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Labour MP Tracy Brabin says reaction to off-the-shoulder dress was 'like The Handmaid's Tale gone mad'

‘What is wrong with a bit of shoulder?’ MP asks

Olivia Petter
Saturday 08 February 2020 23:30 GMT
Shadow culture secretary Tracy Brabin was criticised online for her off-the-shoulder dress
Shadow culture secretary Tracy Brabin was criticised online for her off-the-shoulder dress (PA)

Tracy Brabin has spoken out about the reaction to her off-the-shoulder dress that drew “sexist” criticism after she wore it in the House of Commons.

On Tuesday, the Labour MP was forced to defend her choice of attire after she received a wave of online abuse for dressing “inappropriately”.

One Twitter user shared a photograph of Ms Brabin wearing the dress, which had slipped off her shoulder as she leaned against the despatch box due to a broken ankle.

The post prompted hundreds of replies, many of which referred to the shadow culture secretary as a “slapper”, “slut” and “tart”.

Now, Ms Brabin has described the responses as “The Handmaid’s Tale gone mad” in reference to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel in which women are stripped of their bodily autonomy.

Speaking to The Times, the MP for Batley and Spen explained: “The reaction was overblown. Slag, slut. All of that sexualisation about a shoulder, it’s like The Handmaid’s Tale gone mad. Or Victorian England, with an ankle showing.”

Ms Brabin explained that the criticisms her dress attracted are part of “the same narrative that says some women cover up too much, they wear the scarf and the veil”.

She added: “So many men feel they have carte blanche to just comment on women’s attire without any push back.”

The 58-year-old went on to say that she always strives to dress appropriately.

“It’s my responsibility to my constituents to look smart,” she continued.

“I represent them. I don’t want to come in looking like a bag of shopping. But what is wrong with a bit of shoulder?”

On Thursday, Ms Brabin revealed that in response to the criticism, she had decided to sell the off-the-shoulder dress on eBay to help raise funds for charity.

The listing, which appeared online on Thursday, claims the ASOS dress has been selling fast online as a result of the coverage and that any money raised will be donated to Girlguiding UK.

“Black dress worn by Tracy Brabin MP in ‘shouldergate’ as widely covered across the media,” the listing reads.

“This is an ASOS dress which has been flying off the shelves as a result of the coverage – and is now sold out!”

The listing continues: “All money raised will go to Girlguiding UK to support their work helping girls build confidence and self-esteem, in the hope that they grow up to be leaders.”

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