Everyone should watch Fox News a few times a year, if only to be reminded of why women have legs. It's certainly not for walking.

I flinch for the Fox women - are they reporters? Anchors? "Personalities"? - for the short skirts they have to wear, one leg clenched over the other while concentrating on not un-crossing them. Their doll faces and blonde locks are essential in American media, but it's the potential display if they break concentration for a second that really hooks the viewer in. Think Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.

Sometimes they sit in a row, cheerleaders for current affairs, their crossed-over legs on an identical angle, like synchronised swimmers posing for a postcard. None of them are fat, or have lumpy legs. Imagine being serious with those attributes! You're back in the days of Man magazine on Fox, when the idea that women have brains was quaint, and ideal women were blondes wearing aeronautical uplift bras.

But in the life of every cute blonde with nice legs there were often, in the heyday of a certain kind of man's magazine, influential older gentlemen with moneybags, and it happens that former Fox fox Gretchen Carlson is suing her former boss, 76-year-old Roger Ailes, claiming the head of Fox wrecked her career because she wouldn't have sex with him. Other women came forward with similar allegations after that news broke. He denies any wrongdoing.


Carlson's show had top ratings in the first quarter of this year, and Fox is the most watched basic cable network in America, so this is a significant stoush.

I don't mean to belittle nice legs here; I wish I had them; but to point out that pretty women can have a lot to contend with, even a 50-year-old ex-Miss America like Carlson. Good looks don't necessarily make your life enviable.

Here I have to mention British Home Secretary Theresa May's legs, because she wears subtly short skirts for a woman of her age, and has something to flaunt in that regard. May is about to become Prime Minister, following a bitch-slapping by rival Andrea Leadsom, who got right down to business earlier this week, boasting that her mating tackle had delivered offspring, making her the better candidate.

May and her husband have no children. They were unable to, as if it matters, and you'd hope that in the 21st Century this would be about as relevant as whether they play Canasta.

Leadsom blew her chances when she toddled down that path in an interview with a journalist; such a lack of smarts rightly cost her the top job. She ought to have known better than to waffle on about how having children gives you a real stake in the future, "a tangible stake" as she put it, rather than merely having nieces and nephews, who are so intangible that they don't count. Journalists are not your friends in politics. They are smiling crocodiles who only pretend to like you.

In the old lexicon of sexism, good looks and good legs were vital; even Margaret Thatcher had respectable pins, and British men, who as we all know pay strict governesses to discipline them, adored her. May looks like more of the same. Hillary Clinton's aren't great, but I digress. At least they all get top jobs.

Clinton has been slagged for standing by a philandering husband, the subtext being that a proper woman would have kept him amused. May was slagged for not using her uterus like a proper woman and producing offspring, as if that guarantees finer feelings and true connection with humanity. In this country, with its appalling record of child abuse, we have reason to doubt it.

Being a mother is levelling; that much is true, but fate will slap you around in many ways over your lifetime. You don't have to experience your child projectile vomiting in public to know the meaning of humiliation, and there are more ways than stretchmarks to experience body insecurity. For that matter, you could do without the fuzzy hormonal brain that goes with having small children, and you never get the lost sleep back.

Mothers lose career advantages, earn less money over their lifetime, and are resented if they make children their priority when push comes to shove, all good reasons to make childlessness attractive. No wonder mothers get so churlish. Looking at the likes of May they are puce with envy.

Rosemary McLeod is a journalist and author.