Sunday, April 1, 2012

"If you like families so much, why don't you have children?"

I don't live in the province of Alberta. (Mrs. Spit may be more qualified to write this post, from that perspective.) I don't know much about the politics there or the current election campaign, except that both major parties, the Conservatives (currently in power) and the Wildrose Party, are led by women, meaning it is almost certain that the next premier will be a woman.

But as a childless-not-by-choice woman, I was appalled to hear that a Conservative Party staff member issued a snarky tweet asking why, if Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, 41 years old, likes families so much (referring to certain policy promises), she has no children of her own."

Smith responded with this statement:
“In the last day the question has been raised about why I don’t have children of my own. When David and I married in 2006 we intended to have children together. After a few years we sought help from the Calgary Regional Fertility Clinic. I appreciated the support and assistance of the caring staff as we went through tests and treatments, but in the end we were not successful.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have a terrific stepson, Jonathan, David’s son from a previous marriage. I am also blessed to have grown up in a large family with four siblings who have given me the opportunity to be the auntie of 5 terrific nieces and nephews: Emily, Sam, Chloe, Seyenna and Logan.

“Family is very important to me and I consider this to be a very personal matter. I will not be commenting on it further.”

Current premier & Conservative leader Alison Redford, 49 years old and the mother of a young daughter, issued a statement calling the tweet "entirely inappropriate... hurtful and does not reflect my values nor those of my campaign in any way." She also called Smith personally.

The staffer who made the tweet has resigned.

This is not the first time that childless (for whatever reason) female politicians have had to endure inappropriate comments related to their lack of children. In my own blog here, I've highlighted several cases, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, and, in Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Childless male politicians tend to get off easier -- although in Britain awhile back, William Hague responded to rumours that he was gay by issuing a statement that he & his wife had tried for years to have children and had suffered multiple miscarriages.

I'm curious about the staffer who made the Tweet. Does SHE have children herself? One comment I read suggested she was young and childless, and that perhaps time and life experience would give her a different perspective. I hope so (but reading other comments, I'm not entirely hopeful). Do people who make these kinds of comments not stop to think about just WHY someone might not have children (not that it's really any of their business anyway)? If it's because of fertility issues, such questions are a painful reminder; if it's because the person does not want children, it can be highly annoying.

Story about the incident in Huffington Post Canada

Commetary by Hina P. Ansari: Being Childless: Why Don't Our Opinions Count?


  1. Ug. Ug. Ug.

    However annoying it is that this happens, I love that you cover this issue so well on your blog.

  2. It is disheartening to hear (and see) how easily women without children are second guessed or ridiculed. If only those responsible for such hurtful and ignorant comments had any sense of how inappropriate their words are...

  3. And so often it is women who make these thoughtless, or simply cruel, comments about other women. Though I remember the comments made in Australia about Julia Gillard were made by her male opponents. Here in New Zealand, our PM Helen Clark had a few comments made about her and her husband's relationship, but she was such a capable woman and a strong PM that I don't actually recall seing the meanness towards her that we saw in Australia.

    I'm not sure people stop to think why someone doesn't have children. Or they assume, even if you did have difficulty having children, that we'd "just adopt" and therefore because we didn't, all the judgements roll in.

  4. why yes, Mrs. Spit will write a post about it. Likely tuesday.

  5. Julia Gillard does cop a lot of flak in our country. Cringe-worthy every single time.

  6. Love your response to this and wish the staffer read this too.

  7. I don't understand the need that people have to point out other people's childfree/less state in life. I hate finger pointing. It is too bad this happens to people in very public ways.

  8. Thank you for writing so well about this. I'm glad it was made clear to the staffer that the comment was not, in any way, okay. And I thought Smith's response was perfect. But it's so frustrating - I keep thinking we should know better than to treat children as status symbols/political tools/proof of virility or womanliness or what-the-f-ever.