“Hello, I’m a voter living in your constituency. Are you a feminist?”

I tweeted the five Ipswich parliamentary candidates one question: Are you a feminist? Here’s what they said.

SPIRITED answer

David Ellesmere (Labour, @davidellesmere)

“Yes!”

I love the conviction of this one word reply with an exclamation mark – no messing around. David clearly understands the nuance of what’s being asked here and responds with assurance. If he was on Twitter enough to reply the same day, it would’ve been fab. Having said that when I resorted to email he came back to me within 1 minute. (Somebody get this man an app.)

FASCINATING answer

Maria Vigneau (UKIP, @UKIPipswich)

“I am a woman and most definitely support the equal rights and status of women. I have spent a lot of time in African countries, working on projects to get girls in secondary education and beyond.”

I confess, this threw me! I love that Maria has real world experience of a complex feminist issue – there’s passion there. And yet I can’t help wondering if her response is incongruous with the party she represents? All in all, unexpected. Maria does not appear on Twitter, and the local UKIP ignored me, but her email reply was swift.

MEASURED answer

Ben Gummer (Conservative, @ben4ipswich)

“I’d like to think so – depends by what definition I suppose . . .”

Me: “The @OED definition ‘feminist n. An advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women’ Clarify?”

Ben: “in that case yes!”

Had I let his first tweet stand with those hesitant, lacklustre ellipses . . . As our MP since 2010, I hope Ben would already have established his feminist credentials. Has the question really never come up in the past 5 years? But respect for giving it thought, tweeting effectively and coming out on the right side. Feeling rather pleased that I appear to have converted a Tory MP, from an equivocal feminist, into a firm one.

FASTEST answer

Barry Broom (Green, @IpswichGreens)

“We certainly support feminist causes, but it is a huge issue. Are there any specific concerns u hav? [. . .] Let us know of any feminist campaigns or causes you deem urgent to back!”

Evidently someone at Ipswich Green Party is keeping an eye on their Twitter, but I don’t think it’s Barry. I was disappointed by the reduction of feminist from noun to adjective, as this dilutes the level of commitment. Although well-intentioned, I wasn’t keen on being asked to suggest issues. I’m persuaded on balance of a support of feminism here, however, he/they don’t strike me as leaders.

FITTING answer

Chika Akinwale (Lib Dem, @LibDems_Ipswich)

“As a female and a mother of 2 – a toddler and an infant – I’m keen on women to be given equal opportunities to flourish so I am definitely a feminist. This is also a strong view within my party and is also embedded in our party constitution . . . We reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, age, religion, sex, etc.”

Chika is absolutely right to consider feminism in the context of other types of discrimination and I like the way she brings this to the fore; I also like that she identifies both the personal and party aspects of the issue as important. Although the Ipswich Libs don’t seem to completely grasp Twitter, her email reply was same day which is great.

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One Response to “Hello, I’m a voter living in your constituency. Are you a feminist?”

  1. Maria says:

    Thank you Katie, I’d be very happy to meet you and dispel those myths about UKIP. I have worked on many development programmes across Africa and in Cambodia, have over 30 years business experience and an amazing campaign manager of Sri Lankan heritage (who is also standing as a UKIP parliamentary candidate). Very best wishes, Maria

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