Friday, 2 June 2017

Theresa May is not a Feminist

Watching Theresa May on TV or in Parliament is excruciating.  She may have risen to the highest position a woman can aspire to – de facto head of state – but one thing’s for sure – she ain’t no feminist.

Neither was Margaret Thatcher.  In fact the only service Mrs T did for Feminism was to make girls realise that their dreams of occupying the highest positions could actually come true.  They too could one day become Prime Minister. You didn’t have to be Lady Di and marry a prince to get to the top.

Theresa May has to constantly watch her back
But wholesale smashing of the glass ceiling didn’t happen.  In fact, the cause of equality for women (both in opportunity and in fact) didn’t advance much, if at all.  Many would say that women’s lives got harder.  They were increasingly expected to juggle family, careers and – since Mrs T introduced ‘Care in the Community’ by abolishing a lot of useful institutions – many were also acting as carers. The pay gap between men and women stayed much the same despite the Equal Pay Act, passed 45 years ago.  It currently stands at an average of 13.9%, though the gap gets wider the higher up the tree you go.

Understandably, given the above, the number of women in public life didn’t increase under Thatcher. It did under a Labour government, but they did it by introducing unpopular notions such as ‘positive discrimination’.  But women are still outnumbered 4-1 in Parliament and there are few women in Theresa May’s cabinet.  If you want to depress yourself further, click this link to the Fawcett Society's statistics of women in positions of influence in society.  There are currently no female political editors of a national newspaper.

Mrs Thatcher's cabinet of men - a lonely position

Women like Theresa May  and Margaret Thatcher are probably less likely to be sympathetic to Feminist issues for several reasons:-

1.  They have had to fight their way to the top – if they can succeed then why can’t other women?

2.  They have fought their way to the top –  by embracing a man’s view of how the world works and becoming complicit in a system created and controlled by men for thousands of years, for the benefit of men.  Women who acquiesce in this are endorsing the system that has created gender inequality.

3.  They have fought their way to the top – by adopting male criteria about what power looks like.  They have accepted Masculist values.  To change a system where Feminist values are seen as ‘weak’ is to appear weak yourself.

4. They have fought their way to the top.  These powerful women, like powerful men, rely on powerful men to support them.  The Tory coffers are filled by male billionaires – and no, they aren’t Feminists either!  In Parliament they also have to rely on a largely male support network among politicians.  Mrs T was taken down by Rottweiler Geoffrey Howe.

Theresa May knows that her closest associates would like her job.  Far from supporting her, the other women in the Cabinet would like her job too.

It is the system of government and finance throughout the world that has created inequality for women.  It is not female friendly. (It’s not friendly to men either, but that’s another blog!) It is a system created by men, because until recently women didn’t even have a vote, let alone a voice in the decision making.  Until relatively recently women weren’t even allowed control or even ownership of their own assets. The Married Women’s Property Act was passed in 1882 – two years after my grandmother was born, but it didn’t cover everything.
It's amazing what women can achieve when they pull together

A woman was a perpetual child at law - she had no right to a separate legal identity of her own and if she had to sue she had to do so through her ‘next friend’, who had to be a man. Why do you think the marriage service asks ‘Who giveth this women to this man?’  She was given by the father to the husband – a transfer of property.   The woman whose marriage failed  could not have custody or control of her children who ‘belonged’ to her husband.  A widow had to have her finances administered by her male relatives who were often far less competent than she was.  History is riddled with women whose fortunes were frittered away by their relatives. (Sara Coleridge was one of them). Some of these outrages weren’t legally sorted out until the second half of the 20th century.

Feminism has made some strides, but not enough.  We live in an unequal society, one where the plight of women across the world is parlous – punished for being raped, kept as prisoners in their own homes, subjected to every kind of human rights abuse across a world increasingly becoming a war zone, denied control over their own reproduction in many countries including the USA, still excluded from a lot of career roles and public office because of their gender.

The world created by men like Vladimir Putin, Bashar al Assad and Donald Trump does not look attractive.  We need a new system – a true democracy that takes no account of gender, religion, class or ethnicity.  A true meritocracy.  I would like to hope that we can get it, but based on the political madness I see around me I’m not optimistic.



1 comment:

  1. A very interesting blog. It's given me a lot to think about. Thankyou!

    ReplyDelete