Feminism trumps egalitarianism: the twisted logic of David Willetts

Debates around inequality and social mobility continue to rage in the UK. The Coalition Universities Minister, David Willett’s has attacked feminism as one of the main reasons that social mobility in the UK has stalled.  In comments reported in the Daily Telegraph, Mr. Willetts said:

“The feminist revolution in its first round effects was probably the key factor. Feminism trumped egalitarianism. It is not that I am against feminism, it’s just that is probably the single biggest factor.”

So feminism instead of challenging inequality is the ‘single biggest factor’ in combating egalitarianism. Using interesting socio-biological terminology ‘the assortive mating’ practices of these newly upwardly mobile middle class women has meant that not only have these women elbowed working class men (and women) out of the way, but these women also have the temerity to choose to marry (and mate) men from similar social backgrounds.

It’s quite galling to see feminism blamed now for working class men’s decline and enduring deep seated structural inequalities in the UK. I am also angered by the way that this plays off middle class women against working class men (working class women seem strangely invisible in this schema, and middle class men’s hands on the reins of power, prestige and wealth deemed unproblematic and ‘natural’).

In his comments Willett’s ignores the deeper structural reconfigurations of globalization and the late capitalist state. It’s also an interesting conjuring trick that eschews administrations of blame – such as the pernicious tinkering with education system, the wide-scale savage cuts in education, health and welfare – and the ongoing social and structural inequalities that stain the UK social landscape. With inequality continuing to grow within the UK, and an associated increase in child poverty, the Coalition remains vague in relation to the actions to combat poverty, social exclusion and unemployment. Blaming feminism and successful women seems a twisted April Fool when the stakes are so high, wouldn’t you say?

(Fin Cullen, GEA Executive)


Leave a Reply