Sub-Prime: Is May vs. Leadsom Good for Feminism?

Spoiler: no, it fucking well isn't.

Feature by Kate Pasola | 08 Jul 2016

We’re all very angry at the moment, aren’t we? After a month spent watching the tug-of-warring divs entrusted with the job of looking after the country all simultaneously let go of the rope and drown themselves in a pit of mud and privilege, you’re within your rights to be infuriated. Not that your rights matter any more. The Tories saw to that too.

But that’s not even the end of it. I’ve found a brand new thing to be angry about – the fact that some of my greatest wishes are coming true and I can’t even enjoy their realisation.

Take, for instance, David Cameron’s resignation. For a good half a decade I’ve been waiting to see Call-Me-Dave Cameron crumble; the Conservatives splitting at their smugly sewn seams. His regretful speech, full of half-hearted boat metaphors and desperate Queen Liz name-drops should have been euphoric. But, instead, as I watched those little hammy chops tremble with fear and that clammy little brow wrinkle with regret, I couldn’t even spare a shred of cheer. After all, getting your wish isn’t quite the same when you’re simultaneously being stripped of your European identity, your rights, your future and the safety of your fellow humans.

But do you know what else I can’t enjoy? The finalists in the ridiculous game show that is British Prime Minister 2016 ½. Once again, this whole situation should be exhilarating. Two women competing for the leadership of my country. Two women, doing what cowardly little BoJo and Dodgy Dave could not. Two women stepping up to the joyless, terrifying task of inheriting a volcanic British public. I should be doing handstands on the back of a motorbike; braless, wasted and screaming for joy.

Let’s not forget that only once in the history of the UK has a woman taken the reins at Downing Street. And now, after having successfully reminded one another that Gove is nothing more than a yogurt-filled condom with a hateful heart and a receding hairline, we’re in a position where we’re guaranteed a female PM. And that’s fucking exciting. Isn’t it?

Well, yes, if you ignore the names of the candidates. But, on remembering that the options are Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May, everything is suddenly awful again. Let’s take a little look at the voting histories of our competitors, shall we? It’s too depressing to read in its entirety so i’ll spare your blood pressure and pick out the best bits.

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During her time in Parliament, Theresa May voted to raise the tuition fee cap to £9,000; voted in favour of fox hunting; consistently voted in favour of the Iraq war (and then, ironically, for an investigation into the Iraq war); voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act 1998; voted to protect the rights of those who wish to discriminate on the basis of caste; voted against allowing non-straight couples to adopt (and didn’t turn up for a vote on the Equality Act).

Generally, she’s voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed. She’s voted against restrictions on fees charged to tenants by letting agents. She’s also consistently voted for selling England’s forests. Just, y’know, to whoever. Ooh, and the clincher? Theresa May voted to restrict the support available to failed asylum seekers and illegal migrants. Terry’s a classy gal.

On the other hand, Leadsom has never voted on equal gay rights or on allowing marriage between two people of the same sex. But she has been pretty vocal on the matter, telling ITV that she does not support gay marriage law because of "hurt caused to many Christians." She’s voted against measures to prevent climate change. She’s voted against slowing the rise of rail fares, she’s generally voted against paying higher benefits over over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability.

But generally, her sentiments chime with May’s; she too has expressed her commitment to repealing the fox hunting ban. The two were in agreement when it came to upping the tuition fee cap to £9000. They’ve both voted against a banker’s bonus tax and mansion taxes, meanwhile supporting bedroom tax, welfare reductions and benefit restrictions.

To quote a particularly witty acquaintance, is this what Emily Davison threw herself under the king’s horse for? Intersectional feminism gains nothing from a female prime minister when the options are May and Leadsom. I’m dreading their policies and their attitudes, as I would with any right-wing leader. But i’m also dreading the inevitable barrage of misogyny these women will endure. I’m dreading their inevitable legacies as iron women and witches; for their evil actions to be tethered arbitrarily to their gender. I’m not excited for a woman to be given the power to represent my gender, only to see it go to sore, heartbreaking waste. I don't want to be torn between my feminist instincts and my left-wing beliefs.

Everyone from the Telegraph to Tory reps are telling us this isn’t about gender, as if this group of evil old men suddenly forgot to be sexist for a hot minute. We’re supposed to believe this is equality in action. But it isn’t equality. Don’t buy into the narrative of the female phoenix rising from the ashes of ‘Brexit’. It’s nothing more than the two starving fish floating to the top of a poisonous pond.