If there is a politician currently active in the UK that I would least expect to associate with communism, it would be Theresa May. Yet, during her disastrous speech at the Conservative Party Conference, May made a startling wardrobe choice when she wore a bracelet adorned with images of famed Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.
For those of you who aren’t aware of who Frida Kahlo is — outside her ‘pop-culture’ image — she was a disabled, bisexual, WOC, artist and a member of the Mexican Communist Party. She was buried under a communist flag when she died and it has even been suggested she had an affair with Trotsky himself. Her work was often heavily influenced by her politics and activism, exploring her experiences and the roles of gender, race, and social class in Mexican society.
Basically, she stood for the opposite of everything that Theresa May and her party believe in.
It is utterly bizarre that May wore this just days after Chancellor Phillip Hammond criticised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s policies by calling them ‘Marxist’, and is completely at odds with the legacy May and her party have created in Britain. Not only does it not chime with May’s stringent defence of ‘free-market capitalism’ but it is almost offensive to see Frida Kahlo, who since her death became a feminist icon thanks to many admiring her subversion of the gender roles at the time, such as dressing in men’s clothes or exploring the female body through her art, mark the wrist of someone whose policies and party have never been kind to women.
Whilst conservatives like to point out that they’re the only party in the UK that have given us a female prime minister — first Thatcher and now May — that does not mean that they are in any way feminist. It takes more than posing in a shirt to help women, and the truth is many of the Tory Party’s policies harm them. Women bear a disproportional amount of the burden of the Conservatives’ austerity measures — a staggering 86% — and have been subjected to cruel policies such as the ‘Rape Clause’ that have been heavily criticized by a variety of different groups.
Ultimately, May is not a feminist or communist icon, and she should not be wearing the image of one during a speech where she set out a vision that Kahlo surely would not have agreed with. Whilst Frida Kahlo’s image has often been commodified in recent years, used to sell cute bags or socks to people superficially invested in her art or causes, that doesn’t mean we can let people use her image uncritically. People may argue that May was simply showing appreciation for Kahlo’s art, but her art cannot be separated from her politics, and therefore May should never have worn that bracelet.