Ask A Feminist

“Britain’s next Prime Minister will be a woman, but this is no victory for women”

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Léonie Chao-Fong
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It's 27 years since a woman last held the post of Prime Minister but Stylist contributor Léonie Chao-Fong argues that the imminent arrival of a female leader at No. 10 is no cause for feminist celebration  

BREAKING: the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will be a woman.

Break out the bubbly! Whip out the stiletto-shaped bunting! It's been 20 years since Wannabe first came out - Girl Power, fuck yeah!

Wait - hang on a minute there. 

Let's take a moment to consider what this actually means. Before we get carried away with talk of a "feminist revolution" (or the bile-inducing phrase "femocracy"), tipsy at the image of a female PM shaking hands with a female president.

(It's been a dark fortnight, hasn't it? A miserable, anxiety-ridden, chaotic two weeks? Surely we deserve a little joy in the face of the impending apocalypse?)

Crabb Gove Fox

It could have been worse, we suppose *sighs and sinks into a bath of misery*

In nine weeks' time - possibly even less - the country will be led by either the Home Secretary, Theresa May, or Andrea Leadsom, Energy Minister.

Most of us - 99.8%, in fact - will not have a say in this. Instead, the Conservative Party's 150,000-strong membership (predominantly white, over 55 and middle class) will cast their vote and voila! A new prime minister is born. Go democracy!

Amid the House of Cards-esque intrigue (but rammed into the space of two weeks), the media scrambled to label each of the leadership hopefuls.

There was Michael Gove: the backstabbing "suicide bomber". Stephen Crabb: the Christian "gay cure believer". "Disgraced" Liam Fox who was once forced to resign from the cabinet in shame. Andrea Leadsom, who literally NO ONE had ever heard of until she got pummelled on television three weeks ago.

Then there's Theresa May, who everyone began calling the "moderate" candidate.

The sensible headmistress-like one who described herself as "a goody two shoes" within a Tory party that increasingly resembles a large, grotesque playpen for former public school boys to relive their rugby games.

Theresa May

Theresa May: front-runner of our beautifully, um, diverse Britain

During her six-year tenure as Home Secretary, May has overseen some of the most appalling, cruel and inhumane policies in modern British history.

She has allowed for the indefinite detention and widespread abuse of migrant women in Yarl's Wood. She has deported tens of thousands of foreign students on the basis of hearsay evidence. Her decision to set the income benchmark for spousal visas has led to families being torn apart.

Her vile 'Go Home' vans and inflammatory "too many immigrants will harm society" speech is emblematic of the anti-immigrant sentiment that is now being expressed violently across the country

Andrea Leadsom

Andrea Leadsom, waving goodbye to the days of compassionate, socially liberal conservatism

A relative unknown - oftentimes an advantage in electoral politics - Leadsom has found herself under enormous scrutiny in the past few days.

She has been accused of exaggerating - if not downright lying - about her professional background in finance. She is said to have endorsed a tweet that claimed Britain was "overrun with foreigners", then deleted it, then denied she hadn't done it in the first place. She has written that the child of a single parent is "more likely to become a drug addict or a criminal".

Oh yeah, and she "doesn't like" gay marriage "because it upsets Christians". (May has herself, incidentally, voted against same-sex adoptions)

Both Leadsom and May voted to lower the abortion limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. While May attempted to introduce abstinence lessons into sex education, Leadsom favours scrapping maternity rights for individuals who work in small companies. As the most senior woman in the Cabinet, May has backed austerity cuts that have disproportionately affected hundreds of thousands of women

What was that I heard you say again: a feminist revolution?

Of course, it would be completely wrong and irresponsible to say that "it only counts as feminism" if the "the women I/we agree with" win.

But how can it be a feminist victory if our prime minister - female or not - believes that women shouldn't have control over their own reproductive rights? 

Thatcher_victory

Britain's first female prime minister, Thatcher, the feminist icon (NOT)

It would be easy enough to celebrate a female prime minister as a win for women but, sadly, it isn't. 

It isn't a win for working-class women. 

It isn't a win for single mums.

It isn't a win for women who are immigrants or refugees from war-ravaged countries.

It isn't a win for women who love other women.

It isn't a win for feminism.

One thing is clear: in the battle between Leadsom v. May, women will certainly not be the winners.

Pictures: Rex Features

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Léonie Chao-Fong

Léonie is a freelance journalist who writes primarily to fund her dumpling habit. She has many strong (and not necessarily informed) opinions about art, society, the West Wing and her labradoodle.  

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