Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Feminism's New Entry Policy

This blog post has been brewing for a while - ever since the Guardian published an article on Tory feminism several weeks ago in fact - and I discovered the hitherto little known "fact" that you could only be a feminist if you hated the Conservative Party.

I've described myself as a feminist from a very early age. I remember reading about the suffragette movement whilst I was still in primary school and being shocked that women hadn't always been allowed to do the same things as men. Equality has always been one of the most important principles in my life - and not just for women - I believe passionately that all human beings are equal regardless of race, sex, sexuality, religion or any other descriminating factor that anyone cares to think of. All feminism has ever been for me is the belief that women are equal to anyone and anything. 

However, according to people like Suzanne Moore, the fact that I voted for David Cameron negates my right to believe this. Because Margaret Thatcher wasn't a feminist, because the Conservative Party have on occasion acted like the the worst kind of right wing dinosaurs you can only be a feminist if you are "left-wing" (I put left wing in inverted commas here because there is no mainstream political party in the UK whose policies are remotely left of centre). Why? Why in 2012 when no major political figure would deny female equality or the power of the feminist movement can I as a feminist not make a decision to support a political party based on my own beliefs and priorities? In 2015 I may well vote for a different political party (hell, I may even set up my own political party to avoid the dilemma of having to vote for any of the uninspiring choices currently on offer) but in 2010 I voted for the Conservative Party (the reasons for which are explained here). I am technically a Conservative Feminist and thus cannot possibly exist.

So again I'm back to the question of why? Surely it's a good thing that women are represented across the political spectrum and are fighting in different ways for issues important to them! I don't particularly like Louise Mensch or Nadine Dorries but I can't deny that they stand up and fight for the issues which they feel are important. I may fundamentally disagree with Dorries' stance on abortion but hell I fundamentally disagree with every word which comes out of Laurie Penny's mouth as well - and I deny neither of them the right to be a feminist. I may not like the way they do it - dictate what I can do with my uterus or what type of cake I am allowed to eat at your peril - but the most important thing is that they are women standing up and being counted.

So my message to the sisterhood is pretty much just this: respect my right to say and be something, even if you don't like what I'm saying or what I represent. Women aren't all the same, just as all human beings aren't the same. If you don't like my stance on something politically challenge me, I'll debate anything with anyone - I have even been known to change my opinion if given a decent enough reason to do so.  But never ever deny my right to call myself a feminist because of what political party I support.

Caitlin Moran manages to sum up what I'm trying to say far more eloquently than I'm ever going to be able to:

"The purpose of feminism isn't to make a particular type of woman. The idea that there are inherently wrong and inherently right 'types' of women is what's screwed feminism for so long... What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be."

(Seriously if you haven't read How To Be A Woman yet - do it! Even if you're a man, it's fine...)