A reminder that in a Fawcett Society poll in 2016, only 9 per cent of women, and 4 per cent of men, self-identified as feminists. In total, just one in 14 British adults self-identify as feminists. So when 10 Tory party leadership candidates were asked if they’re feminists, either one or none should have answered in the affirmative, all else being equal. But when asked by The Guardian, eight spineless candidates (or their aides) said they’re feminists, or at best declined to admit they’re not feminists. Shame on them. The only candidates to emerge with any dignity were Dominic Raab and Esther McVey.
Most of the Conservative leadership candidates – Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Matthew Hancock, Andrea Leadsom, Rory Stewart and James Cleverly – have all declared that they are feminists, after Dominic Raab said he was “probably not” one.
The question of women’s equality became an issue in the contest after Raab, one of the favourites to be Conservative leader, rejected the label of feminism and stuck by his 2011 assertion that feminists are among the most “obnoxious bigots”.
Challenged about the remarks by ITV, Raab said: “The point I was making is that sexism is wrong and it’s wrong if it’s said about a woman or about a man and I think equality is too precious a value for us to put up with double standards. I do think we should call hypocrisy out in political debate and political life.”
He added: “I’m all for working women making the very best of their potential and that’s something that’s really important to me.”
All 10 of the other Conservative leadership candidates were subsequently asked if they were feminists, with eight saying they were.
Johnson, the frontrunner, was criticised by senior women in his party last year over his comments referring to Muslim women in burqas as “letterboxes” and comparing them to bank robbers. However, it is understood he considers himself a feminist, and is proud of his campaign as foreign secretary to promote women and girls’ education across the world.
Aides to Hunt, Javid, Gove, Leadsom and Stewart all confirmed that their candidates would describe themselves as feminists.
Hancock was pressed about the issue of whether he was a feminist in a television interview. He said: “Yes. I have three children … I want my daughter and my sons to have the same opportunities in life. That is what it means to be a feminist. Absolutely, I am a feminist, yes.”
Cleverly also said he is “absolutely” a feminist.
Esther McVey’s spokesman had no comment. Kit Malthouse did not respond to the question.
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