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Basic attitude

The Mail on Sunday’s Angela Rayner story has sparked much debate, but much of it seems to have missed the point.

By James Evelegh

Basic attitude

Much has been written this week about the merits of a Mail on Sunday article that reported that some Conservative MPs were accusing Labour’s Angela Rayner of trying to distract the prime minister at PMQs by crossing and uncrossing her legs, as per the character played by Sharon Stone in the 1992 film Basic Instinct.

Some have questioned whether Rayner was as “mortified” as she said she was, because she’d reportedly been overheard joking about it on the Commons terrace and had talked about it in a podcast interview in January.

Issues of press freedom also bubbled to the surface after the Speaker clumsily got involved by summoning the Mail on Sunday editor for a meeting, an invitation the editor declined.

But focusing on the minutiae of this particular case risks missing the wood for the trees, namely that a lewd lads’ culture and outdated attitudes still permeate some elements of the House of Commons and the media.

Women in Journalism put out a statement this week, which focused on the bigger picture:

“The smear on Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner in a Mail on Sunday article this weekend was an example of the sexism and misogyny which still exists in parts of our politics and media.

Many women journalists have been subject to such attitudes during their careers and were angered, disappointed but unsurprised by the report.

Five years ago, Women in Journalism released a study highlighting the extent to which the British media offered a male dominated interpretation of society.

Much has changed since then – but many of these issues still remain with a ‘male lens’ frequently distorting the way women in the public eye are portrayed.

Women in Journalism sympathises and stands in solidarity with Ms Rayner and all those who have been victims of sexism and misogyny in politics and the media.”

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