Women in politics owe Louise Mensch a big thank you

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 3 October 2011 in Diary
The Conservative MP did women everywhere a service when she refused to discuss her beauty treatments in an interview with the Guardian, says Charlotte Henry

Louise Mensch’s star just seems to keep on rising. The MP for Corby became one of the winners of the phone hacking scandal with her (mostly) pinpoint questioning and strong media appearances, and then she took on a bullying hack who tried to bring her down for some youthful indiscretions.

Why then did the Guardian try to turn what was an impressive interview with Mensch into a degrading gossip piece about the likelihood that she had had a facelift? Indeed, the interviewer decided we needed to know that “I can see incisions in the creases where her ears and cheeks meet that look so fresh, they still have tiny lines of scab. In fact, they look exactly like the lines left by what is known as a Chicago facelift – a procedure favoured by relatively young women with a strong jaw line and chin, and popular on account of its short recovery time.”

It seems women in public life can’t win. If you are beautiful, then that’s all people ask you about. If you are ugly, then that is all people ask you about.  If your average looking, you just don’t stand a chance because the media think there is nothing for people to talk about.

Louise Mensch was absolutely right to bat away the question about a facelift, in a way quite different to how she handled questions of drug taking, and the female journalist that asked her about it should really be ashamed of herself for doing so. Journalists of all stripes should be highlighting the successes of prominent female political figures, to show younger women it can be done, instead of trying to trivialise them as little more than a pretty face.

It’s not even that I particularly agree with Mensch on issues, although she is undoubtedly a liberal, Cameroon type of Tory. In fact, I thought her views on cutting off social media were authoritarian nonsense, and I doubt we would find a huge amount of common ground on abortion either. However, I believe very strongly that we should pay more attention to what she and other women think about these things, rather than the beauty treatments they may use.

Louise Mensch is clearly a tough political cookie, who shows that you can keep your femininity, whatever that means in twenty-first century Britain, and not get bullied out then by the boys.  Women owe those like her a thank you for putting her head above the parapet, and hopefully making it just that little bit easier for the rest of us in the future. I’d certainly be buying her a drink if I were at Tory conference this week.

Tags: Facelift, Guardian, Louise Mensch, Women in Politics

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