‘The Great Cleavage Divide’
Language has always been sexist. The terms ‘man’ and ‘woman’ for example: does the fact that ‘woman’ is simply and extension of the word man mean that men are the superiors, the first? And women, therefore, are the inferior, the second? Men are strong, able and competitive; yet women are emotional and are always, always, judged by their attractiveness.
This cannot be denied, even in our age of equality, where women are doctors and managers (although gender identified by ‘woman doctor’ and manageress’). You may only turn to Page 3 of The Sun to see a buxom woman spread before you, for the hungry eyes of men. Or turn to the back, and see Christiano Ronaldo described as ‘a flash of genius’ ‘sensational’ and a wonder’. He is celebrated in turns of his strength and abilities; she is celebrated in terms of her bra size.
My article of choice for study was taken from the Daily Mail. It is titled ‘The Great Cleavage Divide’. Here we are, an intellectual debate of course, on the cleavage of the Home Secretary and the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons. Apparently we must ‘forget dodgy donations, Northern Rock and missing child benefit data’. The only real debate at Westminster is Jacqui Smith and Theresa May’s busts. Surprisingly a woman, Jill Parkin, has written the overriding opinion on this debate. There is a small man’s view, by Quentin Letts, but you can guess that.
These women are intelligent, that much is obvious. To exude power in the predominantly male world of politics requires mental and oral strength. Maybe, these women believe that the way they dress will aid them. Dressing in suits may help you to believe you have the ability of a man; you certainly blend in. But to wear a bright orange dress, enables you to stand out from the grey suiting. You are seen and heard and remembered.
To focus on appearance is however, is the predictable way of the media. It is as if it is absurd that these women have power in parliament. Degrade them! Make them appear trivial! You can almost hear the deep laughter from men over Britain; let the women try, but they will never stand with us men!
Parkin ‘jokes’ that we really should be interested in what Theresa May was talking about, ‘but all I want to know is: is she wearing a leopard skin bra?’
These politicians are portrayed throughout the article as sex objects, entertaining the House of Commons: ‘Theresa now looks as if she wants them to be the naughty party’. These women have worked hard to be in the positions they occupy, and to portray them in this way offers the public more fuel with which to despise the government. The public feels that issues that affect Britain are being ignored, replaced instead with a ‘squeezed together line of amplitude’. This is inevitably what the media does; it has fun stirring things up for the public eye.
Yet why does this sexism still happen? Surely women like Jill Parkin believe in equal rights, doesn’t everyone inside? Women are generally more compassionate, that much is known, but must it extend to political debate. Must women here still be domesticated and emotional, and look ‘caring and feminine’ rather than commanding and businesslike? To me, this flash of cleavage, gives off some sort of feminine power. It distinguishes them form the men. Maybe more often in-between the lapels of a suit jacket than a cotton top, it says ‘I can talk and think and control like a man, but guess what! I am a woman!’
These women have both: femininity and powerful masculinity. Is this what frightens man? Is this fear of not only equality but role-reversal in power, what drives the continued use of sexism in media and language?