(Image via Wiki Commons)
Yesterday, David Cameron refused to wear a T-shirt emblazoned with the statement: “This is what a feminist looks like.” Dreamed up by thinktank The Fawcett Society, the idea was to get the UK’s political leaders to wear it for ELLE, as part of the magazine's quest to "rebrand feminism".
ELLE sent the T-shirts out to Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg (presumably the jiffy bag for Nigel Farage – a man who wants to turn back the clock on maternity pay – got lost in the post), and asked that they, along with celebrities like Benedict Cumberbatch, be photographed wearing it. Miliband and Clegg eagerly complied. Cameron turned down the request not once, not twice, but FIVE different times.
Maybe he doesn’t believe that wearing a T-shirt constitutes activism – after all, when you refused to wear one of those "Livestrong" wristbands, it didn't mean that you love cancer. Maybe he’d rather prove himself as a feminist by implementing policies that strive for gender equality. But what we do know for sure is that while this uncertainty hangs in the air, the world will keep lying awake at night, asking itself the same question over and over:
Is David Cameron a feminist?
Reasons to Believe That David Cameron IS a Feminist:
– Cameron got William Hague to help out in the effort against war rape. Teaming up with Angelina Jolie to bring attention to the issue, the End Sexual Violence in Conflict summit proved a success by getting governments to sign up to a declaration that rape will no longer be used as a tool in war. Moves to finally combat FGM are praise-worthy, even if they do come after years and years of nags from anti-FGM activists.
Reasons to Believe That David Cameron IS NOT a Feminist:
– More women than ever in the UK are employed. That's 12.5 million women in jobs. However, the definitions of this stat are stretched wider than Eric Pickles' belt-buckle, given that more people than ever are in low-paid, part-time employment. And women are 47 percent more likely than men to be working these jobs.
– As well as that, 70 percent of those in minimum wage jobs are women. It starts to look like the Government has taken advantage of women's proven likelihood of doing part-time work (it's cheaper than having to fork out for childcare) to help bolster their employment ratings. As a result, we've got a widening gender pay gap where women earn 81 pence for every pound earned by a man, putting us behind Rwanda in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report.
– Wages for women in the workplace have fallen by £2,700 in a year.
– Despite Cameron's pledge to wage war on misogynistic web porn, in 30 pages of sex-ed curriculum, there are no mentions of "same-sex" and two mentions of "internet".
– It's still possible for parents to pull their kids out of sex education lessons, even those basic ones where girls are taught by a medical professional – via a blown-up Lillets leaflet – how to insert a tampon.
– If you go to a state-funded Academy, or have the sort of parents want you to be home schooled, but not too home schooled, (Free Schools), well, you might not get one second of sex or relationships lessons. These schools are above the curriculum, even if the kids' parents are above, say, teaching their kids about basic contraception, sexual hygiene and consent.
– Only 22 percent of the cabinet is made up of women. The stats would be funnier if they weren’t so real – there are more male MPs right now than all the female MPs the country has ever had.
– This is made all the more damning when you consider Cameron has said it’ll be up to "smart people in Whitehall" to decide if gender discrimination is bubbling up through our laws. The Equality Act was passed in 2010, carrying with it a potentially valuable piece of bureaucracy – Equality Impact Assessments. With EqIA, every law would be created with a mind to ensuring that no group would be discriminated against. However, in November 2012, Cameron scrapped it, saying that he could rely on his (prevalently white, male, privately educated) mates in Whitehall to implement any discrimination-free legislation.
– In 2013, a special rapporteur from the UN came over the UK to see if the UK had a sexist culture. Guess what? Rashida Manjoo found that "there is a boys’ club sexist culture" in this country, and that it’s "in your face" like a funnel of snakebite at freshers' week. She also warned that the austerity cuts would have a "disproportionate impact" on women's services, but did anyone listen? Cameron never addressed it. In fact, not one politician did.
– Cameron tossed the abused women of Britain a nugget of hope back in July, when he said he’d help make domestic violence illegal under a specific law. However, all that decision-making petered away to the lesser departments of "women’s issues". In doing so, Cameron refused to acknowledge that "domestic violence" doesn't involve women getting beaten up by sentient doorknobs and that "tricky" stairs don't kill two of us a week.
– Nevertheless, welfare reform cuts made by Cameron’s government have seen the number of women’s specialist refuges drop by 17 percent in five years.
– On the subject of lesbians, he once told Angela Eagle, a lesbian (worth noting because, my god, you need gumption to dare enter the Chamber as a woman, let alone a woman who proves by her very existence that there are sexual spaces men aren't invited into) to "calm down dear" during a debate.
– He also once told Nadine Dorries that she was "extremely frustrated" in a double entendre and joined in with all the laughter from his boorish backbenchers, like it was kicking out time at All Bar One and someone had dropped a tray of stacked pints. He later apologised, but has done nothing to address the boys' club culture of our Parliament.
So, What Can We Conclude?
ELLE were furious and disappointed that Cameron wouldn't wear the feminist T-shirt. But surely the question, rather than speculating on why he wouldn't put it on, is why you'd bother to ask him in the first place.
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