“I am a Conservative and I am a feminist” are nine little words that are likely to set your Twitter notifications off on a riot. Rarely a day goes past without someone telling us that we can’t possibly be a Conservative and be a feminist because the two cannot co-exist – supposedly. It isn’t just Conservative activists who have such insults thrown at them, not even the second female Prime Minister can escape such remarks. More often than not, it is other women who are telling us what we can and cannot be.
Feminism is for everyone.
Being right-wing does not inhibit a person’s ability to believe in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes.
There has always been toxicity towards the idea of right-wing women being feminists.
Can women on the right truly be feminists? Without a doubt.
To suggest that someone isn’t the ‘right kind of feminist’, or that you are a better feminist because you’re a supporter of a particular party, surely goes against the whole principle?
If you believe you have the moral high ground to decide who is or isn’t the “right sort” of woman, then you’re defeating the entire purpose of the cause you’re trying to advance. Feminism advocates a freedom of thought, and under that belief, women should be able to have their own political views – especially if these are diametrically opposed to yours.
Mother of the House, Harriet Harman MP said in 2012, “you can’t be a feminist and a Conservative, because it’s all about equality and fairness”. She even suggested that Theresa May isn’t a “sister” to the cause, which prompted this piece by Aine.
Yet today, Harman has changed her mind, hailing a new wave of Tory feminists including former Education Secretary Justine Greening, Maria Miller and Nicky Morgan.
Historian Julie Gottlieb explores the idea of right-wing feminism in her essay collection Rethinking Right-Wing Women. In this, she explains that “women on the right have always been there, we just never paid them enough attention“. She continues that these women can be found throughout history and are overlooked by both historians and journalists because they go in search of more attractive foremothers, radical women who feel they have represented their cause and history.
The first female Member of Parliament to take her seat, called herself a feminist. Lady Nancy Astor was a Conservative woman, and opened the door for every single female MP since to walk into the House of Commons with their heads held high. Astor during her time as an MP strongly advocated women’s rights and became a prominent voice on the green benches, and it was after listening to the pleas of the mothers of Plymouth that she advocated for the prohibition of the sale of alcohol to minors.
Arguably, Thatcher is one of the most famous women on the right, and yet there have been many others rarely mentioned and this is absurd. The leader of the women’s suffrage movement, Emmeline Pankhurst, was a Conservative and even joined the Conservative Party shortly before her death in 1928.
We’re just as passionate about getting women into politics, we’re just as passionate about women’s health care, and we’re just as passionate about closing the pay gap between working mothers and everyone else.
Our feminism is just as passionate as those on the left.
To quote Aine’s earlier article, “no one woman nor one party has the right to claim a movement for themselves and attempt to redefine it in their image, much less have the authority to determine who is and who is not a champion of the cause”