Britain's Next PM Is A Woman, So Naturally A Tabloid Is Just Talking About Her Shoes

It's hard to imagine a male politician's footwear getting the same attention.

Theresa May is set to become the United Kingdom’s second-ever female prime minister, and some British media outlets have already decided the most interesting thing about her is her choice of footwear.

May is replacing outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced he would step down after British voters elected to leave the European Union last month. (Both Cameron and May were against the so-called Brexit, but May has vowed to lead the country through the process of leaving the EU.)

May will be the first woman to lead Britain since Margaret Thatcher. And one tabloid, The Sun, marked the occasion by showcasing her heels: 

Time used a similar image to illustrate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations in 2014, and the imagery has been employed in dozens of stock images. It’s a sexist, cliched way to depict women in power. 

The Sun isn’t the only tabloid belittling May’s role in history. When the PM candidate pool narrowed down to May and Andrea Leadsom, the Daily Star’s cover described the women as “girls.”

As CNN notes, the British press has fixated on May’s personal style. The Mirror has run several stories on her “passion for fashion,” while some news outlets announced the news of her victory by showing a photo of her shoes. And in March, the media freaked out over the neckline of a dress May wore to a budget speech. It’s difficult to imagine the sartorial choices of Cameron or other male politicians getting the same attention.

British tabloids, of course, have a long history of sexism. Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon, for instance, has been the subject of multiple sexist tabloid stories ― The Sun once superimposed her face onto the underwear-clad body of Miley Cyrus.

A 2012 study found that women were far less likely than men to be featured on British newspaper covers. And when the covers did feature women, they tended to be humiliating in nature or fulfill a sexist stereotype. 

A separate inquiry by Lord Justice Brian Leveson, who was tasked with examining the ethics of the British press after the News of the World phone hacking scandal, also found systemic sexism in tabloid pages. 

“Even the most accomplished and professional women are reduced to the sum of their body parts,” Leveson concluded. 

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