In his most recent prime minister’s questions, David Cameron revealed that he is a feminist. Well, he revealed that he thinks he’s a feminist and that he doesn’t really know what a feminist is.
Cameron was questioned on his equality beliefs by Labour MP Rupa Huq and claimed, ‘If feminism means we should treat people equally then yes absolutely. I am proud of the fact I’ve got, sitting around the cabinet table, a third women . . . Something we promised and something we delivered.’
In much the same way that the contestants on The Apprentice promise to be competent and deliver no such thing.
David Cameron might think that feminism is just about believing that men and women are equal but that’s not really enough. You have to also examine how women are more negatively impacted by certain situations than men are, e.g. when two women are killed by their partners every week whilst more and more cuts are made to domestic violence charities.
He equates female politicians being paid vast sums and claiming thousands of pounds extra in dubious ‘expenses’ with the women bearing the brunt of tax cuts and struggling to feed their families.
He makes the mistake of believing that having a third of his cabinet be women somehow equals out the fact that two thirds are men.
Unsurprisingly, for a Conservative, David Cameron equates some well-off white women with every other woman in the UK. But his female cabinet members are certainly faring better than the refugee women in Yarl’s Wood or unemployed women, whose numbers have reached a 23-year high.
Indeed, there have been a series of incidents which prove that the Tories are the exact opposite of ‘feminist’. Just this year minor Tory backbencher Dominic Raab referred to feminists as ‘obnoxious bigots’ on his blog.
You may think this is an unfair tarring based on one minor party member’s opinion, until you remember that justice secretary Ken Clarke appeared to distinguish between what he dubbed ‘serious’ rape and date rape, which he decided was not as serious.
Just to clarify – the Conservative justice secretary believes that rape can be organised into ‘serious’ and ‘other’ rape.
What was even more upsetting were the attempts of Anna Soubry, Tory MP and woman, to explain Clarke’s comments. She claimed ‘all rapes are serious but some rapes are even more serious. A child who is raped everyday by her father is obviously more serious than a one-off’.
For those who thought Orwell couldn’t get more terrifying, you have been proved wrong.
You’ll also notice that this isn’t what Clarke said. What Clarke was actually doing was attempting to increase the maximum sentence discount for an early guilty plea for rapists from 33% to 50%.
Given Soubry’s miserable attempts to quench the ire this discussion provoked, we can only assume that she and the Tories see date rape as just ‘something that happens’ but that ‘child rape’, whilst serving all possible requirements of the label ‘serious’ rape, should still allow perpetrators to get away with a lower sentence if they plead guilty.
Given the notable difficulty that rape victims currently have with their attackers receiving any sentence at all, the attempt to lower the maximum sentence for those who plead guilty seems to be a slap in their face. So I’m struggling to find any areas in which the Tories are actually doing something that could be construed as feminist.
It isn’t enough to simply say ‘men and women should be equal’ whilst you’re removing tax credits that overwhelmingly benefit women with young children. It isn’t enough to promise more income for hard-working people when women are already working hard and still faring worse than men. And it certainly isn’t enough to be trying to further reduce the sentence for a crime that overwhelmingly impacts women.
Feminism is, in one possible way, like the Bullingdon Club: you’re not in it just because you say you are. You’re a feminist if you do all you can to enable women to overcome systematic injustice to achieve their full rights. And I’m sorry David, you’re just not welcome in this club.