Sarah Vine’s editorial in the Daily Mail seems to have resorted to a girl-on-girl catfight narrative we’re all too familiar with.
It is reminiscent of Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin’s fight in Total Recall and juvenile scraps in Mean Girls, where the conflict between two female power figures is nothing beyond entertainment.
The women’s physical assets, or ’shapely shanks’ as Vine puts it, and not their utterances, are the focal point of this encounter.
Albeit an elegant depiction of what was indeed a significant political throwdown, where “Sturgeon was hoping to knock those spots off [May]”, it’s difficult to ignore the insinuation that the women are engaged in a contest to win the title for who holds more sex appeal.
In Vine’s opinion, “both women consider their pins to be the finest weapon in their physical arsenal, consequently, both have been unsheathed”. She questions who is using it best to further their agenda.
The piece in the Daily Mail, which focuses on the body language exhibited by Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon during the crucial meeting, where the two leaders discussed Brexit and a second Scottish referendum, has been dubbed ‘sexist’ and ‘moronic’.
Vine wrote: “May’s fingers, elegant with their classic red nails, were relaxed and open, while Sturgeon’s grip appeared somewhat tenser, her right thumb at an awkward angle, bearing down on her left index finger in a vice-like grip.”
In this match, it’s easy to identify that Vine is in May’s corner, dubbing Sturgeon’s facial expression “less comfortable and her smile “as warm and welcoming as Loch Lomond on a winter’s day”.
She offers May a more favourable description of “laughing all the way to her eyes” in a “relaxed, natural pose” and confident gaze.
The statement that seems to have caused the most offence, however, is the “Never mind Brexit, who won legs-it?” headline that featured on the newspaper’s print run this morning.
The national paper was blasted for focusing on the prime minister’s and first minister’s legs during crucial talks, while equalities minister Nicky Morgan said the piece was “deliberately demeaning”.
In the Daily Mail article, Vine wrote: “What stands out here are the legs – and the vast expanse on show.
“May’s famously long extremities are demurely arranged in her customary finishing-school stance – knees tightly together, calves at a flattering diagonal, feet neatly aligned. It’s a studied pose that reminds us that for all her confidence, she is ever the vicar’s daughter, always respectful and anxious not to put a foot wrong.
“Sturgeon’s shorter but undeniably more shapely shanks are altogether more flirty, tantalisingly crossed, with the dominant leg pointing towards her audience.
It’s understandable that the article has drawn criticism for appearing to reduce the meeting between two of the UK’s most powerful women, who are discussing a weighty matter, to a ‘who wore it better outfit-of-the-day’ and battle of the pins-gate.
However, my question is whether there is room to take this at face value and reside to it being a satirical analysis of the non-verbal messages being communicated in this political mêlée, which I gather from Vine’s statement below:
“The message to the Scottish electorate is clear. They have a simple choice: on the one hand the reliable, measured, considerate and cautious politics of Mrs May and the safety of a Union that has endured for 300 years – on the other a wild, dangerous leap into the unknown, a glorious moment of rebellion which could all too easily lead to a lifetime of regrets”.
Or does the article perpetuate societal stereotypes that refuse to perish—that as a woman you can hold the keys to the kingdom, but your womanhood will always take precedence over your position or achievements.
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