So the first political misogyny card of 2017 has already been played but the response turned out to be slightly unexpected.
Meta: A term, especially in creative art or fiction, used to characterize something that is characteristically self-referential
When the social history of fourth wave ‘networked’ feminism is eventually written EYEhope that the prosecution of Mark Pearson (for walking past a woman in a crowded public place) will be remembered as the peak point of #everydaysexism silliness.
Experts reckon that the ‘misandry bubble’ will finally burst in 2020 but less than a week into 2017 and we have already witnessed a further small but significant sign that the cracks are really beginning to show.
Last Wednesday Northern Ireland’s first female First Minister played the misogyny card in a desperate attempt to dig herself out of a hole and instead of prompting the usual round of predictable pandering to the PC brigade, everyone concerned simply tutted and told her to wind her neck in.
Arlene Foster has faced mounting pressure to step down over a botched renewable-energy scheme and indeed she’d already be gone if it wasn’t for the sort of institutional identity politics ring fencing arrangements that Sophie Walker’s wee party can only dream about.
Foster lost a confidence vote in December when every political party but her own walked out of the Northern Ireland Assembly in protest over a £400 million omnishambles. The way the veto cards are dealt in Belfast means that she may very well ultimately survive the crisis (even now Sinn Fein have walked) but whoever advised her to cry everydaysexism has only helped her to dig an even bigger hole to crawl out of.
“There’s a lot of it personal, there’s a lot of it, sadly, misogynistic as well, because I’m a female, the first female leader of Northern Ireland.”
“Just because I’m a woman, it doesn’t mean I’m going to roll over. I’m not going to roll over to Sinn Fein. I’m not going to roll over to my political opponents”. Arlene Foster
Misogyny: A dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.
Foster’s card play was even a step too far for the fantastically feminist friendly New Statesman and within hours of her exclusive interview with Sky News it was clear that her belated application to the sanctuary of sisterhood had spectacularly backfired.
I believe in calling out shameless excuses when I see them, and every so often, a woman will attempt to mask blatant incompetence with claims of misogyny. When women cry sexism to excuse their mistakes, they undermine the very cause they claim to support, attracting ridicule that makes it harder for victims of genuine prejudice to be taken seriously.
The very fact that the head of the DUP would even considere playing the M card says something sadly significant about how powerful it currently is in British politics but it was refreshing to see the tactic treated with the disdain it very often deserves for a change.
Given her views on abortion and gay marriage, Mrs Foster has been no friend to the sapphic sisterhood and her Free Presbyterian packed party isn’t exactly famous for promoting progressive policies in general.
Hilariously one of her colleagues even took a break from having a go at breastfeeding mothers to borrow her shovel and announce that there was a lot of admiration for her within the party, given how she had handled the pressure “along with all the domestic things she has to do“.
Hardly surprising then then a succession of female politicians lined up to confirm that whilst there is definitely plenty of sexism in politics, Mrs Foster’s current plight definitely has nothing to do with sexism.
I’m surprised Arlene sees this as misogynistic as opposed to being held to account in the same manner as her male predecessor. It is particularly surprising from a woman who joined the DUP at at time when members of the party deemed it acceptable to moo at members of the Women’s Coalition and other female elected representatives in debates. There is misogyny and sexism in politics but it’s a dangerous game to misrepresent being held accountable for your actions as any of those things. Naomi Long MLA
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of this story is the fact that Foster was in fact doubling down on a previous bout of meta misogyny, having also cried foul in December when her troubles really started brewing.
Meta Misogyny: A transparent attempt to project misogynistic tenancies onto another which reveals more about the author’s own contempt for women.
On that occasion she declared that many of her female colleagues found one particular male party member to be an ‘intimidating presence‘ and that he had even recently “used his physical bulk to stand over [her]” during a recent aggressive exchange.
The male member in question is now suing for defamation. He also just happened to have made some damaging allegations about Fosters part in the energy omnishambles hours earlier which meant that even her most understanding critics observed that as First Minister and Party Leader she had a duty of care and a responsibility to protect her staff from such (alleged) misogynistic mayhem and therefore perhaps should have raised the matter sooner.
Ironically Fosters’s sudden, unexpected fall from grace will be disappointing to many progressively minded voters who will have viewed the uncontested coronation of a female leader by the DUP as progress indeed.
But EYEguess that if there is a lesson to be taken from this latest example of playing the misogyny card it’s that while it might come in handy when you’re climbing up the greasy pole, if you play it once you’ve reached the top you’re likely to find that you’ve only got yourself to blame.