Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May

Photo via Ninian Reed/Flickr UK Home Office/Flickr (CC-BY) Remix by Jason Reed

Daily Mail puts world leaders in sexist ‘Legs-it’ competition on its cover

This is what happens if you’re a woman in power who also happens to have legs.


Samantha Grasso


The Daily Mail is catching heat after printing an objectively sexist article and front-page headline fixated on the legs of Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and British prime minister Theresa May.

For its March 28 edition of the U.K. paper, Daily Mail ran a photo of the two women during their meeting regarding Brexit and a possible independence referendum for Scotland, with the headline, “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!”

Despite the fact that these two female leaders met to bridge an understanding regarding their country’s futures within the United Kingdom, the writer, columnist Sarah Vine, fails to mention the reason for their meeting save for the last paragraph. She instead analyzes the women’s clothing and posture like an etiquette book from the 1950s. She even assigns motives to the two women in the photo, as if they shared a burning hatred for one another:

“While May’s fingers, elegant with their classic red nails, were relaxed and open, Sturgeon’s grip appeared somewhat tenser, her right thumb at an awkward angle, bearing down on her left index finger in a vice-like grip, as though having to use every ounce of self-control to stop herself poking her rival in that gimlet eye.”

And then come the legs, or as Vine puts it, their “pins, their “finest weapon to their physical arsenal.” Sturgeon, like any other women who sits down to discuss diplomacy, is using her legs to seduce, Vine wrote, while May’s pose exudes respect—because, of course, as a woman with legs, there’s a right and wrong way to sit:

“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…

“Sturgeon’s shorter but undeniably more shapely shanks are altogether more flirty, tantalisingly crossed, with the dominant leg pointing towards her audience.”

Shortly after the paper’s publishing late Monday night in the U.K., Twitter called out Daily Mail and Vine for their sexist portrayal of the two female leaders.

Some on Twitter called to how outdated the article’s pathos appeared.

Others raised the point of the double standard—where were our critiques of the legs of the men of Brexit, hmm?

The paper even appeared to unleash a second printing of the edition that pinned the editorial failing on the writer instead of the publication itself.

Vine directed Daily Dot’s request for comment to a BBC Radio 4 interview, in which she defended her column and called the uproar a possible “humor failure” on the behalf of those who took offense to the piece. Vine also argued that she didn’t just talk about the women’s legs, and that had the piece been printed under a different publication, it wouldn’t have received nearly as much criticism as with the tabloid.

“There was quite a lot of serious stuff about this meeting and then we saw the picture and thought, ‘Gosh! Look at those kitten heels and look at those fabulous legs, let’s write some words about it,’ which I did,” Vine said. “It’s just because it’s in the Daily Mail that people just have a Pavlovian reaction to it.”

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