Magazine article The Spectator

Like the Conservative Party, I Have a Problem with Women

Magazine article The Spectator

Like the Conservative Party, I Have a Problem with Women

Article excerpt

There's a great bit in an episode of Ye s, Minister during which Sir Humphrey Appleby explains to Jim Hacker why women are a minority, despite there being so many of them. It's because, he says, they share the same sense of victimhood that is the defining characteristic of all minority groups. Like all the best jokes, it's funny because it's true. Women behave like a minority, and politicians treat them like one.

Given that they're a minority with half the vote, though, it's a wonder they don't throw their weight around a little more.

Where did it come from, this sudden consensus that David Cameron's Conservatives have a problem with women? Cuts are affecting women, sure, but not because they're women. There was the 'calm down, dear' thrown at one of the Eagles (Bald Eagle or Golden Eagle? I forget), there was the sniggering suggestion that Nadine Dorries might be a bit 'frustrated' and . . . that seems to be it. Both bad, sure, but not in the general scheme of things that bad. Not Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Not even John Prescott. Yet it's there, and it obviously scares the hell out of them. Female voters used to like Tories more than men did; now they don't. It can't just be policy. How many voters even know about policy?

Partly, I suppose, female voters are going off David Cameron because everybody is telling them they are. If you wanted, you could do this with almost anyone. Declare that the party was intolerant of fat people, say. Isolate a couple of quotes, like that Osborne gag the other day about Eric Pickles's personal trainer, and then go around asking fat people if they'd still be prepared to vote Tory, despite those fat-loathing, fattist bastards hating fat people so much.

Only it's not quite the same. Because the Conservatives do still have a problem with women, in the same way that everybody still has a problem with women. Indeed, in even using the word 'everybody' in this context I'm showing that I have a problem with women, too. My 'everybody', you see, is an essentially male 'everybody'. It has women in it, sure, but I expect them to act like men.

I've been worrying about women lately quite a lot. I suppose it's something to do with having a daughter. Do you remember when Martin Amis got in trouble for admitting that he might be a bit racist? 'I get little impulses, urges and atavisms now and then, ' he said. I worry that a lot of us are like that with women. Even quite a lot of women, I suspect, are like that with women. It's not an inherent belief in inferiority, or a hatred, or anything so crass as that. It's more an unthinking inclination to ask male questions in a male way, so that the only answer that works is a male one. …

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