First published in The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/philip-davies-feminism-istanbul-convention-mens-rights-a7673791.html
“Tory MP tries and fails to block anti-domestic violence bill with 91-minute speech” read Jon Stone’s headline in the Independent on the 24th February 2017- referring to Philip Davies 91 minute filibuster of The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (or ‘Istanbul Convention’). So why, you might reasonably ask, do I stand before you as one fifth of -the new pressure group – Ladies for Philip Davies?
Ladies for Philip Davies come from diverse political standpoints but we all believe in true equality, under the law, and oppose the “feminist zealotry” (Davies’s words) that is ignoring men’s issues and pushing legislation like the Istanbul Convention. You see, the convention is sexist in that it neglects the (at least) ⅓ of inter-personal violence victims that are male and also writes Patriarchy theory into law and into education- a theory that is not based on fact but belief. The preamble states: “that violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between women and men, which have led to domination over, and discrimination against, women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women”, an assertion I and many others absolutely reject (Feminism is, afterall, a minority identity).
Davies was successful in 2015 and 2016 in securing parliamentary debates to mark International Men’s Day, despite opposition from M.P.s such as Labour’s Jess Phillips, who told the Backbench Business Committee: ‘It seems like every day to me is International Men’s Day… When I’ve got parity, when women in these buildings have parity, you can have your debate.’ Davies pointed out that “there is a big difference between men raising issues and the raising of men’s issues”. Topics discussed included the male suicide rate (75% of suicides are male), educational underachievement and father’s rights. In December 2016, Davies was elected to the Women and Equalities Committee in the House of Commons. There was an angry and stunned response from Feminist Members of Parliament, completely unused to having their narratives challenged. The leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker, recalled a speech to the International Conference on Men’s Issues in which Mr Davies claimed that ‘feminist zealots really do want women to have their cake and eat it’ and Caroline Lucas hoped that his application was ‘a joke’, claiming that his presence would be unconstructive. However, the public appear to be on his side with a poll conducted on The Metro news site [ http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/14/tory-mp-wants-women-removed-from-women-and-equalities-committee-title-6323247/ ] revealing that 82% of readers agreed with Davies, that the word ‘Women’s’ should be dropped and the Committee go forward as ‘The Equalities Committee’.
In March 2017, my friends and I founded our pressure group, Ladies for Philip Davies. We aim to support him in his task to bring gender equality to UK governance, beginning with the Women and Equalities name change. Our first action was to write to all 650 MP’s asking for their support for his proposal- and encouraging others to write to their personal MPs as many avoided answering us by hiding behind the parliamentary protocol of only corresponding with their own constituents. Our next action is to set up a petition. If we get 10,000 signatures, the government has to respond- and with the results of the Metro poll, we’re fairly confident we can achieve this. 100,000 would get our proposal considered for a Parliamentary debate (which is needed to actually change the name)- that might require a second petition but- we intend to achieve it. The name change would just be a symbolic gesture to the inclusion of men and men’s issues, but a significant one.