NICOLA Sturgeon, Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel and now Theresa May and Angela Eagle. A few cases could be called a fluke, but, by next year, all these nations could have women rulers – surely that’s no coincidence? Indeed, for some journalists, this is no mere collection of chance events. I’ve seen at least two this week announcing a worldwide “feminist revolution”; another even raised the prospect of men being crushed by a rampant “femocracy”.

And, let’s admit, this is more than blind coincidence, it’s an authentic trend. Public and press attitudes towards women leaders are gradually loosening up. That’s a good thing, of course. Many of the women listed above don’t fit the stereotypes traditionally attached to their gender. Again, on its own terms, that’s a good thing.

But can we call this “feminism”, and, if so, does it constitute a “revolution”? The answer is “no” and “definitely no”, unless we’re willing to abandon these words to every possible misuse.

I’ll start with the obvious point. Theresa May, like her leadership rival Andrea Leadsom, has benefitted from the struggles of feminists gone by, but since she opposes the most basic women’s rights, she’s essentially fallen at the first hurdle of feminism.

Yes, like Louise Mensch, May once wore a t-shirt saying, “This is what a feminist looks like”. However, slogan T-shirts rarely reveal the depths of a person’s political soul. May, like Leadsom and Mensch, lent her backing to lowering the abortion time limit to 20 weeks. Was she wearing her feminist T-shirt as she voted? The shameless hypocrisy wouldn’t surprise me.

May also tried to strong-arm abstinence lessons into high school sex education, in an attempt to turn the unforgettable cringe of sex education into the silliness of anti-sex education. Much as you might admire commitment to a losing battle, this particular lost cause has the side-effect of suppressing women’s right to learn about their bodies.

So here’s a point that should be obvious. You wouldn’t call yourself a committed vegan if you were chowing down on an Atkins Diet worth of pork and beef every lunchtime.

So can you be a feminist if you don’t defend basic sexual and reproductive rights? Women in power don’t always vote to improve women’s lot, and more women leaders doesn’t equal women’s liberation. Simple stuff, I hope.

However, there’s a more fundamental point here. For me, being a feminist today isn’t simply about creating room at the top for women. It’s not even just about challenging male power, not exclusively. No, feminism for me means challenging all hierarchies in society – and fundamentally, that includes racism and class inequality.

Because, let’s be clear, the immigrant woman who probably cleans Theresa May’s toilet experiences women’s oppression differently from, well, Theresa May.

Even if May and Leadsom stood up for the basic sexual and reproductive rights, they still wouldn’t be feminists in my eyes. My kind of feminist isn’t someone who sets targets for deporting women and children back to warzones, who backs imperial land grabs in the Middle East, or who signs a blank cheque for Trident nuclear missiles.

Suzanne Moore’s latest piece in The Guardian attempts to assure readers that May is calm, collected and “fairly free of emotion”. I’d argue that deploying a fleet of racist vans screaming “GO HOME!!!” disqualifies you from being seen as a "voice of reason", never mind a feminist icon.

According to the Fawcett Society, approximately 80 per cent of fiscal budget cuts have fallen on the shoulders of women. Austerity is a feminist issue. As the Tories hack away at the NHS, welfare provision and public services, it’s ordinary women who hurt most. My kind of feminist isn’t someone like May, who votes for welfare cuts.

Austerity does something else, too. It undermines our sense of collective identity; it closes us off from each other, and diminishes our power to act together. For women, this isolation has a double-effect: not only must we fight against sexism, we must do so alone. Collectivism and solidarity are seen as weaknesses, as we’re forced to compete against each other in an ever-more-brutal labour market for personal enrichment, which we’re told is the only sure sign of self-worth.


Tory contender Leadsom was ‘worst minister ever’, say civil servants who worked with her


The same applies to Labour. Some people have said to me, “Wouldn’t it be a wonderful victory for feminism if Angela Eagle takes over?”

No, it wouldn’t. Jeremy Corbyn’s feminism, for its faults, beats Angela Eagle’s every time. As OpenDemocracy noted last week, Eagle has “generally voted for a stricter asylum system”. She supported Blair’s Islamophobic crackdowns on civil liberties. She abstained on workfare and the Welfare Bill, two monumentally anti-feminist pieces of legislation. She backs Trident. She backed the Iraq War, and has consistently opposed any investigation into its circumstances. Taken together, I think it adds up to a pretty piss- poor feminism.

The same applies in America. Quite apart from her treatment of Monica Lewinsky, Hillary Clinton is not my kind of feminist. An unrepentant cheerleader for the war in Iraq, Clinton’s dedication to "shock and awe" has rolled back women’s rights in Iraq by an estimated 70 years. If your answer to every geopolitical problem is “kill everything that moves”, then your election is no great victory for feminism, even if, compared to Donald Trump, you’re the lesser of two evils.

A "feminist revolution" doesn’t start at the top, but at the bottom. Most women in authority are failing our cause. Let me suggest an alternative explanation for what’s going on.

Some people presented Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 as the final, logical victory of the 1960s civil rights movement.

But they’ve been disappointed, since the living standards of black people (black women in particular) have slumped amid austerity and police racism. For many black Americans Obama didn’t end up representing the living tradition of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali or even Martin Luther King. He represented the collapse of that movement, where a different economic and political settlement had driven a wedge between black working and middle classes.

And doesn’t the same apply to our so-called feminist revolution? I say it does. Theresa May and Angela Eagle aren’t the final victory of feminism, but more possibly a final defeat. They represent individual women climbing on the backs of yesterday’s struggles to take seats at the top table, kicking the shit out of women at the other end of society as they do it. May and Leadsom are destroyers of social settlements, the public good and the power of the collective in favour of markets and privatisation. Rather than furthering the feminist cause, these women undermine the very source of our power for changing society for all; our social solidarity and security.

If we really want a feminist revolution then we need to recover the spirit of opposition, collective identity, power and self-sacrifice that’s led us to this point. Given the choice between two generic, identikit political mannequins – one man, one woman – I’d choose the woman. But the real problem for most women isn’t the mannequin’s gender, it’s the generic, identikit nature of politics. And that’s what feminism needs to change.