I hadn’t heard of Gloria de Piero MP before this week when two stories concerning her really irritated me. The new shadow minister for women and equalities just happens to be childless by choice, something that would be unremarkable in a man but in a woman means you probably have a horn growing out of your head or cloven feet. A ridiculous blog by Liz Jarvis questioned if, as a childless woman, de Piero could empathise with mothers:
“A woman who is a mum can understand and identify with the discrimination faced by women who are childless by choice; but I’m not sure the converse is ever really true.”
Whether that’s true or not, and I don’t think it is, a minister has a responsibility to learn their brief and do the legwork to make sure that they do their job effectively. She may not be a mother, but I would expect de Piero to talk to mothers and do the research into the issues they care about. I hope she does.
However, as a childless woman myself, and unmarried and not cohabiting to boot, I would argue that mothers do have a platform. If anything, politicians are only concerned with “hard working families”. We’re presented with two roles: mother and/or a wife/partner and if you’re neither of those, well, you don’t exist. I for one long for the day when a news organisations look to other places than Mumsnet or the other online mother’s blogs to get the “female” view. That’s more to do with lazy journos than the mum lobby dominating the limelight, but the fact that all Prime Ministers in waiting have to beat a path to Mumsnet’s door shows that their platform matters. As a feminist I believe in solidarity and breaking down barriers. We should be supporting one another. Just because we’ve made certain choices doesn’t mean that we cannot empathise and fight for those who have made different ones.
Meanwhile, some news outlets are searching for topless photos of de Piero, taken when she was a teen. I can’t think this is anything but an attempt to embarrass her. She told the BBC:
“No one should have to worry that something they did when they were young might prevent them from serving their community or getting involved in politics at a local or national level.”
I agree. She made a mistake at 15 years old. How is that relevant when she is a 40 year old woman with a career? Would that we were all perfect, but that’s rarely the case. The public may be interested in seeing the pictures, but I don’t see how it’s in the public interest.