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?

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

[...] and women in power There have been a number of news commentaries lately about the issue of cleavage and female politicians.  Apparently my hero Hillary has sported some in the US, and the issue has been even more [...]

[...] I could be enraged by this. OK, I am. But what saddens me most is how I am not surprised. Young girls grow up with an onslaught of images of women who are airbrushed, painted and dieted to unattainable forms of ‘beauty’ (beauty defined by a cosmetics, fashion and diet industry who profit from us all hating ourselves because, in our desperation, we buy their snake oil hoping it will be the magic elixir that makes us look how these industries are telling us to look) and watching ‘role models’ like Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie live off men’s money (whether it’s their father’s or partner’s money it’s immaterial, they are not earning the money themselves nor do they see a need to be independent financially), diet themselves into skeletons and live entirely vacuous lives. Where are the intelligent, independent female role models? And when they do dare to pop up, where is the press championing them rather than discussing their clothes/cleavage/gender? [...]