What do you do when Philip Davies is your local MP? Bake some cakes, of course, says ‘feminist zealot’ Kristina Diprose.
When I heard that my local MP Philip Davies was embroiled in controversy yet again, this time attacking people who work for gender equality as “feminist zealots” and “politically correct males who pander to this nonsense”, my first instinct was to ignore him.
It is hugely frustrating to live in the constituency of one of Britain’s most obstructive MPs. Philip Davies has built his reputation on thwarting democratic debate and insulting anyone with an opposing view, including his constituents when we write to him. He seems to revel in the attention, even (or especially) the bad press.
If he were an internet troll, or a man on the street, I would roll my eyes, accept that we see the world very differently and move on. But like it or not, he is my elected representative and has to be held to a higher standard of behaviour.
As one woman I met in Shipley said, “How am I supposed to feel comfortable raising any issue with him, when he’s prejudiced against me from the start? What’s the point?” He has to be held accountable and that is down to us, his local constituents.
Through social media I connected with other people in Shipley who feel the same way. Amused by the playful #letmeeatcake Twitter response to Davies’ complaint that people who support gender equality are “militant feminists” who “really do want women to have their cake and eat it”, at first we joked about baking him a cake with a message iced on top.
But on second thoughts, he really doesn’t deserve cake. Instead, we decided to invite all of Shipley to have their cake and eat it (unlike Philip, we have no problem sharing) with a pop-up cake stall in the market square.
Cake is an offer that few can refuse and the stall was a great way to raise awareness about our MP’s chequered record of hostile remarks, voting against equalities bills and blocking legislation. Through donations for cake we also raised £124 for Bradford Women’s Aid and CALM, a charity that works to prevent male suicide.
One of the misconceptions we were eager to address is our MP’s favourite soapbox topic: that wanting equality for women means we don’t care about issues that disproportionately affect men. Of course we care. We believe that women and men can work together for equality and justice for everyone, and do so in a way that is respectful of one another.
“As one woman said, it wasn’t about party politics or confrontational debate, but cake and conversation.”
If Philip Davies is, as he claims, committed to issues like gender equality in the criminal justice system, then it is unfortunate he chooses to campaign using inflammatory language on a platform that can only serve to alienate many people whom he might otherwise look to for support. There are much better ways of getting women and men around the table to discuss their concerns. Like cake, for example.
I was amazed how quickly the group and the cake stall plan came together, with countless offers of baking, time and skills and lots of new connections between neighbours. One lady brought a tablecloth from her late mother who, she informed us, was not a fan of Philip Davies and would have been delighted to contribute. There were star bakers, hat makers, seasoned street campaigners and of course, lots of cake eaters.
It is years since I last did any face-to-face campaigning (and then it was on environmental issues), but I needn’t have been nervous. All of the conversations we had with shoppers, businesses and local media in Shipley were positive and polite, and so many people shared our concerns.
It reminded me that the social media bubble is just that, and there are people in our neighbourhoods who we should reach out to. Fellow constituents were shocked and appalled to find out what our MP has been saying. Most of all, I think people were happy to engage with us because of our welcoming and somewhat silly tone. As one woman said, it wasn’t about party politics or confrontational debate, but cake and conversation.
I have been living here in Shipley for just over a year and quickly fell in love with its creativity, quirkiness and friendliness. But yesterday, sharing the stall with four generations of so-called #shipleyfeministzealots – most of whom I met that afternoon – was the first time I really felt the strength of our community. Philip Davies certainly hasn’t heard the last of us!8434 Views
Kristina Diprose is a resident of Shipley, an occasional writer and ardent cake lover.