National & International

Brushing aside sexism doesn’t make it OK

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Labour’s Angela Rayner says her attempt to “brush aside” misogynistic remarks does not mean she isn’t hurt by them, according to the BBC.

She was responding to a new Daily Mail article, which echoed claims by the Sunday paper that the deputy leader would cross and uncross her legs in the Commons to distract Boris Johnson.

The piece pointed to a podcast, saying she had laughed about being compared to Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.

But Ms Rayner said the “sexist slurs” were “mortifying and deeply hurtful”.

She added in a tweet: “As women we sometimes try to brush aside the sexism we face, but that doesn’t make it ok.”

The Labour MP also appeared to challenge Boris Johnson to take action against the Conservative MPs briefing the newspaper, saying she “hoped to hear” what he would do about it during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Challenged about the article by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs, the prime minister said there “can be absolutely no place” for sexism in Parliament and MPs should treat each other with respect.

The row erupted at the weekend when the Mail on Sunday published an article about Ms Rayner.

The paper quoted Tory MPs claiming she tried to put the PM “off his stride” during Prime Minister’s Questions with her legs, comparing her to “a fully-clothed Parliamentary equivalent of Sharon Stone’s infamous scene in the 1992 film Basic Instinct”.

There was a backlash against the article, with MPs from across all sides of the House – including Mr Johnson – condemning it as misogynistic.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle invited the Mail on Sunday’s editor, David Dillon, and its political editor to a meeting to discuss the piece, saying he wanted to “make a plea – nothing more” for journalists to consider the impact of their stories on the feelings and safety of MPs.

The paper also claimed three more Tory MPs had said Ms Rayner was “the original source of claims”.

And it pointed to an interview on Matt Forde’s Political Party podcast last January where she laughed about the comparison with Sharon Stone’s character.

But she also said in the recording that she was “mortified” by suggestions on the internet that she was using her body to distract the prime minister, saying: “I don’t need to do that.”

Responding to the Mail’s latest piece, Ms Rayner posted a thread on Twitter, saying she had told the podcast “the sexist film parody about me was misogynistic and it still is now”.

She added: “The Mail implies today that I somehow enjoy being subjected to sexist slurs. I don’t. They are mortifying and deeply hurtful.

“‘She loves it really’ is a typical excuse so many women are familiar with. But it can’t be women’s responsibility to call it out every time.”

The deputy Labour leader was contacted by Mr Johnson after the first article was published, and he told reporters it was “sexist tripe”.

Asked to comment on Sir Lindsay’s attempt to arrange a meeting with the Mail on Sunday, a spokesman for Boris Johnson said he was “uncomfortable” with the idea of journalists being “summoned” to explain editorial decisions to politicians.

“We have a free press in this country and reporters must be free to report what they are told as they see fit,” the spokesman told reporters on Wednesday.

The spokesman added the PM would not want “any perception of politicians seeking to in any way curb or control what a free press seeks to report”.

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