NEW YORK ― First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon is a certifiable badass. She is Scotland’s first female leader, and she has been an outspoken critic of Brexit. On Thursday afternoon, Sturgeon sat down with Tina Brown at the Women in the World Summit to discuss misogyny in politics, and her vision for Scotland’s future.
Over the course of the discussion, Brown brought up a recent massively viral, massively misogynist Daily Mail cover, which featured a photograph of Sturgeon sitting with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. The headline accompanying this image of two powerful European leaders read: “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!” (See below.)
“I tried not to overreact,” said Sturgeon, “because I sometimes think newspapers like the Daily Mail do it in order to get attention, so why give them what they want? But...no matter how much progress women have made and are making, it’s a vivid illustration of how much more we still have to achieve.”
Sturgeon then spoke about another instance of glaring sexism that she and Prime Minister May faced, just after May entered office:
Interestingly, a day or two days after Theresa became Prime Minister, she came to visit me in Edinburgh at the First Minister’s official residence, and we did the photograph on the steps of the house, which was fantastic. And I tweeted something afterwards, that no matter the political differences, that photograph hopefully is inspiring for young women everywhere. But the first image of that photograph I saw on social media had us cut off at the knees, because it was just looking at our shoes.
And, although Sturgeon admitted that she does love shoes, she told Brown that depictions of female political figures that focus more on appearance than substance actively work to degrade the way we see powerful women.
“This tendency to reduce women to body parts or to what they wear or what their hair looks like is not innocent,” she said, “and it’s not something we should just laugh off. It is a deliberate attempt to demean women, and we should speak out about it.”
This tendency to reduce women to body parts or to what they wear or what their hair looks like is not innocent and it's not something we should just laugh off. First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon
Earlier in her remarks, Sturgeon made it clear that as a woman in politics she feels a particular responsibility to use her position to make life better for other women ― and that comes down to policy choices and positions.
“I feel a lot of responsibility to use the influence that I’ve got to take down the barriers and address challenges that other women still face,” she said. “Because it’s not enough just to be a woman in a leadership position. It’s important that you do the right things with it.”