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Young girls ‘being put off politics by sexist coverage’

The charity called for young women to have their views represented in political coverage.

Nicola Sturgeon has backed a campaign calling for action after a study found sexist coverage risks putting girls off politics.

A Girlguiding study found two-fifths (41%) of girls aged nine to 16 across the UK think there has been a rise in media sexism in the last six months.

More than a third (39%) said this had knocked their confidence and warned it risks putting them off politics. Around two-thirds (62%) said sexist coverage negatively impacts young people’s views of girls and young women.

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File photo dated 15/7/2016 of Prime Minister Theresa May (left) meets with Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House in Edinburgh. The First Minister said a new independence referendum should be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

Following the Daily Mail’s “Legs-it” headline comparing First Minister Ms Sturgeon and Prime Minister Theresa May’s legs, Girlguiding Scotland is calling for the media to focus on “opinions, not pins” and stop discussing politicians’ appearances.

The charity also wants to ensure young women are included in debates and their views are represented in political coverage.

Ms Sturgeon is backing the campaign and said the figures should be a “wake-up call” for all parties and those covering politics.

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Girlguides from across the country sign a petition during the campaign launch for compulsory labelling of airbrushed images being held at the Girlguiding UK Fusion Event held at Harewood House, Leeds.

She said: “It is unacceptable that women and girls continue to face sexist attitudes that are putting them off playing a full role in our society and it is incumbent on all of us to work to change that.

“That doesn’t just mean an end to sexist attitudes but an end to the focus on appearances and family life and to the macho- aggressive language that is used far too often in politics.

“I want to see as many young women and girls involved in politics as possible and as First Minister I know I have a responsibility to lead by example. I want to send a strong message to all girls and young women in Scotland – that if you work hard, the sky is the limit, and there should be no platform off limits to any young girl.”

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Monica Lennon, Shadow Minister for Inequality speaking on the second day of the Scottish Labour Party Conference at the Perth Concert Hall. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday February 25, 2017. See PA story POLITICS Labour. Photo credit should read: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

Scottish Labour inequalities spokeswoman Monica Lennon is also supporting the campaign, as is Talat Yaqoob, chair of the Women 50:50 campaign for equal representation.

Ms Lennon said: “From media coverage which is more concerned about a woman’s shoes than her ideas and accomplishments, to abuse over social media – it’s no wonder that so many girls and young women are reporting they might think twice about using their voice or taking the lead in political conversations.

“It’s concerning to learn that sexist coverage of female leaders is sending girls the message that their views won’t be taken seriously and potentially putting a generation of girls off politics.”

Girlguiding surveyed a total of 1,147 people across the UK during February and March.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson also gave the campaign her backing, and said: “Politics should be open to everyone and it’s important that women are properly represented.

“We know that sexist media coverage can put women off pursuing elected politics – and that needs to change. Quite simply, politics is too important to be left just to the men.”

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