I’m gonna sum up this post with a little pop quiz before delving into the nitty gritty.
Are you a woman? Do/did you want kids? = JUDGEMENT REGARDLESS OF ANSWER.
Are you a man? Do/did you want kids? = JUDGEMENT? Not so much.
I just watched a segment on daytime TV behemoth This Morning, about the pressures of being a childless woman which stemmed from Nicola Sturgeon announcing that she’s suffered a miscarriage in 2011. Does Nicola Sturgeon suffering a miscarriage have an effect on your perception of her as a human? Does it have an effect on your opinion of her ability to do her job?
Sadly I think the answer for most is yes and yes. “Yes I feel like we see a more relatable side to her now we know she WANTED to have kids but has not been able to.” This is because it’s seen in our society as a natural, instinctive response to being a woman...the desire to have kids. Women who don’t want to are often castigated as cold-hearted career women. SELFISH even in wanting to have a career over producing sproglettes.
And perhaps something like: “Yes I feel like, because she has experienced the pain of miscarriage, therefore she will have a broader perspective from which to lead from.”
This makes me very uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.
So in this situation, if you’ve read my stuff before you’ll know that when it comes to gender issues I like to apply the “what’s the result if we swapped the woman for a man in the same situation?” This is my default for sniffing out patriarchal bullshit. Would your opinion of say, *Sadiq Khan be affected if you knew whether or not he wanted kids? Or that lunatic opinion-divider Boris Johnson? Or even all-round good egg Justin Trudeau? I think perhaps if they DID want kids that would have a positive effect on your opinion, sure. Probably not as much as if they were women though. But if they didn’t… I don’t think it would make much difference at all to public opinion. Because society doesn’t have some ludicrous outlook that men who want to pursue their careers single-mindedly are selfish. I don’t think it would even be a discussion.
*for the record, they all have kids. This is purely hypothetical!
I want to know, for the love of god, why in 2016 we are discussing a woman in power’s decision to have kids?! It is wholeheartedly IRRELEVANT. It actually DOESN’T have anything to do with her ability to do her job. Any job. Even being a nanny, teacher, mid-wife. She does not NEED to state her reasons for remaining kid free. EVER. Whether she can’t or whether she doesn’t want to. Irrelevant. None of our business. Please let’s stop making it a thing. Let’s stop being shocked, or intrigued, or any level of anything other than being blindly accepting when you discover a woman is kid free.
I’m going to let a little controversial opinion here slip. I once read an article (which try as I might, I just can’t find to link to) which was a series of mini interviews with women who hold really important, interesting, diverse, fulfilling roles in society. It was like a top ten thing. All of them were asked about their greatest achievements. To my utter shock, nine out of ten of them said their children. I have to say I was horrified! Now before you think I am a total heartless kid-hating lunatic…. I was horrified because I know, KNOW that a man would never ever have said his kids. When the article was supposed to be focusing on their career success...I just felt like their PERSONAL achievement of bringing kids into the world wasn’t relevant to the article.
Please don’t misunderstand me. My kids are my absolute number one. They are the most important thing to me in the world. Of course they are. And of course they are for these women too. I completely understand that. But I don’t believe they should be labelled as a number one achievement when some of these women had done amazing things in their lives. Their child rearing abilities has no bearing on what they have given to society through their work. With the exception of them rearing a serial killer, obvs…
The point is, as a society I think we should steer away from mixing ability/desire to have kids and career ability. They do not co-exist. Whilst we are playing the childless off against the child-laden then we are never going to achieve a level playing field. Just stop. Nobody needs to know if you have kids and nobody needs to know if you want them.