Here’s a couple of starters:
From Robert A. Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France (page 195):
The radical press was particularly savage, aiming its invective directly at the man whose policies it so despised… Le Radical held that “France will forget everything except ridicule; what it pardons leasts of all are retreats.”
Not just the “radical press. Not just a “man” it despises. Here is Matthew Pritchett’s, as so often, skewering Telegraph pocket cartoon:
Meanwhile, the Times was having a go:
You’re not look’ yer best, luv!
It’s just as well we didn’t look at the pinko rags, what?
In fact, similar images, variously cropped, appeared on the front pages of The Guardian and the Telegraph. Not nice.
A sexist musing:
Ridicule, of one kind or another goes with the territory in British politics: Dave “Flashman” Cameron and Ed “Grommit” Miliband are par for the course. It is somewhat different for female politicos, though.
Margaret Thatcher’s handbag was totemic was potent and totemic, while Julian Critchley’s lexicon of insults, most famously “the great she-elephant”, never caught on outside a charmed acquaintance. The inner-circle Tory novelist, Michael Dobbs, wrote an article about just that:
A “handbagging” became the term we used for those occasions when it felt as if it had been swung and used in violence against us. Every time it appeared it screamed at us – never forget she knows more than you, that she is a woman, that she is “The Boss”.
She was known by many other names that reflected her authority – the Leaderene, the Great She Elephant, Attila the Hen – yet there were times when the mask of invincibility slipped, when the pressures and pains of office would catch up with her, when in private the ice-blue eyes would redden and the tears gather. Sometimes they were tears of frustration and rage at the antics of political opponents, some insult or obstruction that usually led back to Ted Heath. Often it was because of terrible news, such as the murder of her great friend Airey Neave by Irish terrorists. On those occasions the handbag would provide tissues to dry the eye and dab at the damp nose and a little mirror to inspect the repair work, knowing that in a few moments she would have to face the world.
And Theresa May? Her version is footwear:
Ever since she stepped out in a pair of leopard-print kitten heels at the Tory party conference in 2002, Theresa May’s feet have been a focus for fashionistas.
For years many have assumed she puts on fancy footwear to capture the limelight.
Even that little gimmick was, this week, used against her:
Theresa May put on a pair of her famously colourful shoes and went out on the town on Tuesday night, no doubt believing she had earned the right to have a drink or two.
Three weeks back, Mrs May popped up on BBC morning television to big up a proposal for minimum pricing of alcohol. She was asked about her own intake, and was … a bit off-piste, or pissed off. Get it here, courtesy of HuffPo.
Oh, and that “a drink or two” is no mere formula of words, as the Telegraph noted:
The Home Secretary was pictured with her husband at the V&A museum, smiling broadly as she enjoyed the lavish birthday party of a celebrity PR agent.
It was the end of a long day on which she had appeared to seize the initiative in the battle to kick out Abu Qatada, the radical preacher detained without trial in this country for almost a decade.
The whole woman-in-political-shambles problem was discussed by Tony Harnden, again for the Telegraph, in relation to those walking, talking, pouting and preening disasters,
Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin – ‘two girls’ walking a sexism tightrope
Gender works both ways. “Because they’re female, Bachmann and Palin have been able to say things that men can no longer get away with,” John Feehery, a Republican consultant, told me. “Their rhetoric, the lashings they give Obama, is extraordinarily tough.
“They are in many ways putting on the pants, which is emblematic of what’s going on in American society. The unemployment rate among women is fairly low compared to the unemployment rate among men.”
But there is also a heightened danger for women candidates that they can be defined as extreme or stupid, which could be the kiss of death in a general election against Mr Obama. While the “mud wrestling” comment was accurate, it hardly furthered Mrs Bachmann’s aim of proving her seriousness.
As the leading republican strategist Rich Galen told me last week: “In American politics, you can come back from anything except ridicule.”
Not only in America, it seems.
Which leaves two remaining questions?
Why did Mrs May go so blatantly public so prematurely, and why?
There seem to be two explanations out there.
One is that, yet again, she was being wheeled out as the photogenic bomb shelter, in this case for the continuing disaster that is the Osborne budget last month.
The other is that is was some pre-emptive strike on the Brighton summit the Cameroonies have cobbled together to get the Council of Europe to reconsider the European Court of Human Rights. Yuman Rites, at least as understood by the neanderthaler Tory right-wingers, is one of the issues capable of dissolving the ConDem coalition.
Either which way, it all went deliciously pear-shaped. No reflection on the shape or physique of the former Ms Brazier.