To think that pregnancy is an equalities issue?

(55 Posts)
Bathtimesoaker Thu 17-Oct-13 16:30:09

I've just seen the story about Jo Swinson MP, who is currently 7 month pregnant and an Equalities Minister. She didn't have a seat at today's PMQ's and had to stand to watch the proceedings. Apparantly an aide has said that 'the idea 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 feeet or fend for herself is quite sexist'.

I feel like we are going back in time, to a place where we have to ask for our rights instead of automatically having them. Maybe IAMBU but a Minister for Women and Equalities shouldn't allow people close to her to say comments like the above. It's not sexist to take a seat when pregnant.

KatAndKit Thu 17-Oct-13 16:33:14

Although her two feet still work it is common courtesy to offer your seat to someone less able to stand. Nothing to do with sexism, just thoughtfulness. In the same way, a 7 month pregnant woman ought to give up her seat if a man with a broken leg shows up.

FortyDoorsToNowhere Thu 17-Oct-13 16:33:22

I think it's rather rude not to offer a pregnant women a seat.

I don't think it about equalities, but about respect.

hermioneweasley Thu 17-Oct-13 16:34:49

Equality is not about everyone being the same. As a 7 month pregnant woman she is less able to stand and therefore someone more able to stand should have offered their seat.

SaucyJack Thu 17-Oct-13 16:34:57

TBF I bet she would've attracted at least as much criticism from the "pregnancy is not an illness" brigade if she had asked for a seat.

Can't bloody win either way.

YouTheCat Thu 17-Oct-13 16:35:36

I would never assume an automatic seat because of pregnancy, although I probably have better manners than most cabinet ministers and would have offered anyway. If she needed one she could have asked for one. If she was then refused one, then that would be a bit crap tbh.

TEErickOrTEEreat Thu 17-Oct-13 16:36:47

Exactly SaucyJack. She had no way to win this and I would be very very surprised if she didn't approve that comment or if that comment doesn't line up with her policies and ideals.

nosleeptillbedtime Thu 17-Oct-13 16:37:16

That aide was a tosser. I was exhausted for chunks of my pregnancy and would have much appreciated a seat.

Bathtimesoaker Thu 17-Oct-13 16:50:14

I really do think this is an Equalities issue. In a heterosexual relationship women are the only people biologically capable of having children. It's not like we can delegate that job to our dp's we'd see change a lot sooner if that was the case

The fact is, you are carrying another person, it does make you tired, it does make you less able to stand for a long time and it can affect your balance. Pregnancy and Maternity is a protected characteristic and for the Equalities Minister to allow such a statement seems to be almost an admission that she doesn't think pregnant or nursing mothers should get equal treatment.

Tanith Thu 17-Oct-13 16:57:32

The equality should not be in making a pregnant woman stand; it's in expecting both men and women to offer her a seat.

FortyDoorsToNowhere Thu 17-Oct-13 17:02:03

However aides to Miss Swinson claimed the idea that she was not capable of standing was 'sexist'.

I think it's one of the question that is personal to how the women feels.

TEErickOrTEEreat Thu 17-Oct-13 17:30:30

Equal treatment is not preferential treatment.

What you're talking about the latter. She's pregnant, so she should get a seat.

What if there was only one seat and it was either her or a man with a cane. Who gets it?

mrsjay Thu 17-Oct-13 17:34:10

It is good manners to offer who is carrying another human being in them which might be a bit heavy a seat it isn't sexist or un equal it is basic manners, however if the woman didnt want the seat then that is fine it is a shame people are accused of being sexist if they are just being polite and concerned about somebody, OH i would give the man with a stick a seat before a pregnant woman

eurochick Thu 17-Oct-13 17:39:03

If a man was carrying a child in his arms it would be courteous to offer him a seat. The aide sounds like a twat.

mrsjay Thu 17-Oct-13 17:40:13

some folk get all caught up on the sexist thing that they dont see beyond it iyswim

Coupon Thu 17-Oct-13 17:41:12

There are all kinds of reasons a pregnant women may be needing a seat. She might have backache, dizziness, swollen ankles, sciatica, high blood pressure, nausea or gestational diabetes. And she'll be carring an extra couple of stone in weight.

Just because one person doesn't suffer from too many of the above doesn't give them the right to speak for all women.

FlapJackOLantern Thu 17-Oct-13 17:42:54

The trouble is that if someone HAD offered her a seat, the headline would have been the opposite. Perhaps people were afraid to offer her a seat because of that?

oliveoctagon Thu 17-Oct-13 17:44:18

Most mums carry on working 40 hours when pregnant in jobs that they can sit down in. Think this is a mountain out of a molehill imagine if she had a normal persons job.

oliveoctagon Thu 17-Oct-13 17:46:39


southwest1 Thu 17-Oct-13 17:48:58

She was late, that's why she didn't get a seat. You have to be there way in advance of PMQs to get a seat on the benches. Also you can't just sit anywhere, there's a hierarchy to where people sit.

At the end of the day if she'd been on time she'd have got a seat. There isn't enough space on the benches for all the

southwest1 Thu 17-Oct-13 17:50:04

That should say all the MPs.

MaidOfStars Thu 17-Oct-13 17:56:23

I have zero doubt that had she required a seat, she would have been more than capable of giving someone the nod. This was not a case of a shy retiring woman confronted with a bus full of truculent teenagers (although they sometimes behave like it). I agree with the aide - why make any assumption about how much she needed the seat, when she is the only person able to make that call?

MortifiedAdams Thu 17-Oct-13 18:02:01

She should have been given a seat because she was a pregnant person.A heavily pregnant person should be given a seat.

The fact that only women can get pregnant is irrelevant.

Bathtimesoaker Thu 17-Oct-13 18:05:05

This has got me quite worked up for some reason. Pregnancy and Maternity is a protected characteristic and actually the House of Commons has a duty to provide reasonable adjustments which it hasn't. As for a hierarchy then Jo Swinson is a Minister so surely some backbencher should and could offer her a seat.
In the situation where a man using a stick and a pregnant woman both needed or wanted to use a seat then surely two people who defined themselves as able bodied and able to stand should offer them both a seat?

Finally the aide has twisted the situation. To say she can't stand because she is pregnant is completely the wrong way of looking at it, they should have said that offering a seat to a pregnant woman is not sexist. I'm disappointed that an aide, who would have had to get their comments clearered before releasing them, could get it so wrong when representing equalities. Equality isn't about treating people the same, it's about recognising barriers and giving people the opportunities to reach the same goals.

NotYoMomma Thu 17-Oct-13 18:15:50

im 8.5 months pregnant and desperate for a seat today and no one offered. I was just about to ask when someone left anyway.

I was in so much pain. yes its not a disability or illness but fooking hell it can be very heavy, very painful and very tiring carrying about a baby!

people are so ignorant

TEErickOrTEEreat Thu 17-Oct-13 18:35:45

" Equality isn't about treating people the same, it's about recognising barriers and giving people the opportunities to reach the same goals."

Then this has nothing to do with equality. What goal has she missed by not being given a seat?

GatoradeMeBitch Thu 17-Oct-13 19:14:19

Pregnancy can't be an equality issue, not until men are becoming pregnant.

And it's not an equality issue anyway. I'm female and I would always offer my seat to a pregnant women. I still remember vomiting on the shoulder of a commuter while standing on the bus to work when I was pregnant. It's about decent manners, not which set of genitals you have.

ohmymimi Thu 17-Oct-13 19:19:15

This a Daily Vile non-story. If the Vile didn't come up with non-stories it would have to report some actual news - as if.

MetellaEstMater Thu 17-Oct-13 19:55:44

I agree that this is about respect. Even if she was late somebody should have at least offered up their seat, hierarchy or not. If this had happened it would have been a quick exchange probably unnoticed.

MetellaEstMater Thu 17-Oct-13 19:59:55

Just seen that Jo Swinson has this evening tweeted:

'@joswinson: About to get on the tube - seat offers welcome & definitely not sexist grin)
But I was happier standing at pmqs yesterday'

sunshinesue Thu 17-Oct-13 20:13:40

Ffs, I'm sure she was more than capable of asking for a seat if she wanted one. Perhaps someone did offer and she refused.

MidniteScribbler Thu 17-Oct-13 21:27:40

She's a grown adult, and a member of parliament (who never have a problem speaking up when they want to) and capable of asking for a seat. She has said herself that she arrived late, had to leave early, and was standing talking to a colleague. She was standing behind the chairs so most wouldn't have even seen her arrive. The woman didn't want a seat. Why do other members of the public now get to decide she was horribly discriminated against because the whole chamber didn't jump to their feet when she appeared?

HopeS01 Thu 17-Oct-13 22:12:44

I've ALWAYS offered my seat to pregnant women, and being 6 months pregnant myself I ALWAYS expect to be offered a seat (if I'm not offered, I ask!) .. I feel genuine contempt towards people who ignore me on the tube and happily sit while I stand.

AveryJessup Thu 17-Oct-13 22:15:59

It depends. Was she offered a seat and refused it? Or was she standing there looking tired while other people sat and everyone ignored her? Every pregnancy is different so, yes, it is patronizing to assume that all third-trimester women need to be ushered into seats but the offer of a seat should be there even if the woman doesn't want it.

For me, at 7 months pg, for example, I felt more comfortable walking and standing sometimes than I did sitting down for long periods when I would get horrible pelvic pain. It varies for everyone but it's polite to offer.

The DM is highlighting this as part of their century-long campaign to emphasize the unsuitability of women for the workplace though so that makes me skeptical of the details... hmm

HootyMcOwlface Fri 18-Oct-13 08:03:13

When I was heavily pregnant (and OK, I only made it to 36 weeks), sometimes it was better for me to stand up because of my backache. Lots of people would offer me their seats and I kept saying thank you, but standing is more comfortable. Its nice to have the offer though.

It would be sexist to assume that BECAUSE she is pregnant she is UNABLE to stand. It's perfectly polite and not sexist to offer her a seat. In the same way a female pregnant or non pregnant MP might offer a seat to a male MP who was standing and looking unwell or tired or aged.

I saw a picture of Ms Swinson yesterday and she was striding along wearing v nice heels. It's her first child I believe and so tbh I bet her ligaments aren't as knackered as they get with your second, third, fourth etc pregnancy. If she feels very well and able to to stand then there's no reason for her to ask for a seat.

MistressIggi Fri 18-Oct-13 08:12:20

If it is sexist to offer your seat to a pregnant woman, it must also be ageist to offer your seat to an elderly person."The idea that because she is 70 she has lost the ability to stand on her two feet or fend for herself is ludicrous" etc.

DavesDadsDogDiedDiabolically Fri 18-Oct-13 08:33:56

Has anyone thought that she might have wanted to stand up? She may have been sat in her office all morning & just wanted to give her arse a rest - like the rest of us do.

As said above, she's more than capable of making sure she gets a seat - maybe people had offered before the cameras rolled?

Half of the "problems" in this bloody country are because people take it on themselves to get outraged on behalf of other people rather than assuming those people are quite competent & can decide what does & does not upset/offend/oppress them.....

notundermyfoof Fri 18-Oct-13 08:41:05

I don't get this, I would have been fine standing at 7 months pg and she obviously was too. Its different on public transport because of the risk of falling over or having people knock into the bump

MrsMook Fri 18-Oct-13 08:55:00

Low blood pressure meant that I struggled to stand from the start to the end of pregnancy as I'd go faint and sickly. It was a relief to get to the stage of being bumpy enough to get some offers of help. SPD meant that from 6 months standing and walking became increasingly difficult. At least getting myself some crutches this time at 7 months made a non-verbal statement that I was struggling.

It is polite to offer a pregnant woman a seat. She can decline if she wishes, but that puts her in a better position than struggling silently or appearing to be bolshy oe whingy.

Weller Fri 18-Oct-13 08:55:12

As someone who has offered their seat for then to realise with horror the person was not pregnant I am very weary. At seven months I just looked big.

SoupDragon Fri 18-Oct-13 08:57:05

Did she need a seat?

I was perfectly capable of standing when 7 months pregnant.

MistressIggi Fri 18-Oct-13 09:05:28

I will ask the next elderly person I see standing on the bus whether they really need my seat before I think to offer it to them. After all many older people are able to stand on their own.
...except of course I won't, as it's not up to me to do a medical assessment, it's up to me to be polite and show some respect.

SoupDragon Fri 18-Oct-13 09:06:52


Yes, because that is exactly what I meant.

Has she complained? Has she said she needed or wanted a seat? Are people just getting worked up on her behalf?

She is pregnant, not sick, elderly or disabled.

SoupDragon Fri 18-Oct-13 09:07:32

it's up to me to be polite and show some respect.

I got the impression it was up to you to be sarcastic.

SoupDragon Fri 18-Oct-13 09:12:16

She was standing talking to a colleague, and she was perfectly happy standing. She was perfectly happy being where she was and did not feel the need to have a seat. If she needed to have a seat, or had felt she wanted to have one, she would have been perfectly capable of asking.

dellybobs Fri 18-Oct-13 09:18:37

mrsmonk I totally agree with you.
I would have certainly needed a seat. At 13 weeks pregnant i fainted after standing for less than ten minutes because i already had a low blood pressure pre pregnancy. I am 33 weeks now and i have a tiny bump and have bene very healthy and no other pregnancy niggles, and people look at me like im being melodramatic because i HAVE to sit down instead of standing. I can walk fine as long as the blood is flowing but as soon as i stop the blood pools and i faint or becoming a shaking quivering mess! I will sit on the floor of a train or kneel down in a supermarket qeue when a chair is not available its become that extreme.

What NotYoMoma said, it has nothing to do with 'special treatment' for women, it is about common courtesy for someone who is probably uncomfortable, possibly in pain etc. I am only 17 weeks pregnant but have to use the tube for about 40 minutes of my journey, it gets very crowded, very hot and stuffy. I have fainted because I have not been able to get a seat, those who have offered seats have been lovely and if I am feeling fine I always politely decline but soem days I feel so sick, or dizzy and just know I am going to faint, so I really do need a seat. Last week I had to sit down on the floor at one point to stop myself passing out.

I am suprised at her aide's comments, they do no favours to the equality cause.

MistressIggi Fri 18-Oct-13 10:11:50

Soupdragon I think you are taking my post as being solely in response to yours, which it wasn't meant to be and apologies if that is how I framed it. It's just the comments from a number of posters about how they were fine to stand at however many months get to me - there have also been lots of women saying just how hard it was for them being pg, that shouldn't be ignored. And it is a fair comparison to elderly people who may be fitter than me, as both age and pregnancy are protected characteristics.

WishIHadAFunkyName Fri 18-Oct-13 10:40:56

I hardly ever needed a seat on my work commute on the underground trains (not that I was offered many).
Thankfully, I felt fine and also, it wasn't really a long commute (45mins) but I would always offer a seat to a heavily pregnant woman because some people really do feel awful. I also offer seats to elderly people and those carrying children, with crutches etc.
I hardly ever see people offering their seat anymore. I think its pathetic to see fit and healthy people sitting when there are people forced to stand who may not be able to.
I think this is more about the lack of courtesy and increased selfishness in society than equal opportunities.

fluffyraggies Fri 18-Oct-13 10:53:41

A pregnant person who needs to sit down should be able to expect someone in less need to be gracious enough to give up their seat. It's human kindness and consideration.

In the same way that an elderly person who needs to sit down should be able to expect bla bla bla

Or a disabled person ...

Or a person with a child in arms ...

Or a person who feels ill.

I don't understand where feminism comes into this. Maybe i'm missing something?

MistressIggi Fri 18-Oct-13 11:42:02

It's an equality issue as pregnancy disproportionately affects one gender. (Which seems obvious, but that is why it is an equality issue - any disadvantage caused by pg or maternity is experienced solely by one sex).

Bathtimesoaker Fri 18-Oct-13 14:34:56

For me, offering a seat is manners and I agree that I don't see people do this often enough anymore. However pregnancy and maternity is a recognised equalities issue and it's not sexist to offer a seat nor is it wrong to accept one.

Women who don't require a seat when pregnant surely wouldn't be offended by the offer of one, or is this too big an assumption?

WishIHadAFunkyName Fri 18-Oct-13 15:01:28

On the rare times that someone did offer me a seat, I was so overwhelmed that I would say to them 'You're very kind but I'm ok. Thank you'. I was never offended and just thought that they were a really nice person.

Did she want a seat? At that point I preferred to stand because my sciatic nerve was hell otherwise.

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