Laura Bates objects to casual sexism among politicians in the UK.
Murdo Fraser, Member of the Scottish Parliament for Mid-Scotland and Fife, discovered last week that the wife of former Liberal leader Lord Steel had declared herself pro-independence. He tweeted: “Why is Lady Steel (apparently) pro-independence? Is he not master in his own house?” Presumably Fraser was joking, but Twitter users were less than impressed, with one remarking: “That line is like something straight out of the 1950s.”
Fraser’s words closely echo those of Austin Mitchell, Labour MP for Great Grimsby, who a few months ago launched a misogynistic online tirade against former Conservative MP Louise Mensch, tweeting: “Shut up Menschkin. A good wife doesn’t disagree with her master in public and a good little girl doesn’t lie about why she quit politics.” When accused of sexism, the politician acted as if the whole affair were a huge joke, later tweeting: “Has the all clear siren gone? Has the Menschivick bombardment stopped?”
Haha. Hahahaha. Hahahahahahaha. So so funny. Remember Tom Harris MP, Labour-Glasgow South? He’s so so funny too.
What a hero! Fearless protester chucks an egg at EdM and runs away. Like a girl. Throws like a girl too.
Remember that tweet? Remember how we all laughed? Mmmyeah.
Bates goes on:
…what does it say about the status quo of British politics, if our elected representatives, who make daily decisions impacting our lives and welfare, are openly prepared to make sexist jokes and direct misogynistic vitriol towards colleagues? There is a public acceptability of sexism; a suggestion that we – “just the women” – should stop getting our knickers in a twist and take a joke. MP Stella Creasy says: “Parliament is no different from the rest of Britain, where unconscious stereotyping about women happens, too – the point is we should challenge cultural prejudices and expectations wherever they are expressed.”
We should, as long as we’re prepared for bellows of outrage and accusations of being a McCarthyite Nazi witch-hunting inquisition that purges and pillories tragic hapless men who were only giving their honest opinion of why there were no women around the table where they were mouthing off. We are all prepared for those, right? Of course we are.
Jacqui Hunt, London director of the international human rights organisation Equality Now, says: “As elected public representatives, it is essential that MPs communicate with respect and dignity at all times. It is their responsibility to help eliminate rather than reflect harmful gender stereotypes. They need to set the example to ensure that women and girls do not experience prejudice or abuse, but rather reach their full potential as human beings.” It is perhaps no surprise that the UK manages to come only joint 60th in the world for political gender equality, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Is it too much to ask that our elected representatives support women rather than tear them down? Particularly when their female colleagues are still dealing with sexist abuse, tweets about their breasts during Prime Minister’s Questions, and tabloid articles on “Cameron’s Cuties” and the “Best of Breastminster“. It would be nice if women coping with rape and sexual assault didn’t have to see their elected political representative going to such lengths to publicly declare, “Not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion,” as Galloway did. It would be nice to think that in a society where more than two women per week, on average, are killed by current or former partners, two politicians in the space of six months didn’t find it funny to make public jokes about husbands being the “master” of their wives. Of course, neither would have intended such a correlation, but the point is that general attitudes and ideas about women are important. Shouldn’t politicians be leading the fight against prejudice, rather than indulging in it?
Oh but I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think general attitudes and ideas about women are important. They can’t be. Saying they are is “radical” “gender” feminism, not nice normal non-radical equity feminism. I know this because people keep saying it.