Err, no, this isn’t sexism

Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat MP who is seven months pregnant, arrived late to Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday and was left standing by the main door.

Westminster commentators suggested it was “quite remarkable” that no MPs had offered her their seat and that it showed a “shocking lack of manners and decency”.

However a source close to Miss Swinson, 33, said that the suggestion that she was unable to “fend for herself” was “quite sexist”.

Of course you can fend for yourself. But it’s rather a mark of a civilised society that those with greater physical strength or endurance make way for those with less. As in offering up seats to the heavily pregnant, carrying buggies and prams up and down steps, suitcases for those staggering under the weight and all the rest.

Sod all to do with male or female and certainly not sexism. I’d have expected Dianne Abbott to have offered her seat just as much as I would Fatty Soames. Actually, in the real world, rather more as I’m sure she has better manners.

24 thoughts on “Err, no, this isn’t sexism”

  1. Dianne Abbott wouldn’t be able to offer her seat as its the wrong side of the house.

    Tim adds: Fair point. But I hope you get what I mean anyway…..

  2. I always stand for women, just the way I was dragged up. If I’d have been sitting next to Swinson, I would have *had* to stand up. Weird, really.

  3. @ Interested

    I used to, now I’m not so sure. Pace Jimmy Carr; I’d rather see a pregnant woman stand than a fat girl cry.

  4. @Sam I might be in a minority of one, but I’ve actually never had any hostility over this from any woman.

    When I used to offer, the odd one would say no (with a smile) but then I’d sit there feeling bad. So now I just stand anyway.

    It’s not just women – old blokes, disablies, etc

    Ain’t I a proper gent!

  5. So having ridiculed the quintessential British gentleman out of existence, we are now surprised to find an ill-mannered oaf in his place.

    Didn’t think that one through, did we?

  6. How do coalition MPs sit? Could any coalition member (non-front bench) have given up his seat for her, or only a LibDem?

  7. @Tim

    ‘So having ridiculed the quintessential British gentleman out of existence, we are now surprised to find an ill-mannered oaf in his place.’

    I know what you mean, Tim, but I find a lot of this exaggerated, and media village bullshit.

    Who has ridiculed the QBG? A few bints in Guardian columns/students unions/BBC programmes.

    But no-one round my way, that’s for sure. Probably a bit more the closer you get to the metropolis.

    A lot of these people are really just striking a pose – increasingly (online) as link bait.

  8. @ Tim, Interested

    best bit of advice I was given on this topic, way back when

    always hold doors open for women. Nearly all of them appreciate it, and the ones that don’t aren’t worth bothering with. Besides, it means you get to check out their arse as they go through.

  9. I have always thought it bad planning that there are not enough seats in the House of Commons: that is for every MP to sit down at the same time.

    Something about whelk stalls springs to mind.

    Best regards

  10. Agree that it’s not sexist; if I see a heavily pregnant woman on the Tube I wouldn’t dream of sitting down while she stood. However, lots of people take the view that if she wanted to sit she would ask and I have sympathy with that view (prevents the awkward situation of offering your seat to someone fat or prematurely aging).

  11. Who has ridiculed the QBG? A few bints in Guardian columns/students unions/BBC programmes.

    PG Wodehouse, possibly the finest wordsmith in the history of the English language, was denied a knighthood partly for this reason. As the British Ambassador to the US wrote in objection to the award:

    “The award of this high honour to him now would revive the controversy of his wartime behaviour and would also give currency to a Bertie Wooster image of the British character which we are doing our best to eradicate.”

  12. As you say, there were other reasons why PGW didn’t get a gong.

    But I’m not talking about people like him denied symbolic honours by people like them; I’m talking about the vast mass of us.

    My point is, if you ignore these censorious fuckers, they can purse their lips and cluck, but what can they actually do? No amount of ridicule will stop me from offering my seat to a bird or an old bloke.

  13. I wouldn’t have thought that QBG would be found in the house of commons in the 1st place.

    Quite the contrary really.

    And by the way, manners are not just limited to the QBG!

  14. Tim N: I don’t think that’s the strongest line of evidence you could adduce. Bertie Wooster wasn’t a quintessentially British gentleman so much as an upper-middle to upper-class comic twit: stealing policemen’s helmets and silver cow creamers is unlikely to cement a reputation for quintessentially British gentlemanliness. He was chivalrous at points, this is true; but this I suggest was not the aspect of Woosterism which the ambassador was denigrating.

  15. it’s the fucking ungraciousness that I detest. The viewpoint that people are only doing it out of some old-fashioned sexism rather than out of genuine human sympathy.

    I’ve stood up on buses for pregnant women, and in every case, I’ve been thanked. In a couple of cases, there was clearly relief at being offered a seat. I’ve helped mothers get pushchairs on and never once been told to sod off because they could manage.

    Always worth remembering that Good Housekeeping sells 400,000 copies each month, and Spare Rib no longer exists.

  16. @The Stigler

    ‘Always worth remembering that Good Housekeeping sells 400,000 copies each month, and Spare Rib no longer exists.’

    That is a very good point. These wankers are in the minority. Yet, for some reason, Shami Chakrabarti appears on Question Time every fourth week, and my mum never does.

  17. Interested,

    The beeb has a certain political mindset that is based on normal values being urban and “liberal”.

    That’s why Bonnie Greer gets invited onto a lot more programmes than women who write romances about women in the cotswolds, despite the fact that almost no-one has ever willingly paid their own money for anything Bonnie Greer has done.

  18. So Much For Subtlety

    I think that people, not just men, ought to offer seats to the pregnant, the aged, the infirm and so on.

    But this story is not so clear. She was hovering by the main door. I would expect that most people’s attention was on the business of the day. When I am working I am quite capable of ignoring anything else going on in the room. Sometimes if I am really working, I am capable of not hearing the fire alarm. It is not as if she was in front of everyone’s face at the time. Who looks to the exit to see if there is a pregnant woman jiggling from foot to foot?

    Also she is a Lib-Dem. Any offer of a seat might be followed by an accusation of sexism. I am not sure how that would go down with the voters, but I doubt that anyone wants the grief. Look at Plebgate. Ignoring her may be the safe thing to do.

    But there is a little bit of schadenfreud here. This is the world feminists wanted. Still, I feel mildly ashamed I feel it.

  19. So Much For Subtlety

    Interested – “Who has ridiculed the QBG? A few bints in Guardian columns/students unions/BBC programmes.”

    I once had a minor involvement with a university which openly told male students not to open doors for female students – and disciplined any male student who did so on complaint of any female. Even if she just watched.

    You go to any university and they will have a code of conduct. Which will be a lot more sensible these days than it was in the past. But it will have a section on what in America is now called a microaggression.

    Interested – “My point is, if you ignore these censorious fuckers, they can purse their lips and cluck, but what can they actually do?”

    Get you fired? The Americans are dumber than us about these things. But google Adria Richards – who got a man fired for something she merely overheard. Or Rebecca Watson who cried rape when someone asked her out for a coffee.

    In the civil service or many British universities they can have you sent off for re-education for less.

    If you want to chart the terminal decline of the Jesuits, I would recommend this:

    http://www.fordham.edu/academics/office_of_research/research_centers__in/center_for_teaching_/the_art_of_teaching/microaggressions_89343.asp

    Which of course raises the issue – drawing attention to the fact that someone in pregnant and may need a seat is in itself a form of microaggression. So naturally I would guess the PC thing to do is wait for someone to ask – never make an assumption!

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