idiothole: (it happened during several nights)
idiothole ([personal profile] idiothole) wrote2010-09-26 01:29 pm

Politics, wives, husbands etc.

It's interesting following Sally Bercow on Twitter. Sally's twitter bio is simple and tells you everything you need to know; Labour activist, does the odd bit of broadcasting & writing, mum of 3. Doesn't answer to Mrs Speaker.

She happens to be the wife of John Bercow, who's currently the Speaker of the House of Commons (in the UK parliament). He's also the Conservative MP for Buckingham, but of course currently tied by the impartiality of the Speaker's chair.

Sally doesn't answer to Mrs Speaker, which sends out a clear message; she's married to a man, but isn't married to his position, or the professional limitations of his position (such as impartiality). So she's vocally, fiercely Labour, and outspoken about her past life (including alcoholism and one night stands). She's feminist, regularly refers to the right-wing paper The Daily Mail as The Daily Fail or The Fail, and comes out against Tory policies.

Thanks to all of these facts, she's got haters. She typically refers to them as Fail readers or Tory trolls, which a lot of them no doubt are, but some are just angry that she exists. That she's a woman who benefits from her husband's job in terms of publicity but isn't limited by it, and doesn't feel like she needs to represent him in any way shape or form, or shut up about her views. She calls out her haters on it, regularly, and rightly calls them misogynist.

And this really gets me thinking, because she elaborates the notion that still exists; that when a man and a woman marry, her position is lower than his automatically. Especially if he's got a plushy, high-profile job, she needs to keep herself in check. She needs to became a prim and proper wife, and smile for the cameras when they are seen in public together. She needs to shut up as to not reflect badly on him.

Everything that suggest that they are not equal - she's a woman, so she needs to be mindful of the fact. And the thing is, they make out Sally to be this incredibly misbehaving wench. What does she really do? Tweet her political opinions, campaign for political things she believes in and occasionally appear in media a little (when people ask her for it) or write a blog post or two that get published. So essentially she's got opinions and she dares express them, even though her husband can't (and chose not to be able to, I should add - you don't just get elected Speaker, you have to actively campaign for it).

There isn't a way to spin complaints about her doing what she does that doesn't reveal them for what they are; old-timey misogyny.

If I was to ask the haters - which I won't - whether they'd do this if John was Joanna and Sally was Sullivan, they'd probably answer 'yes'. Well, that's a nice hypothesis (I should add, there have been female Speakers in office) but it's not the state of things right now. Maybe a female Speaker's husband would also be told to shut up and go back to the kitchen, but you know, given the evidence of how female politicians' significant others are treated if they are male, I highly doubt that.

Has anybody ever posited that Gordon Brown's lack of popularity reflects badly on the lovely Sarah Brown? (Not that I've seen - most comments on their marriage choose to instead point out how Sarah's favourable public profile has increased Labour's standing in people's eyes. Again, the wife reflects on the husband, not vice versa.) Has anybody said Yvette Cooper is being tarnished by how her husband Ed Balls is not exactly adored by some? Not that I've seen. (To be fair, a recent blog from the New Statesman kind of said something of this type, but it was more due to the fact that Yvette agreed with her husband's point of view on deficit reduction; it was not purely via the association of their marriage.)

And leaving the UK for a moment, I've not read a single comment about the Finnish president Tarja Halonen that has said her husband (and former long-time partner, as they actually only married once she became president which I think is damned cool) should not do this or that or the other. Nor about the husband of our current Prime Minister, who is also female (yeah look at that, representin'!). I think the difference between the two, though, are the fact that they're both largely in agreement with whatever their wives are saying (the PM's husband runs an advertisement company whose clientele includes the party of the PM). But if they were to become vocal in the public eye, and when they have been vocal about something, they've been allowed to.

And more to the point, I think it pisses off these idiots that Sally Bercow is so unapologetic about it. She doesn't care about what they think, and she finds it more amusing than aggravating.

So it's the people like me, who've come to really enjoy Sally's persona and views on Twitter, who get annoyed on her behalf. It pisses me off that in today's supposedly modern world this line of thinking still occurs.
marshtide: (Default)

[personal profile] marshtide 2010-09-26 02:47 pm (UTC)(link)
Via latest things; just wanted to voice agreement. (I also noticed that during the run-up to the Swedish election there were various people asking Maria Wetterstrand what her husband thought about everything and if he wasn't worried that she was neglecting their kids. I know her husband is also a Finnish politician, but surely her own opinions are more relevant to the Swedish election... and it's not like she has a shortage, yanno.)