Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A cut-out-and-keep guide to feminism for Louise Mensch


Normally I would roll my eyes at this non-linear procession of time as it would mean I have to put up with more people blathering about fairy lights and bows and other things I generally make it a rule not to give the tiniest atom of a flying fuck about. I mean, I'd welcome the general proliferation of hot booze (an essential part of any balanced diet), but it would also have to be balanced against the chance of snow and ice and hearing a Mariah Carey song and seriously, fuck that shit. Anyway, I digress. There has, to my knowledge, been neither a forwards nor backwards temporal shift. But I have a present! 

Oh... it's the non-festive equivalent of a shit in a box hastily wrapped in the Daily Star - it's Louise Mensch writing about how she totes is a feminist no matter what the mean feminists say.

Now, I generally make it a rule to not posit myself as the Queen Of Feminism and dictate who may, or may not label themselves as what. I mean, there's plenty of feminists I disagree with and who I would quite like to give a quick whisper to in order to steer them in the right path. But in this case I am going to make an exception, channel my inner Inigo Montoya and say:

"Louise - I do not think that word means what you think it means."

I'm going to take out my trusty red pen now and fisk Mensch's article, in order to illustrate why I feel this to be the case.

Until further notice, text in black will be Mensch's piece, text in red mine. All links and wording in Mensch's piece as they appear. Continue at your peril.

Tory women bring feminism out of the ghetto
WOAH HOLD ON. The fucking ghetto?! I'm not sure if Mensch wrote this or if it was one of those pesky subs, but misappropriation of oppression much? This does not bode well.

The latest ICM poll is good news for the blues. David Cameron enjoys a five-point lead over Labour at a time when it should be miles ahead, opposing a coalition government that has to make drastic spending cuts and keep our heads above water as Europe threatens financial implosion. Faced with these conditions, Mr (red rosette) Potato Head ought to manage a substantial lead in mid-term polling. That's... lovely Louise. I'm really glad you got a party brag into this piece (although I suspect maaaany more to come from the woman who hailed the deposition of Colonel Gaddafi as a 'genuine triumph for David Cameron'). There's a part of me concerned about how she refuses to even name the Leader of the (Bloody Joke of an) Opposition - instead dehumanising him and making fun of his appearance. I would think that a self-styled superfeminist such as Mensch would realise that judging people based on their physical appearance is actually a really nasty thing to do and that patriarchal expectations of female beauty are one of the main things used to keep women down - just look at the way the BBC have gotten rid of talented female presenters because they are considered 'too old' and 'not attractive' enough to be taken seriously. NOT COOL MENSCH. WE DO NOT USE SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION TO SNEER AT OTHERS. IT JUST CONTINUES THEM BEING USED AGAINST US.
Details of the poll will be particularly concerning to the two Eds: Labour is nine points behind in the Midlands (good for me, in Corby). The Tories are also nine points clear with men and have a two-point lead among women. Translation: More women hate Tories than men do but it's not as bad as Labour so yah boo sucks! 
This last number is particularly cheering. For some time now the Labour party, led by Yvette Cooper, has made a sustained pitch to British women that the government is not on their side. They draw out selective research on the cuts and say it will particularly hurt women. They take Cameron's joking remark – "calm down dear", which ripped off a Michael Winner TV ad – and offer it as an example of sexism. They drop gender into every intervention and speech and have tried to claim feminism as their own, a thing of the left. This marks the first point where I lose my shit. Right. First up: the cuts FUCKING DO HURT WOMEN. Cutting corporation tax redistributes money from women to men. Cutting public sector jobs and freezing their pay hurts women. In-work conditionality hurts women. Stopping victims of intimate partner violence being eligible for legal aid hurts women. YOUR GOVERNMENT NOT JUST HURTS, BUT FUCKING KILLS WOMEN. Second up: patronising women and implying that they are too 'hysterical' to do their damn job is sexist. When I see Cameron smirking around men and making the same implications as he does to women, I will believe that he's actually just a giant scumfuck and not a giant misogynist scumfuck. Thirdly up: when you're oppressed in every part of society, you tend to see it in every part of society. Mainly because... well it's there. No, it might not be for Mensch, but it fucking is for the rest of us. If she had any idea what it was like to not be an over-privileged rich person, she might realise this, but no. She's toeing the party line as per usual and sticking her head, ostrich-like, in whatever stuff it is rich people would use instead of sand. Fourthly up: I'm not saying feminism is a thing of the left, solely, but I am saying there is no damn such thing as a feminism where you only help yourself - which is all Tory 'feminism' is.
Tory women aren't having it. A grassroots backbench movement of women MPs (with several sound male feminists who have our backs) determined that we would not give Labour the monopoly on women's issues. We sit behind a frontbench that we know to be relentlessly focused on social justice and women's issues. Who ARE these Tory grassroots backbench women? Who ARE these Tory male feminists? What do they DO? How is your front bench in ANY FUCKING WAY committed to social justice or women's issues? I mean REALLY. FUCK THIS. Look at the damn links above to see how damn committed this bunch are to 'women's issues'. Unless they actually think that what women are concerned about is "Oh, I just DON'T KNOW HOW I WILL GET BEATEN TO DEATH OR STARVE TODAY". I demand to see evidence of this 'movement'.
Tory feminism is holistic, not the ghetto feminism of the impact equalities assessment; it looks at women as a whole. Case in point: 80% of the lowest paid public sector workers exempt from the pay freeze are women. Changes to the state pension that will end penalties for women who take career breaks to care for their families are being put forward. Sustainable funding cycles for rape crisis centres and victim support have been proposed. Theresa May broke ground on flexible parental leave, thus helping to ensure that employers would no longer look askance at women of childbearing age (remember Labour peer Lord Sugar's remarks on pregnant employees?). The list goes on. Fucking 'ghetto feminism'? Does Mensch seriously think that we should be focusing less attention on women who are the most oppressed and more attention on women who are the least? Another thing - pointing out that 80% of the lowest paid public sector workers are women is a) admitting the need for feminism in the first damn place, b) admitting that there's a huge problem with women being underpaid, c) showing us which gender is seen as the more 'disposable' employee. Also, 'sustainable funding...for rape crisis centres'? Damn, if I wasn't so sure Mensch had private healthcare I'd ask for the number of her GP so I could get whatever she has. Because it ain't looking so damn rosy from where I'm sat. Also, when you read the part about women of childbearing age I'd like you to imagine the 'wrong answer' klaxon from Family Fortunes. It sounds like this. Because this became illegal way back in 1975 under the Labour government. Sorry Louise, you won't win the speedboat at this rate. (I will concede that Alan Sugar is a sexist arsehole, but would like to point out that he doesn't represent the whole party and even a clock as stopped as Mensch may be right once in a while. DAMMIT. This makes it sound like I'm defending Labour. Just to make it clear: I would never do that. I just dislike lies.)
Last week, Ed Balls capitulated and accepted the need for Tory cuts. The Conservatives' growing lead on economic credibility resonates with women, too. As mortgage holders – 70% of all women work outside the home – they benefit from George Osborne's low interest rates. They relate to restraint on council tax, a regressive tax that hits pensioners and those on fixed incomes hardest. Well hot-damn, this is an interesting use of statistics. Now, I do not work outside 'the home'. This is mainly because I don't have a 'home', per se. Or a 'job', per se. I am one of those poor unfortunate ONE MILLION young people who are on the dole. Anyway, I used to work outside 'the home'. However, I did not have a mortgage. My sister works outside 'the home'. She does not have a mortgage. In fact, of all my friends who have jobs, I can count a teeny-tiny number (one, off the top of my head) who have mortgages. So that's not 70% of women benefitting. That's 70% of women have jobs and if they happen to have been in a fortunate position and single quite a few years ago now they might have a mortgage. Also, since when did only women benefit from cheap interest rates caused by the fact that everyone is fucking skint instituted by our beloved Gideon? And, if I must say this again I will damn well scream it from the rooftops: WOMEN SUFFER MORE WHEN SERVICES ARE CUT WHICH IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU REDUCE THINGS LIKE COUNCIL TAX AND ONE WAY TO STOP THIS WOULD ACTUALLY BE TO TAX RICH PEOPLE MORE NOT FUCK POOR PEOPLE OVER. 
When speaking of the deficit, in magazines or on the airwaves, Tory feminists use the language of other women – the debt we pass on to our children, and our duty to lift that burden off their backs. The more we shift away from the bad old days of economic dependence on a wage-earning man, the more women notice the tax-and-spend policies that affect all wage earners. Well, not my language. I don't have children. In fact, around 20% of women choose to remain child-free - which is around 5.8 million women the Tories aren't speaking for. And, forgive my mistake, but surely having children isn't just something women spontaneously do? MEN ARE PARENTS TOO. See, this shit is Feminism 101 - PARENTHOOD IS NOT JUST FOR THE BEARER OF THE UTERUS. Also, I'm sure children would prefer to have an alive mother and more 'deficit' when they grow up rather than a mother who got beaten to death in front of them because she couldn't get a restraining order because she couldn't get legal aid. Just saying, like.
Most Conservatives would define feminism as supporting equal rights and opportunities for women. In that sense it is a movement of women, not of right or left. But I like to think that, somewhere at the margins of all this, the noisy reclamation of the feminist label from the left is having an impact. The problem is though, as I am nearly bashing my head against the keyboard while I am saying this a-fucking-gain - Tories do NOT support equal rights and opportunities for women. What they support is 'well us women are fine, I really don't know what the rest of you are fussing about!'. LOOK AT THE GODDAMN LINKS ABOVE. So, by her own definition, Mensch IS NOT a feminist.
Conservative women are having a moment: Gaby Hinsliff's wonderful Observer cover story was the culmination of months of Tory feminists advancing our case whenever a media opportunity arose. Last December, Jane Ellison launched an all-party parliamentary group on female genital mutilation. Claire Perry works on opt-in options for internet porn. Amber Rudd MP, who is pro-choice, looks at alternate ways to combat teenage pregnancy. I stood up on anonymity for rape suspects and wound up debating with a feminist hero of mine, Naomi Wolf, on Newsnight. I also debated Tory feminism with Labour's Stella Creasy MP on Radio 4's Woman's Hour – a chance to explode the myth that "Tory" and "feminist" are oxymoronic to millions of women. And I just chopped my own damn arm off, but it's totally cool because I have this sticking plaster I had to make myself out of reused gaffer tape and an old tissue BECAUSE OF TORY CUTS AFFECTING WOMEN SO BADLY.
As a Tory feminist, you want to play in front of Labour's goal, advancing the case for social justice, welfare reform and Iain Duncan Smith's universal credit (which should lift a million people and 350,000 children out of poverty). Yes, we anticipate the colourful comments under our articles, but that doesn't matter. Tory feminists are looking for your support, looking to convert you. I am an MP today only because in his very first speech as leader, David Cameron – the most feminist leader the Conservative party has ever had – made it his business to challenge dinosaur attitudes that led us to a 91% white male parliamentary party. His work in opposition continues in government. I'm actually bored of dissecting this horseshit now, so, here we go. 1. Party pointscoring. 2. Child poverty is predicted to increase under the universal credit scheme. 3. David Cameron is also the most 'likely to have grown up in the 70's' leader the Tories ever had. That does not make him John Travolta. 4. I couldn't give two glittery unicorn shits if the Tory party was 100% female, because it would mean 306 Louise Mensches and my poor laptop could not cope with the stress of debunking this tripe that many times.
While we all expect that this poll lead won't last, the fact that we have recovered our ground with women is immensely comforting this far out from a general election. After all, the Tories have never won without women – and never will. 
Fucking feminism, how does it work?

Back to me in black text now.


I shouldn't be surprised, ever. I've spoken to Louise Mensch once or twice on Twitter, and every damn time she's insisted she absolutely is a feminist, but when challenged on what she actually does to stop women being oppressed, or told how her party is oppressing women, she clams up. Funny that. So now, for her benefit - as I'm sure she actually would like to be a feminist, she's just not sure of the first things about it, I am going to put my Queen Feminist crown on (it's red leopard-print and decorated with the bollocks of men I have emasculated) and write up a quick cut-out-and-keep one do and five don'ts of being a feminist.

  1. Commit to fostering equality for all women
  1. Insist that because you're not oppressed, no woman ever is
  2. Think that all women are (or are even capable of being) mothers, and this is all they want/are good for
  3. Shut down services essential to women's livelihood, safety, economic power or wellbeing
  4. Insist that other women are too stupid to know what to do with their own bodies
  5. Write facile articles that purport to be about feminism that are actually just party-political broadcasts, cheap jibes about the opposition and actually fuck-all to do with any feminism ever

I hope this helps.


  1. So what's the verdict here, on conservative women proclaiming themselves as feminists?

    Delusion that female subjugation is really empowering?
    Some sort of complex "make them look bad by infiltrating them" thing?
    Societal stockholm syndrome?

  2. Her whole article made me really angry.

    But here are a few points that made me angriest.

    1. It's all very well and good having a Tory MP set up a working party to tackle FGM. What isn't well and good is then not mentioning that the Tories cut the ministerial post to tackle FGM, meaning no one has responsibility for ending this crime.

    2. It's all very well and good mentioning funding for rape crisis (although interestingly no mention of how much funding, maybe because 'much' isn't really covering it) but there's a big deafening silence where she is not mentioning how govt cuts are resulting in the destruction of domestic violence support services.

    3. To say Yvette Cooper is cherry picking stats to 'prove' that the cuts hurt women (the PROOF IS THERE!) is a bit rich when you cherry pick one misogynistic shitty Labour peer statement to show how ALL labour are sexist, and then completely laugh off how Cameron is repeatedly sexist in his language towards women MPs and women.

    4. I absolutely cannot believe someone can call themselves a feminist and defend the proposal of anonymity for rape defendants. Again, I am not trying to say feminism is a membership club. I can even understand that women on the right can be feminist. But I do not believe that you can be anti choice and be a feminist either.

  3. Conservatism (with a big C) heavily centres on ideas of right-wing individualism and a denial of collective responsibility for any problems faced by society - or indeed a flat-out denial of the problems. This is manifested in the idea that if everyone 'works hard enough' ('pulls themselves up by the bootstraps') they can have anything they want, and if people face hardship they must deserve it for not trying hard enough - taken to extremes by economic libertarian groups in the USA like the Tea Party and lots of hard-line republicans, who are well noted for cheering at the idea that a poor person might die as a result of not being able to access emergency medical treatment, and also demonstrated in a cabinet of inherited millionaires in the UK telling people (like myself) that the reason I'm on JSA is that I'm a scrounging bastard who doesn't try to get a job. There's a flat-out refusal to accept that people might need boots before they can pull themselves up by the straps.

    So, where does this leave Tory Feminism? Well, it's pretty much the same thing - "I'm powerful and a lot less oppressed than most women, therefore I did it on my own (and not through luck or inherited wealth, oh no) and if any other woman feels oppressed, she shouldn't". Thatcher is well known for saying that she "owed nothing to women's lib". They appropriate the word 'feminism' and the past gains of the movement and use them to mean "shutting the fuck up and carrying on as normal". Except in the cases like abortion rights, where the blue 'feminists' actually try to remove the gains made in the past.

    In short, I'd say it's pretty pointless to say you belong to a group campaigning for social change when you don't believe that social change is necessary or desirable, but Tories (and Mensch especially) know there would be a huge PR problem if they actually just admitted not being feminists.

    1. You're making a lot of assumptions about Tory feminists as a whole based on Louise Mensch and Margaret Thatcher. Some of us do believe that social change is desirable (but that it would be more practical delivered by society not the state), that said society exists (but it's not the same as the state), and that there were Tory feminists before Labour even existed.

      Political parties are broad groups. The term "Tory" tends to refer to those on the left of the party (central in terms of UK politics, dangerously left-wing in terms of US politics), as in the Tory Reform Group.

      Clara X: Feminism for Tories

    2. I tried to make it clear in the piece that I was talking about Mensch and the other female Tory MPs who've put themselves forward as the 'next generation' of feminists yet completely ignore anything done before them. I'd never try and say 'someone CAN'T be a feminist'. I might think their views are incompatible with the feminism I know, but that doesn't make them 'un-feminist' - except if it doesn't foster equality for all genders.

      So, to that end I was only addressing Mensch and the other MPs who support a government that is actually hurting women and moving equality back a couple of decades. However, I am aware that I can over-generalise in my use of language, and it probably looked like I was saying no one on the right can be a feminist, and I don't think that. I do think it's possible to be a conservative and a feminist (we're not going to see eye-to-eye on other issues, but you're still a feminist!), and I'm sorry for not making this clear.

      Now excuse me while I, the person who spends half her life rebuking people for generalising about anarchists and feminists, go and flagellate myself.

      Once again, I apologise for the generalised use of language.

      (*To address your other point - I don't think social change derives from the state, I think the state derives from social change (Equal Pay and Abortion Acts needed support then were made law etc.) - but I think this normalises the social change and makes it more accepted, if that makes sense.)

  4. "you don't believe that social change is necessary"

    Or that society even exists, for that matter. Thatcher infamously said "there's not such thing as society". Which ipso facto means they can't be feminists and campaign for social change.

    1. she also said about feminists "they hate me and I hate them".

  5. The one and only thing she wrote that holds any water is that Cameron is the most feminist leader the Tories have ever had.

    Damned with faint praise.

  6. Five female siblings, two long-term relationships, and two daughters have made me as appreciative of feminism as man might endeavour to be, short of drastic surgery. So I can see that Louise Mensch clearly only understands 'Hollywood' feminism, and is completely oblivious to the poverty and lack of opportunity visited on people by this government and their cronies in the boardrooms. LM is clearly 'doing it for herself' but fails to grasp that her party are rapidly removing that privilege from her 'sistas'.

  7. It's days like this that I really really miss being on twitter properly...

  8. UPDATE: Louise Mensch has responded to me on Twitter saying my whole article is silly and she didn't call EdM 'Mr Potato Head'. I hereby retract that one sentence.


    No word on her problems with the rest of the piece though.

    1. no need for it. you got one trivial thing wrong therefore your whole argument can be dismissed. Tory logic, see?

  9. Wait, hang on... then WHO is Mr Potato Head?

    Perhaps we should start a contest on Twitter... see who can come up with Mensh's Mr Potato Head mistery person.

    1. whilst I agree that no one political party can claim to be the holder of all things feminist, feminism is too important to be held ransom by political sway, it really is diffult to imagine her having the faintest idea what she is talking about. it is also difficult to imagine the conservative party being feminist. quite inconceivable. I have yet to meet a conservative who does anything other than talk about money. poeple do not really enter their vocabularly.

      She says that she is a feminist but spends most of the article praising herself and her party.

      A cheap political stunt to promote herself and her divisive party which cares not one jot about anyone.

  10. Well, it's important for the forces of the establishment to co-opt as much "opposing" rhetoric as possible. If you can get the poor people or the second class to believe their interests are yours, you are effectively undermining political and popular opposition.

  11. Deleted a comment by Mike Buchanan for the following reasons:

    1: He is a well-known troll who has been very abusive to several people I like,
    2: Patronising women
    3: Insulting people's appearances
    4: Objectifying women
    5: Pretending feminism = 'hatred of men'
    6: Thatcher-glorifying*
    7: Conspiracy theories about shadowy cabals of feminists making anti-male laws while only representing a tiny fraction of women (and possibly not actually being 'women' or 'human')
    8: Trying to flog his own and other people's MRA hogwash

    I'm not fucking Amazon, advertise your bile on your own damn site.

    (*before anyone gets pissy, this one was a joke. The rest are sadly real)

  12. And may I add, that's only the second comment I've ever deleted. I have a very clear comments policy and don't pre-moderate. If anyone wants to try debating 'the right to free speech' (on my one teeeeeeeny website in the whole internet) with me, come at me - but you will lose.

  13. Mike Buchanan returned. He lied and moaned, so I deleted his comment. There's a clear comments policy Mike, go look at it. Here's what he did this time:

    1: "I've never been abusive to ANYONE! Despite calling them whining sour-faced misandrists!"
    2: Accuses me of thinking 'being challenged' is equivalent to 'abuse'. Tells me to 'grow up'. You're about as challenging as pissing through a blue rizla, Mike.
    3: "I don't patronise women!" "Grow up!" "I even said Harriet Harman was foxy for a feminist which I thought was chivalrous!"
    4: Accuses me of thinking women are all automatically better than men. Causes me to roll eyes, which my optician has specifically advised against.
    5: Uses a clear joke from the main article to 'illustrate' how obviously 'misandrist' I am.
    6: Accuses me of lying about previous comment's content. I have a copy if anyone's willing to put their brain through the torment of trying to decipher this idiot's babble.

    To answer your specific question about my other deletion, Mike:

    It was a joke that I deleted your post for Thatcher-glorifying. Not a joke that you'd said it in the first place. (Some things one does not joke about)

  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.