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Tracy Brabin MP’s reclaims slut-shaming narrative by selling “slutty” dress on eBay

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Kayleigh Dray
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Tracy Brabin MP is incredibly bored of all those complaints about her shoulder

Yorkshire MP Tracy Brabin was labelled a “slag” after a photo of her bare shoulder went viral on Twitter. Now, she has decided to put those slut-shaming headlines to good use and raise some serious money for Girlguiding UK.

Updated on 14 February: Tracy Brabin just got the last laugh in that slut-shaming scandal.

Last week, we told you that the Batley and Spen MP had put her “disco outfit” up for auction on eBay, with all proceeds going to the Girl Guides. Now, the politician has revealed that the black Asos dress has sold for a whopping £20,200.

“I am just so grateful to everyone who placed a bid and rest assured there will be young girls who’s lives will be changed because of this money,” Brabin tweeted. “THANK YOU!”

Girlguiding UK’s official Twitter account also shared a message on social media, which read: “One week and 180 bids later, you’ve raised an incredible £20,200! 

“We’re so grateful to all the @eBay_UK bidders and of course to @TracyBrabin. Thank you for donating your dress to @Girlguiding to help us build the confidence of girls today to be the leaders of tomorrow.”

Brabin’s post has prompted a largely positive response, with many praising her ability to turn an incident of bullying into something positive.

“I’m not a Labour supporter, but I wholeheartedly agreed with the point you were raising at the dispatch box, and well done for turning this into such a positive,” wrote one. “You are a credit to parliament. Such a fuss over a bare shoulder.”

Another added: “Brilliant. Proud you are my MP!”

Our favourite tweet, though, came from Brabin herself. In a series of pictures, she revealed that she had been awarded the ‘Speak Out’ badge on behalf of the Girl Guides.

“Wonderful to visit @GirlguidingSV tonight and hear about the impact being a Guide has on the self-confidence of these brilliant young girls,” she said. £Truly honoured to be given the Speak Out badge, I’ll frame it and it’ll have pride of place on my wall. @Girlguiding you are amazing!”

As reported on 5 Feb 2020: Naga Munchetty knows firsthand how easy it is to find oneself at the centre of a social media storm.

Earlier this year, the respected journalist sat down, as usual, to discuss the news on BBC Breakfast. Responding to Donald Trump’s tweet at four US congresswomen of colour, which called for them to “go back” to where they came from, Munchetty called the president out for his “racism”.

“I’m absolutely furious, and I can imagine lots of people in this country will be feeling absolutely furious a man in that position thinks it’s OK to skirt the lines by using language like that,” she said.

All it took was a very small minority of viewers filing complaints, insisting that Munchetty had crossed the impartiality line, for the seasoned reporter to find herself at the centre of a BBC crisis. 

It makes sense, then, that Munchetty was one of the first to offer her support to Brabin after the Batley and Spen MP became the subject of a number of slut-shaming messages on Twitter.

“How are we still at a point in time when women have to defend how they look when they’re doing their jobs?” Munchetty tweeted, in response to the now viral thread about Brabin’s bare shoulder.

As reported on 4 Feb 2020: All Brabin wanted to do was challenge the government over their treatment of British journalists. Instead, she found herself slut-shamed on Twitter.

Earlier this week, the prime minister’s chief Europe adviser David Frost organised a Brexit press briefing where only selected publications were invited. When political correspondents who were not on the list attempted to enter Number 10, however, they were ordered to leave. And so, in protest at the treatment of colleagues from rival organisations, all the journalists present chose to walk out.

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Addressing the incident in the House of Commons today, shadow culture secretary Brabin (as reported by The Yorkshire Post) said: “The ability of the lobby to have access to briefings without favour is a longstanding tradition and one that is vital to the health of a functioning democracy.”

She went on to question who decided which journalists could attend the briefing, adding: “What was the selection criteria and if that decision was made by a special adviser, are they in violation of the code of conduct of special advisers and the civil service code?

“The government’s behaviour in these matters threatens the civil service’s core values of impartiality and objectivity. It also brings into question the integrity of future government-media briefings and the conduct of its special advisers and damages a free and vibrant press.”

Rather than listen to what Brabin had to say about press freedom, though, some social media trolls decided to focus all of their attention on her outfit.

“Is this really appropriate attire for parliament?” questioned one Twitter user, illustrating their ‘point’ with a screenshot of Brabin wearing a black outfit in which one shoulder was uncovered (oh! The scandal!).

The comment prompted a spew of hateful remarks about Brabin. Unfazed by the response, though, the politician took to Twitter to respond to her critics.

“Sorry I don’t have time to reply to all of you commenting on this,” she wrote, underlining the fact that she’s very busy with more important things. Like, I don’t know, her fight to protect freedom of the press?

Going on to list off just a handful of the insults that had been hurled her way, Brabin continued: “I can confirm I’m not….a slag, hungover, a tart, about to breastfeed, a slapper, drunk, just been banged over a wheelie bin.

“Who knew people could get so emotional over a shoulder?”

Well, quite.

Of course, this is not the first time that a woman has sparked ire over her wardrobe choices – and we doubt Brabin will be the last.

In 2017, Amanda Holden’s dress on Britain’s Got Talent attracted more OFCOM complaints than Good Morning Britain’s live interview with far-right political activist Tommy Robinson. That same year saw Brie Larson – aka Captain Marvel herself – infuriate viewers of The One Show when she wore a low-cut top

Elsewhere, Serena Williams raised eyebrows when she donned a fierce Black Panther-style catsuit at the French Open. Meghan Markle was famously slammed for wearing a bra underneath her clothes. And, in 2018, Theresa May was accused of donning a red dress “inappropriate” for a woman of her age (whatever that means).

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In a world in which teenagers are ordered to cover up their “distracting” collarbones at school, 12-year-old girls are banned from wearing vest tops in the height of summer, and athletes are 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 criticising the likes of Brabin over her fashion choices (as opposed to, say, her political leanings), we are helping to discriminate and bully our fellow females into submission. And that’s really not OK.

Plus, let’s face it: if men are really so disturbed by a woman’s bare shoulder, it says a lot more about them than it does us.

Images: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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