The problem with Nigel Farage branding Theresa May “the EU’s Stepford Wife”

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Moya Crockett
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Nigel Farage has described Theresa May as a “Stepford Wife”, saying that she is “subservient and submissive” to the EU’s “every whim”.

Farage, who has not led UKIP for almost a year but continues to position himself as a sort of oracle-cum-poster-boy for all things Brexit, made the disparaging remarks in an op-ed for The Telegraph. In the column, Farage condemned the Prime Minister’s recent refusal to say whether she would vote Leave in the event of a second EU referendum.

The MEP for South East England also criticised May for a statement she delivered to the House of Commons on 9 October. During that parliamentary address, the Prime Minister said the UK would still be bound by the rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) during the Brexit transition period.

May also acknowledged that during that transition period – currently set to end in 2021 – the UK will be required to operate under any new laws the ECJ introduces.

Farage said that “in [May’s] world, this arrangement represents part of a ‘smooth and orderly process of withdrawal, with minimum disruption’.

“To me, this demonstrates that May has become the Stepford Wife of the EU – conformist, subservient, submissive. It is woeful stuff.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has been dubbed a "Stepford Wife" by Nigel Farage.

Farage went on to condemn May’s “naivety” in her approach to Brexit, adding that he doubted the Prime Minister’s “courage”.  

“With every week that passes we see May and her government dither and delay over one issue or another, and it is this sense that she is being worn down by her opponents in the EU that I find truly alarming,” he wrote. “The fight appears to have gone out of her at the time we need it most.”

The term ‘Stepford Wife’ is commonly used as a withering description of docile, dutiful women who blithely put their husbands’ interests before their own. It originates from the 1972 novel The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin, which tells the story of a woman who suspects that the mindless, servile housewives in her town have been brainwashed, poisoned or turned into ‘robots’ by their husbands.

By describing the Prime Minister in this manner, Farage appears to be alluding – at least in part – to a popular view of May as robotic and emotionless. She has been mocked for her frequent repetition of the catchphrases “Brexit means Brexit” and “No deal is better than a bad deal”, and was accused of failing to show “humanity” in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster in June.

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Despite this, it’s hard not to detect a whiff of misogyny in Farage’s chosen terminology. You don’t have to like May as a person, share a single one of her political beliefs or approve of her approach to Brexit to understand why it’s inappropriate to describe one of the most powerful women in the world as a “Stepford Wife”, given the phrase’s connotations of female submission to male power. It’s a sneering, sexist way to describe a woman attempting to do an incredibly difficult job.

We’d like to say we expected more from Nigel Farage – but this is a man who once denied the existence of the gender pay gap by saying that women are simply “worth less”, who suggested that breastfeeding women should “sit in a corner”, and who defended Donald Trump’s “grab ‘em by the pussy” comments as “alpha male boasting”. So no: we’re not surprised by this latest outburst. We’re just tired.

Images: Rex Features