You have to be careful about letting women into politics, you really do. You give them a few rights and then they start clamouring for more. Worse still, they start using their womanly wiles to get their way, crossing their legs in parliament and distracting great Oxbridge-educated statesmen from their trains of thought.
I speak, of course, of Angela Rayner. Labour’s deputy leader was accused by the Mail on Sunday (MoS) last week of a “Basic Instinct ploy to distract Boris” by … moving her legs at work.
I was born in London and I have British citizenship, but I moved to the US more than a decade ago. Sometimes (normally when dealing with medical bills), I wonder why on earth I left – and then I read articles such as the one in the MoS and I remember. The US is incredibly flawed, but it is not riddled with the sort of embarrassing, outdated classism that plagues the UK. The MoS’s article on Rayner was full of digs about her being educated at a comprehensive school and quoted one MP as saying: “She knows she can’t compete with Boris’s Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills which he lacks.” Maybe those skills include being able to understand that we live in the 21st century.
While the US is less classist than the UK, it is equally rife with misogyny. It would be nice to think that the outrageous attack on Rayner was a one-off. Alas, female politicians everywhere face similar abuse and condescension.
There are three main prongs of attack. First, you are not qualified and you are just a diversity hire. Second, you used your feminine charms to get to the top. Third, you are simply unpleasant. For example, Fox News suggested repeatedly that the US supreme court justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated for the position only because she is black; Kamala Harris, the vice-president, has been accused of sleeping her way to the top; and the Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren is routinely described as “unlikable”. All those male politicians and judges, however? They got where they are through talent alone.
• Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist