What an MP accused of playing “the pregnancy card” in Parliament reveals about workplace sexism

Tulip Siddiq, a heavily pregnant Labour MP, was reportedly told by the Deputy Speaker that she had brought “down the whole of womankind” by leaving a debate for a snack.

 

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This week, female MPs were left reeling after one of their number, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, Tulip Siddiq, exposed one of feminism’s most shameful secrets: four decades after the passing of the Sex Discrimination Act, despite years of men allowing women to play at being just as important as people with penises, women are still throwing it back in men’s faces by getting pregnant.

Yes, that’s right. It turns out that Siddiq’s massive stomach was not some aspirational, David Cameron-esque beer belly, but evidence of the presence of a foetus at seven months gestation. More shocking still, the demands of this parasite led Siddiq to leave a House of Commons debate without permission, after more than two hours without a comfort break.

Following this outrageous turn of events, Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing, clearly shaken at the world being reminded of non-maleness, is alleged to have accused Siddiq of “bringing down the whole of womankind” by playing “the pregnancy card”. It’s a reasonable enough accusation. Ever since women have been helping men out with the arduous task of Being Important, they’ve been trying to have it both ways.

Rather than accept the basic rule of sex equality, which is that a woman can be human or female but never both, unscrupulous women have been finding loopholes to exploit. They get themselves into positions of influence by masquerading as short, penis-less men and then, once they’re safely ensconced, they reveal the horrifying truth: at the end of that hole between the legs one still finds an actual uterus.

One Chinese company is attempting to get around this by introducing a “fertility schedule” following the lifting of China’s one-child policy. Female staff will be required to notify managers of their intention to get pregnant at least a year in advance of trying to conceive. While this is not official practice in UK business, I can confirm that I, too, have had at least one job interview in which I was asked about my intentions, pregnancy-wise.

Like (I suspect) 99 per cent of women to whom this happens, while I knew the question was illegal, I did nothing about it. After all, it’s a fair cop. I’d hoped to wing it by convincing them that the only “female” thing about me was the presence of breasts, but no. It seems employers the world over are getting wise to this sort of thing.

As Nina Power notes in One Dimensional Woman, “the model female worker, so long as she doesn’t get pregnant or make undue demands, is both desirable and cheap”:

When women confront the blank white wall of motherhood, which most definitely curtails their ‘flexibility’ in more ways than one, the boss can shrug his or her hands and say ‘look, you’re not what you said you were. Sorry!’ Any general social responsibility for motherhood, or move towards the equal sharing of childcare responsibilities is immediately blocked off – this individual woman has betrayed the economy! 

And quite right, too. Who do they think they are, these pseudo-humans, these breeders in disguise?

There are of course some who will argue that women themselves are not to blame. Work patterns that have emerged since the industrial revolution, with their strict division between home and workplace, have assumed that the default worker is male, hence the economy and public life are organised, unfairly, on male terms.

But that this necessarily excludes women from social and economic parity with men is surely just hard luck. Because men simply are better than women, aren’t they? They manage to have kids without gestating them – why can’t women do the same? What is it with this ostentatious “getting pregnant and giving birth” business?

The way some women behave, you’d think the continuation of the entire human race depended on it.

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.

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