Cleavage still counts more than words in politics

December 4, 2007

Does a politician’s cleavage matter more than her words in politics? Certainly not in the 21st century…but hang on…here’s another example of how the sight of a politician’s bosom had commentators foaming at the keyboard.

Theresa May, the Conservative Party’s Leader of the House of Commons, was recently reported to have “pulled an absolute blinder with her outfit” for  Prime Minster’s Questions in the venerable chamber. And it was not the first time her attire attracted attention….her animal-print shoes and Wellington boots have also made more headlines than her politics.

Cleavage obsession has tradition. This summer Jacqui Smith, just a few days into her new job as Home Secretary, addressed parliament to talk about terrorism after an attempted car bombing in the centre of London.

It was deemed to be a solid performance but the media and the blogospere were alive with comments on her cleavage-revealing outfit and how much bosom should have been on display in the House. This, despite decades of gender discrimination laws.

Admittedly, male politicians have had to put up with jibes about their appearance, not least Prime Minister Gordon Brown himself, whose so-called fashion sense as Chancellor of the Exchequer was called into question. Conservative leader David Cameron’s hair parting has also attracted attention.

But did anyone comment on Chancellor Alistair Darling’s outfit earlier this month when he faced the House of Commons to talk about how half the nation’s data records had been lost? Certainly not.

It’s not just a British thing. Read all about Hillary Clinton’s “tentative dip into new neckline territory”. Apparently “she was wearing a rose-colored blazer over a black top. The neckline sat low on her chest and had a subtle V-shape.” It could come straight out of a romantic novel but it’s how a serious newspaper reflected on the Democratic presidential candidate’s attire during a speech on the cost of higher education on the Senate floor.

When will commentators to come to terms with the fact that displaying a few more inches of the female body it is not automatically tantamount to a sexual display?

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