Jo Ralphs: “Is May’s Premiership Closing the Gender Gap?”

Starting an online search for Theresa May, you can’t help but feel sorry for our new Prime Minister. Though admittedly the search engine I was using was Bing, seeing the words ‘low cut top’ appear next to her name as the first search suggestion was more than a little depressing.

In a position that is very much exposing her to the ruthless misogyny of anonymous internet trolls and Daily Mail writers, is May’s premiership evidence of a closing gender gap in the UK?

The short answer is no.

Luckily for Theresa, thanks to her record of ‘chilling and bitter’ immigration policy, the Daily Mail quite likes her. Despite May’s early efforts in the (extremely partisan) Women2Win campaign, parliament still severely under-represents women, with 191 of the 650 seats being filled by women.

An even smaller proportion of these women represent the broad division of class, race and sexuality in the UK. There is no way this can be construed as fair or equal, especially since, per the 2011 census, there are more women than men in the UK.

“May’s premiership is not indicative of new found utopian equality in British politics”

This isn’t to discard May’s considerable success in such a male dominated industry. Of course, her visibility is important, but her appointment is symbolic – it doesn’t represent any real, deeply progressive change.

Any respect for May shouldn’t come from her gender, but her policies. May’s current gloss is one of utopian equality and some kind of ill-defined ‘fairness for all’, but, rather like her peers across the pond, this façade covers a plenitude of questionable voting and policy decisions from her time in a more junior position.

May’s cover up of sexual abuse against women in Yarl’s Wood and her shaky history of LGBT+ rights – including voting against the repeal of Thatcher’s philistine Section 28 – doesn’t bode well for our Prime Minister’s capacity to generate equality either.

May’s premiership is not indicative of new found utopian equality in British politics. In fact, May herself proved she is more than willing to be ‘one of the lads’ at PMQs on the 19th of October, when she jokingly wished a colleague a happy birthday by hoping his wife would ‘treat the occasion in the appropriate manner’, accompanied by a sordid grin. Nice one, Terri.

Jo Ralphs

Image: UK Home Office via Flickr. 

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