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Dear Jo Swinson, It's Not Sexist For A Pregnant Woman To Be Offered A Seat, It's Common Decency

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The question of whether to offer a pregnant woman a seat on public transport or let's say, at the Houses of Parliament may seem like it has a very simple answer: yes, 100%, every time.

Unless you are, of course, a cretin.

However the debacle surrounding equalities minister Jo Swinson has caused a storm of debate after pictures of the heavily pregnant politician was circulated, showing her standing up during Prime Minister's Questions, while everyone else was seated.

In response to the outrage that no one had offered her a seat, a source close to the MP said that if someone had done so, it may have been perceived to be sexist.

jo swinson parliament live

While we don't believe it's an issue of sexism but rather common decency, the issue of pregnant women being offered a seat on the train is a particularly sensitive one, largely because not enough people do offer up their seats. And this extends to giving up your seat for the elderly and people on crutches.

On Twitter, people were quick to respond:


India Knight
'Sexlst' to offer a pregnant woman a seat, apparently. PEOPLE ARE SO MAD.

Edwina Currie
Pregnant women like Jo Swinson can suffer from standing via Offer yr seat to anyone who needs it, please

Kathy Lette
BBC media asking if it's polite or sexist to offer a pregnant woman a seat. Women don't want seats on the bus. We want seats on the board.

Our Twitter users responded by saying:


Laura Archer
It's not sexist, it's just unkind. Same if it was a man with a broken leg. Their need for the seat obviously greater.

Victoria Trott
no it's not sexist and yes I would give up my seat - it's about politeness and consideration

and about whether pregnant women should always be offered a seat:


Global Golfer
yup absolutely, if we don't protect new life - we'll be extinct!

Our Facebook users said:

"Seriously! It's common decency to offer your seat. If the woman being offered it wants to stand, she'll tell "no thanks". No debate necessary." - John Higham

"It is common courtesy to offer seats to anyone who may need the seat more than you, that was the way I was brought up to do, respect your fellow man, respect yourself." - Elsie Nicholls

"I offered my seat to a pregnant lady in a train the other day. The first thing I noticed wasn't her bump but her pale ill face, clearly not enjoying standing on a packed train. It's common decency to offer your seat to pregnant, the elderly or disabled. If you have to question this then I think it's a sad reflection in today's society." - Carolyn Amos

"It's a sad world", says Dr BJ Epstein, University of East Anglia lecturer and HuffPost UK blogger, "when politeness might be viewed as sexist. Yes, it's potentially tricky or awkward to offer a seat to a pregnant woman (the woman might just be a little overweight) or to an elderly person (the person might be younger and/or healthier than they look) because you could offend someone.

"But I generally think that people aren't kind enough to one another; it takes so little to be helpful and nice, so why can't we do it? It isn't sexist to offer a seat to a pregnant woman or a woman with multiple children and it isn't ageist to offer one to an older person because it isn't as though the gesture means, "You are not capable." Rather, it means, "You might have aches and pains that I'm not experiencing, and I'd like to offer you a moment's rest. If you feel like standing, however, please continue to do so." It's just common sense, and common decency."

jo swinson

Some people have said that they find it tricky to distinguish whether a woman is simply overweight, rather than pregnant. Parentdish.co.uk editor Tamsin Kelly says: "It’s one of those terrible modern dilemmas – stand up for the woman with the coat that’s not quite closing or stay seated and panic. If in doubt, I’d say stand up – or better still, never sit down.

"When I was pregnant with twins, it was so obvious I’d always be given a seat. When I was pregnant with one after a day at work, I had no compunction about asking people for their seat, particularly young men intently studying their feet. My advice to pregnant women – ask. You don’t need to do it in a huffy way and most people on public transport are so in their own worlds, they simply haven’t noticed."

The MP has since tweeted that she didn't think it would be sexist to be offered a seat.

The upshot is: don't be a crap human being. You should always give your seat up for a pregnant woman because they are literally carrying another human being, which someone else (your mother) once did for you. Take that, Parliament.

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