“Arlene, tell me you did not just say that!?”

In today’s Sunday Independent, Arlene Foster is asked to play a word association game and when asked about Michelle O’Neill, her response is “blonde.” That’s what she said about her political equal, the woman she is tasked with developing political agreement with in order to re-establish the Assembly. “Blonde.”

I’m scarlet for her. Yes, I realise that expression is a colloquialism, but I truly can’t think of any other way to express how wick I feel for her that she has made yet another huge gaffe during another election campaign.

I knew before I started reading Niamh Horan’s interview with Arlene Foster I was going to get annoyed, I didn’t realise just how much it was going to remind me of the movie “Mean Girls.”

The article commences by painting a very human picture of a traumatic childhood and indeed, one cannot help but be sympathetic to Mrs Foster in respect of the harm done to her and her family. Having gained her trust over tea in a Hillsborough café, Horan then gets her to play a word association game about her political opposition.

Every party press officer and PR person is screaming “NO” right now, knowing the was never going to end well.

Gerry Adams is “strange,” Mary Lou McDonald is “standoffish” and Michelle O’Neill is “blonde.”

And right there, that’s the ‘Burn Book’ and the Sindo has its above the masthead splash: “Sexism, Sinn Féin and the Blonde.” That a newspaper would engage in such trashy journalism is bad enough. That a party leader, former first Minister and a woman already under fire for referring to Irish speakers as “crocodiles” would make such a sexist remark is mind-boggling.

We all know that “blonde” is a euphemism for not very bright, for a woman who is perceived as pretty but dim. Watch now as the DUP try to spin it otherwise.

Arlene Foster goes on to say that Michelle O’Neill is very well presented with her hair and make-up done. This isn’t meant as a compliment, she’s throwing shade and she knows it. And Niamh Horan eggs her on telling her “it’s not sexist if it’s true.”

Yes it is sexist.

It is true that Michelle O’Neill is well-groomed in public. So are Emma Little-Pengelly, Claire Bailey, Paula Bradshaw, Michelle McIlveen, Claire Sugden and dozens of female political representatives in the north. Can you imagine what Arlene Foster and the DUP would say if someone described Joanne Bunting MLA as “blonde?” It wouldn’t be pretty – and rightly so.

It’s sexist because you’re judging a woman on her appearance. It’s sexist because you’re implying that because she is well-presented and well-groomed that she lacks substance or intelligence. It’s sexist because you know yourself exactly how it feels to be judged on your appearance, as Foster has said in the article, and yet you do exactly the same thing to your political equal.

One would have thought that after the “crocodile” lesson, Arlene Foster would have realised that when you throw shade, it’s immediately obvious to onlookers that the thrower, not the object, is the uncool one.

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