Why having two women in the leadership race isn’t necessarily a step forward for feminism

Last week, Michael Gove was axed from the race to become the new Prime Minister, cementing the fact that our new leader would be a woman; Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead and Home Secretary, or Andrea Leadsom, MP for South Northamptonshire. Whilst many have been hailing this feat a success for the feminist movement, I have to disagree.

I can assure you that very few people are jumping for joy at the prospect of getting a ‘second Maggie.’ The Daily Mail today writes: “26 years after Thatcher left Downing Street: how two women are battling to fill her shoes.” Why is it that women are clustered together in this manner? Why is it that when a woman becomes Prime Minister she is representative of women everywhere? Not that I am defending either woman in any way, but still: pigeonholing a representative of such a wide demographic will never end well. The bottom line is that neither the appointment of Theresa May nor Andrea Leadsom can be classified as a feminist feat, as neither woman, in my opinion, has championed for levels of equality that satisfy my definition of what and who a feminist is.

Andrea Leadsom, who became an MP in 2010, opposes gay marriage. She is ‘not happy’ about the gay marriage law because of ‘hurt caused to many Christians.’ By openly degrading homosexual people in this manner, she clearly is not someone who wants equal rights for all. Furthermore, surprise surprise, she is anti-abortion.

Not only was Leadsom an active voice in the Brexit campaign, which in itself I find completely abhorrent, she also has managed to denigrate childless women by suggesting that she has a greater “stake” in Britain’s future and at becoming PM than her childless rival, Theresa May, because she is a mother. Leadsom has called for women working in small businesses to be stripped of their right to maternity leave; she has also stayed utterly silent on issues concerning violence against women. May, as former Minister for Women and Equality, has championed for more rights for women than her competitor, yet she is still far less outspoken on issues for migrant women who suffer from the same, if not more extreme, setbacks. Oh, and they both want to repeal the Fox Hunting ban, effectively allowing a bunch of Etonian toffs to parade around their country estates murdering animals for fun.

May’s overall track record for equal rights is not much better. She voted against equalising the age of consent for homosexual sex and against repealing a law which bans the “promotion” of homosexuality by local schools and government. She voted no to same sex adoption. She voted no to civil partnerships. Didn’t bother to attend the vote on the Gender Recognition Act, either. During her stint as Home Secretary, policies have been laid down which demand that LGBT asylum seekers ‘prove’ their sexual orientation, too.

Just because May held the position of Minister for Women and Equality 2010-2012, this does not mean we must automatically categorise her as some sort of feminist icon; she has, after all, backed calamitous austerity cuts that have disproportionately hit women.

I do not want either of these women to represent me, or women as a whole. The appointment of either of these women should not be considered any sort of success for feminism.


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