I have long maintained as a Libertarian Socialist, that in order to offer a complete critique of Capitalism and the State, we must show solidarity with the groups most oppressed by this system. We should seek to take an intersectional approach to the issue, realising that activist organisations which focus on the rights of gay people, black people, transgender people, and etc. cannot focus solely on one group or minority. In addition to this, we should seek to mount a fight against fascism and all ideologies which seek to limit our rights and subject us to unaccountable authorities. It is for this reason that I refuse to play by the rules of mainstream identity politics. I am sick to death, of liberals arguing that all that is required for the advancing of social change is electing women and minorities to government, and leaving it at that. This is not to say that I don’t support women or any other groups having a say in decision making process, but that we need to recognise that capitalism and statism are inherently oppressive, and require more than liberal reform. Some of the reactions from the more liberal news outlets to the fact that Britain now has another female Prime Minister are ridiculously misinformed at best. This article will point out why Theresa May is not a champion of feminism.
May Is Not a Feminist Prime Minister
The very notion that the left should support the likes of Theresa May simply because she is female, is absolutely absurd. Just a quick look at the politics of this appalling women, should reveal why it is never a good idea to judge candidates based solely on their identity and not their policies
Since the Conservatives were first elected in 2010, May has helped to implement an austerity programme responsible for cutting public services, dismantling the welfare state and redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich. Women have been brutally affected by these kinds of policies. They increasingly have to rely on Zero hour contracts that don’t guarantee enough money, and have lost more in real wages than men. The fact that child care relies heavily on women, means that they often have to rely on food banks to feed themselves and their children. This pattern is especially true for women of colour. In the Midlands, unemployment among minority women increased by 74.4% between 2009 and 2013. As a result of all this, decreasing job security is pushing women back into the home. Combined with the growing housing crisis, the destruction of affordable publicly owned housing and cuts to social services, many women are forced to stay in abusive relationships, because they have no other option. In 2014 May claimed that she wanted to ‘end violence against women and girls’. However, her austerity agenda reveals that this is nothing but an appeal to popular morality, a façade to hide all the factors which contribute to a highly unstable economic situation, for many women in the country.
Theresa May’s job as home secretary from 2010-2016, meant that she was in charge of managing issues relating to immigration and safety. For all of Theresa Mays empty rhetoric about being the most feminist Prime Minister the country has ever had, you would think she would have promoted this through her immigration reforms. Instead, she has overseen legislation which empowers landlords to evict tenants without immigration status, wholeheartedly supported cuts to lifesaving services, and made it so that migrant women with no status in the UK cannot access public funds, preventing them from moving into refuge spaces. May is also responsible for covering up sexual abuse behind the walls of Yarl’s wood immigration detention centre. For those of you that don’t know, Yarl’s wood holds migrant women awaiting deportation. Research done by Women against Rape found that about 70 percent of the women there are already survivors of sexual violence, a frightening figure which illustrates the extent that migrant women come to Britain to escape violence. We know from the testimonies of many past detainees that sexual violence in the facility is vast, the only reason we cannot be sure of the exact figures is because May refuses to release them. Her reasoning for this, is that to essentially go some way to ‘ending violence against women and girls’ by blowing the whistle on this abuse, would ‘prejudice against the commercial interests’ of companies like G4S and Serco, who help to run the detention centre. This shows how much the Prime Ministers allegiance lies firmly with big business, and against vulnerable women in search of safety.
Fallacious Identity Politics
The general reaction from the mainstream media and some politicians to the fact that we now have a female Prime Minister seems to have been that this is somehow a victory for feminism. Theresa May seems prepared to stick by this narrative. Indeed upon her first PMQ’s, May stated that
‘I Keep Hearing from the Labour Party, What do the Conservatives do for women, well it just keeps making us Prime Minister’
This is just such a fallacious comment that I barely need to explain why. It essentially uses the fact that the conservative Party have had two female Prime Ministers, to whine that Labour have never had a female leader. The comment fails to explain that two of the contenders in last year’s Labour Leadership election were female, and were beaten due to massive support for Jeremy Corbyn and his progressive agenda. I have to wonder if May remembers the fact Liz Kendall was from the unpopular tight wing fringe of the Labour Party, and that she only picked up 4.5% of the vote as a result. I also have to wonder if May thought about Angela Eagle, who lined herself up to replace Jeremy Corbyn during the anti-democratic efforts to bully him out of his job, but then chickened out after it became clear that Corbyn was not going to step down. Unless Theresa May is arguing for an overturning of democracy within the Labour Party, so it can be replaced with a leadership selection process based on gender, it is not entirely clear what the Prime Minister is getting at. This sets a dangerous precedent for politics, as it essentially boils all issues of ideology down to whether our politicians are men or women. It clearly does not matter to Theresa May what gender the leader of the Labour Party is, she is just using a version of conservative pseudo-feminism in order to score political points against Corbyn, in the hope that it will make her look like a champion of women’s rights.
Overall, there are two different worldviews that surround feminism in politics. The first seeks to make representation within conventional politics more equal. The second seeks to address the root causes of sexism. It seems that while ideological work is being done to give air to the first worldview. Some are arguing that this worldview will help towards greater women’s rights as a whole. Despite this, what status can you rise to when you are a women in a detention centre awaiting deportation? Can Theresa Mays gender really save anymore domestic violence refuges from closing? The media will use Theresa May to strengthen the ideology of neoliberalism, by giving it a feminist makeover and saying to the electorate, ‘don’t worry yourself about politics, that’s for us to deal with’. However, the only feminist victory worth celebrating will be the abolishment of Mays Austerity Programme and racist immigration policies.