Sarah Teather on sex and politics

Today’s Times asked five female MPs for their perspectives – here’s what Sarah Teather had to say about the difference sex makes to how women are treated in politics:

I never would have imagined myself doing this job. I speak to female researchers who are brilliant, confident and articulate and they say that they’ve never thought of being an MP. They see people working in the building and think, ‘That’s not for me – I want a life.’

“The qualities that are prized in the Westminster village are quite male. The “yah, boo” politician, the big hitter; inevitably that means aggressive and male. The adjective young means ambitious when applied to a man, but said of a woman it means inexperienced and ineffectual.”

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  • So, Sarah Teather naturally assumes female researchers should make good MPs? Sorry – real people who have had real jobs and real lives make good MPs. Political geeks with no life just made lobby fodder, no matter how smart they are.

  • I didn’t read her comments as meaning that. I took it to mean that women who are interested in representative politics tend to become political researchers rather than MPS

  • Perennially Bored 30th Apr '09 - 8:40am

    Given that most people only work as researchers for a couple of years at most, spending time as a researcher also doesn’t preclude having a real job as well before becoming an MP.

    There is also something to be said for having young MPs (who by definition won’t have much work experience) to represent our millions of young people – the tuition fees generation.

  • Haha, yes – good point Niklas. Mind you, perhaps The Times just did a calculation and decided that more women would read it if it was in the “Life and Style/Women” section rather than the Politics section. What proportion of women read the politics section anyway?

  • Peter Bancroft 30th Apr '09 - 12:27pm

    I’ve not seen a shortage of men in real jobs reflect that a job as an MP involves a lot of sacrifices and that it’s not for them. Then of course there’s the whole fight to get to an MP – something you can do as a political researcher, but with few other jobs.

    I have sympathy with a lot of the points about the masculinity of Westminster (Jo Swinson has given a lot of concrete examples), but I think sometimes it can be taken a bit too far..

  • rantersparadise 30th Apr '09 - 11:18pm

    @ Perennially Bored

    I have to agree though…

    I’m in my late 20’s but I have a thing about ANY young MP’s, men or women!

    @ Mboy

    Tell me ONE MP who is a ‘real’ person and not plumby voiced, private school educated OR overtly intellectualy geeky?

  • @ Mboy

    As a political researcher, I take offence at the idea that I am not a “real person”. I have friends, family, I go to the pub, I shop in Sainsburys and I worry about paying bills like anyone else. I even have “real” feelings.

    I work for an MP because I care passionately about politics and changing some of the unfairness in the world. The idea that as soon as you join up to a political party you become less “real” is, frankly, a bit odd.

  • Martin Kinsella 3rd May '09 - 3:28pm

    Jimbob, it is also odd that the idea you are a political researcher makes you more suitable than anyone else to be an MP.

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