Giving up your seat for Jo Swinson, or any other pregnant woman, is not sexist

Can we talk about what really matters to women please?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The world and its wife is weighing in on whether it’s sexist to give up your seat for a pregnant woman and I want to scream at everyone to shut up.

Answering the question is easy: No. It is not sexist to give up your seat for a pregnant woman.

It’s not even ‘bad manners.’ Calling it that is a gross over-complication of all seating circumstances.

The seat-related rule is this: You give up your seat if someone is less able than you to stand. That’s called being a good human.

And while observing this very British debate on the intricacies of sexism and seatiquette, if you will, has bemused me, I’m rather sad that it has galvanised such debate. There are far greater causes for our feminist sisters and brothers

This semi-ludicrous affair, to which I am now contributing, began after seven-month pregnant Equalities minister Jo Swinson was left standing at PMQs, much to the shock and disgust of a number of Twitter commenters.

Quite why anyone was surprised MPs were behaving thoughtlessly was remarkable in itself (fnar fnar) but one of the equality minister’s aides decided to court that most capricious of climes, the Twitter storm, by commenting: "The suggestion somehow that people should be outraged on her behalf is ridiculous. The idea that just because she is seven months pregnant she has lost all ability to stand on her two feet or fend for herself is quite sexist."

Despite Swinson later confirming she did not think to not be offered a seat was sexist and that she was happier standing, BBC Radio 4 reignited the debate on the Today programme, as well as a poll in the Guardian and (of course) a front page splash by the Daily Mail.

But as author Kathy Lette rightly pointed out, women don’t want seats on the bus, we want seats on the board (personally I want both but that’s because I think I can “have it all” no doubt).

Yes, if we’re going to talk sexism, lets talk this. Women only make up 19 per cent of FTSE 100 directors, despite a report showing that more female bosses mean more profits. 

And let’s talk the gender pay gap. Despite it being 40 years since legislation to say men and women should be paid equally, men are paid (on average) 25 per cent more than women. Broken down, the pay gap is 19 per cent full-time workers but 34 per cent for part-time workers.

Additionally the latest study shows that at manager level and above, earnings are rising faster than women's for the first time in five years. Men are also more likely than women to get a bonus and when they do, they get 50 per cent more.

Oh great. I get to slave my arse off till my ovaries are withered to the size of raisins and don’t even get paid the same as my willy-waving seed-sowing sixty-year-old boss.

So yes, that, Swinson and co, is sexist.