First published by International Business Times, 16th March 2016
It’s Budget Day and time to play political bingo, drinking every time the Chancellor mentions the ‘long term economic plan’, ‘hardworking families’ (as opposed to all those families who don’t really put a lot of effort in) and ‘tough decisions’ (read: economic measures to batter society’s poorest into submission).
There’s plenty to discuss, including the highly contentious decision to force all schools to become academies by 2020, the cut in capital gains tax from 28% to 20%, and the ominous further spending cuts of £3.5bn to be realized in the next four years.
However, many on Twitter and the political blog Guido Fawkes, run by right-wing blogger Paul Staines, decided to remind us about the REAL Budget Day issue: Home Secretary Theresa May’s daring choice to wear a similar red suit to last year, and show a few inches of cleavage.
Twitter users were outraged, presumably because they hadn’t actually listened to any of the measures delivered in Osborne’s eighth Budget as chancellor, or perhaps because they were so distracted by the sight of a woman who isn’t 20-something displaying cleavage that their brains imploded and rendered them unable to absorb any pertinent information.
The Guido Fawkes blog post begins with the line: “last year’s Budget saw Theresa May’s eye-catching number cause more of a stir on Twitter than George Osborne”.
Why on earth is Guido Fawkes keeping tabs on what Theresa May wears on Budget Day? It’s meant to be a political blog, not Perez Hilton On Westminster. If Guido Fawkes is so interested in the sartorial choices of politicians, why isn’t the site running posts about whether or not Osborne wore the same yawn-inducing suit two Budgets in a row?
You can become an MP, a key cabinet minister, and one of the most powerful figures in Westminster, but you’re still just a female and you can be reduced to your clothing choices and mammary glands.
Of course, many Twitter users have been sharing their intellectually stimulating witticisms regarding Theresa May’s cleavage.
User @Rannochmuir attempted to galvanise SNP MPs into cleavage-patrolling the Commons, tweeting: “will somebody on @theSNP benches tell Theresa May to put those gugged leathery auld saddlebags away. #boak #Budget2016”.
@BriefcaseMike shared his profound insights with the comment “wish Theresa May would remember that Commons uses overhead cameras. I don’t want to see her cleavage when I’m having lunch. #Budget2016”.
And @Pils10 simply said: “For God sake Theresa May, put your cleavage away, you’re on live TV representing your government and people not Babestation.”
These tweets are so lazily sexist – they aren’t just childish internet nonsense. They serve to remind us women of our place. You can become an MP, a key cabinet minister, and one of the most powerful figures in Westminster, but you’re still just a female and you can be reduced to your clothing choices and mammary glands. ‘Eww look at her boobies’ is flung out as an insult by man-boys hiding behind Twitter, even when you’re the goddamn Home Secretary.
The shaming of Theresa May for showing cleavage also taps into the wider cultural issue of how women who are no longer in their 20s and 30s are all-but erased within pop culture and denied any sexuality. It’s all right to get your baps out when you’re young, but after a certain point you’re gross and embarrassing and please just sit quietly in the corner until death, thank you.
The shaming of Theresa May for showing cleavage also taps into the wider cultural issue of how women who are no longer in their 20s and 30s are all-but erased within pop culture and denied any sexuality
Piers Morgan’s comments about Susan Sarandon’s choice to show cleavage at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards in February are a perfect example of this, calling her attire “horribly inappropriate” and “tacky”. I’m absolutely positive that the Academy Award and Bafta-winning Sarandon cried into her pillow that night because some puffed up former News of the World editor (I hear they were an ethical publication…) and Britain’s Got Talent presenter gave his unsolicited opinion on her outfit choice.
Piers Morgan used the word ‘inappropriate’ precisely because older women have to be ‘appropriate’. The cannot be sexy. They should be covered up and matronly; sexless and quiet. Not seen and not heard.
Roles for older women in TV and films are few and far between, save for the pre-approved matriarch, scary mother-in-law, contented homemaker or bitchy boss characters. On the Andrew Marr Show, Dame Kristin Scott Thomas recently said “I won’t bore you with all the stories of older women not getting jobs in film because it’s so boring. But it’s true. It’s a disaster.” Julie Walters and Patricia Hodge have made similar statements.
Older women should not be consigned to the scrapheap in popular culture, politics or in public life. If you’re not a fan of May’s politics (and I certainly am not), there’s plenty to tweet about. I find the entire Tory cabinet morally repugnant as human beings, but Theresa May deserves to be criticized on the basis of her political decisions and allegiances, not belittled by strangers on Twitter who are offended by the tops of her breasts.