Deputy chairman of the Conservative Party James Cleverly tried to inform women how ‘proper feminists’ behave on 30 May. Facing widespread ridicule, Cleverly probably regrets his comment now.
The MP for Braintree said:
Those Labour women who are pointing at Theresa May, a highly successful women in a traditionally man’s world, and trying to undermine her over abortion rights in a devolved part of the UK should ask themselves “am I a proper feminist?”
Cleverly appears to be arguing that women are not feminists if they don’t support May. Even if the prime minister refuses to speak out against an abortion ban in the UK.
Accordingly, people mocked the Conservative MP on social media:
Regret to inform that I am not a feminist because I am *checks notes* not supportive of Tory PM Theresa May and must defer to the well known feminism expert *squints* Tory MP James Cleverly 🙄 https://t.co/5OcI3l3WSa
— Dulcie Fairhurst (@DulcieFairhurst) May 30, 2018
Don’t you just love being asked if you are a proper feminist , by a man. https://t.co/6aoJGhRcV6
— Beats Surrender (@BeatsSurrender) May 30, 2018
Cleverly later admitted that he doesn’t know what a feminist is.
“DUP have her over a barrel”
Recently, residents in the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelmingly to repeal its abortion ban. This put pressure on May to challenge a similar ban in Northern Ireland, part of the union she governs. But the PM refused, with a spokesperson claiming:
This is a devolved matter. It is important to recognise that the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to their own process which is run by elected politicians.
The ruling Conservatives rely on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for their slim majority in parliament. So people think May might not want to challenge the DUP on such an issue:
You are full of shite Cleverly. May is a coward because she knows the DUP have her over a barrel as they prop up your rotten government. The DUP used the petition of concern which forced Stormont to collapse to stop us having a say in our own future.
— rowena feral shock trooper (@rowenavalerie) May 30, 2018
May’s actions harm women
And the case against ‘feminist’ May goes beyond the abortion ban. Because the prime minister’s record isn’t exactly Emily Davison’s memoirs:
- She presided over a relentless austerity programme, which disproportionately hits women.
- As home secretary, she oversaw the deportation of thousands of vulnerable women.
- Migrant women are still being detained indefinitely at Yarl’s Wood. And May has refused to disclose the extent of sexual abuse at the detention centre for fear that it may harm commercial interests.
- Her government has responded very poorly to the WASPI crisis, which has reportedly brought “hardship and inequality” to many women.
Having a woman in even the highest office does not equal an outright feminist victory. Nor will it automatically solve structural inequalities, as Cleverly seems to suggest.
The gulf between May and actual feminism has now led to this viral tweet:
Updated for accuracy pic.twitter.com/gDIrbUpk9i
— James Felton (@JimMFelton) May 29, 2018
It appears that maintaining good relations with the extremist DUP is more important to May than female reproductive rights. Yet Cleverly claims that you’re not a feminist if you don’t support this Conservative prime minister through thick and thin-skinned attitudes on women’s rights. Frankly, it’s beyond parody.
– Support Marie Stopes, the leading provider of sexual and reproductive health services in the UK.
– Support Women’s Aid, which campaigns to end domestic abuse.
– Support the Fawcett Society, which fights to end the pay gap for women.
Featured image via Chris McAndrew/ Wikimedia