U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met on Monday to discuss their disagreements about how the U.K. plans to proceed with Brexit. But British newspaper the Daily Mail decided to focus on the female leaders’ legs on its Tuesday cover.
The paper’s cover, which was circulated on Twitter, features a picture of the two leaders, both wearing skirts, at their meeting. The paper’s headline declared: “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!”
The paper was quickly chastised for sexualizing May and Sturgeon by Twitter users. “Sexism at its finest here,” one user wrote.
In the United Kingdom, the paper’s front page drew criticism on social media from across the British political spectrum. “Shame on the Daily Mail,” Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main Opposition party in the British Parliament, wrote on Twitter:
Yvette Cooper, a lawmaker in Corbyn’s party, also tweeted to point out the importance of Sturgeon and May’s talks.
Cooper’s colleague Ed Miliband, a past Leader of the Opposition compared the headline to those of the 1950s.
The storm of online attention also had its casualties. The Daily Mali twitter account, which tweets news from the West African country, was forced to clarify that complaints about the “offensively sexist front-page” should be directed elsewhere.
Theresa May’s official spokesman would not comment on the controversy when asked about it in a press briefing, The Guardian reports. “You would not expect me to comment on what newspapers should or should not put on their front pages,” he said.
In a statement the Daily Mail declared that critics should “get a life” and pointed out their unflattering coverage of other British politicians’ physical appearance. Past coverage of “Cameron’s waistline, Osborne’s hair, Corbyn’s clothes – and even Boris’ legs” according to the statement was an appropriate defence against the allegations of sexism.
This isn’t the first time that May, only the second female Prime Minister in the U.K.’s history, has faced undue attention on her choice of clothing. Late last year, her decision to wear a $1,250 pair of pants in a shoot for a newspaper interview caused a storm of controversy.
And in September, a speaker at Britain’s Trade Union Conference criticized May for her signature colored heels, calling on her instead to wear more sensible shoes. May doesn’t appear to have let it get to her; in her meeting with Sturgeon, she wore leopard print pumps.