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What Theresa May's 'Mansplaining' Joke Means for the Tory Culture War

The Tories are trying to create viral moments.

Simon Childs

Simon Childs

Screengrab from @theresa_may Twitter account

Today at Prime Minster's Questions, Theresa May managed a rare thing: a viral Tory moment that doesn't involve a Conservative MP saying something racist or siding with a landlord.

After Jeremy Corbyn soberly noted that it's International Women's Day on Thursday, May sarcastically thanked her honourable friend for letting her know, complete with a comically-timed look to the side, adding, "I think that's what's called 'mansplaining'."

Some time ago, pundits noticed that while Jeremy Corbyn didn't "perform" well in Prime Minster’s Questions in a conventional sense, he was using it to his own ends. Even if he doesn’t make May sweat, he often goes on rambles about the evils of benefits sanctions or attacks on the NHS in a way that can be flatteringly edited into a shareable social video, which then gets thousands of shares on Corbynite social media. Those videos then create the political mood music just as much as the poison pens of Westminster’s finest sketch writers calling Corbyn a "rhubarb munching old cloth brain" or whatever.

Now, the Tories are trying to start a culture war, and it looks like they may have picked up the same trick. May accusing Corbyn of "mansplaining" is a perfect social media moment for any right-wing social media stalkers wanting a slice of the internet gotcha-pie. The fact that this comes the same day as May welcoming feminist icon the crown prince of Saudi Arabia to the UK will barely matter to her fans who have already smashed that RT button. Of course, if there are no fans, the army of paid tweeters the Tories are hiring will probably manage to send it viral.

Not so long ago, everyone ignored PMQs as a boring piece of stage-managed jousting – a sort of political pro-wrestling where nobody could really get hurt. If we’re not careful, political parties and paid party hacks will turn it into a series of context-free viral moments, yass-kweening monstrous politicians as they hang out with dictators.

@SimonChilds13