Theresa May appears on LBC
Theresa May appears on LBC 

Politics 

For a woman politician, that motherhood question never seems to go away

Yesterday, Nick Ferrari began his interview with Theresa May by asking her about the impact of not having children 

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By Lynn Enright on

There are lots of questions to ask Theresa May, prime minister and leader of the Conservative party, as we hurtle towards a general election and a Brexit, be it hard, soft, lumpy or whatever. And LBC’s Nick Ferrari did ask them when he sat down with May for a 25-minute interview yesterday, but first (as in THE VERY FIRST QUESTION HE ASKED), he touched on motherhood and the fact that Theresa May is not a mother. She is the prime minister, which is pretty remarkable whichever way you look at it, but Ferrari began by noting that she is not a mother.   

“What has the impact been on you that you’ve not had children and how might Theresa May have been a different woman had she had children?” Ferrari asks, his tone measured, as if this is not an incredibly invasive and ultimately useless question, but a run-of-the-mill query. 

It feels wrong, almost, to listen to 60-year-old May, who remains open but self-possessed, because this is a personal question that’s wholly irrelevant 

Sensibly, Theresa May begins her answer by noting that “I think it’s impossible to answer the question about how I would have been had I done.” And, as she she strains to fit all those modal verbs into one sentence, most women listening are sympathetic. Because they know, especially if they have experienced fertility issues, what it’s like to carry around the possibility of motherhood, to negotiate questions that can be as intrusive and stinging as little darts. May carries on: “It’s been very sad; it’s just turned out not to be possible for us. Of course, we’re not the only couple who finds themselves in that situation and, when you do, I suppose you just get on with life. And, you know, we’ve got nephews and nieces.”

It feels wrong, almost, to listen to 60-year-old May, who remains open but self-possessed, because this is a personal question that’s wholly irrelevant, but soon Ferrari interrupts. “Yes, yes, so you have,” he blusters. “But do you think that you would have been able to apply yourself? Because I read that you are one of the hardest-working prime ministers we’ve ever had. Would you have been able to have that much time if you were a mum, too?”

And it’s at this point that those of us who are not as “strong and steady” as our prime minister might be tempted to tell Ferrari to eff off. Because, truly, Nick Ferrari, would you ask that of a man?

There are interesting and important conversations to be had about how we combine work and family life, be we men or women – we know that our economy and our society would benefit from a system that offers greater support to parents who work. We are aware that Merkel, Sturgeon and May are all women who don’t have children. And we need to talk about the way in which we hold women back – who do or don’t have children – but to presume that it’s the responsibility of the new prime minister, simply because she is a woman, smacks of sexism. 

@lynnenright

Theresa May appears on LBC 
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Theresa May
women in politics

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