Dear Prime Minister,
I’m writing to you although I never really thought I would. Not because I’m politically apathetic but because of the perspective of realism I’ve adopted, particularly in the last year. Sometimes things just don’t go your way, not matter what you do.
However, Mrs May, I’ve been reading a lot of Rebecca Solnit lately (I’d very much recommend Men Explain Things to Me. I’m sure you’d find it very relatable), and Solnit speaks powerfully about hope. Hope is the gateway to action in dark times, she argues. So after the spirit of the march on Saturday, here I am being hopeful. Here I am writing to you.
I understand that you must negotiate a deal with the devil. I understand, or at least, I try to, that it won’t be easy going head to head with a misogynist who speaks in alternative facts
And I’m writing to you to tell you that I believe it is absolutely essential that the British Prime Minister sets an example to the nation, and the world, by questioning Trump on his attitudes towards women. Less so because Donald Trump is likely to change his behaviour (just his “facts”), and more crucially because young women need to see their female Prime Minister taking a stance against a sexist culture. Politics is still an intimidating place to most women – and through no fault of their own. As an elected female official, Mrs May, you have a double duty on your hands: you must validate the concerns of women around the world and prove that sexist behaviour is not tolerated, and you must show that women in politics have a legitimate voice that can, and does, challenge power. Hope rests on your shoulders, Mrs May, to prove that women – from the poorest communities to those in the highest of offices – will be respected.
I know that you have other urgent conversations to discuss with Donald Trump, such as Brexit. You will – hopefully – secure a deal that will be best for the economy, that will keep as many people in employment, and do so in the way that Britain’s message to the world is not one of total exclusion and division. Brexit is undoubtedly a moat, Mrs May, but must we pull up the drawbridge completely? Trump will most likely remark your his Maggie, he’s your Reagan. (The Global Gag Rule that Trump has just reinstated was indeed created by Reagan in 1984). I understand that you must negotiate a deal with the devil. I understand, or at least, I try to, that it won’t be easy going head to head with a misogynist who speaks in alternative facts.
And sometimes, Mrs May, you don’t always seem to be on our side either. Voting for welfare cuts (of which you have a long history of) always disproportionally effects women; Yarl’s Wood detention centre is still open, Mrs May and you’ve just passed a law that means women who have a third child because of a sexual assault will have to prove the rape took place in order to receive benefits. Women get the short straw in your Conservatism, Mrs May, and that is not what feminism looks like to me. But in the pursuit of fairness, I wholeheartedly commend the work you have done around coercive control. Alas, politics and politicians work in mysterious ways. Or at least they do to me.
This, however, is old ground and I’m trying to stay hopeful. What I ask you is not about the ideology of your politics or your belief in what constitutes a fair economy. What I’m asking you is to recognise, in this shared society of yours, is that you have a responsibility to show to the world that sexism is not an inconvenience that gets brushed under the table, or not brought up because it’s inappropriate. I ask you to recognise that powerful men don’t get a free pass because their power negates their misogyny. I ask you to recognise that women are watching, they are marching, and they are organising against a man that permits their degradation. You have the, er, privilege(?) of an audience with that same man, the man that nearly three million women across the globe were sending a message to on Saturday. Prove to me that women do no longer have to shy away from confronting bullies. Prove to me your voice is as powerful as the office you hold is.
You have said your very presence as Prime Minister was enough of a comment about women’s role in the world. I disagree. Look how Donald Trump treated Hillary Clinton. Does that worry you? Men in Ohio might not shout “lock up her”, but men in Stoke-on-Trent might believe that women in power are corrupt, laughable targets of abuse. Do you worry about what they might say about your husband? Do you understand how much Trump and his supporters will despise you for your intelligence, for your power, for the way you dress, for your age, for your gender?
Your job isn’t an easy one. Women regularly negotiate dealing with the thorny territory of getting the best out of situation whilst standing up to misogyny – but I think you’ve probably had more practise than most.
Make no mistake, Mrs May, this Friday women the world over, including me, will be watching, waiting, holding their breath – and hoping.
PS. I understand there's a great guy, currently having a holiday in Palm Springs, recently out of a job. I think he could be a real asset to your team. He's big on hope too, apparently.
Want to write to Theresa May about what she'll say to Donald Trump? Email her here or write to: Mrs. Theresa May, 10 Downing Street, SW1A 2AA