When Theresa May first became Prime Minister, I was overcome by a familiar sense of dread, the same one I get whenever a woman with odious politics achieves a position of dominance.
“She’s going to be awful,” I thought, “but she’ll also be held to far higher standards than any man. Will it always be possible to separate justified outrage from misogyny? Or will this be another situation in which left-wing women are expected to take one for the team?”
I remembered this, vaguely, from the end stage of Thatcher’s reign. This sense that while, yes, I could see her years in office had wrought devastation, there was something about the unbridled glee at her removal, the particular delight in kicking a woman when she was down, that felt, well, extremely gendered (and yet to say so, given the context of her actions, would have felt terribly petty).
“How,” I wondered, “can we ever fully distinguish criticism of a woman’s politics from horror at her deviation from the prescribed feminine role?” And yet it turns out I needn’t have worried. Ten months after May’s ascent to 10 Downing Street, a mere two weeks before the General Election she swore she’d never call, I can say this with certainty: I’ve never seen a criticism of May’s cruelty and ineptitude that I haven’t thought was utterly bang on.