So, here’s the news: woman gets pregnant. Woman is MP. Media reports on it. People comment on it.
Whilst I heartfeltly congratulate Siobhan Baillie and her husband on their impending new family addition, it isn’t – and indeed shouldn’t – be news. And here’s why.
What if our Stroud MP were a man and his wife was pregnant? Would there be a headline saying Stroud MP announces pregnancy to parliament? Would, indeed, that male MP even announce such pregnancy? You can bet your bottom dollar the answer would be a resolute no.
And that’s the nub of it really, that difference. A man doesn’t announce a pregnancy because, why should he? Right? I mean, he’s not carrying the baby, so his actual physical being is not affected by it, nor does he have to anticipate any time off for sickness etc, even though he may be required to attend pregnancy-related appointments with his partner. We just assume as a society that he’s a man, a man in the public eye at that, and so we don’t need to know about whether he is expecting children or not.
But make that MP a woman, and the whole stage changes. Everything about her will be scrutinised, by the media, by the public. And why? Quite simply, because she is a woman.
We live in a patriarchal society. One that links the condition of a woman, pregnant or not, intrinsically to who she is. A man is not subject to such close observation. We are told that we live in a modern age, one where things have changed, developed, improved. But have they? I mean, really, when you unpeel the surface of society, where is the change? Women in all walks of life are still held to different standards, different expectations – different media headlines. Yet, behind the headlines can often lurk an issue unspoken. And this one is that, if our Stroud MP were a man, the story of an expected pregnancy would not be a story at all.
Instead, MP Siobhan Baillie had to stand up in parliament to announce her pregnancy, and that’s brave. Not just because of the inevitable, potentially unkind, comments, but also because, only a couple of months beforehand, MP Stella Creasy was berated by that very same parliament for bringing her baby son into the chamber with her. She was slated. Not only by the press but astonishingly by fellow (mainly male) MPs, as well as the public.
Siobhan Baillie has chosen to link her pregnancy to highlight the lack of midwives, and I commend that choice. It’s just a shame that a male MP who has a new addition to the family on the way would not take the same course of action. Indeed, he’d take no action at all, he wouldn’t need to. Because no one would know about the addition. Or even have an opinion on it. And that’s the real headline.
As an author, Nikki’s written the best-selling Subject 375, The Killing Files, and The Girl Who Ran published by Harper Collins in the UK and translated into more than 15 languages worldwide.