For a man to call himself a feminist is “ridiculous”, according to Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Mr Rees-Mogg, who has been tipped as a potential Tory leader, was asked whether he was a feminist during a discussion at the Cheltenham Literary Festival.
He replied that women themselves should decide who could be called a feminist, reported The Telegraph.
He said he supported feminists, but that he was not one himself.
“You’ve asked me to put a label on myself which, if I applied to myself, would make me sound ridiculous”, said Mr Rees-Mogg.
When asked why it would make him sound “ridiculous”, he said “because I’m a man”.
“I think it has particular political connotations. I think men saying they’re feminists is slightly trying to take on something that it’s not for a man to be.”
“I can say I support feminists. But I think for me to say I’m a feminist is claiming for myself that, as Jess Phillips [his fellow panelist] says, is probably for her to decide.”
Mr Rees-Mogg and Labour MP Ms Phillips were discussing friendship across the political divide, after their joint appearance in a Channel 4 programme revealed how well they get on, despite holding very different views.
“I was raised to hate Tories; in our house Tory was a swear word” Ms Phillips previously told The Spectator in 2015.
“But since I got into the Commons I’ve met so many nice ones, who care about their communities, who care about women’s rights. Some of their feminists are very “strident”!”
“Jacob Rees-Mogg, for instance, is great – very funny and kind. The first time he opened a car door for me, I just stood there, shocked. He said: ‘Doesn’t your husband do that?'”
At the Cheltenham Literary Festival event, Mr Rees-Mogg condemned the abuse Ms Phillips has received online. The MP for Birmingham Yardley received 600 rape threats in a single day last year.
“This is something we should take really seriously. The abuse of women online for sharing their views is a disgrace.”
“It is a real disgrace of modern society and will discourage women policians from going into it if they are treated the way Jess is. It is deeply outrageous.”
He said such abuse was the responsibility of internet companies like Facebook and Twitter to eradicate, and that such companies such be subject to the same publishing laws as the UK press.
Ms Phillips’ father, a member of the audience, asked Mr Rees-Mogg whether he believed his Conservative stance would allow him to fit “through the eye of a needle”.
Mr Rees-Mogg asked the crowd to applaud Ms Phillips’ father for raising such a “splendid” daughter.
Mr Rees-Mogg, who is Catholic, said in September that he opposes abortion, even when a pregnancy is the result of rape.
The following week, he said that the rise in food bank use is “rather uplifting” and shows “what a good compassionate country we are”. He attributed the rise to the fact that more people know about them, rather than increasing poverty.
Mr Rees-Mogg is one of the richest MPs in Parliament, where he represents North East Somerset.