Theresa May's childlessness - would this be an issue for a man?

(31 Posts)
maggiethemagpie Sat 09-Jul-16 12:06:51

Much has been made of Theresa May's childless status in the run up to the PM elections.

Now it would seem Angela Leadsom has capitalised on this by inferring she has an edge over May as she has children.

www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/09/andrea-leadsom-under-fire-over-misquoted-motherhood-comments

Can anyone imagine this being an issue with male candidates? Does anyone even know if Gove has kids for example? Would it even matter?

Yet it sure seems to matter if a woman is running for PM!

FWIW Theresa May wanted kids, but couldn't have them and then this is apparantly being used against her.... by another woman.

Equality still has a long way to go.

WhoTheFuckIsSimon Sat 09-Jul-16 12:16:09

I don't think it would matter. Wasn't william Hague childless? Don't remember it being a thing? I have no idea if John major had kids, again wasn't a thing.

Angela leadsom also came out with this delight in an interview I read today "I'm not a feminist because I like men". Wtf?

MrsJoeyMaynard Sat 09-Jul-16 12:17:54

I really can't imagine fatherhood (or lack of) being a major issue for a male candidate.

HerBigChance Sat 09-Jul-16 12:18:38

I think it would be an issue for a man in this position these days. Much would be made of him not being a Family Man, but itshouldn't matter for either sex. I hope the comparison causes some damage to AM's campaign.

FWIW I don't think we'll ever see a single person, of either sex, as PM again.

MoonriseKingdom Sat 09-Jul-16 12:18:39

The best example I can think of in recent times is William Hague who was Tory leader but never PM during the Blair years.

He is married but childless. I don't think it was ever suggested that his lack of offspring would interfere with his ability to do the job. However, he ended up having to talk about the struggles he and his wife had trying to be parents I think to dispel some insinuations he might be secretly gay. I imagine both of them would have preferred this most personal information to remain secret.

The main person pushing the angle of TM being childless is Andrea Leadsome and some of her supporters. TM seems to have a lot of support in the press.

gettingtherequickly Sat 09-Jul-16 12:22:36

God, the thought of Gove and his wife having offspring?

confused

TimeforaNNChange Sat 09-Jul-16 12:23:43

simon I was going to start a separate thread about that quote from AL !

MoonriseKingdom Sat 09-Jul-16 12:23:54

John Major had children. I think Edward Heath was the last childless PM.

AuntieStella Sat 09-Jul-16 12:26:31

Edward Heath? Because male and unmarried, there have been distinctly unpleasant rumours. I don't remember them being overtly discussed at the time he became PM, but I'm mentioning it now because it's an example of how the private lives of men do become part of the public perception.

Jeremy Thorpe, though never PM, had his private life picked apart too (though with better cause).

I think it's (possibly) those two events (which were close in time though of course not linked) were formative of the 'family man' rhetoric about men in the public eye.

VestalVirgin Sat 09-Jul-16 12:28:52

Angela leadsom also came out with this delight in an interview I read today "I'm not a feminist because I like men". Wtf?

Why is this woman running for PM? She should have stayed at home and refused to even vote. That's what men in the time of the suffrage movement would have expected of the women who like them, you know?

I hope that is the nail to the coffin of her ambitions, really.

Not having children should not be a big deal. Being an anti-feminist should.
Doing something as vile as using a woman's involuntary childlessness against her should be.

And of course no one would have tried to use a man's childlessness against him. Especially not this woman, I am pretty sure.

WhoTheFuckIsSimon Sat 09-Jul-16 12:30:33

When did Gordon brown have kids, before or after becoming PM?

SuburbanRhonda Sat 09-Jul-16 12:30:34

Yes, Gove has children because much was made in the media about his and his wife's decision to put their child in a state school (albeit a state school which most fee-paying patents would bite your arm off to get their child into).

gettingtherequickly Sat 09-Jul-16 12:32:17

She's not a feminist?

FFS, stop the planet, I want to get off!

whattheseithakasmean Sat 09-Jul-16 12:32:39

Gordon Brown was crucified for being an older bachelor, accused of being odd and strange, before he married - just google for a few horrendous news articles full of nasty inferences.

Alec Salmond was also the subject of much criticism that his willingness to risk splitting the UK was linked to his lack of children - again, Google is your friend.

So 2 male politicians recent times that I can think of immediately, so yes, men get just the same stick for not conforming to the red tops view of a coventional family set up.

OlennasWimple Sat 09-Jul-16 12:40:08

Politicians tend to keep their children in the background, and the press generally respect this. Wevdontvtebdvto have the US style, all family members on the platform type campaigning

The exceptions arise when politicians use their children for political ends: think John Gummer shoving a burger at his young daughter at the height of the BSE crisis. Or when politicians behave in a way that is inconsistent with their stated political ethos, such as Diane Abbott sending her son to a private school. The PM obviously comes under greater scrutiny, as we know more about them and their other halves than most other politicians, and the Education Secretary's choice of school is an obvious point of interest.

FWIW male politicians who don't marry, or who marry and don't have children, tend to be slyly accused of being gay - they don't get a free ride

I think that opponents to TM continue to paint her as cold and aloof (they have been doing this for years, don't forget), and the word "barren" fits this wider narrative very nicely

VestalVirgin Sat 09-Jul-16 12:40:45

So 2 male politicians recent times that I can think of immediately, so yes, men get just the same stick for not conforming to the red tops view of a coventional family set up.

I don't think it is the same.
Men profit from being able to paint themselves as "family man", but not having children is not seen as failure on their part.

Criticisms that are about "you want to take risks because you don't have children that will have to live with it" are also not quite the same as "You failed as a woman because you don't have children".

Of course, patriarchy does mean "rule of the fathers" and men are punished for not upholding it by becoming fathers, but not as severely as women are punished.

VestalVirgin Sat 09-Jul-16 12:43:35

I think that opponents to TM continue to paint her as cold and aloof (they have been doing this for years, don't forget), and the word "barren" fits this wider narrative very nicely

A bit ironic, considering that the first Queen of England managed to stay in Office by painting herself as the Virgin Queen (and quite cold and aloof, I suppose).

BeyondVulvaResistance Sat 09-Jul-16 12:57:29

So vestal...

Man without children = 0 points
Man with children = 1 point

Woman with children = 0 points
Woman without children = -1 points

Basically?

whattheseithakasmean Sat 09-Jul-16 13:03:21

vestel Gordon Brown was presented as an odd failure of a man for not following the conventional timescale for marriage and family. In fact, the English media were as nasty to GB as I have ever seen to a politician, male or female. Remember that photo of him in the car driving away from the hospital where his daughter had just died? The loathing was so personal and nasty, my English friends are frequently amazed that GB is considered a decent man & reasonable politician in Scotland, because in England he was made into a such caricature.

DetestableHerytike Sat 09-Jul-16 13:04:31

Leadsom's twitter bio starts "MP for X. Wife, mother..."

Clearly core info as far as she is concerned.

OlennasWimple Sat 09-Jul-16 13:12:32

Elizabeth I got into power because of her birth rights (she wouldn't have won an election), led people to believe that she was going to marry various suitors, then kept her place on the throne by quashing rebellions and executing traitors... And of course she was never expected to do cosy chats with journos in Millbank bars, or work the room at party gatherings

Not entirely the same!

Rhaegal Sat 09-Jul-16 13:21:41

A bit ironic, considering that the first Queen of England managed to stay in Office by painting herself as the Virgin Queen

confused She wasn't the first Queen of England.

Her older sister Mary was Queen from 1553 until her death in 1558.

Early In Elizabeth reign she used marriage proposals as political weapons - keeping men and countries dancing to her tune.

Still I dislike the assumption that Theresa May is somehow less worth of leadership of a country because she doesn't have children.

Rhaegal Sat 09-Jul-16 13:22:38

less worthy

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 09-Jul-16 13:48:24

Vestal , re Gordon Brown, whatwhatthese says is correct. He was portrayed as odd; as was Ted Heath.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 09-Jul-16 13:52:14

FWIW male politicians who don't marry, or who marry and don't have children, tend to be slyly accused of being gay - they don't get a free ride

Michael Portillo.

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