If you were a middle-aged white man and your CV were to include: “hates political correctness”, “despised by many feminist MPs” and “openly calls Jeremy Corbyn an idiot”, you perhaps wouldn’t expect to land a plum job on the Women & Equalities Committee.
But that’s precisely what happened yesterday to Philip Davies, firebrand Tory MP for Shipley, campaigner on men’s issues and perpetual thorn in the side of the “politically-correct brigade”, as he’s fond of calling them.
So how fitting is it, that, at Christmas, we can shout of modern feminism’s pantomime villain “he’s behind you!”
On cue, your politically-neutral BBC, Huffington Post, Mirror and Guardian dusted off their pitchforks. Pointedly, many branded him an “anti-feminist”.
It’s worth pointing out Davies has never declared himself anti-feminist, although he has previously shared platforms with some, most notably when he appeared at the International Conference On Men’s Issues in July and infamously said “feminist zealots want women to have their cake and eat it”.
On Twitter, more salt has been poured on Davies’ appointment than on the M25 during a Siberian freeze.
One blue-haired postgraduate tweeted that Davies’ hire was “like having Jimmy Savile as education minister”. Deliciously, Davies retweeted it.
Anti feminist MP elected unopposed to women and equalities committee. That's like having Jimmy Saville as education minister #PhilipDavies
— Natasha Mitchell (@NL_Mitchell) December 13, 2016
The co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party tweeted “satire is buried” while its leader opined “WE will be watching you”.
I hope Philip Davies plans on bringing feminist cake and eating it. WE are watching. https://t.co/pIKSZdFdiA
— SophieWalker (@SophieRunning) December 13, 2016
Labour’s Jess Phillips – Skeletor to Davies’s He-Man – intimated the Tory would be effectively neutered by the other members of the committee, saying, “I have every faith that the intelligence and skills of those on the committee will mean he will have little effect, much like in the rest of his career.”
Davies isn’t everybody’s cup of Yorkshire tea. A classic Tory lone wolf, he’s anti gay-marriage and pro-gambling, and has copped flak for both.
But he was the only MP willing to put his head above the parapet and demand a debate on men’s issues around International Men’s Day both last year and this.
I’ve interviewed Davies, appeared on the same platform as him as a men’s issues campaigner, and personally like him.
Beneath the mischief-making, I believe there’s a genuine desire to help men and boys. In Parliament he rages against “the tyranny of the majority” saying, “I will not be silenced. I will continue to fight for men, no matter how unpopular some see that.”
I’ve previously asked him whether he’d be a natural fit for a Men’s Minister, an offer he rejects.
“No, I don’t believe in that, and I don’t believe we should have a minister for women, either,” he says. “Governments should be gender blind and do their best for everyone.”
Comments made by Philip Davies are deeply sexist and show utter contempt for women. Theresa May should suspend him. pic.twitter.com/vBpvBJFIC2
— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) August 12, 2016
Earlier today, to add a further surreal twist to a Farage/Brexit/Trump-riddled 2016, Davies declared he may be willing to join the sisterhood, saying, “I would be a feminist if it meant believing in equality between the genders, but we can see it isn’t that”.
When asked if his first role in the Women’s & Equalities Committee would be to change the name simply to the Equality Committee, he says, “I would be wholeheartedly in favour of changing that. I suspect on this, and on many other issues, I will be in a minority of one”.
But having a man who swims against the tide is vital if men – 49% of the population, remember – are to have a voice on serious issues that disproportionately affect them. Where’s the genuine equality if it’s only defined through the prism of women’s and minority interests?
At a funeral yesterday. Came back to find satire buried https://t.co/FQZdpuUNV2
— Catherine Mayer (@catherine_mayer) December 14, 2016
For a quick look at the current Women & Equalities Committee agenda suggests a non-PC, man’s voice is perhaps needed now more than ever.
The Guardian reports: “The committee is currently investigating inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, ensuring strong equalities after Brexit, disability, women in the House of Commons and employment opportunities for Muslims”.
At a time when suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45, when 1/3 of domestic violence victims are men (yet there is no strategy to combat it), and when white working class boys are at the bottom of every level of education, Davies might be the best shot at addressing gender inequality we’ve got.