In which I feel ever so slightly sorry for Louise Mensch

“Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much” -Oscar Wilde

Last week, I was entertaining the chilling possibility of Louise Mensch one day becoming Prime Minister. Today, in a surprising twist, Mensch announced she would be resigning as an MP.

For a fleeting second, it felt like today might be the Best Day Ever, starting with a robot comfortably landing on Mars and immediately sending back a grainy photo of its wheels on alien soil, and then the resignation of arguably one of the worst people in politics. But my hand stayed on the metaphorical cork of my metaphorical champagne bottle when I saw her reason why.

To spend more time with her family.

Now, admittedly, this is a highly flexible excuse for quitting and can mean anything from “I want to spend more time with my family” to “I just accidentally  destroyed the economy through my sheer incompetence and I’m jumping before I’m pushed” to “I shagged a goat and I want to spare my party the embarrassment”. However, given Mensch’s background, it seems likely that her reasons for resignation lean closer towards the actual wanting to spend time with family end of the spectrum.

And I feel kind of sorry for her over this: her husband lives and works in New York, and she and her three children frequently hop across the pond to be together, until now juggling this with her work as a politician. And of course, living under patriarchy, it was Mensch who had to quit her job to make the move.

Tory feminism has failed Louise Mensch. Even with all of her privileges, she couldn’t have it all.

On Twitter, I asked why Mensch’s husband couldn’t have been the one to quit his job and move to the UK to support his family. While a lot of people agreed with this sentiment, there were two reasons given (mostly by men) that this set-up would make no sense whatsoever.

First was the notion that Mensch’s husband’s job earned more money. Perhaps so, but in the grand scheme of things, the potential career progression for an MP is somewhat better: running a country is arguably better than booking hotel rooms for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Even being an MP has a higher degree of social capital than making sure Metallica get on their plane at the right time. For those who believe in representative democracy–and I’m assuming Mensch did–her job was better and more important than her husband’s.

Second is the idea that the kids weren’t his. This is such a grimly archaic view of families that it doesn’t really require much comment, save to say that if this factored into the decision at all, Louise Mensch would do better to get a divorce.

It was patriarchy that killed Louise Mensch’s career in politics, and for that reason I can’t feel as happy as if she’d resigned for other reasons, such as being a chronic liability due to monumental hubristic failure, or as a post-revolutionary head-on-a-spike. Somehow I doubt she’ll see it that way: the lens of Tory feminism refracts these decisions into nothing more than personal choice.


9 responses to “In which I feel ever so slightly sorry for Louise Mensch

  • actuarialchris

    There is another explanation, by saying she wishes to spend more time with her family she could simply mean more time with her children. While MP’s do get a decent work-life balance sometimes, she has the money and the option of not working and there-by spending more time just looking after her kids, an option which to many could be appealing?

    • stavvers

      Maybe so, but they’re still getting uprooted to New York, when buggy Mensch could easily move over!

      Plus, that would still show patriarchal bias in how her job was set up…

      • actuarialchris

        True, although if it is the case that she wants to spend time with the kids, presumably one of them would need to keep their jobs and if she’s giving up hers it makes sense he keeps his.

  • Korhomme (@Korhomme)

    Any relationship will wither when people are separated by continents; a relationship is togetherness, not separation. For Louise, it’s a choice between it and career; who can blame her, criticise her?

    Am I the only one to be saddened that the “most shaggable MP” won’t be here? (Am I allowed to say that?)

  • Jake

    “being an MP has a higher degree of social capital”
    You can’t raise kids on social capital alone. They will, in all probability, go to better schools and colleges the way things turned out.

  • jemima101

    To be honest, after the menschion fiasco, I think its far more likely that she is giving up her job because she simply isn’t suited to it. Rather than blaming patriarchy re her marriage blame the selection system that put someone into place purely because she ticked the right boxes.

  • shonkystagbeetle

    I agree with Jemima101 – Mensch is a celebrity novelist who decided that being an MP required too much commitment. She’ll reinvent herself as a chatshow host in the US or some such. We haven’t heard the last of her unfortunately.

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