enough that their fashion choices and appearance are often remarked on (and to be fair I’m in two minds about the fact that Theresa May might not have done herself any favours by appearing in Vogue recently) but the article in question was written by a woman. Sarah Vine, who’s married to Michael Gove. Maybe she had an axe to grind given that her husband was recently in the running for the PM job himself – or that Nicola Sturgeon probably isn’t her favourite politician either, being diametrically opposed to her husband on major issues. But…really?

It seems like it doesn’t matter how successful you are or how powerful you are, if you’re female your body is up for scrutiny. Heaven forbid if a senior woman politician isn’t ‘well-groomed’ enough, is considered conventionally unattractive or is fat. Remember the abuse Ann Widdecombe used to get at the hands of the media because of her looks? It was appalling. No matter what she had to say, she would always be jeered at by the press because she wasn’t perceived as good-looking.

Body politics – a women-only issue?

Male politicians don’t get these kind of body politics thrown at them every day, do they? Let’s face it, if we’re going to look at appearance, dress and weight we can all name a few male politicians who really need a good stylist, haircut or sometimes, even a good wash! But men are judged on what they say, what they do, their politics and personality. Women have to have all of the above but it doesn’t actually matter if they are amazing at their job and have impeccable morals; if they are fat, don’t look ‘polished’ enough or aren’t considered attractive, they are called out on it.

Sarah Vine said that her exposé of the Prime Minister and First Ministers’ legs was ‘light hearted’ but would we ever see such a vacuous article on the front page of a newspaper about David Cameron, Boris Johnson or even God forbid, Donald Trump? No, of course we wouldn’t. And thank goodness for that because we don’t need that sort of nonsense.

This sort of crap affects our young women (and men, as more men are being caught up in it) and has been implicated in eating disorders and general body image problems. When TV was introduced to a population not used to the constant bombardment of images of thin, beautiful people, it had a noticeable effect;

One study measured indicators of disordered eating in a “media naïve population” of Fijian schoolgirls after the introduction of Western television. The key indicators of disordered eating were found to be significantly more prevalent following prolonged television exposure.”

Also, a study that looked at the way the media affected eating disorders among undergraduate college students found that media exposure predicted disordered eating and overall body dissatisfaction in women, as well as normalising the idea of personal thinness and dieting in men.

body politics and media coverage

Isn’t it time we stopped judging people on their bodies, binned body politics for good and grew up?

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