We Need To Talk About Theresa May: When Criticism Becomes Sexist Abuse

Whichever way you voted last Thursday, and no matter how you felt when you woke up to the news on Friday morning (or still feel, at this very moment), we need to talk about Theresa May.

It is in no doubt that Mrs May’s general election campaign was far from strong enough to ensure a clear victory for the Conservatives, and she has faced harsh criticism because of it. In fact, members of her own party called the campaign, “pretty awful” and called for her to step down. Former British Conservative Party politician George Osborne even called Theresa May “a dead woman walking.”

However, regardless of what the politicians, the public and the press thought of May’s campaign or performance during the general election, the attacks and abusive gender-focused slurs directed at the Prime Minister, and indeed her fellow female MPs, have gone too far.

Under the guise of ‘general election criticism’, Theresa May has been referred to in a vile manner with insults such as ‘whore’, and called other derogatory terms that refer to and reference her gender.

As pertinently highlighted by award-winning author J.K.Rowling on Twitter the day the election results were announced, “femaleness is not a design flaw. If your immediate response to a woman who displeases you is to call her a synonym for her vulva, or compare her to a prostitute, then drop the pretence and own it: you’re not a liberal.”

“I don’t care if we’re talking about Theresa May or… Hillary Clinton,” Rowling wrote, before also drawing comparisons with the vile abuse directed at female MPs Diane Abbot and Ruth Davidson.

“If you can’t disagree with a woman without reaching for all those filthy old insult, screw you and your politics,” she explained in her response. “I’m sick of ‘liberal’ men whose mask slips every time a woman displeases them, who reach immediately for crude and humiliating words associated with femaleness, act like old-school misogynists and then preen themselves as though they’ve been brave.”

In a year when there have been more female MPs elected into Parliament than ever before, and as we prepare to mark 100 years since women finally started being given the right to vote, it is disappointing that when criticising a politician for her performance or party or policies – or as Rowling pointed out, not just politicians but any woman ‘who has dared express an opinion publically’ – so many people still can’t see beyond gender, and worse, use this as a weapon against the person and a vehicle with which to drive their insults. Whatever your political views and whatever your chosen party stands for, we should never stand for this.