Last week in the UK, Jo Swinson, a very pregnant Member of Parliament (MP), unintentionally caused a maelstrom of controversy when she stood through a 30-minute session at the House of Commons in a room full of seated MPs.
“Pregnant woman stands!” Okay, not exactly news of a Royal engagement. So what’s the problem?
I’ll tell you. Not one person -- male or female -- offered her a seat. And this was in a room full of British people. Aren’t they supposed to be the polite ones?
Outrage ensued. Anger was further fueled by a source close to Swinson who was quoted as saying, "The suggestion somehow that people should be outraged on her behalf is ridiculous. The idea that just because she is seven months pregnant she has lost all ability to stand on her two feet or fend for herself is quite sexist.”
Seriously?? Who is this person and have they ever been pregnant?
I’ve been pregnant twice -- one a twin pregnancy (God help me!) –- and both times, by the time I hit my third trimester, I couldn’t stand up for more than 10 minutes before my lower back ached, my ankles looked like a couple of manatees, and my pelvic floor felt like it was going to give way under the weight of the bowling ball in my abdomen.
How anybody can argue with letting a pregnant woman take a load off is beyond me. But argue they did: “…if a pregnant woman goes to Disney World they shouldn’t expect me to make it easier for them…” and “…it’s a woman’s choice to get pregnant. You wanted to be equal. Now you are. Quit crying about it...” and …if you can't stand for 30 minutes, you should be at home or find another line of work.”
Find another line of work? This woman’s not working at the Gap, performing in Cirque du Soleil or teaching Zumba. She’s a politician – isn’t sitting on your derriere part of the job requirement?? And since when does needing to sit down mean you can’t work? Really?? Tell that to Stephen Hawking.
Sources went on to say Ms. Swinson was happy to stand and would have asked for a seat if she wanted one. But anyone who’s ever been stuck standing holding a 20-pound load knows she was just being polite.
But you can bet your Dr. Scholl’s gel inserts that as she was standing there – shifting her weight from foot to foot, leaning on this and leaning on that in an effort to alleviate the inevitable throbbing in the lower back and swelling in the legs compliments of the gestating life in your womb, the following thought crossed her mind: “WTF dudes?!” Or some British version thereof like, “Well, this makes me miffed.”
Even on her Twitter feed, she let down her guard enough to tweet: “Lovely things you could do for a pregnant woman today: 1. Offer her a seat. 2. Don't misquote her. 3. Make her a cup of (possibly decaf) tea.” Does that sound like a lady who was happy to stand?
I’m just wondering: when did we, as a society, lose our sense of decency? Giving up your seat to a pregnant woman is common courtesy -- something we all should have learned about as children when our parents made us give up our seat on the bus so an older person could sit down.
This isn’t an equality issue. This isn’t about women’s rights. This is about seeing discomfort in a fellow human being and accepting that it is our responsibility, as human beings to help to alleviate the discomfort of our fellow man…or pregnant woman.
At the very least, maybe you could just offer them a nice cup of tea.
Sarah Maizes is a freelance writer, parenting humorist, comedian and the author of “Got Milf? The Modern Mom’s Guide to Feeling Fabulous, Looking Great and Rocking a Minivan”. For more parenting wisdom and unsolicited advice, check out SarahMaizes.com, follow her on Facebook, and tweet her on Twitter @SarahMaizes.