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It's great that Emma Watson is standing up for feminism - but #HeforShe is the wrong approach

When we pander to make feminism more palatable, we ignore the unpalatable truths of patriarchy.

If there are three things I love in this world, it’s international relations, women and days.

It’s a shame then that my enjoyment of International Women’s Day each 8th March is consistently spoiled by the United Nations’ attempt to put men at the heart of feminism with their #HeForShe campaign.

Let me say this very clearly. Men-centric feminism is garbage. Feminism is not about men. We should not be putting men at the centre of a day for women. 

I personally am very happy for men to describe themselves as feminists, but they should be the loyal, kit-wearing supporters in the stands, and women, the first XI. #HeForShe is a pitch invasion, where men nick the ball and start booting it around to show how much they want the match to go ahead as planned.

International Women’s Day is about women. It is about the issues and oppressions that affect women globally. Hearing the statistics and stories should be enough for men to support women without it being specifically branded for them. If a man can hear that 85,000 women are raped in the UK each year and only care when this fact is labelled FOR MEN like a horrifying statistical Yorkie, he probably isn’t that much use to the feminist cause in the first place.

Feminism is constantly expected to make itself pretty and palatable. We’ve created the straw feminist, all smouldering tits and desiccated ovaries, sticking pins into voodoo dolls’ little embroidered balls, just so we can say, “I’m a feminist, but I’m not one of those feminists. I love men!” Loving men and being a feminist are not mutually exclusive but nor is “loving men” in any way a mandatory part of feminism. We should not pander to make men who, whether they support it or not, are part of a system that benefits them.

In case it wasn’t clear enough by the co-opting of UN Women by the #HeForShe campaign that the main issue women face today is hurting men’s feelings, the actor Laverne Cox tweeted that she and Emma Watson had come up with the hashtag #ILoveMenButHatePatriarchy. No longer are we spending our time merely asking men to support women, we now have to spend it massaging their bruised egos, telling them that we still adore them and will have their pipes and slippers waiting.

There’s a phrase, beloved of Men’s Rights Activists, that it’s #NotAllMen who oppress or hurt women. Too many a valid discussion has been derailed by a man barrelling in to tell us that he, personally, has not done any of the 85,000 rapes this year. It must be one of those nebulous Bad Men out there. Here, I have finally found a use for this tedious phrase. #ILoveMenButHatePatriarchy? #NotAllMen.

The #BlackLivesMatter campaign is not a subsidiary company of #AllLivesMatter. They do not fret about their perception and appear under the banner #ILoveCaucasiansButHateWhiteSupremacy. Why?

Because while we need allies from within privileged sections of societies, these movements - for gender, for race, for where those intersect - are not about being palatable or pretty.

There is a point to which #HeForShe has its uses. When Emma Watson publicly takes a stand for feminism, it is an effective way of starting a conversation with people who may not have considered that gender inequality is a very real, global problem and that they might just have a responsibility in dismantling it. But we shouldn’t have to smuggle gender oppression into conversation like a stripper in a cake, leaping out at a bachelor party to surprise some bros with readings from Everyday Sexism.

When we pander to make feminism more palatable, we ignore the unpalatable truths of patriarchy. Feminism becomes only that women are on banknotes and not how our government spends them on women. Equal Pay Day asks how many women there are on boards and not why Equal Pay Day happened weeks ago for women who aren’t white. Feminism is not nice and neat because a patriarchy is not nice and neat. We should not expect feminists to make space for men: men need to make space for feminism.

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The 5 things the Tories aren't telling you about their manifesto

Turns out the NHS is something you really have to pay for after all. 

When Theresa May launched the Conservative 2017 manifesto, she borrowed the most popular policies from across the political spectrum. Some anti-immigrant rhetoric? Some strong action on rip-off energy firms? The message is clear - you can have it all if you vote Tory.

But can you? The respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has now been through the manifesto with a fine tooth comb, and it turns out there are some things the Tory manifesto just doesn't mention...

1. How budgeting works

They say: "a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade"

What they don't say: The Conservatives don't talk very much about new taxes or spending commitments in the manifesto. But the IFS argues that balancing the budget "would likely require more spending cuts or tax rises even beyond the end of the next parliament."

2. How this isn't the end of austerity

They say: "We will always be guided by what matters to the ordinary, working families of this nation."

What they don't say: The manifesto does not backtrack on existing planned cuts to working-age welfare benefits. According to the IFS, these cuts will "reduce the incomes of the lowest income working age households significantly – and by more than the cuts seen since 2010".

3. Why some policies don't make a difference

They say: "The Triple Lock has worked: it is now time to set pensions on an even course."

What they don't say: The argument behind scrapping the "triple lock" on pensions is that it provides an unneccessarily generous subsidy to pensioners (including superbly wealthy ones) at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, the IFS found that the Conservatives' proposed solution - a "double lock" which rises with earnings or inflation - will cost the taxpayer just as much over the coming Parliament. After all, Brexit has caused a drop in the value of sterling, which is now causing price inflation...

4. That healthcare can't be done cheap

They say: "The next Conservative government will give the NHS the resources it needs."

What they don't say: The £8bn more promised for the NHS over the next five years is a continuation of underinvestment in the NHS. The IFS says: "Conservative plans for NHS spending look very tight indeed and may well be undeliverable."

5. Cutting immigration costs us

They say: "We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs." 

What they don't say: The Office for Budget Responsibility has already calculated that lower immigration as a result of the Brexit vote could reduce tax revenues by £6bn a year in four years' time. The IFS calculates that getting net immigration down to the tens of thousands, as the Tories pledge, could double that loss.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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