Michelle Duff: Asking Jacinda Ardern about babies is sexist, stupid and irrelevant
OPINION: I don't know about you, but I couldn't give a pooey nappy about inequality. I couldn't give a sicked-up pumpkin puree about education. Health policy is about as interesting to me as scrubbing squashed pea off the carpet.
What I really care about, what I really want from my politicians, is to know whether their reproductive systems are operational. It's very important to me that the women and men leading New Zealand have normal, natural desires, like becoming a mother.
Oh hey! Jacinda! I see you've got a womb. Gonna use it? Why not?
Bill! Wassup! How's that sex drive? Got any more pellets in the old gun, mate?
* Jacinda Ardern and Mark Richardson clash over questions about her baby plans
* No, we don't need to know about Jacinda Ardern's baby plans. Ever.
* Childless: how women without kids are treated in 2016
* What happens when you really want children, but just never get round to it?
Oh, gosh, I'm sorry Bill. I see a journalist asked you a question about kids once as part of a feature series on fathers, where it would have been remiss to avoid it. So clearly everyone is being treated equally here. What are your thoughts on taxation?
To be honest, I am surprised it took eight hours from Jacinda Ardern making her phenomenal ascent to leader of the Labour party and being asked whether she was thinking of having kids.
We're positively behind the eight-ball in international terms. In Australia in January, Liberal premier Gladys Berejiklian was barely in the job an hour before being able to explain why she had no children. In the UK last September, The Sunday Times helpfully ran a feature on "childless politicians," (all women, obviously, because childless men are unremarkable) with pictures, so we could all see these freaks for who they are.
Which is, in case you missed the subtext, women who are kind of selfish and unfeeling at best and dangerous and unhinged at worst, for railing against their biological imperative: childbearing.
Ugh, I wish we weren't having this conversation. I really wish we could just talk about how much more appealing the Labour party is now, with an energetic, driven, kick-ass politician at the helm who is going to slay Bill English at debates. I wish we could just stand back for a moment and consider how much more engaged people might be with this election now the opposition is led by someone with charisma and personality - which whether you like it or not, is a must in modern politics.
Sorry, where was I? Oh, right, the double standard. Former Aussie PM Julia Gillard knows all about it. The fact she didn't have children was used throughout her political career to paint her as barren, wooden, unemotional, unempathetic. She was told she was out of touch with the electorate, because she did not have a family. While a male politician without kids is normal, a maternal hankering is still considered an inherent part of a woman's identity, and general usefulness.
But women can't win, because while female politicians without kids are looked at askance, those who do have children find the going tough. Green MP Holly Walker's written a book about how the incessant demands of Parliament and it's structure make being a politician and a mother extremely difficult.
When it comes to working parents in general, this 2014 study found there was a "motherhood penalty." Women with kids are seen as more flaky and distractable. Not so for men: they benefit from a "fatherhood bonus," and are considered more dependable.
The fact that AM panelist and self-appointed head of the Wider New Zealand Public's Human Relations Department Mark Richardson thought it was OK to ask Ardern if she was planning to have children because "we need to know" shows how far we have to go in achieving equality.
This question, if asked by an employer, is considered work-based discrimination.
It's sexist, stupid, and irrelevant to how well she can do the job.
Still, though. You reckon Bill will have any more?