Politicians should walk the walk, not just wear the T-shirt6
November 4, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
The picture about is both an example of the pathetic state of our political culture at the moment and an example of brilliant strategy by a pressure group. It’s worth looking at both of those.
David Cameron, who is, lest we forget, our country’s Prime Minister, was asked five times by Elle Magazine to wear the above T-shirt – which carries the slogan – “this is what a feminist looks like”. The T-shirt was created by the Fawcett Society – a feminist pressure group.
Cameron refused every time, saying that he was happy to provide a supportive quote – although when he did, it didn’t contain the word “feminist”. Meanwhile, Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition (I use his full title on purpose) Ed Miliband and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg DID allow themselves to be photographed wearing the T-shirt.
Cue some more fabricated outrage from around the political spectrum, accusing Cameron of not identifying with the feminist cause. As if Clegg and Miliband were. Go and find a single female amongst Miliband’s team of special advisers. They are not there. The Lib Dems have a grand total of 7 (seven) female MPs amongst the 57 of them. They may wear the T-shirt, but they don’t walk the walk.
Actually, I’m being unfair. I actually think all three party leaders do believe in achieving full equality. Cameron, in the quote he provided to Elle magazine, pointed out that “as a parent I feel strongly that my daughters should have the same opportunities as my son”. My point is that it doesn’t take the Prime Minister putting on a T-shirt to prove this.
Clegg and Miliband also shouldn’t have put on that T-shirt – but they are so terrified of losing any votes that they are quite happy to debase their offices by taking part in what I have to say has been a quite fantastic pressure group stunt.
Because that’s what it was, a stunt. The Fawcett Society can’t believe their luck that Cameron wouldn’t wear the T-shirt. Daisy Sands, Head of Policy and Campaigns, said as much on “The Daily Politics” on Wednesday when she pointed out that if Cameron had actually put on the T-shirt, she wouldn’t be on the programme talking about the issue of female equality, which is her job. Andrew Neil, the combative presenter, had to back down from his increasingly aggressive line of questioning on the matter and was reduced to simply conceding that she had “a good point”.
Pressure group objective complete. Awareness heightened of the issue. But let’s not carry on pretending that our Prime Minister should be dressing up in a T-shirt to show he is committed to a cause. Let’s just have him actually committed to that cause.
P.s. Given the Daily Mail just reported that the T-shirts were made in a Mauritius sweatshop where workers are paid 63p an hour, It might have been a good thing that Cameron didn’t wear his. It shows the danger of political stunts too.
In this society, gender equality is a fundamental idea, and support for it is obviously necessary to spread this view. However I agree with David Cameron’s decision not to wear the shirt, as I don’t think he needs to publicly broadcast his personal views. I think Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg only wore the shirt to appease the feminist movement, rather than for any moral reasons.
Isn’t it a shame though that we feel we still have to “spread this view”? Why doesn’t everyone share it?
I think it was an excellent decision for Cameron not to wear the T shirt. It’s unfortunate that nowadays the true cause of feminism (male-female equality) gets tainted by sexism, misogyny and that alike. I think that Cameron’s refusal to wear the T shirt was the best thing that could have happened for the feminist cause as he reminded the public that no one wants you to call yourself a feminist, people want you to act like one
Absolutely true, Joanna. What do you think “acting like a feminist” means though?
I disagree in some ways with David Cameron decision not to wear the ‘feminist’ T-shit. In my opinion there is simply no reason why he shouldn’t spread the word of feminism and women’s rights in a somewhat amusing way. Indeed maybe through wearing the T-shirt Cameron would not only be associated with the feminist movement but also with a ‘cool’ and popular brand (ELLE). This would be positive press in the run up to the next election for Cameron as the electorate would perhaps have perceived him as less deracinated and with a good, easily comprehensible message to spread. The mere fact that this T-shirt has turned into a point of debate – is yes seen to promote the feminism debate, but if he had just worn the t-shirt there would be no (positive/negative) debate only a (positive) increase in the awareness of feminism.
You make an interesting point which I can’t deny as I am not someone who would be a target of an attempt to seem “cool” (as you all know!). Had Cameron worn the T-shirt – perhaps the Mail wouldn’t have gone and found out they were made in a sweatshop in Mauritius – but maybe they would have done. I think that as Prime Minister he shouldn’t be searching for what is ‘cool’ but what is ‘right’ for the country.