The Spinoff Parents has taken positions before on serious matters around parenting. Today we are taking another position. After careful discussion with a diverse group of parents, our position is that Mark Richardson is being a massive tool and he needs to put himself in the bin and then be thrown into the sea.
Here, mothers respond to the Jacinda Ardern having to put up with bullshit questions about whether or not she’s going to start a family crap, and the implication that mothers cannot or should not have a role in politics. If you have been living under a rock you might not have seen that just six hours into the job of leader of the Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern was asked if she wanted to have a baby. Some mums just decided to let their fingers do the talking…
Emily Writes, editor Spinoff Parents, mum of two aged four and two
When we have the chance to have a woman prime minister and the focus is on if she’ll have children (and if she won’t – why not?) then it tells every other mother out there, every young woman, that she must choose between the two.
Mothers are a political force. Every day they make political choices. Every day they work to better this country, whether it’s raising their own babies or raising those in the community. The personal is political and mothers have been silenced politically for too long. I think that’s why so many mums are standing up and saying: Actually, you can get fucked for asking her this.
It’s a way of telling every employer who has ever given you grief for wanting a family, but has given your male colleague a pay-rise, that they’re turds. And that feels good. But under all of this (good) rage – is the message that we will not be told that as mothers, or women who want to be mothers, we don’t have a right to political life. We are already political. We are changing New Zealand for the benefit of the next generation, whether you think we can or not.
Jacq Collins, mum of four-year-old twins
These comments about Jacinda Ardern’s possible interest in combining parenting with the role of PM are DRIVING ME BLOODY INSANE. Here’s what would happen if our PM chose to get pregnant:
1. She’d take a few months off full duties.
2. Her deputy PM would step up.
3. The world would continue to turn.
A very clever woman I know noted that, with any PM, there’s the potential that they might be temporarily unavailable to fully undertake their duties. Bill English could break a hip and be bedridden for six weeks. Do we therefore need to grill him on his bone density when determining whether he’s a suitable person to continue as PM?
Emmaline Matagi, author, teacher, mum of three
Every time a privileged white male speaks a uterus somewhere around the world starts crying. The uterus cries not for life to grow within it, but for the chance to crawl out of its woman’s body and slap the privileged male across the head to hopefully instil some sense into him. Question: When can you ask a woman about her “plans” to have children in an interview? Or speak on the ability of a woman to do her job due to her plans or children she already has. Answer: NEVER. THE END. Meitaki (and happy Cook Island Language Week).
Emily Colgan, mum of two aged five and one, and a full time academic who has faced very similar questions in her career
If people are worried about the fact that Jacinda can’t go the distance, why did no one get up in arms when John Key abandoned his role as PM mid-term for personal comfort reasons? I really hope this begins a good public discussion around sexism and double standards.
Julie Fairey, mum of three and local government politician
The first thing women have to struggle through is to confirm their right to talk and participate, whereas men just get to go straight in to policy, ideas, and debate.
Amanda Hunt , mum of two under four
It’s not OK to ask any woman about this. Not women in politics, not women who are celebrities, not women in the workplace, not even women you know in your circle of friends unless they invite the topic themselves. It is, to my mind, among the most intimate of issues.
It baffles me that so many people consider: “So, are you going to have kids? How many? When are you having another?” and the like to be a legitimate form of small talk. No. The person you’re talking to could be struggling with infertility or recovering from a miscarriage or dealing with unfortunate genetic challenges, but there’s also just… it’s none of anybody’s business. Ever. None.
Nichole Brown, single mum of one four year old, traveller of the world and writer
Gem Wilder, mum of one five-year-old
The discussions around motherhood and working mothers and parental leave and supportive workplaces and the like are important relevant conversations to be having. In context. They should not be solely focused on one woman who may or may not be a mother someday.
Sarah Watkeys, mum of two angel babies and one rainbow baby
How do we even know if she has a womb? Let alone a working one? And it’s none of our business anyway. Or are we scared we’re going to have a prime minister with six kids? Oh… wait… we already do.
Kiki Van Newton, mum of two aged four and two
Mums shouldn’t get paid parental leave, mums shouldn’t be on benefits, mums shouldn’t have children if they have jobs, mums shouldn’t have children if they don’t have jobs. It’s almost like we live in a society that will find a way to devalue anything women do.
Tessa Prebble, mum to Eva, writer at The Spinoff Parents and disability advocate
While Mark Richardson is an inflammatory, enraging, fool, he’s not really the problem here. The problem is a culture and society which places the full responsibility of child raising on women. The problem is a society which damns you if you do want kids and if you don’t.
The problem is a society which treats women who don’t want to have children as if they are defective. The problem is a society where mothers aren’t given the support they need to work and be a mother in balance. In saying all this, Mark Richardson should know better, because he has no ethical, moral or legal right to ask Jacinda these questions. Shame on him for letting New Zealanders think that anyone has that right.
Eliza Prestidge-Oldfield, mum of two and a lawyer who knows this shit is illegal
It’s a very private question, and those asking it are not expecting honesty. They’re testing her to see if she can give an answer that is suitably coy about her relationship privacy, respects other people’s choices, affirms the importance of motherhood, and assures people that she can be considered an honorary man for the purpose of politics while performing maternal sympathy and femininity at the same time. They don’t care what her actual personal thoughts are on the matter.
Angela Meyer, mum of one and bonus mum of two
Dear NZ, About Bill English, face like a battle axe and with six kids! What does his mum have to say about him being PM? How irresponsible. How many nights has he had away from home? Regards, outraged of Kelburn.
Julia Kerr mum of two aged four and nine
Why should a woman only be subject to certain opportunities based on what her womb is up to. Our lives do not revolve around our uterus – we’re made up of quite a lot more than that.
Caroline Beech, mum of two
Me when interviewing Mark Richardson for a job: “So do you have any plans in the next five years to come to work hungover or perhaps call in sick? Because if you do I’m not hiring you. Unless you can produce me proof you have never had a sick day you’re fucked.”
Terri Sinclair, mum of two and communications professional
It’s not appropriate to ask anyone their plans about becoming a parent or growing their family. But on a side note, if you’re going to ask the question, it’s equally relevant to male parents. I personally know couples who shared the first year of parental leave six months each, and equally share domestic leave to look after sick kids.
My husband and I both support our family, both when I was working full time and now I’m at home with number two. He is still a dad. Aside from the breastfeeding period (if a mother chooses and is able to do that), men could equally be impacted by becoming a parent depending on their lifestyle – but you never hear media or employers asking a politician or CEO if they are planning to become a dad as it might affect their ability to contribute or their career prospects.
I desperately want to be a mum and I’ve been trying for four years. Just please stop asking women this question – it fucking hurts! You don’t know what battles we are going through.
Dr Jess Berentson-shaw, mother of two, and actual scientist
Angela Cuming, mum of three, columnist for The Spinoff Parents
I am a mother of three little boys and I live in Hamilton. This week the local Labour candidate, Jamie Strange, was out door-knocking. He introduced himself and we had a chat about what issues concern me in the upcoming election. I told him: house prices, funding for mental health services, not capping immigration numbers, the environment, better (and equal) pay for teachers and nurses.
You know what I didn’t ask him? IF HE PLANNED TO GO HOME AND BANG HIS WIFE THAT NIGHT AND MAKE BABY NUMBER FIVE FOR THE STRANGE FAMILY.
Because that’s none of my business, nor do I give a toss how many kids he has, just as I wouldn’t care if he had no kids. You want to know what I think about Jacinda Ardern? I want to know what her policies and thoughts are on house prices and mental health services and immigration and the environment. I don’t care about her uterus and if she plans to use it soon to home a baby. I care about how she plans on RUNNING THE COUNTRY.
Tamsyn Clemerson-Phillips, mum of one 10-month old
Thanks to the constant misogynist questioning of her choices, Jacinda Ardern has to defend not only herself but the choices of every other person in New Zealand who wants to be a parent. How can she be prime minister AND a new parent AND do both jobs well AND live up to everyone’s expectations of what that looks like? She has to make a choice and no matter what, she’s going to lose because of this poisonous attitude of mistrust towards women.
So have you got the message? Stick to your ball sports Mark. Your opinion on women and their reproductive choices are not wanted or needed. You have that classic thing so many stale, pale, and male dudes have where you think your opinion is important. It’s not.
And Jacinda – Kia kaha, you come from a long-line of women who are tired of men asking invasive questions about their personal decisions around parenthood. You have many mothers standing with you – please don’t forget that when you’re faced with this crap. We’ve got your back.
This content is entirely funded by Flick, New Zealand’s fairest power deal. In the past year, their customers saved $489 on average, which would buy enough nappies for months… and months. Please support us by switching to them right now.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.