Sunday Life received a sizeable spike in reader mail after the Minister for the Status for Women, Kate Ellis, appeared on the cover of our June 26 issue. Ellis was interviewed for our story on why women were still not breaking through the glass ceiling in business and politics. But the responses were not about the story.
More than a few of our readers (almost all of them women) viewed Ellis’s make-up, clothes and, in particular, her shoes as inappropriate. The responses ranged from mildly concerned – “I found it disconcerting to see MP Kate Ellis … perched on the edge of a table and with half the front cover taken up by her legs and skyscraper heels” – to vitriolic: “The wearing of super-high stiletto heels represents women as vain, attention-seeking, foolish and potential victims.”
A few saw a glaring irony: “If you are railing against discrimination, why intentionally dress somebody up like a model to illustrate the article, which has the result of demeaning Ellis and all those other women who try to be taken seriously in a discriminatory world.”
This is not the first time Ellis has been taken to task. As the then minister for sport, she posed for a fashion spread in Grazia magazine last year, and the outcry was similar, albeit more vocal. Indeed, it’s not a new topic: when a female politician wears anything other than a sensible suit, outrage ensues.
“The message came over loud and clear,” wrote one reader. “If you want to get press coverage, girls, you’d better frock up.” And this, from another: “I would find it hard to take anyone in business seriously who was wearing those shoes. An article about successful women and this is what the stylist comes up with?”