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Saturday, 9 July 2016

Why are we still judging women on whether they are mothers or not?

This is the headline article in the Times today.  In the piece, Ms Leadsom (one of the two candidates to be the next leader of the Tory party and ultimately, the next Prime Minister) says that she thinks her rival Theresa May must be really sad not to have children.  She goes on to say that Theresa May 'possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people. But I have children who will be directly part of what happens next.'

It's very dispiriting that with all the progress made for women in our society that personal lives and personal decision of women are still used against them in work and in personal life.  It's an issue that is never relevant for discussions of the suitability of male politicians - and it would be laughable if this statement had been made by a male politician.

Women are often judged and regulated by their personal choices in a whole host of areas.  For example in terms of personal appearance do they wear too much makeup? Or not enough makeup?   Judging women is a past-time of the tabloid press and popular magazines - commenting upon women celebrities bodies and life styles with vindictive glee.

Women who are mothers and enter political life often find their commitment to motherhood challenged or questioned.  And if they don't have children, then as has happened just now, their suitability to lead is also questioned!  The implication is that a woman who doesn't have children is slightly suspect - they are not as rounded or able to connect with the public as those with children in public life.    Another implication is that women who don't have children are in some way selfish

Last year, I took part in several radio debates when the Pope made comments saying that people who did not have children were selfish. (see Are people who don't have children selfish? ) My position  is that there are many, many ways for women and men who are not parents to be connected and to have a stake in the communities they live in.  Often people without children have more time to dedicate to volunteering in their communities, they may be also looking after elderly relatives, they may be spending time connecting and sustaining community groups and organisations or they may simply be doing what they love to do in work and in leisure time.
What I think needs to be pointed out time and time again that this debate is another way in which women and women's choices are regulated - in particular the choices we make in our personal lives are used to restrict and regulate us in the workplace.  Sadly, this is something that women can do to other women - when we've challenged our our internalised sexism, we might find a way out of this trap.

1 comment:

Lynn Serafinn said...

Especially bizarre within the context of the stereotypical 'beach body' advert directly above the headline. Kind of a Stepford Wives type of non-woman...a mythical fantasy that is at least 40 years out of date.