Skip to Content

‘The Daily Mail’ Is Getting Slammed for Its Sexist Headline About World Leaders’ Legs

When U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met in Glasgow on Monday, most news organizations focused on the high stakes of the diplomatic summit. It was the first meeting of the two world leaders since Sturgeon announced her intention to hold a second independence referendum amid the U.K.’s Brexit negotiations, a process May will launch Wednesday.

The Daily Mail, a right-leaning British tabloid, focused on a different aspect of the sit-down: the fact that both female leaders have legs and happened to be wearing skirts yesterday that displayed them. The headline reads: “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!”

The accompanying story is just as baffling, with analysis of each woman’s limbs: “Finest weapons at their command? Those pins!”

The tabloid’s are-you-kidding-me sexism is an extreme example of the double-standard endured by female leaders, who are judged as much for their physical appearance as their policy decisions. And it’s another instance of the public’s repeated failure to see women as multidimensional. A woman can indeed have an interest in fashion and lead a global power. A woman can pose provocatively and preach a feminist message. The argument in this instance is even more basic: that women can bare their calves and still be taken seriously.

Subscribe to The World’s Most Powerful Women, Fortune’s daily must-read for global businesswomen.

After failing to concede that last point, The Daily Mail was, rather expectedly, crucified online.

Labour MP Harriet Harman called the front page “moronic”

Rosena Allin-Khan, another Labour MP, drew comparisons between The Daily Mail‘s coverage of yesterday’s summit and how it reported a 2013 meeting between the male former leaders of the two countries.

Sky News reporter Faisal Islam was one of many commentators who said the cover was a call-back to less-equal eras that, at times like these, don’t feel so far gone.

When asked about the blowback by the BBC, a Daily Mail spokesperson said the story tied to the front page image was “light-hearted” and appeared alongside a “serious political story.” He also suggested that the “left-wing commentariat” had lost all “sense of humor.”