It’s 2018. Aren’t we all better than this?
The UK and the USA have always maintained that they enjoy a “special relationship” – and that much was made clear when Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed Donald Trump to a state dinner at Blenheim Palace last night (12 July).
It was a lavish affair, with the dinner marking the first of a number of joint engagements between the two politicians, including a joint forces military demonstration, a working lunch at Chequers and a joint press conference.
However, rather than focus on the significance of the event, the majority of the internet decided to focus on May’s fashion choices.
Much like Trump – who had donned a tuxedo for the occasion – the PM had noted the formal dress code of Blenheim Palace. While the president’s black tie went largely unnoticed by the world, though, hordes of social media users felt their opinions on May’s full-length red gown were worth sharing with the world.
“I think @theresa_may should have had a rethink about her choice of dress tonight,” wrote one. “Going up those stairs was slightly embarrassing. #TrumpVisitUK”.
Another added that there was something “horribly sexual” about the gown, while others suggested that May should have worn a more supportive bra for the occasion.
The main complaint was, seemingly, that the gown was “inappropriate” for a woman of May’s age. And the main people who had a problem with the dress?
Well, somewhat surprisingly, they were all women.
Of course, the UK tabloid press is renowned for its retrograde attitudes towards women, from its belittling obsession with May’s fashion choices to publishing up-skirt photographs of frightened teenage actors. (Britain, incidentally, is renowned in turn for its tabloid culture. We might like to think of our international reputation as echoing Hugh Grant’s speech in Love Actually – all Shakespeare, the Beatles and David Beckham’s right foot – but we’re also widely regarded as the originators of the ‘gutter press’.)
However, as these tweets have clearly demonstrated, it’s not just the tabloids which are feeding into this sexist narrative: we, all of us, seemingly believe that the way a woman dresses controls the ongoing narrative around her body.
And, in a world which sees women ordered to leave swimming pools for daring to wear bikinis, teenagers told to cover up their “distracting” collarbones at school, 12-year-old girls being banned from wearing vest tops in the height of summer, and athletes being informed that their belly buttons should never be visible whilst at the gym, we have a duty to do better. To be smarter. To think before we tweet. Because, in slating May over her outfit (as opposed to, say, her political leanings, or her Brexit policies, or her seemingly incessant need to hold Trump’s hand), we are bowing down to the patriarchy’s skewed views and helping them to discriminate and bully our fellow females into submission.
After all, we may hate Trump, but we hate him for the person he is, rather than the clothes he puts on his body. Can’t we show May the same respect?