Jessica Butcher has been named as a commissioner on the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), leading to past remarks on how modern feminism disempowers women, and how some innocent men may have been destroyed by being charged of sexual misconduct without due process as part of the ‘MeToo’ movement gaining fresh attention.
The EHRC’s role is enforcing the Equality Act, Britain’s main equality law, and to reduce inequality and discrimination. According to the Guardian:
Butcher – who describes herself as an “old-school feminist” – has criticised many recent feminist campaigns, including on issues in which the EHRC plays a significant role. In a talk in 2018, Butcher said: “Feminism, like other forms of identity politics, has become obsessed with female victimhood. Whereas it once used to be about the portrayal of women as mature, equal partners in society, it now seems more to be about girl power – and yet it disempowers, assumes that we’re weak and defenceless, like children.”
She added: “Working-class girls have been deprived of jobs that they love such as Page 3 girls and [Formula One] grid girls because other women disapprove of them. What happened to ‘my body, my choice’?”
She also criticised the MeToo movement: “Men have had their careers and reputations ruined overnight by MeToo – some possibly justly, but without any due process, no innocence until proven guilty.”
Butcher has said that women being labelled as the victims of discrimination has ironically disadvantaged women if they come to see themselves as victims.
“Even if it was due to discrimination, the most productive reaction to that is not wounded insecurity, go cry to someone about how you might have been gender-discriminated against,” Butcher said, “but it’s to actually go ‘well come on then, I’ll show you’ and take the onus to circumvent the situation in some way.”
“You know, resilience, it should be about resilience, and I feel that the narrative of discrimination and victimhood undermines both that confidence and that resilience and also the individual onus to take ownership of how you put yourself forward, and to mould yourself, change yourself to the circumstances as required,” Butcher said.
“The whole point of the EHRC is to fight against inequality,” Harriet Harman, the former Labour deputy leader who backed the Equality Act, told the Observer, according to the Guardian. Its commissioners need to be people who understand the pernicious nature of discrimination and prejudice, who’ll expose it and drive change,”
“The government’s twin role is to appoint commissioners who are fearless proven champions in the fight against inequality and provide the EHRC with sufficient resources,” Harman said. “Right now it seems to be doing neither.”
Liz Truss, the Conservative secretary of state for international trade and minister for women and equalities, made the new appointments, according to the Guardian.
“With these appointments one can only conclude the government is more interested in undermining the credibility of the EHRC rather than ensuring we have an independent and effective statutory body with a strong understanding of structural inequalities,” Sam Smethers, the chief executive of the women’s rights organization the Fawcett Society, said. “There are some experienced people working at the commission doing important work. They need commissioners who can be effective champions.”
In a CityAM article from 2018 cited by The Guardian, Butcher criticized the gender pay gap narrative.
“What is ‘power’ if not choice?” Butcher wrote. “And why is the choice to enjoy time with young families never presented as a positive, for women or men, but only ever portrayed alongside the negative ramifications it has for the pay gap and representation in the workplace?”
The Guardian reported that Butcher declined the Observer’s request to answer questions about her view but she did release a statement after her appointment.
“I’m delighted to be appointed to the role of EHRC commissioner, I’m confident my background in business gives me a strong understanding of the work and goals of the organization,” Butcher, who is a successful digital entrepreneur, said in the statement. “I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners to advance equality issues in the U.K.”
“The new EHRC commissioners were chosen as part of a fair and open competition, and each of them brings an expert knowledge base to the role,” A spokesperson for the government’s “equality hub” said in a statement. “We are confident that they will help the EHRC carry out its important work of upholding and advancing equality and human rights at this vital time for the United Kingdom.”
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