I’ve been accused of many things since I ventured on to Twitter. Appearing on shows like Question Time and Have I Got News For You, you learn to expect a certain amount of criticism and name-calling. For a woman in the public eye it goes with the territory.
According to the good folk of Twitter I am, variously, a Tory lickspittle (despite having no party affiliation), a harridan, a snob, snotty, posh, gobby, fat and ugly (of course) and — my own personal favourite — a rape-apologist.
There’s also a fair smattering of B-words and C-words which are all par for the course for women who dare to — gasp, shock, horror — voice their own opinion.
I’ve even been upbraided online by no less than the Guardian’s Zoe Williams, who apparently thinks that me interrupting an anarchist academic when she was talking nonsense on Newsnight was the height of bad manners, yet thought protesters spitting at people walking into the Tory party conference was just fine. Not sure I’ll be signing up to Zoe’s Finishing School For Ladies any time soon.
I must confess I rather enjoy the wittier insults and being utterly bemused by all the rest. But there is one comment that cuts me to the core every time. One insult that makes my blood boil. The moment I see it, I can feel my entire body instantly tense. They are just three simple words but they appear so regularly on my timeline that they have taken on a power that goes far beyond the echo of their seven short syllables. Those three words?
‘Katie Hopkins wannabe.’
This is now the stock online insult to any woman who gives an opinion that isn’t pre-approved by the sisterhood. And in three short words it says that my sole intention is not to educate or opine, but simply to grab some desperately needed attention.
As a political journalist, columnist and radio presenter of more years’ experience than I care to admit, I have written and spoken about many different topics, each researched and thought about before coming to an opinion, whether it be on rape law, the Syrian refugee crisis or tax credits, to take just a few examples from recent months.
Yet if I write a perfectly well reasoned, detailed, fact-rich article or argue for or against a particular policy or idea on TV or radio, I know I will be automatically branded a Katie Hopkins wannabe if my opinion fails to conform to the particular tastes of the liberal-left Guardianistas. Here is just a small taste of those tweets:
‘Move over Katie Hopkins’ @cosmic-landmine
‘Is that Katie Hopkins in a Julia Hartley-Brewer disguise?’ @pault14761
‘Blimey, Julia Hartley-Brewer sounds more like Katie Hopkins every day…’@PhilTonks2
Some tweets are, I admit, quite funny: ‘Julia Hartley-Brewer is the result of someone buying a Build-Your-Own Katie Hopkins and struggling to understand the manual’@mrdavidwhitley
‘I never knew Katie Hopkins had a -sister’ @HelloKitty71
‘If Julia Hartley-Brewer ever met Katie Hopkins time itself would be torn asunder’ @VonPip
The comparison has even been made by the very lady herself, who recently tweeted: ‘Jules has always been a secret Hopkins dressed in posh clothes.’
It isn’t the comparison with the woman herself that bothers me (I once spent a very enjoyable evening with Ms Hopkins and find her rather amusing). It’s not even that it is fairly insulting to blithely compare a political journalist with a serial reality TV show contestant and celebrity for no reason other than the fact that we are both women.
No, what really irritates me is that the ‘Katie Hopkins wannabe’ tag is code for something far more sinister: that there are only two viewpoints a woman can have. You’re either nice or you’re nasty and that’s it.
You either play the Guardian-style feminist/victim role, bleating on about the poor and downtrodden at every opportunity as each bandwagon of misery rolls past, regardless of any facts to the contrary. Or you must be trying to emulate a loud, obnoxious female celebrity who insults people for a living.
God forbid there might be women who voice an opinion because that is what they actually think. Or is that just too far-fetched an idea for the tweeters to contemplate?
Never mind, though, I suppose things could be worse: people could start tweeting that Katie Hopkins is a Julia Hartley-Brewer wannabe.