A minor (and I mean minor) scandal has erupted in the UK this week after a pregnant Member of Parliament (MP) was "forced to stand" during a parliamentary session, after none of her male colleagues stood to offer her their seat.
Jo Swinson (pictured above), Equalities Minister in the current coalition government, was seen on camera standing near the back of the chamber during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session on Wednesday, with all of the nearby seats occupied by male MPs. Westminster observers on Twitter criticised Swinson's colleagues for not offering the 7-months pregnant MP a seat, a sentiment later echoed by Prime Minister David Cameron, whose spokesperson stated that the PM considered it "the right thing to do".
Swinson, for her part, has done her best to defuse to controversy, stating that she was not offended, and indeed was "happier" standing for the 30 minute session. However, the storm rages on - particularly now that the ever-accurate Daily Mail has quoted "a source" (*cough*bullshit*cough*) who indicated that offering a seat to a woman is "quite sexist". That just about tipped this story over the edge from "curious incident" to "bullshit bingo". Now, Twitter is blowing up over these unattributable comments:
Jo Swinson row reminds me of Jimmy Carr joke: "I'd rather see a pregnant woman standing on the bus than a fat girl sitting down crying."— Sarah Knapton (@sarahknapton) October 18, 2013
Gee thanks 'equalities minister' Jo Swinson for making women's lives that bit more difficult. Human devency is not sexism.— Leah Hardy (@LeahFHardy) October 18, 2013
Swinson herself denies the comments directly:
@joswinson So do you or don't you think it's sexist Jo?— David Jack (@DJack_Journo) October 18, 2013
@DJack_Journo I don't. Never have. And my tweet makes that clear.— Jo Swinson (@joswinson) October 18, 2013
But it's already out there - it even has the eye-rollingly-unoriginal nickname #SeatGate - and has culminated in the bull-est of bullshit in the form of this "article" from Telegraph pundit Cristina Odone, entitled "Does Jo Swinson Hate Women?" (Spoiler: she does, according to Odone).
In the article, Odone writes:
Trust a Lib Dem to find sexism in chivalry. It's the kind of petty thinking that betrays a small mind and a limited vision. Like those idiots who find offence in a man opening a door for them, Swinson shows a grotesque misunderstanding of what equality really means.
Wait, so remaining standing when you are happy and comfortable doing so, because you don't want to cause a fuss in the middle of a parliamentary session, is "small minded"?
But wait, there's more!
A pregnant woman should be spared everything from standing on her feet for long to [sic] carrying a heavy load. Anyone who ignores this is guilty not of sexism but of cruelty. The MPs who failed to offer Swinson their seat should be pilloried – but so should she, for accepting their behaviour and thus setting a dangerous precedent. Other women, less healthy, older, or less sturdily built, may suffer the consequences of Swinson's views.
I guess we shouldn't let pregnant women decide whether they'd like to sit or stand, since we know that women aren't capable of making those decisions on their own. Wheelchairs for all the mobile baby factories!
But, because Odone is feeling so generous, if you call within the next 10 minutes, she'll throw in an extra dose of BULLSHIT. Just pay shipping & handling!
I sometimes wonder if Jo Swinson is a self-hating woman. Under her watch, despite a lot of promises, Britain's women are worse off than ever.In fact, those who stay home to look after their children, argue that they've never felt so excluded.
Hmm, I'd say that her reluctance to enforce outdated notions of female helplessness and male chivalry has nothing to do with a majority-Conservative government's inability to close the gender gap, but I'll let you keep going, Cristine:
Her pronouncements, too, have betrayed an anti-woman bias: she infamously told parents not to tell their daughters that they were beautiful. Any child psychologist will tell you that children, especially girls, need praise and approval. But Swinson knows best: let them think their bum looks big in this – get a life girls, and quash your feminine side.
Oof, that's the gender-essentialist daily double there: girls are precious little flowers who need to be constantly told that their looks are the most important thing in determining self-esteem, and anyone who disagrees with that is "anti-woman".
I'll let Odone have the last words on this one, mainly because I have no idea what the fuck the following passage is supposed to mean:
If the MPs in the House, instead of showing Swinson the deference deserving of her pregnant state, had referred to her "nappy brain" she'd fly into a hysterical diatribe about chauvinists and woman-haters. Because THAT would have betrayed that they'd cottoned on to the terrible truth: she is a woman.