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Our New State Premier Wasn't Asked The Obvious Question. She Was Asked A Stupid Question

Our society still values women as wives and mothers above all else.

24/01/2017 9:18 AM AEDT | Updated 24/01/2017 12:01 PM AEDT

I remember in my first few years of medical school when a biology professor stated "if you don't contribute to the gene pool, what good are you to the human race?"

I froze in my seat because I was the least maternal 19 year-old I knew. Was I a waste of space? Should I be rethinking my stance on children for the greater good of my species?

The professor then went on to tell us about his son who would pass on his good genes to future generations ad strengthen the population. Now that I think of it, I just hope his narrow mindedness didn't get passed along.

When I saw that Gladys Berejiklian was the new NSW premier, I was so pleased to see an intelligent accomplished woman in the State's top job. She holds a Master's degree in commerce and has overseen major transport programs while Minister for Transport. She has strong ties to her Armenian heritage as the granddaughter of Armenian immigrants.

Within an hour of her taking office, a reporter asked: "The obvious question is do you think this is a disadvantage politically because people have kids and they have families and people identify with that."

That is the obvious question? Really? How about "does her background from an immigrant family help her understand a multi-cultural society"? Or "what would she change about the Opal card roll out under her direction"? Perhaps look to the future and ask her what she wishes to accomplish in office. Ask her about her views on the State's lockout laws.

Ask her any of those things. Because her being unmarried and without children have about as much to do with her role, her ability and her commitment to her job as President Trump does with championing women's rights. Mate, it's not an obvious question. It's a stupid question and it's none of your business. In fact, all a question like that goes to show is ignorance by the asker and how much we love perpetuating stereotypes, especially when it comes to women.

When my colleagues and I heard about this question, we all rolled our eyes. Been there, done that. Every second person wants to enquire about my marital status or if I have children. Which is then followed by pity, judgement or confusion. Don't worry, the right man will come along. Don't you think it's selfish to not have children? Sorry I don't quite understand why you don't have children.

Our society still values women as wives and mothers above all else. If they have failed at that, or just failed to complete that in a way that is palatable at the masses, there must be something wrong with them. They're cold or selfish or workaholics. They're not 'real' women. They are non-contributors to the gene pool. Therefore, if they can't be trusted to do the one really important thing women exist for (wife/motherhood), how can we trust them to do a lesser job like be a State Premier? Or a surgeon? An astronaut? What is wrong with them?

Nothing. Nothing is wrong with them. Perhaps they were unwilling to stay in a relationship with a partner who was abusive or unfaithful or just didn't make her happy. Maybe she cannot be pregnant. Maybe her employer has made it clear that should she have children, her career will suffer. Some families struggle with the financial burden of children. Some just prefer dogs. Whatever the reason is, a woman is under no obligation to disclose her reasons for being childless and unwed to anyone, personally, professionally, and least of all at a press conference.

The irony of the situation is that had Premier Berejiklian been married with three school-aged children to a successful businessman husband, the ignorant questions would have been about her ability to juggle a family and cooking for her husband with public service. Successful women are constantly subject to criticism about their personal life and how it impacts on their job.

The absence or presence of a spouse or children has no connection with a woman's ability to do her job unless she wants it to be. Berejiklian will not under-represent the families of NSW because she hasn't got one that we approve of. A childless teacher does not do a bad job of educating children because she doesn't have any. Without children, I have cared for sick kids and their families but that did not make me any better or any worse at my job.

It's time to stop accepting double standards in judgements about a professional woman's personal life. I would suspect that a single man would not be asked the same question, at least not at his initial press conference. He may get asked for his phone number as an eligible bachelor. For society as a whole, we also need to stop asking women about children and marriage like it's the only achievement that really matters in a woman's life. It's intrusive, insensitive and nobody's business. You have no right to know why a woman has made the life choices that she has or what her personal circumstances are.

As you may have gleaned from this article, I am neither a wife nor a mother right now, aside from a fur baby. I debated explaining myself on both of these counts but then I realised that it does not define me as a woman, a person or a professional. The rumours swirl as to why this is; because I'm a workaholic who is too selfish to want children and I'm much too wrapped up in myself to be a good wife or mother. Let them swirl, I say. My choices and my circumstances are mine and mine alone.

Plus, it's nobody's damn business.


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