Last night the All-Party Group on Women in Parliament discussed The Media: A Female Politician's Worst Enemy? With the journalist and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter, Sky News political correspondent Sophy Ridge, The Economist’s Anne McElvoy, Louise Mensch MP Gloria de Piero MP and Angie Bray MP.
What went down at this meeting? What conclusions did they come to? Did they discuss Leveson and censorship? Did we awake to a smashed patriarchy and Janet Street-Porter at the helm? No. We have awoken to this instruction: Get on with it. Or if you want it even less helpful, shut up, cover up and put up, Mensch.
"If you're going to have your picture in GQ, you're going to invite a certain amount of comment, I'd rather have my fingernails pulled out than have my photo in GQ," Street-Porter continued, who is not likely to be asked any time soon so that shot was as cheap as this one. See what I did there? I allowed The Media to continue in their mission to reduce women of any profession to their looks.
As well as making references to Louise Mensch’s method of self-publicising (I for one have never seen a male politician pose for GQ. Oh, except here. And here. Also here but those are exceptions) was the always helpful argument of, ‘if I did it, decades ago when things were different, then so can everybody else’. Well done Gillian Shephard for running with that constructive argument, "Women today are, I have to say it, inclined towards victimhood. [When I was younger] I didn't know about feminism, I just thought I would get on with it." Well done you.
How infuriating to see women who have made it completely scorn others who would like to, for wondering aloud why it might be that their efforts aren’t recognised nearly as much as their cleavage. When, as in Mensch’s case, they try to play the game the media has given them they are blamed for biting the hand that feeds them. When they refuse to jump such hoops they are told to quit whining.
Well what is going to happen when our older stateswomen et al refuse to be mentors to the younger set? I am all for reproach when it is required, but not out and out scorn. An acknowledgement that all women in the media are measured against a different set of values is not admitting defeat; it’s challenging the unacceptable norm.
When even left wing and right on publication The Guardian thinks it is fine to ask a female politician if she’s had a facelift and BBC radio 4’s flagship show presenters have gone from a roster with at least 3 female presenters (Jenni Murray 82-86, Sue MacGregor 84-02 and Anna Ford 86-97) to 1 it’s probably OK to start questioning. It is not OK to just get on with it.