“Arlene, tell me you did not just say that!?”

In today’s Sunday Independent, Arlene Foster is asked to play a word association game and when asked about Michelle O’Neill, her response is “blonde.” That’s what she said about her political equal, the woman she is tasked with developing political agreement with in order to re-establish the Assembly. “Blonde.”

I’m scarlet for her. Yes, I realise that expression is a colloquialism, but I truly can’t think of any other way to express how wick I feel for her that she has made yet another huge gaffe during another election campaign.

I knew before I started reading Niamh Horan’s interview with Arlene Foster I was going to get annoyed, I didn’t realise just how much it was going to remind me of the movie “Mean Girls.”

The article commences by painting a very human picture of a traumatic childhood and indeed, one cannot help but be sympathetic to Mrs Foster in respect of the harm done to her and her family. Having gained her trust over tea in a Hillsborough café, Horan then gets her to play a word association game about her political opposition.

Every party press officer and PR person is screaming “NO” right now, knowing the was never going to end well.

Gerry Adams is “strange,” Mary Lou McDonald is “standoffish” and Michelle O’Neill is “blonde.”

And right there, that’s the ‘Burn Book’ and the Sindo has its above the masthead splash: “Sexism, Sinn Féin and the Blonde.” That a newspaper would engage in such trashy journalism is bad enough. That a party leader, former first Minister and a woman already under fire for referring to Irish speakers as “crocodiles” would make such a sexist remark is mind-boggling.

We all know that “blonde” is a euphemism for not very bright, for a woman who is perceived as pretty but dim. Watch now as the DUP try to spin it otherwise.

Arlene Foster goes on to say that Michelle O’Neill is very well presented with her hair and make-up done. This isn’t meant as a compliment, she’s throwing shade and she knows it. And Niamh Horan eggs her on telling her “it’s not sexist if it’s true.”

Yes it is sexist.

It is true that Michelle O’Neill is well-groomed in public. So are Emma Little-Pengelly, Claire Bailey, Paula Bradshaw, Michelle McIlveen, Claire Sugden and dozens of female political representatives in the north. Can you imagine what Arlene Foster and the DUP would say if someone described Joanne Bunting MLA as “blonde?” It wouldn’t be pretty – and rightly so.

It’s sexist because you’re judging a woman on her appearance. It’s sexist because you’re implying that because she is well-presented and well-groomed that she lacks substance or intelligence. It’s sexist because you know yourself exactly how it feels to be judged on your appearance, as Foster has said in the article, and yet you do exactly the same thing to your political equal.

One would have thought that after the “crocodile” lesson, Arlene Foster would have realised that when you throw shade, it’s immediately obvious to onlookers that the thrower, not the object, is the uncool one.

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  • Pete

    People judge Donald Trump on his hairstyle all the time, and I never see anyone calling that “sexist”.

    It appears that it’s OK to judge a male politician by his appearance, but not OK to judge a female politician by her appearance.

  • Zig70
  • 🙂 Nice one, Zig70. That had me a’chuckling.

  • Jag

    At least Arlene didn’t say “Avon” or “Avon lady”

    Seriously Michelle should just acknowledge the compliment, that Arlene thinks she’s “attractive”, and call on Arlene to join in the call for gay and lesbian marriage.

  • chrisjones2

    I agree.

    Arlene should have talked about her ineffectiveness as a Health Minister, as an Agriculture Minister and her continued eulogies to murderers that only serve to drag us all back towards the past.

    She might also have mentioned her silence as the new ‘leader’ of SF to say anything positive about past victims of rape and sexual abuse within her party who found themselves revictimised by being shamed by the party when the dared to tell the truth about what they had endured

    I dont think anyone has ever asked her how, as a senior women in SF at that time, she felt about that abuse and what she did PERSONALLY to ensure they were treated properly and the abuse was stopped.

  • james

    One suspects that if Chris and Patricia had more confidence in Michelle’s political abilities they might be less paranoically hyper-sensitive to the imagined criticism here.

  • chrisjones2

    There is an election on

  • Sean79

    Just when you thought Arlene wasn’t going to allow herself to be the villan of the piece this election as she had last. You’d have to imagine Sinn Féin will be well pleased today.

  • Nevin

    Another ‘falsum ira’ moment! Well done, Patricia!

  • notimetoshine

    The post categorises the comments as a ” huge gaffe during another election campaign” but I don’t really think that is relevant. What exactly will the electoral impact of such a comment be? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    Good God Arlene or Michelle could compare their opponent to a horse’s rear end and it wouldn’t make any difference to the campaign. It isn’t like there are hoards of female DUP voters angry at such a remark ready to jump ship and support Michelle O’Neill.

    This isn’t a normal election. We don’t have two parties clamouring for the same ‘pot’ of voters, we have two parties trying to energise their base. Now if Sturgeon or May or Corbyn or Farron went down that route, yes it might be a thing. But this is Northern Ireland.

  • OPB58

    “a woman already under fire for referring to Irish speakers as crocodiles”

    Another repetition of fake news but sure it makes good copy.

    Foster’s reference to crocodiles was in reference to Sinn Fein in that with every concession they only come back for more and the demand for an ILA was just another demand requiring a concession from the DUP. Not all Irish speakers are members of SF.

  • NotNowJohnny

    In what way was Michelle O’Neill less effective as Heath Minister than her DUP predecessor and less effective as Agriculture Minister than her DUP successor?

  • NotNowJohnny

    ‘Blonde’ is not solely a description of appearance. I’m surprised that fact managed to escape you given that is the only reason there’s a story here at all.

  • Pete

    But I thought the whole reason it is supposedly “sexist” (even though it isn’t), is because it is judging a female politician on her appearance?

  • Gopher

    Michelle is now a “victim”.

  • AntrimGael

    The Sunday Independent, Arlene and the DUP! A marriage made in partitionist heaven.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Perhaps you need to think again.

  • Backbencher

    Patricia – are you on the payroll of the Sinn Fein PR team? pumping out spin such as this.

    Can you point me to where Arlene referred to Irish speakers as “crocodiles”? thought not. I suggest you drop the spin if you want to be taken seriously as a commentator.

    As for word association and Ms O’Neill, I would have responded ‘Gatling Gun’.

    Anyone any other words to associate with Michelle?

  • Lorcs1

    Arlene won’t lose many votes off the back of the comments, but there is definitely the possibility of them having an electoral impact. Just look at how SF used the Crocodiles comment to motivate their base at the last election.

  • mickfealty

    She was hardly in Health a wet Tuesday, but didn’t she end up in the High Court as DARD Minister:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-25550494

  • john millar

    Its very simple to refute any pejorative connotations of “blonde”

    Michelle can brandish her 10/11 A* GCSE her 3/4 A/A* at A level and her First/2.1 in (preferably) a Stem Subject

  • JOHN TURLEY

    My God, one would feel sorry for Arlene this time.The standard of journalim at I.N.M sure is low, the
    journalists egging Arlene on to make a fool of herself once again and she did not even see it coming.She should only give interviews to Tommy Gorman.

  • grumpy oul man

    so unless you have a degree, if your blond your Stupid?
    wow what a load of sexist nonsense,
    what about men, any physical characteristics there that need a degree attached to disprove stupidity.

  • grumpy oul man

    “People judge Donald Trump on his hairstyle all the time,”
    I don’t think Donalds hair style is a source of judgement and lets face it there is plenty of other things to judge Donald on,

  • grumpy oul man

    Or they may be reporting more on AFs inability to keep a civil tongue in her mouth and her ability to mobilize the voters her political opponents want mobilized.
    And dear chap during election only a fool would not use the fact that the leader opposition dropped another one.
    AF really is the gift that keep on giving.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Not being in post very long is hardly the basis for being labelled ineffective so, in the absence of any other evidence, I think we can rule out the ineffective Health Minister criticism.

    Nor does ending up in the High Court because her DUP colleagues disapproved of her decision to follow her English, Scottish and Welsh Ministerial colleagues (in making a funding reallocation which the EU scheme legitimately provided for) make her an ineffective Agriculture Minister.

  • mickfealty

    The job at Agriculture was hardly a stretch. As I say she wasn’t really to blame for the mess health is now in after her bosses’ decision to down tools and walk out.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Unless I’ve massively misunderstood this, we seem to be in agreement that, contrary to what Chris Jones has claimed, there is no evidence she was ineffective either as health or agriculture minister. Mr Jones has certainly offered no evidence.

  • john millar

    “so unless you have a degree, if your blond your Stupid?
    wow what a load of sexist nonsense,
    what about men, any physical characteristics there that need a degree attached to disprove stupidity.”

    Missing the point I think– I know (worked with )several very attractive not to say gorgeous ” blondes” who are also high academic achievers That laid to rest any negative “blond” connotations of compliments.
    Perhaps Michelle could do the same.

  • npbinni

    Is O’Neill a leader, or Jerry’s Barbie doll? Maybe that’s where Arlene’s mind went to.

  • grumpy oul man

    Perhaps you could go on a course on sexism and another on logic.

  • john millar

    “Perhaps you could go on a course on sexism and another on logic.”
    What is illogical about expressing admiration for and Individual ?

  • grumpy oul man

    Being a bit disingenuous there John, I’m sure you aware of the connotations of Blonde to describe a lady.
    Believing it’s​ ok to use it as one word description of a women is the sexist bit.
    As for the logic bit, well believing you need As and A*s plus a 2/1 in a stem subject to disprove blondiness is not only illogical but very funny.

  • grumpy oul man

    AF was asked for one word, Gatling gun is two words.

  • I suppose Armalite would be one word.

    But this while story seems like a bit of a stretch. You could argue that describing a politician in terms of her appearance is very slightly sexist (I’m a man, so I’d clearly not understand), but insisting that when Arlene said blonde she also meant dim, without any further evidence, seems to venture into the realms of speculation.

    My sneaking suspicion is that Arlene was mindful of the advice that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything, and was trying to find something inoffensive and factual to say. It may not have worked.

    The reaction does betray a worrying tendency to jump to the worst possible conclusion. We have way too much of that in our political discourse.

    Maybe we should save our outrage for when something really outrageous is said or done. There is plenty to choose from, unfortunately.

  • grumpy oul man

    So AF wasn’t trying to say something offensive so instead she said something offensive!
    And advice about not jumping to the worst possible conclusion by somebody who would use Armalite as their one word description.
    You really couldn’t make this s*#t up.

  • For clarity, I don’t think “Armalite” would be a particularly fair one-word description of the lady in question – I was just amused by your grounds for objecting to “Gatling Gun”. And yes, I get the double meanings of quick delivery and a reference to the past of the party. Which, for the further avoidance of doubt, is clearly in the past.

    Sigh!

    It reminds me of Tom Wright’s dictum on theological discourse – you have to say everything, all the time, or people will assume you have left it out deliberately.

    And I think it is perfectly believable that Arlene “wasn’t trying to say something offensive so instead she said something [else] offensive.” The culture of that party is not known for its sensitivity and kindness… I imagine you’d stop noticing that you were being offensive after a while.

    Maybe we should give her some credit for trying? This time at least.

  • grumpy oul man

    I will give her credit for trying when she actually tries, until then I reserve the right to criticize.

  • john millar

    Got lapped down in meeting -discussing work Chairman whois XXXX –me= -the ttractive blonde in room 11.
    Slapped down seriously by female HR manager
    Blonde later winks at me at subsequent meeting.

    Telephone call to bank– reference previous visit cant `t ( stupid me) recall name of contact Identify her as ” the good looking redhead” at back of office. Giggles–get put through to right contact. Go to bank next meeting Redhead sits opposite and smiles at me .

    Hard to win

    “As for the logic bit, well believing you need As and A*s plus a 2/1 in a stem subject to disprove blondiness is not only illogical but very funny.”

    Knew quite a lot of blondes with 2.1`s (and better ) in a professional life -quite often they were identified by blondness as an separate identifier — the small blond –the tall blonde etc
    Never heard a squeek

  • grumpy oul man

    Really didn’t understand that first bit, just a rake of cliches.
    And the last bit didn’t make a lot of sense either.
    Do you indentify the men in your workplace as short blonde or tall redhead.

  • john millar

    “Do you indentify the men in your workplace as short blonde or tall redhead.”
    Generally men are identifier by less complimentary identifiers (for that`s what they are) ie. “the annoying little sh1t in accounts” “the brain dead cnut who has failed his finals twice and is still employed”
    Instant recognition on the basis of the characteristic identified. Men I have found tend to be more directly critical of perceived negative characteristics

  • grumpy oul man

    So you judge women on thier hair and looks but men on personality and performance.
    Got it

  • john millar

    “So you judge women on thier hair and looks but men on personality and performance.
    Got it”

    Its not a judgement -its an identifier via the most obvious/displayed characteristic

  • Old Mortality

    ‘well-groomed’
    Is that intended to be a euphemism? I’m thinking of one fairly prominent female politician you don’t mention who has a rather more ‘natural’ appearance. Would you describe her as not ‘well-groomed’?

  • grumpy oul man

    And is a judgement and a sexist one at thay.
    I suspect your a lucky man no woman has put in a complaint about the attitudes in your workplace.
    I believe employers are obliged to give training or guidelines about appropriate behaviour in the workplace.
    Did you not recieve any such training or instructions?

  • john millar

    Never had a complaint
    The truth/accuracy is a sound barrier
    Trained and have certificates in all that )-what was referred to by a tutor) cack

  • grumpy oul man

    You know im finding this story of offices full of gorgeous highly educated women who have no problem being refered to by their phyiscal appearance all a bit strange.
    I know a lot of intelligent highly trained women and they would not tolerate that sort of treatment for a minute.
    I also know that ANY humam resources department would be very unhappy about that sort of 1970s building site culture existing in a workplace and would take steps to ensure the company would not be open to a sexual discrimination case .