So we, the British, such as we are, are to have our second female Prime Minister. As a woman who will, for the sake of brevity, refer to herself as a ‘person of the left’, the second inauguration of a female premier being a Conservative (by all accounts, with a capital C) leaves one, at best, rather ambivalent.
The most coherent form of political feminism has it that, it is not so much the cause of feminism to provide a shinning walk way for a female leader, so much as it is to arrive at a governance that takes issues that affect women seriously, point one. Point two, is that the most sensible way of doing this is to enable a critical mass of women to work in government, that at the very least equals, or slightly surpasses, the presence of men. One could argue, for the sake here of simplicity, that the Nordic countries do so comparatively well for women because they have such decent levels of representation, in the European context in any case. Indeed the Nordic countries have an average of 41% representation, compared with the rest of Europe’s measly average of 24%.
Britain doesn’t do well out of that. It seems to me rather suspect to be throwing garlands up in the air on account of the new leader’s vagina, when overall political power is but sand in women’s hands. Of course, just as those far right men with stubbly shaved heads and beady, forensic eyes (here’s looking at you Paul Nuttall) will become Dworkins when it comes to the malfunctioning of women’s liberty in the hands of their Muslim enemies, so too will conservatives dance on the podium of feminism when its stripped vernacular serves their cause. Here comes Theresa, girls, our work here is done!
But I have nothing, really, against Theresa May, especially when considered next to the rag bag bunch of Tory Etonian toffs that have being whipping the reins of power for the last ten years. Indeed, Andrea Leadsom aside, women conservatives seem to be the Tories best bet, if only because they are overall, slightly less annoying then their tripod counterparts.
Nonetheless, Theresa May’s appointment to power is no great success for feminism, but how much of an affront it will be will rather depend on what she does next to support women. And therein lies the kernel of my ambivalence: probably not a great deal.
If we shoot over to the Labour Party, in all its glistening disarray, it is equally hard to feel enthused by the potential for Angela Eagle to become leader of the opposition. Yes Labour has never had a female leader (other than the interim Harriet Harman) and yes there is a real conversation to be had about why a left wing (well, you know) party has been so inept in this regard . The Conservatives, of course, bought in the euphemistically termed Welfare Reforms which disproportionately affected women and now, despite our conviviality about having two women top dogs, Britain finds itself far down the list of the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, at number 26, lower than most other European countries despite us being one of the richest. I’ve never been much of a patriot, but what little patriotism I do have is looking more and more like a sweaty ball of old socks.
Those feminist Labour supporters who want to run head first into Angela Eagle’s pink suits and willingness to play the political game, need to remind themselves that she abstained on voting for the aforementioned Welfare Reform Act. I never quite understood why so many Labour MPs did; did they imagine that if they simply voted it down Tories, Middle England and The Daily Mail would creep into their second expense homes at night and apply cling film to their toilet seats, shave their dogs and put several dozen mackerels down the sides of their sofas? Is Labour so fearful of having political clout, decisiveness or initiative? These Blairites tell us they want power, but one gets the distinct impression that if they ever got it, they’d not have a bloody clue what to do with it, so wholesome and distended is their political, existential crisis.
Added to which, Eagle also voted for the Iraq war, Syrian airstrikes and the hike in University fees. Given that the latter happening, more or less obliterated the Liberal Democrats, it seems quite a stretch to imagine that her leadership would galvanize and unify the party in the way that is being proposed.
Look, I don’t have any real ‘loyalty’ to Jeremy Corbyn, but one feels that the perpetuating failure of the Labour Party has little to nothing to do with him, and indeed, will not be solved by her. Labour lost a massive chunk of its historical support when Scotland went for the more politically cohesive and very ably led SNP, and there is more hemorrhaging of support to the far right party, UKIP. The fact is that, those areas that have voted enthusiastically for Brexit in England and Wales, are just more socially conservative than what any side of the Labour movement can speak too, Eagle or Corbyn.
The only glimmer of hope would arrive if they stopped peeing their pants over being showered with denigrating generalities such You Urban Metropolitan Elites! you Rabid Multiculturalists!, you Bull Dyke Feminists and Haters of the Queen!, and actually curated some willing compromises and tried to colonize us namby pamby liberals, socialists and jaded centrists as best possible. Corbyn has tried to reach a compromise, but the compromise on the other side is predicated on him leaving and taking his bloody mandate with him. Which, for those taking a nap at the back, isn’t really a compromise at all.
The simple fact of having female leaders of either the right or the left won’t be enough to bring feminism and socialism back from the brink of their swansongs. Women have received dramatic cuts to their social security, women’s refuges are closing, and a government panel seems long term hellbent on enacting policies to enable the industrialization of prostitution.
We are in a crisis, one from which no politician alone, male or female, can currently save us, irrespective of the colour of their jackets or the strength of their steel.
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