The business of knees

That infamous Daily Mail front page, focusing attention on the legs of two UK politicians, has inevitably drawn flak from rival newspapers:

The U.K. Daily Mail is in hot water with for running a photo of UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that included the two political leaders’ legs.

May and Sturgeon were sitting down and gabbing in Glasgow about Brexit (most Scots oppose) and Sturgeon’s hints that Scotland could declare independence if May lets the Brits go ahead with their desire to leave the EU (she has). Both ladies, despite their sharp political differences, were attired in the kind of stylish and elegant professional-wear that female politicians in Europe do so well and that female politicians in America ought to aspire to. Both outfits included knee-length pencil skirts that, as we females all know, ride up a few inches above the knee when the wearer is seated.

Sample flak, from Owen Jones at the Guardian:

But while it should be mocked, parodied, ridiculed, it should terrify us: because it is indicative of what is happening in Brexit Britain…

But there is something far more sinister about this front page. Britain is now in the throes of a national counter-revolution. Thought Brexit was all about Britain’s relationship with the EU? It wasn’t even just about immigration. While millions who voted leave had multiple, complex reasons for their choice, the most bigoted elements of British society decided that the referendum presented them with a mandate.

And farther up the umbrage scale:

Amelia Womack, deputy leader of Britain’s Green Party, formally reported the Daily Mail to the country’s press regulators, the Indepedent Press Standards Organisation, accusing the tabloid of violating a code provision stating that editors must “avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability”.

I’m guessing the references here were “prejudicial,” because there certainly wasn’t anything pejorative about them. From that original Daily Mail article:

There is no doubt that both women consider their pins to be the finest weapon in their physical arsenal. Consequently, both have been unsheathed.

May’s famously long extremities are demurely arranged in her customary finishing-school stance — knees tightly together, calves at a flattering diagonal, feet neatly aligned. It’s a studied pose that reminds us that for all her confidence, she is ever the vicar’s daughter, always respectful and anxious not to put a foot wrong.

Sturgeon’s shorter but undeniably more shapely shanks are altogether more flirty, tantalisingly crossed, with the dominant leg pointing towards her audience. It’s a direct attempt at seduction: her stiletto is not quite dangling off her foot, but it could be. “Come, succumb to my revolutionary allure,” she seems to be saying. “You know you want to.”

The message to the Scottish electorate is clear. They have a simple choice: on the one hand the reliable, measured, considerate and cautious politics of Mrs May and the safety of a Union that has endured for 300 years — on the other a wild, dangerous leap into the unknown, a glorious moment of rebellion which could all too easily lead to a lifetime of regrets.

The exact balance between political metaphor and outright leer is left as an exercise for the student.

In the best, or at least the blandest, of all possible worlds, this tempest would never have breached the boundaries of its teacup.

Me, I tend to side with Charlotte Allen of IWF:

I’m sorry, but I thought Sturgeon and May, legs, stilettos, and all, looked great. They demonstrated that middle-aged women can look as attractive as their younger counterparts without sacrificing their dignity, professional appearance or age-appropriateness in dress. As I said above, American women politicians could take a leaf from their book. And isn’t it nice that you can still be regarded as objects of “sexism”?

And I might point out that if you don’t want people noticing your legs, wear a long full skirt. So take a chill pill, outraged feminists.

Besides, this little contretemps shows up the current American whine — that Vice President Pence would rather not be seen with women other than his wife — for the idiocy it is.

And just to bring things full circle, here’s three minutes of Karen Pence’s legs:


  1. McG »

    3 April 2017 · 12:27 pm

    May’s famously long extremities are demurely arranged in her customary finishing-school stance — knees tightly together, calves at a flattering diagonal, feet neatly aligned. It’s a studied pose that reminds us that for all her confidence, she is

    …60. Her generation understood that sometimes you make a thing more attractive by making it less blatant.

    When lawmakers went full-time they began to feel pressure to ramp up production. Apparently the resulting psychosis is contagious, as journos now seem compelled to push out “meaning” like a Jimmy Dean’s plant produces pork breakfast sausage.

    My stance on Scottish independence was originally sentimental, but by the time the referendum failed my condolences were to the English, whom I thought were entitled to a national government that reflected their less socialistic views. The perfecta of Brexit and subsequent Scottish secession would, I think, be better for the English than many English politicians realize or are willing to admit.

  2. Holly H »

    4 April 2017 · 10:26 am

    1. “And isn’t it nice that you can still be regarded as objects of “sexism”? Yes, if you’re an actress or a pole dancer. Not so much, if you are the Prime Minister. Then, you really should be considered for your policies, and a focus on your gams is just plain disrespectful, no matter how great they look. Analogy: we ladies get to slobber all over Hugh Jackman’s body, but how weird would it be for male Senators to be featured in mags for their bodies? At best, silly, at worst disgusting.

    2. The Prime Minister could help by dressing more sensibly. Leave the hosiery and high-heels in the 70’s and 80’s where they belong.

    3. Hillary overdid this, by dressing like a “librarian from outer space” (according to Zack Galafianakis, interview link below. Somebody should’ve told her that you CAN still be a snappy dresser, even without the heels and hosiery.

  3. Holly H »

    4 April 2017 · 10:39 am

    Also, I didn’t need the whole 3 minutes of Karen Pence’s legs. Very nice, but 3 seconds did it for me. I’ll admit it was a cute concept though.

  4. Holly H »

    4 April 2017 · 12:22 pm

    One last item about this issue (which nobody else is paying attention to by now, surely).. Interesting factoid about the history of females in pants in the Senate:

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