Progressively Speaking: Addressing sexism after the Mail’s ‘Legs-It’ front page

Progressively Speaking: Addressing sexism after the Mail’s ‘Legs-It’ front page

Rabbi Charley Baginsky takes a topical issue and provides a modern progressive angle



When I saw the Daily Mail’s front page featuring the legs of British Prime Minister Theresa May and  Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon  – and the outrage it caused – it set me pondering the casual sexism
I experience every day.

When I thought about becoming a rabbi, my privileged upbringing in a liberal London bubble, and perhaps my naivety, meant I never considered  my gender in terms of the decision.

Yet I have spent the past 10 years being introduced as a ‘female’ rabbi, while my male counterparts are introduced without an announcement of their gender. By saying ‘female’ rabbi, it suggests women are not the norm. In truth, half the Liberal rabbinate is now female – a statistic that is similar in our sister Progressive movements around the world.

Then there is the term ‘girl’. Flattering as some might suggest it is to refer to me or any woman in this way, I am not a girl any more than a 38-year-old man with three children and a responsible job is a ‘boy’.

As Mayim Bialik said recently: “When we use words to describe adult women that are typically used to describe children, it changes the way we view women, even unconsciously, so that we don’t equate them with adult men. In fact, it implies that they’re inferior to men.’

It’s not just that the Daily Mail article is disgraceful, it’s that it is the worst example of an endemic preoccupation with women’s bodies that implies that what comes out of their mouths cannot be taken seriously.

I struggle with the fact this article was written by a woman, columnist Sarah Vine, who seems to feel the need to undermine women and deepen their insecurity.

I urge every one of you to think about the language you use each day. Don’t perpetuate a vocabulary that reduces women and undermines moves towards true equality.

υ Charley Baginsky is rabbi of South Bucks Jewish Community

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