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Offering your seat is not sexist – no really it isn’t

Oh dear

Today has not been a good day for the heavily pregnant – not only did I have a nightmare commute where asking if I could sit in an empty seat unleashed a selection of choice phrases from a fellow commuter, but pregnant Equalities Minister Jo Swinson has taken it upon herself to brand seat offering as “quite sexist

Offering a heavily pregnant woman a seat is not sexist, it really isn’t – it is compassionate, considerate and caring – it says that the person offering the seat understands the physical toll of growing a whole new human being and that they think you might feel a little less swamped by boobs and bump if you could sit down

At no point does offering you a seat imply that your mental faculties are in anyway impaired by the underlying factor behind your increasing girth – the two are entirely separate

I spend my working life in a mostly male environment, I spend my life pushing against the visible and not-so-visible barriers that women encounter in the work place, heck I even spent two pregnancies working in an investment bank and it doesn’t get much more testosterone fuelled than that

I understand the drive to prove to the wider world that you are pregnant and not ill – that this new life in your womb is separate from you and hasn’t changed you from who you fundamentally were before you conceived, that you ambition, your intellect, your drive are unchanged and unimpaired

BUT that is whole separate debate – how we view mothers and mothers-to-be, our belittling of mum-trepreneurs, the cult of public ownership of our bodies once we conceive and the policing of our every choice leading us to feel sometimes like no more than walker uteri is a whole other can of worms

Muddling the two issues together is not helpful, all this achieves is to ensure that tomorrow on the train there will be a heavily pregnant woman elbowed out of the way in the commuter crush and not offered a seat because the papers will have suggested that she will view any offer of a seat negatively

Offering a seat is about good old fashioned manners, about consideration, about someone who understands because they have seen their wife, sister, mother, friend go through a pregnancy that it is hard work, that it is physically draining and that it is blooming undignified

Please let us celebrate the traditional British politeness that underpins this rather than chipping away at a little bit of courtesy that smooths the path for the pregnant

And then, once I’ve got a seat and can stop thinking about how much my hips ache we can get stuck into debating the bigger issue of how we treat parents in society today and how we can start supporting them properly



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8 comments to Offering your seat is not sexist – no really it isn’t

  • Loving the assumption that it’s sexist rather than a matter of choice and respect. I guess it’s deemed sexist because a) only women get pregnant, or b) a woman would never dream of giving up their seat for a man… or a pregnant woman..?!
    I would, and am fortunate enough to have seen other people, give up a seat for people who need the seat more. Whether that be young children, the elderly, of ill health, or pregnant.
    It’s not sexism.
    It’s about respect, it’s about empathy, it’s about kindness.
    I really do hope you get a seat for the rest of your pregnancy – good luck!

  • Paul

    Is it not just common sense to offer a seat to a pregnant woman?
    People in the world are so keen on political correctness when really they need to live their life and help others where possible?

  • hear hear. I suffered pelvic pain and I often missed the train because I couldn’t manage to wobble to it in the short time between announcing the platform and train departure, when I then arrived almost in tears of pain and couldn’t get a seat, it was soul destroying. Don’t people have any idea how physically debilitating pregnancy can be? It’s not about sexism at all, but about offering a seat to those who really need one. Just as it’s not ageist to offer a seat to an elderly person.

  • I agree with Paul’s comment – it’s just common sense!

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