Applying the sex test

What is sexism? And how can it be recognised?

 

Yesterday, Andrea Leadsom MP, one of two candidates to be the next British Prime Minister and darling of the right, lobbed a salvo in the race to be the next leader by giving an interview to the paper of record, The Times, which, proves beyond reasonable doubt that women can be sexist to other women. Don’t believe me? Then read on.

To take the transcript from the interview with Mrs Leadsom:

“I am sure Theresa [May, the other Tory leadership candidate] will be really sad she doesn’t have children so I don’t want this to be ‘Andrea has children, Thersea hasn’t’ because I think that would be really horrible but genuinely I feel that being a mum means that you have a real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.”

In order to discover whether it is sexist, firstly it is worth trying the quote if she says it about any other female leader without children:

“I am sure Queen Elizabeth I will be really sad she doesn’t have children so I don’t want this to be ‘Andrea has children, Elizabeth hasn’t’ because I think that would be really horrible but genuinely I feel that being a mum means that you have a real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.”

Not great when it is clear what she says is complete balls. Now lets try it with Andrea and a male Tory, and a recent leadership candidate who also has no kids:

“I am sure Michael [Gove, another Tory leadership candidate] will be really sad he doesn’t have children so I don’t want this to be ‘Andrea has children, Michael hasn’t’ because I think that would be really horrible but genuinely I feel that being a parent means that you have a real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. He possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.”

Yup, looking pretty sexist and patronising now and something that would never be said by a woman to a man. What about if she says it in respect of an openly female gay MP?

“I am sure Justine [Greening, Secretary of State for International Development] will be really sad she doesn’t have children so I don’t want this to be ‘Andrea has children, Justine hasn’t’ because I think that would be really horrible but genuinely I feel that being a mum means that you have a real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.”

Yuck, squirming yet? Two last tries, what about if a male Tory leadership candidate said it of Theresa May? Let’s say this came from Tory almost leadership candidate and father of five, Boris Johnson:

“I am sure Theresa [May, the other Tory leadership candidate] will be really sad she doesn’t have children so I don’t want this to be ‘Boris has children, Thersea hasn’t’ because I think that would be really horrible but genuinely I feel that being a mum means that you have a real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.”

People would be up in arms that a man could be such a patronising shit. And quite rightly too. But to really tick the boxes, let’s just say instead of Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom on the final ticket, it was father of five, Boris Johnson versus father of none, Michael Gove in the race to be the next Tory leader and British Prime Minister:

“I am sure Michael will be really sad she doesn’t have children so I don’t want this to be ‘Boris has children, Michael hasn’t’ because I think that would be really horrible but genuinely I feel that being a dad means that you have a real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. He possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people, but I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next.”

Yeah – exactly – it simply wouldn’t happen. By throwing these examples in of how it would feel and sound if it the same comment came from different people enables us all to see what a really disgraceful quote it really was – and what a backward little minded individual it came from. It was bad enough for her to say it, yet it should be seen as even worse than it is. It belittles women in positions of power and ostracises many of us who chose not to breed. And when so many current party leaders across the UK are women and have never used childbirth as an argument for anything, you can genuinely recognise just how bloody awful this comment was from someone vying to be the next and unelected Prime Minister.

If it was deliberate as a comment it was nasty and sexist. If it was accidental it was naive and shows she has an underlying misunderstanding of what place women should hold today in society. Either way, if elected, she will be no Prime Minister in my name.

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