David Cameron has recently come under scrutiny after backing away from the question of whether or not he is a feminist. When asked, he stated: “I don’t know what I’d call myself…it’s up to others to attach labels.”
Admittedly, the question does place Cameron in tricky territory – there’s been heated debate over whether it’s possible to be a Conservative feminist, and even more over whether it’s possible to be a male feminist. As leader of the Conservative party and one of the nation’s foremost males – our top Tory Y-chromosome, if you will – you can see his conundrum. And, sadly, having a Prime Minister call himself a feminist at a time when many women are themselves reluctant to would be a surprising move.
Maybe he avoids all labels, aiming to appeal to a wider demographic through ideological fence-sitting. Or maybe, like many, he’s bought in to stereotypes and is wary of associating himself with feminism lest he be expected to rock up at parliament in dungarees, hurling copies of The Female Eunuch at backbenchers.
Still, given that he represents a party that, despite boasting our only female PM, is male-dominated and surrounded by notions of ‘old boys’ clubs’ and white male privilege, making a definitive statement about feminism probably wouldn’t do Cameron much harm. Ultimately, being a feminist wouldn’t compel him to radical policy overhauls. Quite literally, it would mean advocating the equality of women at a government level – something his hasty add-on of “But I believe that men and women should be treated equally” would (if meant sincerely) confirm anyway.
Perhaps the labelling of Cameron’s stances should be left to the ages. But while tags like “stuck-up public schoolboy” and “camp gammon robot” are past his control, ‘feminist’ is a label that people usually ascribe to themselves with as much passion and belief as ‘liberal’, ‘socialist’ or indeed ‘Conservative’.
So while no one’s asking him to launch into a rendition of Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves at the next party conference, seeing Cameron align himself with the more modern man by showing some support for feminism – if only for the sake of his wife, sisters and daughters (not to mention the 51% of his electorate that happen to be female) – might actually do his ever-shrinking approval ratings some good.
However, if the Sisters performance does go ahead, then I nominate George Osborne to be the Aretha Franklin to Cameron’s Annie Lennox.