Gender Politics: Meanwhile, Over in England (part 2 of 2)

Did you notice a few weeks ago that when two women, Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May, were announced as the finalists to become the leaders of England’s Conservative Party and therefore the successor to resigning Prime Minister David Cameron, Leadsom said she was the better choice for the job because…

She’s a mother.

She said that. Yes she did.

Specifically, she said that being a mother “means you have a very real stake in the future of our country.”

Leadsom immediately denied saying it but then twisted herself in knots by explaining that it was “truly appalling and the exact opposite of what I said. I am disgusted.”

Okay, let’s play along with Leadsom for a moment: it was the opposite of what she said? Does that mean she said that being a mother made her a less-qualified candidate?

Surely that’s not what she means.

The reporter stuck by her story and even released a recording of the relevant part of the interview. In it, Leadsom said:

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

So when Leadsom said “It’s the exact opposite of what I said,” she may have meant “It’s the exact opposite of what I meant” but it was exactly what she said.

So where does that leave us?

There are still people who think women who hold public office are shortchanging their families.

And there are still people who think women of a certain age don’t think clearly and aren’t fit to make decisions at certain times of the month.

And there are still people who think that women have neither the temperament nor the good judgment to be heads of state.

And now, when it seems that we’re finally starting to leave such nonsense behind, a female candidate, of all people, has introduced another stupid and irrelevant reason for people to declare some women less suited for public office.

Leadsom should be ashamed of herself – and apparently she is: the response to her comment was overwhelmingly negative and she withdrew from the race.

It probably won’t be much of a loss for the people of Great Britain, who deserve better.

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