Rating female politicians’ appearance is demeaning sexism from Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland has some of the lowest levels of female participation in politics of anywhere in Western Europe. Anyone who read a copy of this morning’s morning the Belfast Telegraph can be in no doubt as to why.

The newspaper has dedicated a double page spread to commenting on and rating the appearances of female election candidates in lurid detail. It reads more like the salivating sexism of a teenage boy ranking girls at school, than a piece of journalism by senior writer Malachi O’Doherty.

Of the UUP’s Jo-Anne Dobson the paper writes, “see how the lip gloss catches the glow off her cheeks. She’s a girly- girl, but is she an MP?”.

Of the Green Party’s Claire Bailey, Malachi O’Doherty leers like a lecherous creep, “the plunging neckline is a great idea.”

Whilst of Workers’ Party Gemma Weir is labelled, a “poster girl” and “a stunning raven-haired temptress with a come-hither smile.”

Meanwhile, one of the most talented politicians of our generation, Naomi Long, is branded with the belittling word handed out to any out spoken woman, “feisty”. We’re told that her choice of accessories makes her look like she’s just come from a ball. Actually, Belfast Telegraph, since you’re speculating, it’s more likely she’d just come from parliament. Where she fights for social justice and equality day in, day out.

That such an article could be published in a serious newspaper in the year 2015 is jaw dropping. No wonder so few women enter politics if one of our major newspapers insists on treating these talented, articulate women as if they were competing for the Rose of Tralee, rather than parliament.

A few weeks ago I blogged for Slugger O’Toole about how political parties need to do more to promote and encourage female candidates. However, articles like this one show that, sadly, this is just half the battle.

No woman should have to accept such demeaning comments as part of a political career. We should be able to enter politics knowing the focus will be on our policies, not our necklines.

Newspapers like the Belfast Telegraph have an ethical duty to treat women with respect. Today’s article is a failure of that duty and an utter embarrassment to the paper and serious political discourse in this country.

Siobhan Fenton is an election reporter at The Independent. She tweets at @SiobhanFenton

Update: Here is the audio of Malachi debating with Siobhan on BBC evening extra:

, , , ,

  • Ernekid

    We should expect the Belfast Telegraph to publish an article evaluating the appearance of the male candidates. Let them look at the middle aged beer guts, balding grey hair and the ill fitting suits of the local male candidates and pass judgement.

  • Dan

    So, we are all just to pretend that people don’t discuss the way female politicians look, just because some commentators, who take offence about everything, go on yet another whinge…….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Simply because some people do things, it does not in any way affirm the correctness of such behaviour. If that were an acceptable criteria, then it would justify rape. It is important to think through the true implications of such abusive behaviour and not simply try and shrug it off.

    The acceptability of this kind of thing is exactly why “Northern Ireland has some of the lowest levels of female participation in politics of anywhere in Western Europe” although, luckily, not every local man thinks like this.

  • smcgiff

    Just because something is popular doesn’t make it right. And if it’s perpetuated in a “respectable” newspaper it gets a veneer of acceptance.
    It’s beyond stupid to isolate the female politicians and highlight such meaningless characteristics.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Jo-Anne Dobson (whom I like) has garnered a lot of votes based purely on her looks and she puts up stunning photographs of herself all the time. They have sex appeal and they know it and use it. The male politicians are equally adept at playing on their perceived good looks such as Gerry Kelly.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    It’s hard to beat the black hair combed down with spectacles look on a man.

  • Turgon

    Rare of me to wholeheartedly endorse anything which might be perceived to be political correctness but Ms. Fenton is exactly correct. Malachi should be ashamed of himself. It does though demonstrate just how low the Belfast Telegraph has fallen.

  • chrisjones2

    I am Gobsmacked that the editor allowed this through ….

  • Dan

    What about when you see health ministers in certain parties or administrations commenting on public health issues, or what people should and shouldn’t eat etc, and they are beyond obese and quite frankly, slovenly and unhealthy, should we all ignore that too and refrain from comment on their appearance?

    I’ll not name names.

  • Orlaith Hendron

    Of course we talk about how people look, that’s only human, but we aren’t voting for them because of how they look, are we? So it’s hardly relevant to the political debate.

  • mickfealty

    People with a commenting record go through until we are notified. Not sure it is libelous, but it is a breech of the rule, as Ulick acknowledged in his comment.

    Red Card, rescinded since phrase originated in the op.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The really serious response should be not voting for such as they (see my comment too Joe_Hoggs about the implications of letting someone represent you). Commenting on their appearance is simply a waste of breath, most politicians I’ve met are injured to any criticism.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Joe, on the very simplest level, ignoring the more “creepy” aspects of the sexualisation of female politicians, this sort of thing is an expression of the utter superficiality of our political culture. Despite his unquestionable record of (at the very least) prevarication on life changing issues for some women, many voters, selecting a few issues they agree with, vote for candidates from a party fronted by Gerry Adams. I find similar problems (perhaps not on the same issues though) with many of those in the three main Unionist parties, myself. We have to realise that voting for someone means that, as a representative, they symbolically become “you” in the assembly. What they will actually do there, not how they look or what they say they will do, is the all important issue. I have been unable to vote for most of my life because I cannot disassociate myself from the moral implications what my potential representative actually may do when he uses my mandate to effect laws others may be harmed by.

  • Orlaith Hendron

    Is the tele owned by the sun?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    This goes on everywhere, the woman in the office who sleeps with the boss to get a promotion – it’s rife.

  • Ernekid

    Mick please remove this post and block this user they are referring to my private social media account in a threatening manner. I prefer to post here anonymously for personal reasons. I’ve reported this.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed it is, Joe, but for most of my life I’ve attempted (when an employer) to create a fair, unthreatening atmosphere for my female staff. Simply because people do things (as I’ve said above, it does not mean that they are right if they harm (or potentially harm) another. Namby pamby stuff, perhaps, but the world is a better place when Its taken into account.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    You’ve been rumbled my boy.

  • mickfealty

    As have you…

  • DOUG

    For context someone should mention that several of the quotes aren’t by Malachi but by Frances Burscough who co-wrote the article with him. Rather than judging the politicians appearance in general the article purports to be speaking specifically about the photos used on their election posters and the article included opinions on Gavin Robinson, M.O’M, Alastair McDonnell, Timothy Gaston & Gerry Carroll.

    “ Timothy Gaston is a good-looking guy, that’s for sure. Heck, I’d click “like” if he was on a dating website, based on that photograph.”

  • Chingford Man

    This is a silly article. The Bellylaugh piece was commentary on the style of the posters and obviously you cannot do this without mentioning appearance.

    I notice Siobhan Fenton didn’t have any problem about the way that the men are described by the female writer. It seems that in her world only men are sexist.

  • No, Slugger should be ashamed of itself for not noticing that there are more men featured in the article than women and that we take the piss out of all of them.

  • Granni Trixie


    I am shocked that you wrote this piece and even more amazed that you don’t get it – that it amounts to leering and just not acceptable in this day and age.

  • Granni Trixie

    Please don’t lower yourself Siobhan – two wrongs and all that.

  • Granni Trixie

    You will be saying next that people will vote next Thursday on the basis of candidates good looks. If so,luckily I’m not standing.

  • Granni Trixie

    Are you for real? Where have you worked?

  • patrick23

    “grey haired old man” describing Alasdair McDonnell. It’s exactly language like this that keeps the elderly out of politics

  • patrick23

    They did

  • Old Mortality

    We all know that nowhere lives up to the adage that politics is show-business for ugly people more than NI.
    If they can’t help being ugly, they could at least learn to dress properly. The enormous ties bulging out of small collars is a common sartorial solecism as well as trousers that are always too long. The honourable exception is Danny Kinahan but we all know why.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I just about remember when it was a newspaper………

  • patrick23

    “irrelevant, not funny or informative” doesn’t make something sexist though, which is what this page is setting out to argue

  • Dan

    Having now read the article, I must say the complaints about it are pathetic.
    Whilst he’s no Quentin Letts, ODoherty is quite right in that he is taking the piss out of the lot of them…and why shouldn’t he?
    The howling down of anything the politically correct twitter bores deem offensive is tiresome.
    If you are offended by it, tough…..don’t read it, and don’t buy the paper which publishes it, but demanding free speech is stamped upon because your own wee clique doesn’t like something? Catch yourselves on.

  • patrick23

    Offensive? Really? He does have grey hair, and given that he is pension age he could reasonably be described as old

  • Abucs

    I really don’t see what the problem with the article is. It’s a light hearted crack at political posters. Where is the tolerance for some light hearted fun?

    If only women were presented, criticisers might have more of a point.
    There is something wrong with critics ignoring the unflattering comments addressed to the male candidates and then trying to make out this is an attack on women politicians.

    A bit like ignoring the nationalists and making out the article is a disrespectful attack on unionist candidates, or vice versa.

  • patrick23

    Have you read the article John?

  • Sharpie

    Election posters have to be good for a laugh – they are normally terrible. I wish they didn’t exist at all – is there any evidence that they affect voting intentions?

  • Turgon

    Malachi you once criticised me for making a light hearted remark about Martina Purdy. That was many years ago. You were right then and I was wrong.

    This time you are the one who is wrong

  • smcgiff

    “That was many years ago.”

    Nobody ever accused Northerners of not being able to hold a grudge 🙂

  • somethingoriginal

    While technically true, the editorial layout puts the criticism of the women front and centre.

    I got that it was supposed to be tongue in cheek, and to cover a variety of candidates, but I’m afriad it really didn’t work.

  • patrick23

    That, of course, is little to do with the journalist

  • chrisjones2

    I honestly dont care.

    ” “the plunging neckline is a great idea.” has no place in this. However playfully intended iI comes across as the equivalent of a builder on a site wolf whistling at women in the street

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Have listen to Malachi on main stream media recently. He is not coming across well. Maybe he needs a holiday ?

  • Barneyt

    When I think about politicians, image and how they look, I look at the fortunes of Labour between 1983 and 1997. So much of the change was tied to image and how people looked. Michael Foot was labelled a scare crow. His image impacted him to some degree as many could not see him representing the UK in the international stage.

    Talking of stage…or indeed staging, Blair thundered to power for several reasons, but one was down to image, fuelled by his appearance and how he sounded. Yes he was effective….but image plays a massive role is how people vote, particularly in Britain.

    Whilst politics played more of a role back in the 80’s than it perhaps did when Blair followed the “grey and somber” John Major, I am not discounting other factors in the failuresuccess of the respective leaders. However, I believe image affects all sexes on the GB political landscape. We are becoming more presidential our outlook (had a GB had on there) and as part of the we examine other factors over and above policies and beliefs. Shallow I know.

    But as someone else said, get even.

  • Pete

    Erm, there are both men and women featured in the article. How on earth is that sexist? It would be sexist if they’d only done it about one gender.

    The people who ignore this, and act like this is an attack on women (ie, most of the people commenting on the story) are the ones who reveal their inner sexist attitudes, whereby they feel it is acceptable to comment on men’s appearances, but not women’s appearances. The criticism of this article by some is evidence of their sexism against men: it’s fine to criticise men, but not women, according to them!

    Can someone who thinks the article is “sexist” (and there are plenty of you who have commented on this or upvoted others’ comments on this) please explain to me how you have come to that conclusion. Please reply to my post, and tell me how it is sexist. Thanks.

  • Korhomme

    It’s an old story, but this sort of ‘article’ reminds me of the wannabe presidential debates between JF Kennedy and ‘Tricky Dicky’ Nixon in the late 1950s.

    The debates were televised, but many Americans at the time had only radio.

    Those who only heard the arguments thought that Nixon had the edge; those that watched gave it to JFK.

    JFK, it was said, came over as youthful and fresh-faced; Nixon sweated a lot under the lights, and always seemed to have a ‘five-o-clock shadow’, and came over as untrustworthy.

    Whether we like it or not, appearance does matter a lot. It might be a CV (quality paper, the ‘right’ font, perhaps a photo) or an interview (neatly groomed, decent suit, ironed shirt/blouse, and deportment, ‘attitude’) but how we present ourselves, a very subjective opinion, really does matter. And it produces that tribe of ‘image consultants’ to tell us how to improve ourselves.

  • Janos Bingham

    It is disingenuous not to acknowledge that appearance as a factor in a politician’s public profile has become increasingly important.

    If how they look was not a consideration political parties would not spend time and resources employing stylists and image consultants, as they do.

    It is unfortunate that an opportunity to discuss the important subject of the growing media driven ‘celebrity-factor’ in modern politics has been sidetracked in this piece down a gender-biased alleyway.

  • Granni Trixie

    If you are invoking freedom of speech,I disagree…..everyday sexism/ageism etc has to be challenged.

  • Pete

    Exactly, this slugger article is deeply misleading. It is written as if only women were included in the BelTel article. The author of this slugger piece should be ashamed of herself for misrepresenting the BelTel article.

    I’m not sure why she’s getting a free ride over this, I view it as deeply sexist to ignore the men included in the article.

  • babyface finlayson

    In fact the author says the paper “dedicated a double page spread” to rating female politicians. That is misleading to the point of being untrue.

  • Granni Trixie

    I think the article was toe curlingly embarrassing to men and women not “just a bit of fun”.

  • Granni Trixie

    This jury is out. This topic is often discussed withn political parties who would love,I imagine, to put up no posters due to the resource implications but are afraid not to do so Incase it makes a difference.
    Certainly, on the canvass people sometimes do remark to you if they have not noticed any posters round their way.

    I doubt whether posters actually impel anyone to vote one way or another however.

    it is certainly one way along with others of enhancing voter recognition which is definately a factor in why people vote as they do. It is a risky business therefore to cut out any means of promoting a candidate (others are literature distributed to homes, social media, newspapers, radio etc).

    Occasionally a case is made for parties to agree that no one will put up posters but inevitably they break ranks and put them up.

  • Jilly Beattie

    The Bel Tel’s editor Gail Walker is claiming this spread was mean to be a bit of fun.That’s the problem with fun, it’s meant to be, well, fun…
    Coupled with their take on equality, homosexuality and of course cakes, it’s all rather sad for a heritage product to have gone completely woowoo – that’s the best word I can think of to describe it. Yes. Woowoo.

  • BetsyGray

    Malachi has a healthy cynical disrespect for our politicians…..nothing wrong with that I say…we should know Malachi’s views by now ….why are we so surprized when he cuts deep and nasty……thats his form…i’m certainly not a fan of most his views…….his job is to amuse and surprise us…make us think at times..and annoy the complete shit out of us…….thats what journos do….!…..after all – theres a little bit of narcissism in us all.

  • Pete

    I think appearance of candidates certainly has a subconscious influence on people.

    It’s no coincidence that male politicians tend to be tall.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ahemm, the male descriptions are nowhere near as sexualised in the manner that the female descriptions are. Pretty obvious if you look at them more carefully.

  • Brian O’Neill
  • Turgon

    Worth listening to in order to hear Malachi O’Doherty’s attempted justification. If he dug any deeper a hole he could comment on Australian politics having dug his way there.

  • The Spelegraph

    The article did cover the posters of male and female candidates. You can be forgiven for thinking it was only the females included in the article as the above piece was extremely misleading.
    When a politician decides on, probably with the help of PR experts, an image to be plastered all over the place then it’s fair game.
    If you don’t want your image commented on don’t post it on every other lamppost, simple.

  • Granni Trixie

    I’m obviously mixing too much in feminist Millieu as I simply cannot see why Malachi does not see that he and his colleague are in the wrong. When I read
    the piece originally I expected his misjudgment would dawn on him not that he would try to defend it! We all make mistakes but in this case that is not his defence.
    In view of this I guessed the story would not go away anytime soon so interesting that it is not being sustained in newsprint or BBC but is being sustained on (thAt uncontrollable) social media.

  • Granni Trixie

    He really lost it! I was waiting for the PR memorable “are you dense” retort

  • Granni Trixie


  • Turgon

    I think this is symptomatic of a problem with the Belfast Telegraph seen most especially with their website. They now have prominently displayed items consisting of photos from local nightclubs. These are almost entirely pictures of physically attractive young women wearing the aforementioned low cut tops etc.

    This sort of thing masquerading as news has been a staple of the Daily Mail etc. for years. Not page 3 certainly, but equally somewhat sexualised pictures. It seems that the Belfast Telegraph is intent on going down this line in complete variance to the News letter and Irish News which behave much more like typical GB regional newspapers.

    At some level I feel sorry for the likes of O’Doherty. He does not have a natural platform in the likes of the News Letter or Irish News and his views suit the Belfast Telegraph better. Then if that paper goes down market and becomes at least somewhat sexualised in its content, O’Doherty in order to produce articles has to follow the general editorial direction.

    Certainly his near hysterical attempts at justification both on his site and more specifically on the audio link Brian provided smack of an honourable man being forced to try to defend that which he knows is indefensible.

  • babyface finlayson

    Ex army obviously. Say what you like but they do teach you how to iron your trousers!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Danny is ex Sandhurst, ex Household Cavalry, and served in Germany. He is Hon. Colonel of the North Irish Horse. His poster is one of the few where the portrait seems to have been taken by a professional photographer rather than by a friend of the candidate, Notably he is someone I have not heard a bad word about from either wing of the political divide here. (Now I’ve said this……)

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I agree Granni, it becomes apparent quite quickly that even though physical appearance is central to the comments, the comments on the men in the article are far, far less sexualized than those about the women candidates.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Turgon, I’ve found it impossible to read the Belfast Telegraph for some years now because of this dumbing down and steady sexualisation and trivialisation of its pages. I agree too that O’Doherty is in an impossible position, one many of my own friends found themselves in in the film world as it underwent a similar vulgarisation of TV and film production. The choose is to eat and conform or to keep ones dignity in growing unemployment.

  • TheAuthority88

    Reminds me of this classic:

  • canaduck

    Hi Pete. Reasonable question. The description of the men may be critical of their looks, but it is far less sexualised. That’s a pretty crucial difference, especially in a world where women are frequently judged almost entirely by their appearance and their sexual appeal…and it’s really especially inappropriate when we’re talking about politicians. NI has spectacularly low female participation when it comes to holding political office as compared to the rest of the UK (and much of Europe) and pieces like this don’t help.

  • aor26

    I listened to Radio Ulster last night and heard this heated debate yesterday and so was keen to read this article that led O’Doherty to be called creepy and I read it this morning. I have to say, and I say this as someone who hates most of what Malachi writes in the unionist telegraph, you are totally off the mark to call him creepy for writing that. There was nothing remotely sexist about it. In fact the male candidates got a harder time than the female candidates. You are seeing sexism where there is none.
    When you consider what appears in tabloids on a daily basis it is surprising that we are even talking about this

  • Zig70

    Omg, “I’m a serious journalist!” writing in the Belfast telegraph. please spare me. “Talk to their photographers” indeed. How would Malachi like it if he was told he was too ugly for newspaper. Really badly judged. Now I would be caught saying that the Labour party and the SDLP didn’t really think through the aesthetics when they chose their leaders but it isn’t about barbie looks. There are plenty of ugg bugs in history to show that the political x factor doesn’t need a chiselled jaw.

  • Pete

    “Timothy Gaston is a good-looking guy, that’s for sure. Heck, I’d click “like” if he was on a dating website, based on that photograph.”

    The perpetually offended brigade would be screaming from the rooftops had an equivalent comment been written about a woman. But it’s OK, it’s fine to comment on men’s appearances, but not fine to comment on women’s appearances. I don’t know how people such as yourself are OK with being completely inconsistent in your views.

  • Pete

    I don’t see it as being much difference. If the “male comments” had been written about the women, the same people would be moaning now. You’re just inventing a post-hoc reason to try to justify people only being annoyed at the female politicians being featured, but thinking that it’s OK to criticise the male ones.

    “Timothy Gaston is a good-looking guy, that’s for sure. Heck, I’d click “like” if he was on a dating website, based on that photograph.”

    You think people would have been fine with that written about Jo-Anne Dobson? Pull the other one, the “Twitter outrage” would have been huge. People would be complaining about the fact that people were commenting on her appearance, rather than her policies. Sure, people drawing a moustache on a poster of hers was apparently “sexist”. And yet it’s fine to say that about Timothy Gaston, apparently.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    BTW, speaking of dumbing down, have you read Auntie’s online news recently?

    It’s awful, much less content and so many links to stupid videos of high speed crashes and bodybuilding dwarves (at least on this work IP address…)

    I fear the time will come soon enough when the BBC does away with intelligent news presenters and replaces them with men who do voices for Bruickheimer movie trailers or narrators from Police reality shows: “…this patisserie robber got HIS JUST DESSERTS!!!”, “He doesn’t deserve punishment, he deserves GUNISHMENT!!!” etc etc…

    Give me a news production by Cholmondley-Warner any day.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yeah, AG….folowing the phenomenal success =of such an approach on TV programmes for the under five in the ‘nineties, the experiment of following their audience with a similar approach seems to be what is being tried. I’m finding myself checking out Reuters when I want to get some idea what’s going on out there:


    Even the news website is now crafted to match this policy of dropping quality as low as possible (has someone perhaps a bet on as to how few visitors it can attract, “Trading Places” style?). As a designer myself, this re-conditioned News Site Auntie has recently commissioned is the sort that must get those emails, “I’ve been looking at your site and as a professional web site designer I can suggest any number of improvements that will both make it much easier for visitors to use the site, and will seriously improve visitor figures…”

    No great danger of it crashing from massive overuse…….

  • Granni Trixie

    I see on Twitter Gail Walker is gung ho about supporting the article – doesn’t bode well for the future of BT. Malachi meanwhile is getting endorsements from various high profile feminists to say he’s not sexist. Methinks he doth protest too much….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Congratulations Pete for discovering the only overtly sexualised comment on a man in the article!

    I’m not inconsistent, really. I find the silly superficiality of the entire article offensive in its trivialisation, even when it is simply paints a pen portrait of the Cartoon DUP candidate, as with gavin Robinson. The whole point of an election should be that we are looking for someone competent enough to make informed judgements in the very serious business of how we are engaged in being a community, not looking for a pin up! The comment on Tim is certainly as just as offensive! But are you actually defending the sexualisation of candidates in this way? Are you saying that this approach to politics, i.e.; decisions made on the superficial appearance of the candidates, is actually helpful to you in deciding who to vote for? Do you genuinely feel that the reduction of how we engage our masters, who will be in a position to pass laws that will affect our lives (those taking their seats will be going to Westminster, note, not the just playpen on the hill). Should such serious decisions be dependant on a one dimensional superficiality such as one that reduces political debate to hair styles and cleavage?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed, Janos, a missed opportunity to discuss the ubiquity of marketing in politics! But as with so much else in the wee six, what is driven by serious marketing forces elsewhere is here reduced to tenth rate emulation of what goes on out in the real world.

    I’d go back to the designers of the posters for this, they are lazily relying entirely on “Glam” in three of the women’s posters featured . I just think back on that excellent Anna Lo poster with a brush drawing of her face as a model of imaginativeness that is woefully lacking in this hackneyed batch of “going through the motions”poster designs current in this election. 

    Not that the body of work represented in the BelTel article is in any way unrepresentative of this creative bathos. The portrait photographs used pretty much across the province on every party’s posters look to me to be rather poorly thought out “snaps” where the photographer has taken little trouble to attempt to bring characteristics such as seriousness and dependability over visually. Máirtein Ó Muilleoir’s poster is the closest to a really
 professional job in the group used in the article, and even that still makes him look stressed and shady with that sharp tightening of the eyes. Only Naomi Long’s portrait looks intelligent, strong and serious, everyone else looks lightweight, but on Naomi’s poster that guillotine angled yellow drop line gives the unconscious message that the Alliance is “dropping off, falling away” (really, just think about the visual message). What a pity they did not use someone with more design sense for her, like the person who designed Anna Lo or the excellent Alliance “policies on Yellow” campaign!

    A serious professional photoshoot for any one of the candidates should have come up with any number of decent portraits, some of which have worked to represent the candidate to the voting public much more effectively. At least anyone with a visual sense designing posters would have avoided showing teeth on any one of them (just think of marketing campaigns by real advertising agencies, where teeth are seldom
    seen unless toothpaste or “some appetite or desire” is being marketed). In marketing-speak teeth psychologically cue either “appetite or aggressiveness” or if prominent in a film poster “comedy” and while these may be a correct evaluation for most of our politicians, its not quite the message actually intended here, I think!

    Don’t get me wrong on this, I feel that the marketing approach to voter seduction is dishonest, superficial and an insult to voters, but for our prospective masters to attempt such very poor quality political seduction is, to me, an even greater insult!

  • I am wondering why this article is still up since it is so dishonest.
    As pointed out by others, my article was about 9 posters, only four of which were of women.
    My piece was not a critique of the appearance of candidates but of the images of them created for their political posters with their consent, ineptly, as I claim.
    Nothing in the text of my article distinguishes female from male candidates. That is achieved by the layout which Siobhan as a working journalist knows is not the work of the writer.
    The offending lines about ‘plunging necklines’ are not lecherous, they are jokes and comments made about the creation of the image. They express no personal interest in the women themselves.
    The message of this article appears to be that if a man makes a joke about the appearance of a woman in an image – even an image which the woman herself has commissioned for political propaganda effect – he can be reviled as lecherous and creepy.
    This, to me is creepy; for it implies that the charge of sexism can be levelled at anyone who directs humour at a woman; that a real sexist distinction, in fact, has to be made to protect women against comment.
    Some of those who joined this bandwagon against me have withdrawn. Jake O’Kane who has 15,000 followers on Twitter took these dishonest criticisms at face value and attacked me then publicly stepped back.
    Naomi Long engaged me in a humorous exchange, taking the thing int he proper spirit and then leaving it.
    The impetus for this attack on me is at least partly political. It was started off, as far as I can see, by Ian Parsley, and he was the first to use the dishonest device of asserting that the article was only about women. He also used the word ‘creepy’.
    I’m not seeking to prolong this – it has all been quite horrible. But I am not a creep. That was a profoundly hurtful and damaging thing to say and there is no basis for it. As many on this site know, I have taken abuse over the years, engaged in it too, and maintained my ideals and my spirits. But nothing in the past has been as grotesque and unwarranted as this.
    An added irony is that Siobhan and I might have been allies for I was one of the few to stand out strongly against the SDLP and others on their stand on abortion, on the Nolan show and on social media, and too flak for that too.

  • Ian James Parsley


    I have only just seen this article.

    I only saw Jake O’Kane’s comments yesterday evening. I don’t know the guy and he certainly isn’t a Facebook friend.

    So, all three of us used the word “creepy” independently.

    It should have dawned on you by now that maybe, just maybe, that’s because it was.

    I most certainly did not “start” anything. I’m afraid that’s simply your imagination running away with you.

    And, by the way, no one has described you as a creep, or as innately sexist. They have described what you wrote as creepy (and sexist). That’s a clear distinction.

    I have politely suggested several times now that you recognise the misjudgement. Happens to us all.

    It is your determination to keep defending this sexist garbage, in its entirely, which is doing you damage. Nothing else.

  • And you have no problem with the misrepresentations in this article and in your own social media comments on this?

  • aor26

    I assume Siobhan is coming from a perspective of feminism. Siobhan sees herself as championing feminism when she is actually championing a rather narrow definition of what feminism is.
    But like all the -isms sometimes their followers do not fully grasp what it is they are following.

    For example, the socialist who thinks any form of private enterprise is the work of Lucifer. The republican who thinks it is wrapped up in deference to the Catholic Church. the classical liberal who thinks only private enterprise ever created wealth and only ever can, the feminist who thinks any male commenting on the appearance of a female (no matter what the context) is a patriarchal woman hater who can’t see past a woman’s looks.

    So the way I see it is that rightly or wrongly the image of political candidates is very important for their electoral prospects. I hear that before I was born an intellectual Marxist once lost an election because he wore a duvel coat at the cenotaph commemoration. It’s unfortunate that the issue of the candidates image are now even more relevant to their electoral prospects. But that is an indictment on a fickle electorate. Acknowledging that reality (in a juckular way) in a newspaper article does not mean you are endorsing the idea that this woman should be elected because she looks good or this woman looks bad so she shouldn’t be elected.

    Siobhan and others have completely missed the point of the article. If anything, you seem to mocking the very idea that the image of candidates has become so important.

    Regards and Tiocaidfh ár lá

  • babyface finlayson

    Did Malachi sneak up on Claire Bailey and take this photo of her? No,she chose it herself and the dress which has a low (hardly plunging though) neckline.
    Presumably she thought it looked better than a high neckline so she must have thought it a good idea as Malachi says.
    So she can dress any way she pleases but surely it is legitimate to comment on the image as it is presented to us to sell the individual.
    The BT article was not very funny and I agree with others that the paper is very poor these days,but labelling Malachi O’Doherty creepy and lecherous is a bit unfair.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Pete, long ago, back in the 1960s I was having a conversation with a good friend who had had a very bad, highly aggressive, and utterly unprovoked experience with a West Indian on Portabello Road who abused him in the street! ” My very liberal friend kept saying, “It can’t be racist, he was West Indian…..”

    Men can be just a s sexist against other men. It’s not a gender thing, its a sexualisation thing. And just because men are described too, this does not cancel out sexist comments about women. As I’ve said above, its just as offensive making such comments about men as it is about women, but there is a much less creepy leery tone to most of the comments on men.

    I know that kids programming (some of which I’ve worked on) has removed all out inhibitions and opened us up to be as personal as we want to be, but a bit of respect for women goes a long way, especially when if you look around you, most still get far, far too much rude, aggressive sexism from men in everyday life here in the wee six.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Interesting that you appear to be unable to see the difference between the comments on men and on women in the article, Pete. It’s there……

  • P Bradley

    Correct. Candidates concerned chose a picture of themselves. Why? Presumably they thought the image added something to voters perception of them. Otherwise they would have just chosen text. Text would be commented on so why not the picture?

  • ted hagan

    Lovely to see the smug, right-on Malachi O’Doherty falling on his backside; He even got a mention on BBC Women’s Hour this morniing.

  • ted hagan

    Nice start to your new job Gail. Interesting to see you going the way of your trashiy sister paper in Dublin.

  • ted hagan

    I wonder whether the instructions are coming from sister paper the Irish Independent, which is also getting steadily more trashier? No wonder circulations are plummeting.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    There is a general decline, ted, a shift to the trashy and trivial, in both, yes! So perhaps. The Tele itself produced some excellent journalists in the past. Sad…….

  • ted hagan

    Bad mistake Malachi. Not your finest hour. It’s very clear Malachi can give it out but he can’t take it.

  • Mick, you should have taken this down by now, since its dishonesty is plain to contributors below. For someone who writes so deceitfully to be critiquing my journalism is a joke. This demeans Slugger more than it demeans me.

  • david crookes

    Cracker, TA, thanks!