Why would you not be a feminist? says Clegg

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 17.45.31Elle magazine is doing  a big push for feminism at the moment. It attempted to get the three main party leaders south of the border to wear their “This is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt.

Ed Miliband was happy to do it and so was Nick Clegg, who said:

I support equality and choice – so yes, I’m a feminist. How on earth in this day and age can you not be? As a wiser person than me once said: “Men who actually treat women as equals are the ones with more cojones.”

That wiser person is, of course, is his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, who made the comment in relation to childcare earlier this year, much to the consternation of the Daily Fail.

David Cameron decided not to risk the wrath of the right wing tabloids by daring to wear a t-shirt with the F word on it. Elle magazine aren’t wildly chuffed about that. Editor-in-chief Lorraine Candy said:

We asked the Prime Minister five times if he would wear the Fawcett Society’s iconic This Is What A Feminist Looks Like slogan T-shirt and send us a snapshot (it would only take 10 minutes). Five times, he declined. This is a shame on so many levels, especially given he knew Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband had agreed without hesitation, alongside many other influential men who were more than happy to call themselves feminists. It seems the Prime Minister still has an issue with the word “feminist”.

I was personally disappointed that we couldn’t feature Mr Cameron in our Feminism Issue because it is ELLE’s aim to engage with men in the fight for equality: because of parliament’s current gender imbalance, it is men who have the power to make changes in every area of British women’s lives. When the man in charge doesn’t engage, it doesn’t bode well. Given the huge international male support for UN Women’s #HeForShe campaign, it does rather make our Prime Minister look like the odd one out.’

It does grieve me slightly to point this out, because Nick has done some fantastic stuff for women, championing shared parental leave and flexible working for a start, and encouraging Lynne Featherstone’s pioneering work not tackling violence against women and girls at home and abroad, but Cameron has stolen the march on him in terms of putting women in the Cabinet.

Wearing a t-shirt is great. Having fantastic equalitybpolicies is great. Having an all male Cabinet is not.

Having said that, Cameron only wins on promoting women. Conservative policies are not exactly equality friendly.

But neither are good enough.

I don’t doubt Nick’s feminist credentials. He needs to do more, though,  to put them into practice. It is unbelievable that he hasn’t put a woman in the Cabinet so far. The thing is, he doesn’t even get questioned about it. It’s the women MPs who get grief in interviews like Jo Swinson did a few months ago. That does rather add insult to injury Journalists should actually give Nick some serious questioning about it and see how he likes it.

Hat tip: Charlotte Henry.

Photo Credit: Elle magazine

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Tsar Nicolas 27th Oct '14 - 6:10pm

    There are different varieties of feminism – liberal, radical, socialist, black feminism and post-modernist to name but a few.

    Many varieties of feminism are about more than simple equality – they have a much more subversive agenda.

  • Many varieties of feminism are about more than simple equality – they have a much more subversive agenda

    Indeed: the
    ‘If you believe , then you must be an X.’
    ‘Okay, I’m an X.’
    ‘Right, well all Xs also believe , so being an X you must support them too, right?’
    is an old rhetorical trick used to trap people.

    (For instance, there seems to be a pervasive idea around that feminism implies socialism, and clearly it wouldn’t do for the leader of the Conservative party to go around endorsing socialism, would it?)

    Better for him to simply say, ‘I support equal opportunities for women’ and resist others’ efforts to label him.

  • Damn HTML. Of course I meant:

    Indeed: the
    ‘If you believe <totally obvious thing that nobody in their right mind could disagree with>, then you must be an X.’
    ‘Okay, I’m an X.’
    ‘Right, well all Xs also believe <highly tendentious positions>, so being an X you must support them too, right?’
    is an old rhetorical trick used to trap people.

  • (Indeed, it’s quite often used with X=’Liberal’)

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Oct '14 - 6:25pm

    I respect people who want to wear the tee shirt, but I wouldn’t have done it. I believe in gender equality as much as anyone, so not being a feminist does not equal being a misogynist. People say believing in gender equality means you are a feminist, but I don’t believe it does and that’s my opinion. People will appreciate me not thrashing out the often repeated arguments on here.

    I actually have a bit of a phobia of feminism and people can believe it is due to my privileges being attacked, but the truth is a bit less comforting than that. Can’t we think of a new word, with a bit less extreme baggage?

  • This is silly.

    Cameron is the Prime Minister of the UK; Elle are a private company and they are in no position to demand that the PM wear a t-shirt featuring their current slogan of the day – no matter how correct, well-meaning, or cool the slogan happens to be today.

    What next? BUPA to demand that the PM wear a t-shirt promoting cancer awareness, and when he refuses they say he is in favour of children dying of leukaemia?

    PS A lot of people would say that “Elle”, being part of the “fashion” industry are actually part of the problem that feminism is trying to address. This story seems to me more about getting a Tory and promoting Elle than it does about proper equality issues.

  • Liberal Neil 27th Oct '14 - 8:04pm

    Great that he wears a T-shirt. great that it’s from the best named organisation ever.

    Not so great that he hasn’t appointed a woman to the Cabinet, or more women as Ministers, or to the Lords, or as SpAds, or as staff. These things are all far more important than wearing the t-shirt.

  • Helen Tedcastle 27th Oct '14 - 8:18pm

    The t-shirt has a great slogan and it is a good gesture for Nick to wear it but as Caron says, the bigger and more meaningful gesture would be to put a woman in the Cabinet from the Lib Dem benches. At least one could cope with the promotion, surely?

  • Simon Foster 27th Oct '14 - 9:11pm

    Tsar Nicholas is right to say there are many types of feminism. I know, I lecture on them as one of 8 ideologies I teach for A2 Politics. Where I disagree with him is that many types have a subversive agenda.

    What unites feminism? A desire for social equality for women. From my point of view, I’d wear the t-shirt.

    Here’s what’s being taught on the Edexcel A level politics syllabus by the way:

    1) First wave or liberal feminism – equal votes for women, right to enter University (in particular the legal and medical professions) and the right to own property after marriage- not subversive unless you’re a neo-Conservative still living in the early 19th century.

    2) 2nd wave/Radical feminism. An argument could be made that this is subversive, but it should be noted that radical feminism is split, and this doesn’t apply to all sorts of radical feminism.

    3) Marxist feminism. OK, this is subversive, in the sense that its trying to overthrow capitalism, but that is Marxism’s aim.

    3) Post-feminism – First wave feminism has been achieved, let’s go and spread this around the world now. I wouldn’t call this subversive.

    3) Third Wave feminism – the basic objectives of first wave feminism haven’t been achieved in the UK in terms of social equality and equality of opportunity – let’s fight against the glass ceiling and glass cliff. Still not subversive.

    4) Fourth wave feminism, including intersectionality, trans-rights, internet campaigning, privilege checking (not guilty, just trying to analyse the types of feminism, rather speak on behalf of any group), and much more. Not subversive, IMHO.

    5) Conservative feminism (yep, there are people who believe in such) – Compatible with the neo-liberal strand of Conservatism which believes that women should be equal participants in the marketplace. Hardly subversive. There’s a reluctant acceptance amongst 1 nation Conservatives who accept this type of feminism on pragmatic grounds but don’t really want to buy into it (which is where I suspect Cameron is coming from). Neo-Cons OTOH hate feminism, believing it to be the end of Western Civilisation as we know it…

    5) Post modern feminism – including intersectionality again, with issues such as race, leading to black feminism, and a whole new meaning of the word double discrimination. Again, hardly subversive, but then how can you categorise post modernism?

    My conclusion: the majority of different forms of feminism, aren’t subversive in the sense they are trying to overthrow a government or legal institution. In fact, its the very subversive nature of part of radical feminism and Marxist feminism that led to the creation of third wave feminism, fourth wave feminism and post modern feminism. So I wouldn’t even say many forms of feminism are subversive, I’d say the maximum is two out of eight I’ve mentioned.

    The real question to me though isn’t “Is feminism subversive?” but “Why are some men soooooooo frightened of it?”

    Could it be that they’re afraid of competing against women on a level playing field, and that decades, nay centuries of privilege and discrimination are coming to an end?

    Nothing to be frightened of boys, IMHO. In fact, some basic liberal economics (thanks Adam Smith) involving the theories of comparative and absolute advantage should indicate that, in fact, most types of feminism should be economically beneficial for everyone. I could even mention labour market flexibility here. Note that these are right wing arguments. I haven’t even got to developmental individualism, and an expansion of positive freedoms alongside negative freedoms that a centre left modern liberal would believe in….

    Best wishes – Simon Foster (Head of Politics at a large 6th form college in Birmingham).

  • Tsar Nicolas 27th Oct '14 - 9:45pm

    @Simon Foster

    Some types of radical feminism in the 1970s attacked the very notion of women having sex with men as “sleeping with the enemy!” That strikes me as subversive.

    And then there’s all that weird stuff about the CIA funding feminist magazines. Why on Earth why would they do that? It certainly doesn’t seem to be about protecting the existing social order. Maybe they were interested in breaking up traditional families and replacing parents with the state?

    A final point is to bear in mind that feminism is the product of its time – a society with almost unlimited, cheap energy that diminishes the need for human labour power. If peak oil hits western countries before a reliable alternative energy supply can be found and developed, then the reversion to more labour-intensive ways of doing things will probably result in the re-emergence of older forms of sexual division of labour.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Oct '14 - 10:05pm

    SImon Foster, there are plenty of men who risk their lives for women who aren’t feminists and to suggest feminist critics are simply trying to preserve privilege is disrespectful. If you are only talking about extremists then you should say so. Gender roles do not necessarily always benefit men. Some countries at the moment are only taking in female and children refugees from Syria. I am not saying whether this is right or wrong, just that gender roles don’t always benefit men.

    It is also deeply offensive for others to suggest women should stay at home, or whatever people say nowadays. Women have earned their equality in the professional world, if it was ever in doubt, by risking their lives for their family and community, which they do every day.

  • Equality for all, NOT feminism. Why is it always women this and women that. There are other people in society who should have equality. Some feminism can go overboard and rather create segregation instead.

  • @Tsar Nicholas The CIA funded Abstract Expressionism, quite rightly seeing it as a cheap way of dissing Communism, especially since most of The AbEx artists saw themselves as Left Wing/Liberal. The CIA has a long history of throwing money at all sorts of movements/people, some obviously Right Wing, many not.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Oct '14 - 10:35pm

    To elaborate on my last paragraph: this applies to everyone, not just women: if people want more power then they should take more responsibility too. You can’t believe in equality if you think women should be in boards, but only men should be facing the bullets on the front line. Not many people believe that exactly, but too many seem to think relieving men from their duties in the trenches isn’t an important part of the equality movement. If it is about equality, and not self-interest, then it is just as important. Thankfully, I believe the women fighting IS are doing a lot of good for the equality movement. They fill me with deep respect and admiration.

  • Christine Headley 27th Oct '14 - 11:00pm

    I think I started off a second-waver, but things have moved on since then. I’m still a feminist (no adjective needed), but I can’t remember all the Six Demands.

  • Helen Tedcastle 27th Oct '14 - 11:19pm

    The gender pay gap is still too wide which suggests to me that ‘women’s’ work’ is still undervalued by those who control the boardrooms – usually men. They get to the top in a man’s world through networking at the bar and various other functions – while the women go home to cook the dinner for hubby or bath the children.

    That is the reality.

  • Helen Tedcastle 27th Oct '14 - 11:42pm

    ‘ Did i miss something?’

    Yes. It’s not so simple. Women still have responsibilities outside of work and it would be helpful if male bosses appreciated that and judge on actual merit, rather than expecting that women forsake their family life in order to network at the bar late into the evening.

  • Who are these women who rush home to get hubbies tea on? None of them married into my family or any of my friends, in fact of the people I know – and it’s a fair few – the husband is the main cook.

  • Paul in Wokingham 28th Oct '14 - 12:12am

    @Paul Barker : Clement Greenberg – the philosophical father of Abstract Expressionism and Phil Silvers look-alike – was once asked how he could condone art that refused to acknowledge all the crises in the world. He said “Crises? There are always crises”.

    The CIA undoubtedly funded Abstract Expressionism via fronts like the ACCF but the art itself had little to do with “dissing” communism. The concerns of Abstract Expressionism are the typical concerns of much mid-20th century art: painterliness and the surface – it is bourgeois liberal art in the manner of Matisse.

    It was a clever (perhaps excessively clever) idea to promote Abstract Expressionism as sophisticated libertarian (Randian?) individualism against the in-your-face collectivist propaganda of Soviet Socialist Realism.

  • it would be helpful if male bosses appreciated that and judge on actual merit, rather than expecting that women forsake their family life in order to network at the bar late into the evening

    Why? After all, male employees are expected to forsake their family life in order to network at the bar late into the evening.

    Surely equality says that women should be expected to do the same.

  • Ruth Bright 28th Oct '14 - 7:52am

    Tim – of course family tasks should be shared equally but the reality is that the whole education and health system and the state funded bit of the child care system works on the basis that a parent is available during the day . Most women earn less than their husbands and it is extremely expensive to pay someone outside the family to be around during the day so the reality is that the buck normally stops with the woman.

    As for Clegg’s T-Shirt It isn’t the gender of the person wearing it that matters but the gender of the person who washes it!

  • Ruth Bright makes a very good point —
    “.. It isn’t the gender of the person wearing it that matters but the gender of the person who washes it!..”

    I wonder how many hours MPs or their partners spend each day on such things.
    I wonder how many pay for someone else to do these domestic tasks for them.
    I wonder how little those people get by way of payment.

  • Liberal Neil – agree with you re MPs, Cabinet and Lords but you are wrong re SpAds – lots of his current and former SpAds are women. And those are appointments he has more control over.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Oct '14 - 10:31am

    Hi George, an impassioned plea, but as someone who believes in a bit of positive discrimination I do not think it is people like me who are the problem.

    I could answer your questions and make some more criticisms, but I don’t like attacking people’s identity and I would just be repeating things I have already said previously.


  • Eddie Sammon 28th Oct '14 - 10:38am

    Oh and George, here is the proof of a feminist arguing for women in boards but not on the front line:



    As I said, I have my criticisms and I don’t like repeating them. As a liberal who believes in promoting diversity I am confident that I am not the problem, although of course, I don’t get everything right.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Oct '14 - 1:06pm

    Helen is right, Jedi, Malc and Tim are wrong. In my opinion. The answer is not for women to work as unsociable hours as men, but for men to do their bit at home!

  • Helen Tedcastle 28th Oct '14 - 1:17pm

    ‘ you’re looking for equality of outcome, rather than opportunity, right?’

    I’m looking for both but I object to a definition of equality which means women fitting in to a ‘man’s world.’ I would like to see more family-friendly workplaces and expectations by bosses that networking outside of office hours or playing golf with the boss is a way to win promotion.

    Work practices and male-club culture of work needs to change, in other words.

  • @Jedibeeftrix
    “Most women earn example the same as their male counterparts of equivalent age and experience…”

    Really? http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4204de1e-2d4f-11e4-8105-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3HRghxsz0

    right up until they opt to take major career breaks of several years during which they miss vital experience and the career progression that comes from it. We already have a policy for this, and a good one too; shared parental leave. Now parents, male or female, have the choice of who will sacrifice earnings (and potential future earning), to engage in child rearing.

    Shared parental leave is a good and long overdue policy, but as a parent myself I’m a bit bemused that anyone should think this will lead to full equality. There are rather obvious physiological reasons why this is unlikely to be so. Some women may find pregnancy and childbirth as easy as shelling peas, but many others need lots of time off work both before and after the birth. This will never apply to men.

    I also reject the argument (made by you and George Potter) that the answer is for women to simply behave exactly like men and take them on on their own terms. If female-dominated occupations are paid less than male-dominated occupations, I don’t think the real problem is that men and women tend to gravitate towards different professions, nor is the solution for women to strive to be more like men. The real problem is that our patriarchal society values and rewards the female-dominated professions less than the male-dominated ones. Telling women that they should solve this problem themselves by being more like men is looking at it from completely the wrong end.

  • I’m looking for both

    Well, they’re mutually exclusive, so which do you want?

    The real problem is that our patriarchal society values and rewards the female-dominated professions less than the male-dominated ones

    Examples, please, of female-dominated professions that are paid less than male-dominated ones once you control for supply (ie, nurses are paid less than doctors not because nursing is a female-dominated profession but because the lower level of training required to be a nurse makes them easier to replace, so the supply of potential nurses is greater, so economics dictates that the pay will be lower).

    In the case of GPs, for example, that’s a profession where the proportion of females has been growing until this year it was pretty much 50/50, and it will probably become female-dominate din the near future, but nobody thinks GPs are underpaid, do they?

  • Helen Tedcastle 28th Oct '14 - 3:11pm

    I’m looking for both

    ‘Well, they’re mutually exclusive, so which do you want?’

    I see. So if women want to get to the top they have to adopt male practices. No. Equal opportunities means access to the same chances. Equal outcomes means progressing through merit and not being discriminated against/passed over because they bear children or because they don’t fit comfortably into male networks after work.

    This country needs a change in corporate culture – it’s not enough to pass laws. That’s clear.

  • Equal opportunities means access to the same chances. Equal outcomes means progressing through merit and not being discriminated against/passed over because they bear children or because they don’t fit comfortably into male networks after work.

    Okay, well, that’s not usually what is meant by ‘equality of outcome’ (‘progressing through merit’ and ‘equality of outcome’ are mutually exclusive because if people progress through merit, then people with different levels of merit will have different outcome, ie, their outcomes will not be equal. ‘Equality of outcome’ would require ensuring that people’s outcomes do not correspond to their merit, or indeed anything else that could vary between people, including (as in this case) sex).

    But anyway now we’ve established that.

    I’m interested in this ‘not being discriminated against/passed over because they bear children’ idea.

    Not all women choose to bear children. Those who do not, have more time and energy to devote to their employers.

    Why is it fair for employers not to give them correspondingly bigger promotions and more seniority?

    After all, if I took anywhere from six months to two years off to pursue my hobby of playing in a rock and roll band, I wouldn’t expect my employer to make allowances and not discriminate against me for doing so.

    Surely it is therefore only fair that they discriminate equally against someone, man or woman, who takes that amount of time off to (of their own choice) start a family?

    (I do agree that it is wrong to discriminate only against women who take time off to spend with their children: men who take time off to spend with their children should also be discriminated against, as those of us without children are more valuable to our employers and therefore should be accordingly compensated more. That is only fair.)

  • @Jedibeeftrix
    “Stuart, I could not read the article, but the title which i could see does seem to support my contention.”

    The article seems to be behind a paywall, though for some reason it allowed me to read the whole thing earlier.

    But the headline, “The gender pay gap is growing wider, especially for mothers”, is the complete opposite of your contention. The article listed a wide number of sources which, with one exception, all support the view that a gender pay gap exists. Some of the figures quoted suggest that this gap exists right from the start of a woman’s career – long before most of them wish to have children.

    I totally agree with Helen Tedcastle on this. The solution is not for women to act just like men. The solution is for men to treat women equally.

  • Ruth Bright 29th Oct '14 - 8:55pm

    Simon Foster – you are welcome! Heartening to hear how times have changed. A zillion years ago when I was a student at LSE I remember one lecturer saying that he would not teach a class on feminism because there was no coherent body of feminist thought.

  • Tsar Nicolas 1st Nov '14 - 10:21pm
  • “This is what falling off a pretentious bandwagon looks like”

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