A tech entrepreneur appointed as one of the government's new equality commissioners is facing scrutiny over past comments in which she appeared to blame the #MeToo movement and modern feminism for hurting women's self-confidence and seeing men's reputations "ruined overnight".
Last week, Jessica Butcher, the co-founder of micro-video platform Tick.Done., was one of four people to be appointed as an equality commissioner with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Announcing the appointments last Wednesday, Liz Truss, the minister for women and equalities, said the new roles represented a "positive step forward for equality in this country".
The four new appointees, she said, would be tasked with helping the EHRC "carry out its important work of upholding and advancing equality and human rights at this vital time for the United Kingdom". © Provided by Indy 100Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and Minister for Women and Equalities, speaks during the first day of Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central on September 29, 2019 in Manchester, England.Getty
Some questions have been raised around Butcher's appointment, however, after reporting from The Guardian shed fresh light on video of a TEDx talk she delivered in 2018 on whether modern feminism was "starting to undermine itself".
In the TEDx talk, Butcher suggested that the #MeToo movement and modern feminism were reinforcing "a narrative of disadvantage" that was unhelpful to women in the fight for equality.
Reflecting on her own success, the tech entrepreneur said that while she was a minority in her field, she did not "believe that this has been a disadvantage". Rather, she said it was "only the most incredible opportunity".
"I describe myself as an 'entrepreneur', not a 'female entrepreneur', because I subscribe to a brand of feminism that told me I could be and do anything the boys could," she said. "And in fact, I've come to resent the move towards positive discrimination that might imply that any of my achievements are due to anything other than merit."
The tech entrepreneur then described how much of her success, "to a large extent" has "been down to the love and support and belief of the men in my life".
Butcher then goes on in the video to question why self-confidence is so low in women compared with men and whether modern feminism might be "further undermining" it.
Putting much of the gender pay gap between men and women down to women simply choosing to work part-time or work in lower-paying jobs, Butcher claimed that "the pay gap is negligible".
"Two years ago, I made the decision to step back from the front seat of my business to spend more time with my three children and it's a decision I will never regret," she said.
"Of course, women like me are partly responsible for the gender pay gap and many of us may never go knocking on that glass ceiling because it's simply not a lifestyle that we desire," she said.
Later on in the TEDx talk, Butcher goes on to assert that 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. It seems that we're weak and defenseless, like children," she said.
That messaging, she suggested, reinforced by the #MeToo movement, was damaging to women's self-confidence.
Women, however, were not the only ones suffering due to the #MeToo movement and modern feminism, she said, however.
"Men have had their careers and reputations ruined overnight by MeToo," she said later on in her speech. "Some possibly justly, but without any due process," she added. © Provided by The IndependentVictims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse and their supporters protest during a #MeToo march in Hollywood, California on November 12, 2017. One of the government's newly appointed equality commissioners is facing scrutiny over past comments deriding the #MeToo movement.AFP via Getty Images
It is unclear whether Butcher's views expressed in 2018 remain the same. The Independent has contacted her for comment for this article.
In a statement shared with The Independent, a spokesperson from the government's Equality Hub did not address the video directly, but simply expressed confidence in all equality commissioner appointees' capabilities to fulfill their new roles.
"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," the spokesperson said.
"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," they said.