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I wasn't planning to write anything on here until all my tedious university interview work was done, but a discussion in debating society yesterday really aggravated me. I don't have an enormous amount of time (I'm supposed to be writing my English coursework actually) so I apologise for only writing a short, incoherent rant.

The motion was supposed to be "this House would disestablish the Church of England", and bless sir for trying to get us all back on track after everyone ended up clutching their pearls and reaching for smelling salts over the picture of Rev Sally Hitchiner in the Evening Standard - even though only a couple of people in the room had actually bloody seen it, but everyone had an opinion based on a grossly exaggerated description.

The way this picture was introduced by someone was that "SHE WAS WEARING FISHNET TIGHTS, KITTEN HEELS, TONS OF MAKE-UP - IT WAS SO INAPPROPRIATE" etc. People refrained from using words like "slut" or "slag" in front of our teachers, but you could see their masked misogyny behind their false concern over Rev Hitchiner's faith. This is what she was wearing:

"Many people are scared of priests who look imposing and not like everyone else in society. I dress my age, in Topshop and Zara. One person on the internet has started trolling me, saying priests shouldn’t look like normal people. But it’s important that the Church reflects the range of people in society."

I guessed that the reason that the Evening Standard chose to run a huge image of her in the article was because she's an attractive young woman, and they wanted to provoke a reaction from people that focused more on Rev Hitchiner's attire than her opinion on the church - which I think says more about how the media manipulates the public rather than how devout we guess Rev Hitchiner is from what sort of clothes she's wearing. I looked Sally Hitchiner up on Twitter and she mentions that the images were "manipulated" as well as presented in a way different from discussed (I think they were originally taken for the Daily Mail).

After I was infuriated with people's comments, I pointed out that a) I had actually seen her outfit and it wasn't as "inappropriate" as it was made out to be, and b) it's sad that instead of remembering her deep disappointment about the outcome of the church's vote and what she had to say about women in the church, everyone has focused on judging her character from her outfit. I felt pretty appalled by the sentiment in the room which seemed to put equality under a condition pleasing to misogynistic attitudes - "if women want to be bishops in the church, then you have to conform to X, Y and Z, otherwise you can't expect equality!"

A thirty minute discussion in a London classroom filled with lots of sixteen and seventeen year olds, mostly girls, demonstrated how people feel that they can determine how "good" or "pious" or "respectful" or "worthy" a woman is from her clothing. No one gave a damn about her opinion on the church. The people who'd actually read the article didn't remember her words. Instead, they wanted to judge her commitment from her clothes, instead of listening to her demonstrate her faith through her words.