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On That 'Legs-It' Headline: The Problem With Saying 'Don't Give The Daily Mail Publicity'

28/03/2017 10:19 | Updated 28 March 2017

A leading national newspaper has produced a blatantly sexist front page - and apparently, we're all meant to turn a blind eye to it.

By now, you've probably seen the Daily Mail's Tuesday cover, which features an image of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and British Prime Minister Theresa May under the headline "Forget about Brexit, who won Legs-it!"

Sadly, I wasn't all that surprised by the page itself. After all, seeing two powerful women reduced to sexual objects by the media is nothing new. The moment Theresa May became PM, certain elements of the press considered it fair game to make comments about her looks, instead of focusing on her policies.

But the amount of people who tweeted to say we should stay silent about the Mail's piece did shock me.

This morning, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were full of people saying "stop retweeting the Mail's front page", "this is what they want", "have you never heard the saying 'there's no such thing as bad publicity?'".

But institutionalised sexism is like toothache - ignoring it won't make it go away.

This isn't just about the Daily Mail, or even about the way women politicians are treated in the media - it's about all women everywhere and sending a message loud and clear that we are worth more than our bodies.

By letting a media juggernaut like the Daily Mail get away with producing this bile, we're perpetuating the idea that this kind of behaviour is okay in wider society.

It's naive to suggest we can "rise above" misogyny by taking the moral high ground of silence. If we want to end sexism, we have to get dirty. We have to roll up our sleeves and fight back.

Each and every one of us has a responsibility to call out sexism whenever we see it, because women around the world are made to feel intimidated, insignificant and worthless every day - and sometimes, we're too afraid to even admit it.

Just last week I was catcalled on the way to meet my mum. A man in a van pulled up beside me and yelled "phwoar". Compared to some of the other times I've been catcalled - for instance, when a man said he'd like to ride me "like a bike" - this particular incident might sound tame. But in reality it absolutely paralysed me with fear.

I wanted to shout something back at him or at least give him the finger, but as he slowed his van right down to match my walking pace, I felt my whole body go rigid. In that moment, I desperately needed someone else to call out this guy's sexism, because as he looked my body up and down and I felt his leering eyes burn into my skin, I became completely incapable of doing it myself.

Perhaps he would have hurled abuse at someone if they'd stood up for me. Perhaps he would have ignored them and driven off. But maybe, just maybe, he would have gone home, felt a sufficient amount of shame, and thought twice before catcalling a woman again.

If we let incidences of sexism pass by us without saying a word, we're complicit in the very principles we claim to object to.

If I ever have a daughter, I don't want her to experience catcalling and I certainly don't want her to see the way women are treated in male-dominated professions and believe she can't chase her dreams.

The only way to make things better for the next generation of women is to say enough is enough, today.

So next time you see someone being sexist, tweet about it, write a blog about it or shout about it from the rooftops. Your silence is not the cause of the problem, but it certainly isn't helping to defeat it.

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