It’s time for conservatives to reclaim feminism

By Charlotte Chase; Bow Group Member and Co-Founder of Generation Conservative

Recent coverage of the Conservative Party Conference reminded me of the early days of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership. Both the rhetoric surrounding this country’s first woman Prime Minister and its second (both conservative it is importantly noted) have many similarities. Whilst they were equally credited with emitting a strong, capable and knowledgeable image to the world; sadly, they were not able to escape the ferocious scrutiny of the fashion elite.

Famously, Thatcher spoke of the efforts by many advisors to get her to remove her pearl necklace during her campaign for election. It was supposed to make her appear more suitable for the role; more electable. She refused most definitely.

Likewise, the same indignation has been somewhat witnessed by Theresa May’s flirtation with ‘rebellious’ shoe styles, as I’m sure some members of the Downing Street team would coin them. On assuming the position, she has not suddenly conformed to the dowdy shades of grey and navy adopted by many a male Prime Minister, but bravely taken on this unconstitutionalised political dress-code by the horns.

In the 21st century, I find it shameful that there is a need to even write this article; however, the coverage of Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister at the Party Conference speaks volumes.

Rather than focussing on policy decisions, such as the Brexit timeline, reintroduction of grammar schools and the switch to short-run economic policy, the media were consumes by the choice of pointed, chrome-capped ballet pumps. It resembled almost a Hollywood-style fixation of the dresses worn at the Oscar’s, not coverage of the nation’s majority party annual meeting.

While I understand and embrace the power of women to use fashion to express their personality – in fact, it is an advantage over men to have an additional channel of communication – it is currently demising women in the highest positions. To claim that there may be any sort of political reason for the choice of footwear by the nation’s Prime Minister, other than that it makes her feel more secure in herself and stand taller on stage when delivering her policy speech, is absurd.

As a society we must ourselves take responsibility for this. In an age when the media has greater access to the levels of interaction with their publications than ever before, it is the public that is ultimately determining what journalists write and editors print. Simply, when the demand for trivial discussion about the fashion choices of one the most powerful world leaders stops, so too will its coverage.

In aid of this, as conservatives, we must reclaim the right to discuss feminism. Having just appointed our second female Prime Minister, the success of conservative values in bringing women to the top should be applauded. The Labour Party, which for years held sovereign the right to champion feminism, has meanwhile not appointed a single female leader, let alone secured a successful Premiership.

Our values of traditionalism and pragmatism do not, and should not, exclude us from the debate about equality for women in politics. In the very essence of this, we must embrace the success of female leaders across the country and strengthen the path to equality they are forging. Even the United States has this year only just had a major party select a woman as their candidate for President. Whether or not she will even succeed is another question…

Thus, this country, along with the rest of the world, would hugely benefit by refraining from discussing the politics of May’s fashion choices and instead focus analysis on the politics of her government. Indeed, the choice of shoe she wears has nothing to do with politics at all, as proven by the lack of discussion about her predecessor’s rather worn black oxfords.

In reclaiming the feminist debate from liberals, we may actually see the equality of women blossom in this country. There is no doubt women are still undermined in their ability to govern by the focus that is placed on their appearance. It certainly cannot hurt to have the more successful political organisation at the helm of the push for equality.

Therefore, I look forward to the progress Theresa May is set to make in the next four years of her office. These are undoubtedly uncertain times, which have made way for policy decisions that will significantly affect this nation for decades to come.

Nevertheless, what I will anticipate with greater pleasure is when we all finally capable of debating her policy choices, without feeling compelled to address the variety of eye-catching kitten heels that adorn her feet.