Nadine Dorries has been suspended from the Tory Party over her decision to take part in reality TV show I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!, and right on cue, the feminist blogosphere is rejoicing, with many people crowing in delight in equal measure over her suspension as well as the opportunity to see Dorries being forced to eat bugs, strip in the jungle shower, clean out a toilet with her bare hands, and endure various other kinds of public humiliation. Can we back up for a second, here?
This has been coming for quite some time. I’ve already seen countless so-called anti-oppression activists be utter shits when it comes to Dorries. I quickly left online groups contesting her policies on abortion and abstinence-only sex education because they were full of people who, rather than discussing her politics, were calling her various combinations of ‘fat’, ‘ugly’, and ‘cunt.’ I’ve seen a disability activist (just one, thank goodness) reproduce the media’s disablist nickname and call her ‘Mad Nad.’ Seriously?
We don’t hurl this kind of personal, gender-based (because of course there’s nothing worse to call a woman than a fat, ugly cunt) vitriol at male politicians, activists or other figures. This is a special kind of abuse reserved for women of any political leaning who dare to express an opinion in public.
These feminist campaigns, against reducing the abortion time limit and against bringing in abstinence education for young girls, are not safe spaces for women. This hypocrisy is alienating to female activists, and I do get the feeling sometimes that these ‘feminist’, pro-choice and sex-positive men (and it is mostly men) have just been waiting for a chance to let their violent misogyny out on someone.
Incidentally, other things about Dorries? She grew up on a Liverpool council estate and her dad was a bus driver. She was a nurse, and then she founded a company providing childcare for working parents. She has publicly criticised the Etonian boys’ club in Parliament, attacking Cameron and Osborne for being ‘arrogant posh boys.’ She has received gender-based dismissal directly from Cameron, and doubtless lives with misogyny from her party every day.
She says she’s going to the jungle because 16 million people watch I’m A Celebrity, and she has an excellent point about appealing to people beyond Guardian readers and Question Time watchers. Political engagement is a class issue, and she is absolutely spot on in wanting to reach out and be accessible to people beyond the middle classes. (I’m hardly surprised that this is largely lost on the middle-class students that make up the majority of these online groups.)
I’d love to see people criticise her policies without hurling personal insults, and most people don’t seem to have any trouble doing this when it comes to male politicians. Television *will* humiliate her. The media *will* publish photos of her naked in the jungle shower, the newspapers *will* lay into her body. Please, please let’s not buy into this.
If you oppose her politics, some activism you could do that’s more constructive than writing misogynistic and disablist slurs online includes:
- supporting Education For Choice, a London-based organisation that delivers workshops in secondary schools with the facts about abortion so young people can make informed choices
- supporting Scarleteen, who deliver the most comprehensive feminist sex education the web has
- supporting Abortion Rights, who lobby to protect the 24-week time limit
And please call out this behaviour where you see it. I’m very disappointed right now – let’s sort this out.