Corbyn: Feminist or Foe?

Like many other feminist Labour members, I was thrilled to see that there were two wonderful female candidates running for leadership of the Party. Considering there are only two ‘major’ parties with female leaders (Green and SNP), I was ready for Labour to lead the way in modern politics, charging ahead with a feminist icon in the foreground, whilst representing a change in the British political system. However, when the time came to actually vote for a leader, my vote went to Jeremy Corbyn. At first, there doesn’t seem anything remarkable about another white, middle class male that would make him worthy of my vote, but then I began to research his policies in his ‘Working with Women’ manifesto.  What I saw was more impressive than either of the female candidates, and combined with his left wing history, I changed my mind about this dark horse, along with 59% of the Labour party. So which of his policies make him so special?

Care for domestic abuse victims.There is a considerable lack of focus on male rape and domestic abuse in mainstream society, and this problem definitely needs to be addressed. However, I’m not so sure that the way to do this is to close down female only refuges for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Yet, this is what is currently happening across the UK, where there is often no alternative housing provided. Even when the centres are not being shut down, their services are still being restricted with measures, such as time limits on the length of stay and the refusal of non-local women. Jeremy Corbyn promises to reverse this, saying that ‘Women deserve…unflinching support in the face of violence and abuse.’ He aims to do this by ‘Reverse[ing] the cuts in local authority adult social care and invest in a national carers strategy, under a combined National Health & Care Service’. By ‘Properly fund[ing] Violence Against Women and Girls Services [it will] make it easier for women to be believed and get justice,’ as stated in his ‘Working with Women’ manifesto.

Women in the workplace.As Corbyn points out in his manifesto, women in the UK still only earn 81p to a man’s pound. This statistic is even lower for women of different races, or women working part time. This is most likely due to institutional sexism in the workplace, such as outdated stereotypes of what women can and can’t do, that saturate all various types of labour. Corbyn aims to tackle this by providing universal childcare for women so that they can advance in the workplace without the constant worry of their children’s development. Furthermore, he sets out aims to tackle everyday sexism in the workplace, such as the issues previously mentioned, that will enable male workers and perhaps even women themselves, to think more highly of women in the workplace. This, it is hoped, will change the sexist attitudes that have been plaguing working women for centuries.


Cabinet of 50% women.Corbyn points out in his manifesto that the previously mentioned issues of women in the workplace are not just exclusive to ‘regular’ jobs. There is most definitely a problem with gender equality in Parliament, with women making up ‘only 29% of the Houses of Parliament and around 30% on local councils.’ In order for women to be fully represented in the UK, I personally feel we need to have a clear voice in the making of the country, and this cannot happen if our choices and welfare are still being decided by rich white men. I, myself, find women’s only shortlists patronising, but as it stands women aren’t perceived as active in politics, and so there needs to be an extra push to get the hegemonic male gender to accept that women deserve an equal say. Corbyn aims to do this by pushing his 50/50 cabinet agenda, and has appointed, for the first time in history, a majority female shadow cabinet.

Everyday Sexism.

There has been a new wave of feminism in recent years, influenced by social media and the impact it has had on spreading feminist ideologies. This has helped women expose the sexism they face in everyday life, and the extent to which it impacts their lives. Corbyn’s Labour realises this and incorporates it into their action plan, saying that ‘In 2015 it is not acceptable that women cannot walk streets and be in public spaces without being whistled, shouted at or endure other forms of offensive behaviour.’ In order to work with feminists to tackle everyday sexism, he proposes making sexual health and relationship education mandatory, and ‘actively promoting and ensuring that our laws on sexual assault and protection from harassment are implemented,’ which will work towards taking away the stigma of reporting such incidents to the police.

So those were my main reasons, as a feminist, for voting Corbyn. He, for me, represents the new (albeit with a male voice) wave of feminism, and has practical ideas to reverse the damage that the last five years have inflicted on women, and whatever else will follow in the next five. He and his shadow cabinet seem to care passionately about the welfare of women, and with intersectional policies that address race and ability issues, as well as just white feminism, I think Jeremy Corbyn is the white male needed to bring feminism to the foreground of politics, ready for women to take a stand.

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