Isabel Hardman has a great piece in The Spectator in which she rightly castigates Harriet Harman and the Labour Party for their narrow, possessive and parochial attitude towards feminism and gender equality.
Harriet Harman also described the Prime Minister as ‘no sister’, arguing ‘we’ve got a new Tory prime minister – and she’s a woman. But like Margaret Thatcher before her, Theresa May is no supporter of women’.
Now, it’s probably quite irritating for Labour to have to hold a women’s conference while the Tories are still crowing that they’ve got another female Prime Minister. But is this sort of ‘you’re not a real feminist’ moaning very, well, feminist? Naturally, Theresa May has a different interpretation of what a feminist politician should do to some Labour MPs: though perhaps not as different as they might think. After all, she did set up Women2Win, which has increased the number of female Tory MPs in parliament by lobbying the Conservative party and mentoring candidates. And after all, she did do quite a lot of work on domestic violence when in the Home Office, including working with the now Labour MP Jess Phillips when she was working as a national adviser on domestic abuse, and introducing the offence of coercive and controlling behaviour. And she also introduced a number of measures on female genital mutilation and forced marriage. But still, she’s not a Labour MP, so that means that obviously she’s not really a feminist.
Sorry, ladies, but feminism is even more important than partisanship. If you start claiming that only women who meet with your politics are real feminists, then you break into the People’s Front of Judea when feminists haven’t run out of problems to solve. You also alienate those on the right who are feminists but who you tell aren’t welcome in your special exclusive left-wing ladies’ club. Feminism has to span the political spectrum, otherwise it gets stuck in one party. And given the Labour party isn’t going anywhere right now, that’s not much use to the women who still need a politician who’ll show them what a feminist in government looks like.
Amen to that. Feminism (or egalitarianism) is much bigger than the Labour Party – thank God. And Lord knows that it needs to be.
Labour’s brand of feminism views women as weak supplicants and perpetual victims, helpless waifs entirely dependent on government largesse, social protection and financial support from the state.
It is a toxic creed of inferiority which imagines that women cannot make it on their own without help from enlightened white knights in the Labour Party to vanquish their foes and smooth their path in life. And that’s why Harriet Harman and other left-wing feminists hate Theresa May, and hated Margaret Thatcher before her. For here are two unapologetically conservative women who strove and succeeded on their own merits, and and overcame an (at times) extremely sexist culture and workplace by quietly getting on with the job rather than exulting in their own supposed fragility and victimhood.
Harriet Harman views Theresa May as a traitor to Proper Socialist Feminism because Theresa May (and other independent conservative women like her) never asked for Labour’s help on her path to success, and because Britain’s new prime minister is a living, breathing example to girls and young women (and men, for that matter) that success and full equality are not contingent on swallowing Labour’s nasty, backbiting politics of identity and victimhood.
For in reality, it has been the Conservative Party who have put egalitarian and meritocratic principles into practice when it really counted, electing not one but two female party leaders. Labour is the party of the all-woman shortlist, affirmative action, gaudy pink minibuses and thinly-veiled misandry. The Tories are the party of Britain’s two first female prime ministers.
So three cheers for Isabel Hardman reminding us that believing in gender equality should not and does not also require swallowing whole Labour’s politics of grievance, weaponised victimhood and government dependency.
Feminism and egalitarianism are bigger than the Labour Party, which is probably just as well – because Labour’s leading feminists are looking mighty churlish and downright small right now.
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